Amid lin­ger­ing coup fears

Lesotho Times - - Front Page - Staff Re­porters

THE South­ern African De­vel­op­ment Com­mu­nity ( SADC) has de­ployed a standby force from South Africa, An­gola and Mozam­bique into Lesotho, as the re­gional bloc moves to avert an­other bout of in­sta­bil­ity prompted by this week’s as­sas­si­na­tion of Lesotho De­fence Force (LDF) com­man­der, Lieu­tenant-gen­eral Khoan­tle Motšo­motšo.

The standby force has also been brought into Lesotho to quell any pos­si­ble coup at­tempt by dis­grun­tled sol­diers and to pro­vide se­cu­rity dur­ing the im­ple­men­ta­tion of Sadc-man­dated multi-sec­toral re­forms which en­com­pass the mil­i­tary.

The re­gional bloc has also de­ployed into Lesotho four ministers from the SADC Min­is­te­rial Dou­ble Troika and a fact-find­ing mis­sion con­sist­ing of de­fence and se­cu­rity chiefs that ar­rived in the coun­try yes­ter­day. The team is sched­uled to hold meet­ings with var­i­ous stake­hold­ers in Lesotho’s body politic start­ing from to­mor­row un­til Sun­day.

De­fence and Na­tional Se­cu­rity Min­is­ter Sen­tje Le­bona con­firmed the de­ploy­ment of the standby force in an in­ter­view last night, say­ing the South African con­tin­gent ar­rived yes­ter­day.

“Some of them ar­rived today (yes­ter­day), while the other ones will ar­rive to­mor­row,” he said.

For­eign Af­fairs and In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions Min­is­ter Le­sego Mak­gothi also told a South African ra­dio sta­tion that the standby force would pro­vide se­cu­rity dur­ing the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the re­forms.

“The im­ple­men­ta­tion (of re­forms) will take about three to six months, then we will be done,” he said.

The en­vis­aged re­forms cover gover­nance, se­cu­rity, pub­lic ser­vice, me­dia, judiciary and leg­isla­tive sec­tors among other ar­eas and are aimed at deep­en­ing democ­racy and cre­at­ing last­ing sta­bil­ity which is con­ducive to eco­nomic growth.

How­ever the ministers would not re­veal the size of the standby force nor de­tails of its ma­te­rial strength.

Lt-gen Motšo­motšo was shot dead at his Ratjo­mose bar­racks on Tues­day morn­ing by Brigadier Bu­lane Sechele who was ac­com­pa­nied by Colonel Tefo Hashatsi.

Ac­cord­ing to For­eign Af­fairs and In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions Min­is­ter Le­sego Mak­gothi, the two se­nior of­fi­cers had con­fronted Lt-gen Motšo­motšo over the po­lice’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion of three army of­fi­cers im­pli­cated in the killing of a woman near the home of for­mer LDF com­man­der, Lieu­tenant-gen­eral Tlali Kamoli.

Af­ter Lt-gen Motšo­motšo ex­plained that the in­ves­ti­ga­tion was be­ing con­ducted in the spirit of im­ple­ment­ing SADC de­ci­sions to probe LDF mem­bers im­pli­cated in acts of crim­i­nal­ity, Brig Sechele al­legedly pulled out a firearm and fa­tally shot the army com­man­der.

Brig Sechele and Col Hashatsi were show­ered with bul­lets by Lt-gen Motšo­motšo’s body­guards out­side the of­fice af­ter the lat­ter re­alised what had hap­pened. Brig Sechele died on the spot, while Col Hashatsi died of his wounds in a nearby hospi­tal.

Im­pec­ca­ble sources have told this pub­li­ca­tion Lt-gen Motšo­motšo was asked dur­ing the SADC Troika Se­cu­rity Chiefs meet­ing held in Pre­to­ria, South Africa last month whether he needed any as­sis­tance to im­ple­ment SADC de­ci­sions of sus­pend­ing and pros­e­cut­ing LDF mem­bers ac­cused of se­ri­ous crimes such as mur­der.

Lt-gen Motšo­motšo re­port­edly de­clined the of­fer, say­ing he “was on top of the sit­u­a­tion”.

This time around, SADC is not tak­ing any chances, with the standby force hav­ing been de­ployed amid spec­u­la­tion that Brig Sechele and Col Hashatsi had planned to stage a coup if they had sur­vived af­ter killing Lt-gen Motšo­motšo.

The spec­u­la­tion was fu­elled by a let­ter cir­cu­lat­ing on so­cial me­dia and pur­port­edly found on Brig Sechele’s body which ex­pressed an in­ten­tion to es­tab­lish an in­terim gov­ern­ment.

Part of the let­ter reads: “We have taken over the reins so as to re­store peace and sta­bil­ity which are lack­ing due to pol­i­tics that have di­vided the army.

“The army will be in power for not more than five years in or­der to im­ple­ment the re­forms that the politi­cians have failed to do on their own. We as­sure the na­tion that its prop­erty and state of se­cu­rity are in good hands.

“We ad­vise all politi­cians to stop mak­ing any state­ments ei­ther on ra­dio sta­tions or on so­cial me­dia.”

How­ever, no gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial

con­tacted by the Lesotho Times could con­firm or dis­miss the authen­tic­ity of the doc­u­ment, say­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions were on­go­ing.

Prime Min­is­ter Thomas Tha­bane’s Press At­taché, Thabo Thakalekoala, said: “We also saw it on so­cial me­dia, and hon­estly we can­not com­ment on any­thing that is on so­cial me­dia. If the doc­u­ment was au­then­tic, the po­lice would be bet­ter-placed to com­ment.”

Po­lice spokesper­son, In­spec­tor Mpiti Mopeli, would not com­ment on the doc­u­ment, say­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions into the mat­ter were on­go­ing.

Fears of a coup have also been raised in light of Col Hashatsi’s drop­ping out in June this year from a Zim­babwe Na­tional Army Se­nior Com­man­ders’ course he had en­rolled in last Au­gust at the Na­tional De­fence College in Harare.

Col Hashatsi had been sec­onded for the course by Lt-gen Kamoli prior to his re­tire­ment as LDF com­man­der in De­cem­ber 2016.

Mil­i­tary sources in Zim­babwe told this pub­li­ca­tion yes­ter­day that “a red flag” had been raised over Col Hashatsi’s be­hav­iour and suit­abil­ity for the course.

the late LDF com­man­der Lt-gen khoan­tle motšo­motšo

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