Ma­hao fam­ily ap­peals to SADC DC

Lesotho Times - - News - ’Marafaele Mohloboli

THE fam­ily of slain for­mer army com­man­der Maa­parankoe Ma­hao has ap­pealed to South­ern African Devel­op­mentent Com­mu­nity (SADC) lead­ers to com­pel thehe gov­ern­ment to in­ves­ti­gate his killing whichch they say has been “stalled” by the po­lice andnd army to pro-pro­tect the al­leged per­pe­tra­tors.

The Ma­haos have also spo­kenken out against the “un­just” Amnesty Bill, 2016 say­ing it was a “cyn­i­cal at­tempt by thee gov­ern­ment to pro­tect and re­ward per­pe­tra­torstors of heinous crimes”.

The ap­peal was read out by the for­mer army chief’s brother, Pro­fes­sorr Nqosa Ma­hao, dur­ing a press con­fer­ence heldd in Maseru this week.

It is ad­dressed to SADC Dou­ble Troika chair­per­son Tan­za­nia Pres­i­den­tent John Magu-magu­fuli, SADC chair­per­son Kingg Mswati III of Swazi­land, Mozam­bique Pres­i­den­ti­dent Filipe Ny-nyusi, Ian Khama (Botswana), Ja­cob Zuma (South Africa), out­go­ing African­can Un-union Com­mis­sion chair­per­sonon Nkosazana Dlamini-zuma, SADC fa­cil­i­ta­tor to Le­sotho Cyril Ramaphosa and SADC Ex­ec­u­tive Sec­re­tary Dr Ster­gom­ena Lawrence Tax.

It was also re­layed to United States en­voy to Le­sotho Matthew Harrington, Euro­pean Union Am­bas­sador to Le­sotho Dr Michael Doyle and the SADC Over­sight Com­mit­tee.

How­ever, con­spic­u­ous by its ab­sence on the list of ad­dressees was the gov­ern­ment. Prof Ma­hao said they did not bother to send the ap­peal to the gov­ern­ment be­cause their never re­sponded to pre­vi­ous cor­re­spon­dence from the fam­ily.

“We didn’t write to the gov­ern­ment of Le­sotho be­cause it never re­sponds to us even though they are a part of SADC.”

He said they were “more con­vinced than ever” that the gov­ern­ment had no in­ten­tion “what­so­ever” of con­duct­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

The for­mer Le­sotho De­fence Force (LDF) com­man­der was shot dead just out­side Maseru, al­legedly while re­sist­ing ar­rest on sus­pi­cion he was be­hind a foiled mutiny plot in­volv­ing sev­eral LDF mem­bers who are now ap­pear­ing be­fore a Court Mar­tial.

Fol­low­ing the shoot­ing, the gov­ern­ment re­quested SADC to help probe the tragedy, re­sult­ing in a Com­mis­sion of In­quiry led by Botswana judge, Jus­tice Mpa­phi Phumaphi.

Af­ter the probe, the Com­mis­sion made sev­eral rec­om­men­da­tions aimed at find­ing last­ing har­mony in the King­dom.

Among the rec­om­men­da­tions was the re­moval of army com­man­der Lieu­tenant-gen­eral Tlali Kamoli to re­store Ba­sotho’s trust in the LDF, crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tions into the death of Lt-gen Ma­hao lead­ing to prose­cu­tion, con­sti­tu­tional re­forms, the sus­pen­sion of LDF of­fi­cers im­pli­cated in cases of mur­der, at­tempted mur­der and trea­son while inves- tiga­tions into the al­le­ga­tions pro­ceeded in line with in­ter­na­tional best prac­tice, as well as amnesty for the 23 sol­diers fac­ing mutiny charges be­fore the Court Mar­tial.

Prime Min­is­ter Pakalitha Mo­sisili an­nounced last June that an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the killing was un­der­way. How­ever, the Ma­hao fam­ily ac­cused the gov­ern­ment of de­lib­er­ately stalling the probe.

