Govt reinstates Mahao, nullifies Kamoli appointment
THE government has posthumously reinstated the slain Maaparankoe Mahao to his former position as commander of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) and at the rank of Lieutenant General.
The reinstatement, which had been on the cards after a request early this year by Lt-Gen Mahao’s family, was confirmed in a recent edition of the government gazette.
The same gazette also nullifies the May 2015 appointment of Lt-Gen Kamoli as LDF commander by the Pakalitha Mosisili-led former seven parties’ government.
Lt-Gen Mahao was appointed as LDF commander on 29 August 2014 after Prime Minister Thomas Thabane fired the then army commander, Retired Lt-Gen Tlali Kamoli for alleged insubordination.
However, Rtd Lt-Gen Kamoli rejected the dismissal challenging its legitimacy and allegedly proceeded to launch a coup attempt on 30 August 2014. The coup attempt kick-started a chain of events that culminated in the snap elections of February 2015 which ushered in the former seven parties’ coalition in place of Dr Thabane’s first government.
Upon assuming power, the Pakalitha Mosisili-led seven-party coalition reinstated Lt-Gen Kamoli, arguing that his dismissal and Lt-Gen Mahao’s promotion were illegal.
Rtd Lt Gen Kamoli was reinstated in a Government Gazette dated 22 May 2015. Another gazette that was issued on the same day announced the termination of Lt-Gen Mahao’s appointment as LDF commander and demoted him to his earlier rank as a Brigadier.
Lt-Gen Mahao challenged his demotion in the High Court and the case collapsed after he was assassinated on 25 June 2015 by his LDF colleagues.
However, the recent government gazette confirms his posthumous reinstatement.
“King Letsie III, pursuant to section 12 (1) (a) and 21(b) of the Lesotho Defence Force Act of 1996 and acting in accordance with the advice of the Prime Minister (Thomas Thabane) makes the notice that Lieutenant General Maaparankoe Mahao is reinstated as the Commander of the LDF with effect from 29 August 2014 to 22 May 2015,” part of the gazette states.
The gazette further repeals the termination of Lt Gen Mahao’s 29 August 2014 appointment and the reinstatement of Lt Gen Kamoli by Dr Mosisili’s government with effect from 29 August 2014.
“The appointment of Lieutenant General Kennedy Tlali Kamoli as Commander of LDF is terminated with effect from 29 August 2014”.
Efforts to obtain comment from the army on the implications of the government’s ruling were fruitfulness yesterday as the LDF Spokesperson, Lieutenant Colonel Mashili Mashili, referred this publication to the Defence Minister and the Principal Secretary who were not reachable on their mobile phones.
The reinstatement of Lt-Gen Mahao and the nullification of Lt Gen Kamoli’s appointment could mean that Lt Gen Kamoli’s tenure from May 2015 until he was forced to retire on 1 December 2016 was illegal.
This could also mean that all the promotions and other actions that Lt-Gen Kamoli carried out were illegal.
The government is preparing for a treason trial of 15 soldiers and three former ministers in Dr Thabane’s first government from 2012 to 2015.
The treason charges stem from the 30 August 2014 attempted coup which allegedly resulted from the dissatisfaction among some soldiers with Dr Thabane’s sacking of Lt-Gen Kamoli on 29 May 2014 and his replacement with Lt-Gen Mahao.
A confidential report has been prepared by a leading law firm commissioned by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to help in formulating the charges to be preferred against all the culprits involved in the 30 August 2014 attempted coup.
The report shows that at least three cabinet ministers in the first Thabane coalition and 15 LDF officers will face a plethora of charges including treason for their part in the 30 August 2014 events.
“The salient facts that led to the events of 30 August 2014 was the removal of the then army commander, Lt-Gen Tlali Kamoli on 29 August 2014 by the then Prime Minister Thabane and appointment of the late Lt-Gen Maaparankoe Mahao as the commander.
“This move by Dr Thabane became unpopular and was not well received by Lt-Gen Kamoli and most of the army command as well as some coalition partners in government, in particular, members of the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD).
“In the evening of 29 August 2014, the removed army commander Lt-Gen Kamoli called an urgent meeting of senior members of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) at Makoanyane Barracks (in Maseru),” the law firm chronicled.
“It was in this meeting that Lt-Gen Kamoli informed the senior LDF members that he had received intelligence that the police were going to hand over guns to some members of the All Basotho Convention (ABC) which they will use to shoot and kill members of the LCD on 1 Sep- tember 2014 during the LCD’s political rally to protest the prorogation of parliament.
“Lt-Gen Kamoli said the army had to intervene and stop the police from handing over guns to the ABC.”
The report stated that Kamoli’s actions were unlawful as he had been lawfully removed from the position of army commander.
“Another factor that makes the (army) operation unlawful is the fact that during the day of the 29th of August 2014, Lt-Gen Mahao was appointed the new commander of the LDF by Dr Thabane acting in accordance with Section 145 (4) of the constitution of 1999. This means LtGen Kamoli had been removed as commander of LDF and was no longer occupying the office of the commander of the LDF in the evening of 29 August 2014.
“Effectively, when Rtd Lt-Gen Kamoli called an urgent meeting of the senior officials of the LDF, where he authorised the operation, all decisions made by him which include the authorisation of the operation were null and void from the beginning because he could not have authorised such an operation as he was no longer commander of the LDF at the time,” the law firm states.
Meanwhile, the Mahao family representative, Qamako Mahao, yesterday welcomed the government decision to reinstate Lt-Gen Mahao, saying those who opposed the decision had probably overlooked the seriousness of the legal implications caused by illegal removal of Lt Gen Mahao and illegal reinstatement of Lt Gen Kamoli.
“The action of government to legalise Maaparankoe’s appointment as LDF Commander from August 2014 until when he was illegally fired in May 2015 has made the Mahao family very happy”.
“What most of the people do not understand is that there are so many people who suffered and who still need to claim for all the sufferings caused by this issue (of the illegal removal of Lt Gen Mahao).
“The SADC Commission of Inquiry findings clearly indicate that Maaparankoe was illegally removed from the LDF command. What this (action of reinstating Lt-Gen Mahao) by the government then means is that all the activities which happened between 29 August 2014 and 1 December 2016 were illegal under the watch of Kamoli,” Mr Mahao said.
He said there were serious legal implications to the extent that even the promotions that were effected during Lt Gen Kamoli’s tenure were null and void.
The late LDF Commander Lt Gen Maaparankoe Mahao
THE late Lt-Gen Maaparankoe Mahao.
RETIRED Lt-Gen Tlali Kamoli.