Ma­hao M fam­ily ac­cuses ac govt of ‘tor­ture’

Lesotho Times - - Front Page - Keiso Mohloboli

THE fam­ily of slain for­mer army com­man­der, Maa­parankoe Ma­hao, says the gov­ern­ment is adding more pain to their late rel­a­tive’s wife and chil­dren by with­hold­ing his be­long­ings and ter­mi­nal ben­e­fits, al­most one year af­ter his fa­tal shoot­ing by fel­low le­sotho de­fence Force (ldf) mem­bers.

Among the pos­ses­sions were two cell­phones, a pis­tol, and spec­ta­cles lieu­tenant-gen­eral Ma­hao was wear­ing when he died in a hail of bul­lets on the af­ter­noon of 25 June 2015 just out­side Maseru — al­legedly while re­sist­ing ar­rest af­ter be­ing fin­gered as the ring­leader of a group of ldf mem­bers plot­ting to top­ple the army com­mand.

How­ever, a SADC Com­mis­sion of In­quiry es­tab­lished to probe the for­mer ldf com­man­der’s death cast se­ri­ous doubts over the mutiny claims.

Ac­cord­ing to his brother, lehloenya Ma­hao, the fam­ily was also con­cerned that de­spite be­ing “a ma­jor stake­holder”, the gov­ern­ment was not re­spond­ing to the fam­ily’s re­quest for in­for­ma­tion re­gard­ing the late for­mer army com­man­der’s per­sonal be­long­ings, ter­mi­nal ben­e­fits and killing.

“The fam­ily will just have to wait for SADC’S in­ter­ven­tion be­cause the gov­ern­ment is com­pletely not en­gag­ing us in any­thing. de­spite the fam­ily’s ef­forts to seek the gov­ern­ment’s ex­pla­na­tion re­gard­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions into his killing, the au­thor­i­ties have de­cided to take sides and ig­nore our ex­is­tence,” Mr Ma­hao said this week.

“About two months ago, the fam­ily wrote a let­ter to Po­lice Com­mis­sioner Mo­lahlehi let­soepa ask­ing him for an up­date about how far po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tions into his mur­der had gone.

“But in­stead of get­ting let­soepa’s re­sponse di­rectly, since we had writ­ten to him, we heard his an­swer on one of the lo­cal ra­dio sta­tions say­ing he had just taken over as po­lice boss and did not know any­thing re­gard­ing such in­ves­ti­ga­tions, which was very dis­ap­point­ing.”

Mr Ma­hao also said the gov­ern­ment “was very clear from the be­gin­ning that it had taken the army’s side”.

“That stance makes us be­lieve that the gov­ern­ment and ldf are part­ners who push cer­tain, com­mon in­ter­ests. I don’t re­ally know if the gov­ern­ment is fail­ing to en­gage the fam­ily be­cause it doesn’t have the ca­pac­ity to han­dle is­sues around Maa­parankoe’s death or it may have a cer­tain in­ter­est to pro­tect the sol­diers who killed him,” Mr Ma­hao said.

Asked if the fam­ily was con­sid­er­ing le­gal ac­tion against the gov­ern­ment over the is­sue, Mr Ma­hao said do­ing so would be a waste of time.

“The ju­di­cial sys­tem in this coun­try is cur­rently po­larised by top gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials and gives judge­ments ac­cord­ing to these of­fi­cials’ wishes. We have seen judges with­draw­ing from cer­tain cases to avoid vic­tim­i­sa­tion by the au­thor­i­ties should they make a rul­ing that angers the gov­ern­ment. That’s why we de­cided to let for­eign or­gan­i­sa­tions in­ter­vene and help us,” he said.

Mr Ma­hao de­scribed the gov­ern­ment’s fail­ure to re­turn lt-gen Ma­hao’s per­sonal be­long­ings and ter­mi­nal ben­e­fits as am­ple ev­i­dence that it was “out to tor­ment Maa­parankoe’s wife and three chil­dren”.

“If the gov­ern­ment re­ally wanted to deal with this mat­ter trans­par­ently and se­ri­ously, it could have at least given Maa­parankoe’s wife his ter­mi­nal ben­e­fits, ac­cord­ing to the rank that suits the gov­ern­ment, as well as his cel­lu­lar phones and spec­ta­cles. deny­ing the wife and young chil­dren what Maa­parankoe worked for shows se­ri­ous lack of care; it shows the gov­ern­ment is out to tor­ment Maa­parankoe’s wife and three chil­dren,” he said.

Asked if the fam­ily was go­ing to be part of the Fa­ther’s day “fun walk” or­gan­ised for 19 June by the chil­dren of 23 ldf mem­bers who have been charged over the al­leged mutiny and whose trial is be­fore an army court-mar­tial, Mr Ma­hao said there was no way they could snub such an event.

Six­teen of the sol­diers are in Maseru Max­i­mum Se­cu­rity Prison while the rest have been placed un­der open ar­rest and are at­tend­ing the court mar­tial from home. The sol­diers were ar­rested be­tween May and June 2015.

The sol­diers’ chil­dren and wives have de­cided to com­mem­o­rate Fa­ther’s day to­gether, which is cel­e­brated on the third Sun­day of June. The fam­i­lies of ldf mem­bers who have fled the coun­try and sought refuge in South Africa say they would also at­tend the ‘fun walk’. Some mem­bers of civic or­gan­i­sa­tions and op­po­si­tion po­lit­i­cal par­ties have also said they would at­tend the com­mem­o­ra­tion in sol­i­dar­ity.

“The Ma­hao fam­ily is at the fore­front of sup­port­ing the ini­tia­tive and Maa­parankoe’s chil­dren will also at­tend the walk,” Mr Ma­hao said.

“The fam­ily felt it must sup­port ei­ther the wives and chil­dren of the de­tainees be­cause it was be­cause of Maa­parankoe’s name that they were ar­rested and tor­tured.”

re­peated ef­forts to get com­ments from de­fence and Na­tional Se­cu­rity Min­is­ter Tšeliso Mokhosi and Po­lice Com­mis­sioner let­soepa were fruit­less yes­ter­day.

slain for­mer army com­man­der Maa­parankoe Ma­hao.

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