“We are more than ever con­vinced that the Gov­ern­ment of Le­sotho has no in­ten­tion what­so­ever to con­duct the in­ves­ti­ga­tions,” said Prof Ma­hao.

He said de­spite the SADC Dou­ble Troika en­dors­ing the Com­mis­sion of In­quiry’s rec­om­men­da­tion for crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tions into the killing to be pur­sued “vig­or­ously” and ex­pe­di­tiously, the gov­ern­ment was drag­ging its feet.

He said the gov­ern­ment’s un­will­ing­ness to bring his brother’s killers to book was made “am­ply clear” in the in­for­ma­tion they gave to the Over­sight Com­mit­tee dur­ing its visit to Le­sotho on 17-25 Novem­ber 2016.

“Ac­cord­ing to the re­port the Min­is­ter of Po­lice, Mr Phal­lang Monare, in­formed the Over­sight Com­mit­tee that ‘The in­ves­ti­ga­tions on the death of Brig. Gen­eral Ma­hao are still un­der­way. The Po­lice have met with the LDF to de­velop a com­mon ap­proach to the in­ves­ti­ga­tions. The bal­lis­tic tests are still pend­ing as the po­lice have not got ac­cess to firearms that were used in the death of Brig. Gen­eral Ma­hao’ (p. 6).”

He said Po­lice Com­mis­sioner Mo­lahlehi Let­soepa had in­formed the Over­sight Com­mit­tee that while most of the ev­i­dence was avail­able, the weapons had not been de­liv­ered to the po­lice be­cause the lab­o­ra­tory, which had been burnt down, had not yet been re­paired.

The fam­ily queried the logic of the de­ci­sion since the po­lice sub­mit­ted some firearms re­lated to other crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tions for bal­lis­tic tests to the South African Po­lice Ser­vice (SAPS.

“The de­ci­sion by LMPS to send for bal­lis­tic tests weapons in­volved in other in­ves­ti­ga­tions to SAPS, but those which are the sub­ject in­ter­na­tional in­ter­ests, is both un­fath­omable and ir­ra­tional.” Prof Ma­hao also cited the in­stance when the SADC Dou­ble Troika-com­mis­sioned pathol­o­gists failed to con­duct an au­topsy on Lt-gen Ma­hao.

“As part of con­struct­ing a com­plete pathol­o­gist re­port, a team of bal­lis­tics ex­perts led by Ma­jor Man­gena of the South African Po­lice Ser­vices in Pre­to­ria was si­mul­ta­ne­ously dis­patched to Le­sotho to con­duct bal­lis­tic in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

“In the event, Ma­jor Man­gena and his team were de­nied ac­cess to the ve­hi­cle that trans­ported the de­ceased from the scene of the crime as well as the weapons used in the killing. Not only were they de­nied this vi­tal ma­te­rial ev­i­dence, but they -- - were hur­ried out of Le­sotho by the coun­try’s au­thor­i­ties.”

Added Prof Ma­hao: “In the opin­ion of the fam­ily this stalling backed by con­trived al­i­bis con­sti­tute clear ev­i­dence of the col­lu­sion be­tween the gov­ern­ment, the LMPS and the LDF in uni­son to frus­trate in­ves­ti­ga­tions and to defy SADC and the rest of the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity in a mat­ter so cen­tral to peace, sta­bil­ity, rule of law and course jus­tice in Le­sotho.”

He also touched on the con­tentious Amnesty Bill, 2016 which was pre­sented in the Na­tional Assem­bly on 22 Novem­ber. If passed into law, the bill would grant mem­bers of the se­cu­rity sec­tor a blan­ket amnesty for of­fences com­mit­ted be­tween Jan­uary 2007 and De­cem­ber 2015.

The amnesty would ex­tend to mem­bers of the LDF whom the SADC Com­mis­sion of In­quiry into Le­sotho’s in­sta­bil­ity had rec­om­mended should face prose­cu­tion.

