Mahao family confronts police boss
The family of slain former army commander, Lieutenant-general Maaparankoe Mahao, has written a letter to Police Commissioner Molahlehi Letsoepa, demanding an update on investigations into their relative’s killing.
Lt-gen Mahao was fatally shot by his colleagues on 25 June 2015 just outside Maseru. The Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) announced Lt-gen Mahao was resisting arrest when he was killed, which the family has dismissed as untrue.
After the killing, Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili asked the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to help establish the circumstances surrounding the tragedy, resulting in a Commission of Inquiry led by Justice Mpaphi Phumaphi of Botswana. The 10-member commission carried out its investigations between 31 August and 23 October 2015. Dr Mosisili released Justice Phumaphi’s report in parliament on 8 February 2016.
The report, among others, recommends that the government should ensure criminal investigations into the former commander’s death “be pursued vigorously and that the LMPS (Lesotho Mounted Police Services) is empowered and resourced accordingly”.
Justice Phumaphi’s report further says the investigations “should be conducted expeditiously and comprehensively without any hindrance and that all phys- ical evidence be surrendered.”
The Commission also recommended that “the finality of the investigations should lead to a transparent course of justice”.
In a letter dated 22 March 2016, the Mahaos want the Police Commissioner to give them an update on the progress made by the police following the report.
The letter, written by the family’s lawyer, King’s Counsel (KC) haae Phoofolo, reads: “You will recall, Mr Commissioner, that before the sitting of the SADC Commission of Inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the death of Lt-gen M Mahao, the deceased’s family had instructed our offices to request some progress report on the investigations regarding this death.
“In view of the complexities regarding the acquisition of certain necessary exhibits from the military establishment, it became evidently convenient that the result and/or recommendations of the Commission would facilitate the continuation of investigations by your team of investigators assigned to the deceased’s matter.
“Now the Commission has completed the inquiry and recommendations are there to be implemented. Our concern, as lawyers of the family of Mahao, is the findings and recommendations of the Commission on the matter of the deceased’s extermination from the face of this earth by some elements of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF).
“For your assistance and ease of reference, we refer you to the Commission’s main findings at paragraph 137 page 57 of 62 of the report, sub-paragraphs (g)– (h) thereto and page 59 of 62, sub-paragraph (s). We also refer you for the Commission’s recommendations to paragraph aph 138 (a) of the report.”
Sub-paragraphs (g) too (h) in question reads: “Thathat on balance of probabilities, even if it is accepted that he pointedinted a pistol at one of the arrestors,ors, excessive force was used, particularly after the first shot, which immobilised his right arm, m, thus, the additional two shotss were unnecessary. Therefore,e, the degree of force used on the deceased was not commensurate to the danger he posed with the pistol. That Brigadier Mahao died from bullet wounds caused by three shots into his body from an AK47 rifle at point blank range.”
And sub-paragraph (s) reads: “The investigation on the death of Mahao has been stopped. The commission is persuaded to believe that this move was calculated to hide the fact that the LDF hindered the investigations. The facts are that the LDF refused to surrender physical evidence (weapons and vehicles used and the deceased mobile phones).” Paragraph 138 (a) reads: “The government of Lesotho should ensure that criminal investigations on the death of Brigadier Mahao be pursued vigorously and that the LMPS is empowered and resourced accordingly. The inves
tigation should be conducted expeditiously and comprehensively without any hindrance and that all physical evidence be surrendered. The finality of the investigations should lead to a transparent course of justice.”
Advocate Phoofolo (KC) says in conclusion: “To this end, Mr Commissioner, we have been instructed by Mahao’s family to inquire about the progress so far made by your department in compliance with the above-quoted references of the Commission’s report, and any other matters relevant to the conclusion of the said investigation with a view ultimately to place the suspects before the court of law. We shall be grateful for your urgent attention to this matter and your response thereto.”
Meanwhile, a date stamp on a copy of the letter indicated that the Commissioner of Police Legal Office received the letter at 11am yesterday.
however, contacted for a comment late yesterday, police spokesperson Clifford Molefe, said he could only confirm the issue with his bosses today.
Senior Inspector Molefe said he was not aware of the letter himself.
Police commissioner Molahlehi letsoepa.