Soldiers pe­ti­tion SADC

Lesotho Times - - Front Page - Keiso Mohloboli

Le­sotho De­fence Force (LDF) mem­bers ex­iled in south Africa have ap­pealed for as­sis­tance from the south­ern African Devel­op­ment Com­mu­nity (SADC).

Ac­cord­ing to a let­ter writ­ten by Colonel Matela Ma­to­bakele to SADC ex­ec­u­tive sec­re­tary, Dr ster­gom­ena Lawrence tax, the soldiers are seek­ing the re­gional bloc’s as­sis­tance in re­turn­ing home peace­fully and also get­ting their salaries and ben­e­fits from the gov­ern­ment.

The soldiers fled the coun­try be­tween 2014 and 2016, and Colonel Ma­to­bakele would not say how many of them sought refuge across the bor­der when con­tacted about the let­ter this week.

Colonel Ma­to­bakele, who said he wrote the let­ter on be­half of his ex­iled col­leagues, also al­leges gov­ern­ment is con­duct­ing sur­veil­lance in Lady­band and Ficks­burg but did not ex­plain why in the let­ter.

For­mer prime min­is­ter and All Ba­sotho Con­ven­tion leader thomas tha­bane, Ba­sotho Na­tional Party leader the­sele ‘Maserib­ane and Re­formed Congress of Le­sotho leader Keketso Ran­tšo have been liv­ing in Ficks­burg and Lady­brand re­spec­tively, since they sought refuge in south Africa in May 2015 say­ing they could con­tinue liv­ing in Le­sotho be­cause they feared for their lives.

Dr tax could not be reached for com­ment yes­ter­day, while De­fence and Na­tional se­cu­rity Min­is­ter tšeliso Mokhosi yes­ter­day told the Le­sotho Times he was not aware of the let­ter, but said the soldiers should “just re­turn home” as noth­ing would hap­pen to them. the min­is­ter cited the case of one sergeant Moshoeshoe who was also in ex­ile but is now back home “and noth­ing hap­pened to him”.

But ac­cord­ing to Colonel Ma­to­bakele’s let­ter dated 1 June 2016, SADC should look into the ex­iled soldiers’ plight and help them re­turn to their fam­i­lies.

the let­ter reads: “We have the hon­our to write to your good of­fice in or­der to humbly seek your as­sis­tance.

“Your ex­cel­lency will re­call that Le­sotho de­vel­oped a se­cu­rity cri­sis from the be­gin­ning of 2014 when some homes were bom- barded. You will also re­call an in­ci­dent of at­tempted coup in Au­gust 2014, the pre­planned bru­tal mur­der of for­mer LDF com­man­der Lt-gen Maa­parankoe Ma­hao (on 25 June 2015), and other in­ci­dents of mur­der as per the Judge Phumaphi Com­mis­sion’s find­ings. There were also ab­duc­tions and kid­nap­pings of some soldiers and of­fi­cers al­leged to have com­mit­ted mutiny.

“But it is a well-known fact that such al­le­ga­tions had no sub­stance; even the Phumaphi Com­mis­sion (which probed the fa­tal shoot­ing of Lt-gen Ma­hao by his mil­i­tary col­leagues al­legedly while re­sist­ing ar­rest for be­ing the leader of a foiled mutiny plot in the LDF) con­firmed that there was no such.”

these and other re­cent in­ci­dents have made some civil­ians and se­cu­rity per­son­nel flee the coun­try, Colonel Ma­to­bakele added.

“We there­fore, as ex­iled soldiers, humbly re­quest your good of­fice to fa­cil­i­tate the Phumaphi Com­mis­sion rec­om­men­da­tions to be im­ple­mented in Le­sotho in or­der to avert more prob­lems that might spill over and then neg­a­tively af­fect the re­gion,” Colonel Ma­to­bakele wrote.

“the re­cent Court of Ap­peal judge­ment for those soldiers in Max­i­mum se­cu­rity De­ten­tion Cen­tre shows no com­mit­ment on the side of the Le­sotho gov­ern­ment to set­tle the cur­rent cri­sis am­i­ca­bly, but has ul­te­rior mo­tive. We are aware that the po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship does not have the courage to im­ple­ment those rec­om­men­da­tions be­cause of fear and favour of those rogue soldiers.

“We are also con­cerned about the mo­tive of in­tel­li­gence sur­veil­lance from Le­sotho that is con­cen­trated in Lady­brand and Ficks­burg. such de­ploy­ment seems to have ul­te­rior mo­tive. We also do not un­der­stand why Lt-gen tlali Kamoli who has been rec­om­mended to be fired (by the SADC Com­mis­sion of In­quiry) can be al­lowed to keep on pro­mot­ing his favourites and try­ing to ma­nip­u­late rec­om­mended mean­ing­ful se­cu­rity sec­tor re­forms. Most of our ju­niors skipped ranks so that they can over­take us.”

Colonel Ma­to­bakele also says “as lawabid­ing per­son­nel”, the ex­iled soldiers are re­quest­ing SADC’S in­ter­ven­tion “be­fore the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion be­comes sim­i­lar to that of Bu­rundi”.

the let­ter con­tin­ues: “Ad­di­tion­ally, let me in­form your good of­fice that we never got our salaries since we fled for our safety. It is dif­fi­cult for our fam­i­lies to sur­vive and it is not easy for our kids to at­tend school ex­cept where some good samar­i­tans lend a help­ing hand. Most of our prop­er­ties have been seri-

We there­fore, as ex­iled soldiers, humbly re­quest your good of­fice to fa­cil­i­tate the Phumaphi Com­mis­sion rec­om­men­da­tions to be im­ple­mented in Le­sotho in or­der to avert more prob­lems that might spill over and then neg­a­tively af­fect the re­gion

ously looted in Makoanyane and Ratjo­mose bar­racks where we were ac­com­mo­dated.

“Later on, our fam­i­lies were ruth­lessly evicted. Your ex­cel­lency, two of our soldiers lost their wife and mother re­spec­tively but could not at­tend their fu­ner­als. You will re­call that the in­hu­manly tor­tured and false ac­cused soldiers in Max­i­mum are still ill­treated in de­fi­ance of the Phumaphi Com­mis­sion find­ings and rec­om­men­da­tions. these and other sit­u­a­tions forced us to seek the sym­pa­thetic con­sid­er­a­tion from your re­spect­ful of­fice upon which we have trust”.

Col Ma­to­bakele on Tues­day con­firmed writ­ing the let­ter and sub­mit­ting it to Dr tax last week.

“I can’t get into the de­tails be­cause we be­lieve SADC is cur­rently look­ing into our mat­ter so that we can be res­cued,” Col Ma­to­bakele said.

Colonel Matela Ma­to­bakele.

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