Prof Ma­hao re­ferred again to the Over­sight Com­mit­tee re­port in which De­fence Min­is­ter Tšeliso Mokhosi was quoted say­ing: “. . .the Min­istry is aware that army per­son­nel were in­volved in the death of Brig. Gen­eral Ma­hao, (but) they are also cov­ered by the pro­posed amnesty (p.9).”

The min­is­ter’s re­marks, Prof Ma­hao said, made clear “a di­rect nexus be­tween the de­lib­er­ate stalling of in­ves­ti­ga­tions and the ob­nox­ious Amnesty Bill”.

He said the Ma­hao fam­ily and other fam­i­lies of cit­i­zens killed by the LDF as well as sol­diers fac­ing mutiny charges had “made it clear that they re­ject the un­just Amnesty Bill in toto”.

“The Bill is a hardly veiled and cyn­i­cal at­tempt by the gov­ern­ment to pro­tect and re­ward per­pe­tra­tors of heinous crimes. The Bill is an af­front to the rule of law and a li­cense for im­punity. It is yet again the clear­est state­ment by the gov­ern­ment that it is not in­tent on hold­ing rogue el­e­ments in the LDF to ac­count and am­ply cap­tures the con­tempt with which it holds the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity.”

While ac­knowl­edg­ing Lt-gen’s re­moval from the helm of the LDF as a “step in the right di­rec­tion”, the Ma­hao fam­ily protested the fail­ure by the gov­ern­ment to “sus­pend other rogue el­e­ments” in the LDF men­tioned by name in Jus­tice Phumaphi’s re­port.

Prof Ma­hao also took is­sue with the re­cent pro­mo­tions of LDF mem­bers linked with his brother’s killing.

“This mul­ti­ple pro­mo­tions of crime sus­pects is yet the clear­est in­di­ca­tion that the gov­ern­ment of Le­sotho seeks to en­sure that the LDF ap­pa­ra­tus is firmly in the con­trol of a crim­i­nal el­e­ment.

“It is also ap­par­ent that many of the crime sus­pects have been pro­moted into the po­si­tions of of­fi­cers still lan­guish­ing in de­ten­tion cour­tesy of LDF de­fi­ance of court or­ders and SADC di­rec­tives that those wrong­fully de­tained sol­diers be freed. This back­hand slight oc­curs while SADC has given a clear di­rec­tion to the Le­sotho gov­ern­ment to sus­pend from duty all sol­diers im­pli­cated in crimes and to en­sure that they an­swer for their of­fenses in the courts of law.”

The fam­ily thus ap­pealed to SADC lead­ers to com­pel Maseru to im­ple­ment its com­mit­ments with re­gards to the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“Against this un­am­bigu­ous de­ter­mi­na­tion by the gov­ern­ment of Le­sotho to frus­trate the course of jus­tice, we ap­peal to Your Ex­cel­len­cies to help re­store our faith as the fam­ily most af­fected by this long drawn out saga of in­jus­tice and the en­tire peace-lov­ing Ba­sotho to pre­vail on it to do what is right.

“A clear­est sig­nal to the Le­sotho gov­ern­ment that it has to hon­our its con­sti­tu­tional obli­ga­tions and com­mit­ments to the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity is both nec­es­sary, ur­gent and un­avoid­able.”

Ef­forts to con­tact gov­ern­ment spokesper­son and Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Min­is­ter Se­ri­a­long Qoo were fruit­less yes­ter­day as his phone rang unan­swered.

For her part, deputy po­lice spokesper­son Se­nior In­spec­tor Ler­ato Mot­seki said: “We are not yet ready to com­ment on that is­sue as you can un­der­stand that the case is still be­ing in­ves­ti­gated. Talk­ing about the where­abouts of ex­hibits in this mat­ter could jeop­ar­dize the in­ves­ti­ga­tions.”

Pro­fes­sor Nqosa Ma­hao

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