‘SADC in­quiry will lib­er­ate Le­sotho’

Lesotho Times - - Front Page - Keiso Mohloboli

All Ba­sotho Con­ven­tion (ABC) leader Thomas Tha­bane has as­sured the na­tion that rec­om­men­da­tions by the SADC Com­mis­sion of In­quiry into the mur­der of for­mer army com­man­der Maa­parankoe Ma­hao by his mil­i­tary col­leagues, would be im­ple­mented “to the let­ter”.

Dr Tha­bane made the dec­la­ra­tion when ad­dress­ing ABC, Ba­sotho Na­tional Party (BNP) and Re­formed Congress of le­sotho (RCL) sup­port­ers at­tend­ing Sun­day’s fun-walk aimed at rais­ing funds for lawyers rep­re­sent­ing 23 le­sotho De­fence Force (LDF) mem­bers cur­rently on trial for sus­pected mutiny.

The sol­diers were ar­rested be­tween May and June this year af­ter be­ing ac­cused of be­ing part of a mutiny plot led by lieu­tenan­tGen­eral Ma­hao.

lt-gen Ma­hao was shot dead on 25 June this year al­legedly as he re­sisted ar­rest for the foiled mutiny plot. The killing prompted govern­ment to ask SADC for as­sis­tance in es­tab­lish­ing the cir­cum­stances sur­round­ing the in­ci­dent, with the re­gional bloc ap­point­ing Jus­tice Mpa­phi Phumaphi of Botswana to lead a 10-mem­ber team of le­gal and se­cu­rity ex­perts in the probe.

Jus­tice Phumaphi has since com­piled a re­port of his 31 Au­gust-23 Oc­to­ber in­ves­ti­ga­tion, and sub­mit­ted the doc­u­ment to Mozam­bique pres­i­dent Filipe Jac­into Nyusi in his ca­pac­ity as chair­per­son of the SADC Or­gan on Pol­i­tics, De­fence and Se­cu­rity Co­op­er­a­tion.

How­ever, the re­port has yet to be tabled be­fore re­gional lead­ers, al­legedly due to a court chal­lenge launched last month by ltCol Tefo Hashatsi, one of the wit­nesses who gave ev­i­dence be­fore the com­mis­sion. Among oth­ers, the Spe­cial Forces com­man­der wants the com­mis­sion to be de­clared il­le­gal due to a num­ber of con­cerns, among them Jus­tice Phumaphi’s de­ci­sion to hear tes­ti­monies in South Africa when the probe was es­tab­lished by le­sotho laws. Among those who gave ev­i­dence in South Africa was Dr Tha­bane, who fled to the neigh­bour­ing coun­try in May this year af­ter claim­ing some mem­bers of the LDF were out to kill him as re­venge for ill-treat­ing them when he was prime min­is­ter be­tween June 2012 and March this year.

But speak­ing to op­po­si­tion sup­port­ers who had gath­ered at Maqhekung in Khu­bet­soana on Sun­day fol­low­ing an early morn­ing fundrais­ing fun-walk, Dr Tha­bane said the Phumaphi re­port would “lib­er­ate” le­sotho and its rec­om­men­da­tions im­ple­mented lead­ing to sta­bil­ity in the King­dom. Dr Tha­bane also said govern­ment was bluff­ing when it said the ab­sence of op­po­si­tion leg­is­la­tors in par­lia­ment was ir­rel­e­vant as laws would still be passed with­out them. Op­po­si­tion Mem­bers of Par­lia­ment (MPS) have been boy­cotting par­lia­ment since 26 June this year, protest­ing the mur­der of lt-gen Ma­hao and con­tin­ued ex­ile of Dr Tha­bane, BNP leader Th­e­sele ‘Maserib­ane and RCL leader Keketso Ran­tšo.

Dr Tha­bane told the gath­er­ing of about 3000 sup­port­ers: “Our MPS are in a dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tion; they are boy­cotting par­lia­ment to ex­press their con­cerns about the coun­try’s in­sta­bil­ity, which is highly com­mend­able. You must all give them sup­port be­cause this is not their per­sonal strug­gle but a strug­gle that will end in the lib­er­a­tion of le­sotho.

