Time for vi­sion­ary lead­ers in Le­sotho

Lesotho Times - - Opinion & Analysis - Tšoeu Pet­lane

Al­most a month af­ter the re­lease of the re­port of a south­ern African De­vel­op­ment Com­mu­nity (SADC) in­quiry into political in­sta­bil­ity in le­sotho, many cit­i­zens re­main in the dark over both its con­tents and their im­pli­ca­tions for the fu­ture.

led by Jus­tice mpa­phi Phumaphi of the Botswana High Court, the 10-strong com­mis­sion was es­tab­lished af­ter a SADC lead­ers’ meet­ing last July.

Fol­low­ing months of political and le­gal and wran­gling, its re­port was fi­nally pre­sented to le­sotho’s Na­tional As­sem­bly and se­nate on Fe­bru­ary 8 and 10 re­spec­tively.

the lead­ers set up the in­quiry af­ter the killing last June 25 of for­mer le­sotho De­fence Force (LDF) com­man­der maa­parankoe ma­hao, by sol­diers sent to ar­rest him for an al­leged mutiny plot. the killing oc­curred af­ter ma­hao had been re­placed as com­man­der by lieu­tenant-gen­eral tlali Kamoli.

the com­mis­sion was man­dated, among oth­ers, to re­view in­ves­ti­ga­tions into the al­leged mutiny plot by el­e­ments of the LDF, and ma­hao’s role in it, to in­ves­ti­gate the cir­cum­stances sur­round­ing his killing, and to iden­tify wrong­do­ing with a view to bring­ing per­pe­tra­tors to jus­tice.

ma­hao was ap­pointed by for­mer Prime min­is­ter thomas tha­bane in 2014 and dis­missed by in­com­ing Prime min­is­ter Pakalitha mo­sisili in 2015; while Kamoli was dis­missed by tha­bane in 2014 and reap­pointed by mo­sisili in 2015.

the com­mis­sion was man­dated to in­ves­ti­gate the le­gal­ity or oth­er­wise of th­ese changes to LDF lead­er­ship, and to ex­am­ine the ef­fect of Kamoli’s reap­point­ment on the unity and co­her­ence of the LDF.

the Phumaphi Com­mis­sion’s re­port was meant for re­lease in Novem­ber 2015, but LDF spe­cial Forces Com­man­der tefo Hashatsi launched a court case to an­nul the com­mis- sion. A le­gal and political tus­sle be­tween the le­sotho govern­ment and the SADC fol­lowed, with the govern­ment ar­gu­ing that it could not re­ceive the re­port be­cause the le­git­i­macy of the com­mis­sion was be­ing con­sid­ered by do­mes­tic courts. But SADC re­solved that it could not be bound by a rul­ing of the le­sotho High Court in the mat­ter; and the case was sub­se­quently dis­missed by the court.

mean­while, mo­sisili was os­ten­si­bly per­suaded to re­ceive the re­port by his fel­low south­ern African lead­ers at a sum­mit in Botswana in Jan­uary.

He then moved to ta­ble the re­port be­fore le­sotho’s leg­is­la­ture.

Phumaphi Find­ings What did Pumaphi find and rec­om­mend; and what ac­tion has been taken to move the coun­try out of the paral­y­sis of gov­er­nance and pub­lic political ten­sion of the past year?

Mutiny and Ma­hao’s Role the com­mis­sion chal­lenged the ve­rac­ity of the al­le­ga­tions that the plot ex­isted at all: it found that mutiny sus­pects were tor­tured to con­fess and im­pli­cate oth­ers, and that ma­hao’s con­nec­tion to a plot was doubt­ful.

Killing of Ma­hao the com­mis­sion found that ma­hao was sub­jected to per­sis­tent threats and at­tempts on his life, in­clud­ing on for­mal army oc­ca­sions by se­nior sol­diers. His ar­rest, and the ar­rests of oth­ers, were au­tho­rized by, or car­ried out with the full knowl­edge of De­fence min­is­ter tšeliso mokhosi.

But the min­is­ter had ex­er­cised no over­sight over the army’s ac­tion, nor had the army pro­vided him feed­back and up­dates. It was fur­ther found that ma­hao ei­ther did not re­sist ar­rest or did not of­fer re­sis­tance com­men­su­rate with the amount of force used to sub­due and even­tu­ally kill him: he was con­fronted by no less than 10 heav­ily-armed sol­diers and killed by three AK-47 bul­lets fired at close range. The com­mis­sion cast doubt on the prob­a­bil­ity that he ar­rived in hos­pi­tal both alive and able to walk.

Po­lice In­ves­ti­ga­tion into the killing of

Ma­hao the com­mis­sion found that po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tions were hin­dered by Kamoli’s re­fusal to hand over sus­pects and by the with­hold­ing of ma­te­rial ev­i­dence. It found in gen­eral that the LDF had been de­fy­ing the rule of law.

Political killings and kid­nap­ping of sol

diers the com­mis­sion found that ev­i­dence pro­vided to courts dur­ing habeas cor­pus ap­pli­ca­tions in­di­cated that some serv­ing LDF per­son­nel had been ab­ducted in con­tra­ven­tion of LDF pro­ce­dures. But it found no ev­i­dence for political killings, with only the death of busi­ness­man thabiso tšosane fu­elling pub­lic per­cep­tion of a political mo­ti­va­tion.

Le­gal­ity of ap­point­ments and dis­missals the com­mis­sion found that tha­bane’s ap- point­ment of ma­hao as Com­man­der and his dis­missal of Kamoli were le­gal and proper. It also found that mo­sisili’s re­moval of ma­hao and reap­point­ment of Kamoli were also le­gal but ill-ad­vised.

Kamoli’s reap­point­ment and its ef­fects the com­mis­sion found that Kamoli’s reap­point­ment per­pet­u­ated divi­sions within LDF, and that the flight of op­po­si­tion lead­ers who feared Kamoli was a re­flec­tion of the coun­try’s in­sta­bil­ity.

OTHER find­ings the com­mis­sion en­dorsed ear­lier re­ports which noted that man­date over­laps be­tween po­lice and the army caused con­flict be­tween the two in­sti­tu­tions. It also found that the army and po­lice were politi­cized, and iden­ti­fied the diver­gent political lean­ings of th­ese in­sti­tu­tions.

Rec­om­men­da­tions Key among the rec­om­men­da­tions of the com­mis­sion were that: the po­lice be al­lowed, fa­cil­i­tated and equipped to fin­ish in­ves­ti­gat­ing Ma­hao’s killing with­out hin­drance, and to bring sus­pects to jus­tice; Govern­ment re­move Kamoli from LDF com­mand and sus­pend all sol­diers sus­pected of crimes while in­ves­ti­ga­tions con­tinue; Govern­ment ini­ti­ate in­sti­tu­tional and/ or con­sti­tu­tional re­forms to elim­i­nate the over­lap of man­dates within the se­cu­rity sec­tor; Govern­ment grant amnesty to ex­iles and mil­i­tary de­tainees ac­cused of mutiny; and SADC launch the over­sight com­mit­tee rec­om­mended by last July’s SADC lead­ers’ meet­ing.

...Con­tin­ued on page 14

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