Tha­bane vows not to re­turn un­til Kamoli is fired

Lesotho Times - - Front Page - Billy Ntaote

For­mer Prime Min­is­ter and All Ba­sotho Con­ven­tion (ABC) leader Thomas Tha­bane has in­sisted that he will not re­turn home un­til army com­man­der Lieu­tenant-gen­eral Tlali Kamoli is fired, rais­ing the specter that on­go­ing talks be­tween the govern­ment and the op­po­si­tion to find com­mon ground on many is­sues, in­clud­ing the safe re­turn of all ex­iled op­po­si­tion lead­ers, may not bear fruit.

In fact Dr Tha­bane said he was not even aware of the talks which be­gan in South Africa on 2 March 2016, and are set to con­tinue on March 31.

The govern­ment has not yet pro­nounced it­self on whether or not it will heed the rec­om­men­da­tion of a SADC in­quiry for the dis­missal of Lt Gen­eral Kamoli. Political ob­servers say this could be an in­di­ca­tion that the LDF com­man­der will stay put.

Al­ter­na­tively, Dr Tha­bane said he can only re­turn if SADC gives him its own pro­tec­tion as it did when he orig­i­nally fled the coun­try in Au­gust 2014. But there is no prece­dent of the re­gional body hav­ing de­ployed se­cu­rity to pro­tect an op­po­si­tion leader.

Ob­servers say it is dif­fi­cult to see a way for­ward for the on­go­ing talks be­tween the govern­ment and the op­po­si­tion if, the op­po­si­tion in gen­eral, and Dr Tha­bane in par­tic­u­lar, keep on mak­ing Lt-gen­eral Kamoli’s re­moval a pre-req­ui­site for his re­turn.

The ABC leader fled to South Africa on 11 May 2015 and main­tains he had to skip the coun­try af­ter be­ing alerted of an al­leged plot to kill him by some mem­bers of the Le­sotho De­fence Force (LDF) led by Lt-gen Kamoli. Ba­sotho Na­tional Party (BNP) leader Th­e­sele ‘ Maserib­ane and re­formed Congress of Le­sotho (RCL) leader Keketso ran­tšo, have also been liv­ing in South Africa since May last year af­ter leav­ing the coun­try for the same rea­son al­leged by Dr Tha­bane.

The LDF de­nies the al­le­ga­tions, but Dr Tha­bane this week re­it­er­ated his claim, in­sist­ing he would only end his ex­ile when Lt-gen Kamoli has been sacked. “I ran away be­cause of the same se­cu­rity prob­lem that con­tin­ues to af­fect our coun­try to this day. I ran away from the sol­diers. It should be clear that I am re­fer­ring to Kamoli and a clique of his sol­diers who are sup­port­ing him. I am ready to cross Mo­hokare river any­time and re­turn home but I can only do so af­ter Kamoli has been re­moved as com­man­der,” Dr Tha­bane said.

The ABC leader fur­ther said the LDF’S al­leged re­fusal to sub­mit to civil­ian au­thor­ity was an­other rea­son he con­tin­ued to fear for his life.

“We can­not be ruled by sol­diers; we can­not be or­dered around by sol­diers. Those sol­diers should sub­mit to civil­ian rule and be di­rected by De­fence Min­is­ter Tšeliso Mokhosi, which they refuse to do.

“There is no rea­son why our sol­diers would want to be in­volved in so many things th­ese days to the ex­tent that they end up want­ing to rule the coun­try,” he said.

Dr Tha­bane also noted un­less the prime mi­nis

ter im­ple­mented the South­ern African De­vel­op­ment Com­mu­nity (SADC) Com­mis­sion of In­quiry’s rec­om­men­da­tions, Le­sotho would con­tinue to face se­cu­rity and political chal­lenges.

The SADC In­quiry sought to es­tab­lish, among other things, the cir­cum­stances sur­round­ing the fa­tal shoot­ing of for­mer army com­man­der Maa­parankoe Ma­hao on 25 June 2015 in Mokema by the mil­i­tary. The LDF says Lt-gen Ma­hao was killed while re­sist­ing ar­rest for sus­pected mutiny but the SADC in­quiry doubted that claim.

The In­quiry, led by Jus­tice Mpa­phi Phumaphi of Botswana, made a num­ber of rec­om­men­da­tions, among them the dis­missal of Lt-gen Kamoli “in the in­ter­est of restor­ing trust and ac­cep­tance of the Le­sotho De­fence Force to the Ba­sotho na­tion”.

The com­mis­sion­ers also noted some of Le­sotho’s political and se­cu­rity prob­lems were due to the coun­try’s con­sti­tu­tion, adding: “The de­fi­cien­cies and over­laps in the con­sti­tu­tion with re­gard to the man­dates of se­cu­rity in­sti­tu­tions need to be looked into ur­gently with a com­pre­hen­sive strat­egy to re­form them”.