“All th­ese claims that the MPS will be pun­ished for their ac­tions and that par­lia­ment will con­tinue to func­tion with­out them, clearly show that there are some peo­ple in our coun­try who think le­sotho is their per­sonal prop­erty. I want to as­sure you here to­day that th­ese politi­cians will fail in what­ever they are plan­ning.”

The for­mer premier also spoke about Jus­tice Phumaphi’s re­port, which he said was key to the coun­try’s prob­lems.

“I have been re­li­ably in­formed that some­one was pompously claim­ing that the re­port must be sub­mit­ted to him first be­cause he is the prime min­is­ter. I want to guar­an­tee this to you all that this is a SADC re­port whose rec­om­men­da­tions are go­ing to be im­ple­mented by SADC, and lib­er­ate le­sotho. We just need to re­main fo­cused and wait for the re­port to be made pub­lic. Then we will see if the rec­om­men­da­tions are not go­ing to be im­ple­mented,” Dr Tha­bane said.

Dr Tha­bane also ap­plauded the op­po­si­tion lead­er­ship for or­gan­is­ing the fun-walk and ap­pre­ci­at­ing the ef­forts of lawyers who are as­sist­ing the de­tained sol­diers­diers and also helped the ex­iled lead­ers, theireir sup­port­ers and mem­bers of the LDF dur­ing ng the Phumaphi hear­ings held in Thaba ‘Nchuchu

“I need to make this very clear:ar: the de­tained sol­diers sus­pected of mutiny andnd the lawyers rep­re­sent­ing them are not mem­bers of the ABC, BNP or RCL. We are fight­ing ght­ing for their hu­man rights and sup­port­ing them only be­cause we are all Ba­sotho,” Dr Tha­bane said.

BNP leader Chief ‘Maserib­ane ane also hailed op­po­si­tion MPS for boy­cottingg the Na­tional As­sem­bly in an ef­fort to put pres­sure ressure on govern­ment to act on the coun­try’ss in­sta­bil­ity.

“The op­po­si­tion is in a se­ri­ous ri­ous strug­gle, and when fight­ing in a po­lit­i­calti­cal strug­gle, we must go through sac­ri­ficess and com­pro­mise. Miss­ing out on sit­ting al­lowances is a loss to the MPS but the money is not as im­por­tant as the peace and sta­bil­ity of this coun­try,” Chief ‘Maserib­ane said.

“The world is watch­ing the govern­ment of le­sotho and the state­ments be­ing made when at­tack­ing the op­po­si­tion. The world is aware that the govern­ment sup­ports the killing of in­no­cent peo­ple, and death-threats against political lead­ers by the mil­i­tary.”

Chief ‘Maserib­ane fur­ther said the op­po­si­tion must en­sure the SADC re­port “does not dis­ap­pear”.

Com­ment­ing on the fun-walk, BNP spokesper­son Mach­esetsa Mo­fo­mobe and RCL sec­re­tary gen­eral ‘Mamolula Ntabe said the event was a “great suc­cess”, and that pro­ceeds from the func­tion were still be­ing col­lated.

Asked if the op­po­si­tion planned to bring back their lead­ers even with­out the help of SADC, Mr Mo­fo­mobe said do­ing so would be sui­ci­dal.

“The main prob­lem is we don’t have any guar­an­tee that the prime min­is­ter has con­trol over the govern­ment he is lead­ing,” Mr Mo­fo­mobe said.

“The op­po­si­tion is aware that its lead­ers are a tar­get and can be killed any­time. We are not con­vinced that they will be safe if they come back with­out any agree­ment and as­sur­ance from govern­ment.

“The army killed Ntate Ma­hao in broad day­light; th­ese peo­ple are ca­pa­ble of any­thing and they know that the govern­ment won’t do a thing against them.

“At least we now have a hint that Jus­tice Phumaphi rec­om­mended that the sol­diers who killed Gen­eral Ma­hao must be pros­e­cuted. Maybe, the re­port will lib­er­ate le­sotho and bring our lead­ers back home.”

ABC sec­re­tary gen­eral Sa­monyane Nt­sekele also said it would not be wise for the ex­iled lead­ers to re­turn at the mo­ment.

“The op­po­si­tion is aware that the govern­ment does not care about their re­turn, so we will sit down and plan on how to deal with the is­sue,” Mr Nt­sekele said.

ABC leader Thomas Tha­bane

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