Dr Tha­bane said what hap­pens to the Phumaphi rec­om­men­da­tions “is the sole re­spon­si­bil­ity” of the Prime Min­is­ter.

“Ntate Mo­sisili should im­ple­ment those rec­om­men­da­tions from SADC. It’s a re­spon­si­bil­ity fac­ing him, and him alone, as our Prime Min­is­ter. he is my Prime Min­is­ter; he is also the Prime Min­is­ter of Mets­ing (Deputy Prime Min­is­ter Mo­thetjoa Mets­ing) and Kamoli, and in­deed ev­ery­body else in Le­sotho.

“When he re­turned from re­tire­ment, I handed power to him in broad day­light last year. All I am ask­ing for now is to be able to freely per­form my du­ties as the of­fi­cial leader of the op­po­si­tion, but I can only do so if I am back in my coun­try, not here in ex­ile.

“My party needs me back in par­lia­ment so that I can per­form my role of hold­ing the govern­ment to ac­count.

“But like I said, my main con­cern is for govern­ment to ad­dress the se­cu­rity prob­lems fac­ing our coun­try and then I would gladly re­turn.

“The last time we met with Ntate Mo­sisili, I asked him to his face whether he had au­tho­rised the sol­diers to kill Gen­eral Ma­hao and he said he had not au­tho­rised such a thing. Ma­hao was their com­rade-in-arms but they still killed him. If they killed their com­rade-in-arms, imag­ine what they would do to me, a civil­ian. They would kill me, with­out a doubt,” said Dr Tha­bane.

he con­tin­ued: “My safe re­turn, and in­deed, also that of my fel­low op­po­si­tion lead­ers, is just a small part of the so­lu­tion to our coun- try’s se­cu­rity prob­lem. But small as our re­turn home might ap­pear, it re­mains a key is­sue in all th­ese chal­lenges fac­ing Ntate (Pakalitha) Mo­sisili as the Prime Min­is­ter of Le­sotho.”

Asked about talks ini­ti­ated by the govern­ment early this month for the op­po­si­tion lead­ers’ re­turn, Dr Tha­bane said: “I know noth­ing about those talks. I did not at­tend the meet­ing (in Mod­der­port, South Africa, on 2 March 2016).

“All I am wait­ing for is a re­sponse from SADC over my re­quest for se­cu­rity so I can safely re­turn to Le­sotho. If SADC does not pro­vide me with se­cu­rity the way they did af­ter the coup at­tempt (of Au­gust 2014), then those sol­diers will surely as­sas­si­nate me once I am back in Le­sotho.

“I left the coun­try last year be­cause I had re­ceived a tip-off about a plot to as­sas­si­nate me, and that was the same tip-off I had re­ceived when I fled in (Au­gust) 2014. I only have one life so I can­not risk by re­turn­ing home with­out the nec­es­sary se­cu­rity mea­sures be­ing put in place.”

Dr Tha­bane also said he owed it to his sup­port­ers to be back in Le­sotho, but could only do so if his safety was guar­an­teed.

“It’s un­fair for me to be on the run like this; I have to re­turn home and per­form my du­ties as Leader of the Op­po­si­tion in par­lia­ment.

“I took an oath for that po­si­tion I hold in par­lia­ment, and I want to come back to per­form my du­ties. I should be earn­ing my salary and not just en­joy­ing it with­out work­ing for it. I don’t en­joy liv­ing in Ficks­burg, it is not my home. My home is Makhoakho­eng in ha Abia where I was elected a Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment.

“That is why I can­not refuse to re­turn home, but this can only hap­pen when the prob­lem I ran away from has been ad­dressed. how­ever, like I said, that prob­lem still ex­ists as we speak, and that prob­lem is Kamoli,” said Dr Tha­bane.

Dr Tha­bane also spoke about why he re­fused LDF pro­tec­tion when he left of­fice af­ter the 28 Fe­bru­ary 2015 elec­tions, and re­quested po­lice pro­tec­tion in­stead.

“I did not ask for po­lice pro­tec­tion be­cause of lack of re­spect for the army. I needed cer­tain is­sues in the LDF to be ironed out first be­fore the army could of­fer me se­cu­rity.

“When all the is­sues I have with the LDF have been cleared, I don’t see why I would not be pro­tected by the army the way a for­mer prime min­is­ter should,” Dr Tha­bane said.

Mean­while, Dr Tha­bane urged Ba­sotho “to go to church and pray for peace this easter and live by Christ’s teach­ings”.

For­mer Prime Min­is­ter Thomas Tha­bane.

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