LDF faces ma­jor revamp

. . . as se­cu­rity agency faces ma­jor revamp

Lesotho Times - - Front Page -

ARANDOM street sur­vey held re­cently by the Le­sotho Times seek­ing to hear peo­ple’s per­cep­tions about the Le­sotho De­fence Force (LDF) mostly re­vealed feel­ings of mis­trust and fear for the se­cu­rity agency.

Most of the peo­ple in­ter­viewed cited such neg­a­tive per­cep­tions to the as­sas­si­na­tions of for­mer LDF com­man­der, Lt-gen Maa­parankoe Ma­hao, in 2015 and Lt-gen Khoan­tle Motšo­motšo on 5 Septem­ber 2017. Both men were killed by their army col­leagues.

Some even called for the dis­band­ing of the LDF, while oth­ers cast doubt on the LDF’S sin­cer­ity in dis­charg­ing its man­date to pro­tect the na­tion.

An­other group of in­ter­vie­wees pointed to the need for the LDF to em­bark on a self-re­flec­tion and a re­form process to re­deem its im­age. In this wide-rang­ing in­ter­view, the Leso

tho Times’ (LT) Tsitsi Matope talks to Min­istry of De­fence and Na­tional Se­cu­rity Prin­ci­pal Sec­re­tary, Re­tired Colonel Tanki Mothae (RCTM) on the min­istry’s ef­forts to re­build the im­age of the LDF.

LT: Var­i­ous stake­hold­ers have a lot of ques­tions and con­cerns about the Le­sotho De­fence Force. Many of them want to believe the worst is over, yet still seem to strug­gle to see be­yond the pain and dis­ap­point­ment. What is the min­istry do­ing to re­build the na­tion’s trust in the army?

Mothae: Firstly, I would like to apol­o­gise to the na­tion for what hap­pened, and again to the fam­i­lies who lost their loved ones. What hap­pened on 5 Septem­ber 2017, did not only shock Ba­sotho but also the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity. We do not con­done such ac­tions and that is why we are open about these is­sues.

I un­der­stand how peo­ple feel be­cause, in any coun­try, when an army com­man­der is killed, it means the whole coun­try is in danger. A com­man­der is a na­tional flag-bearer, and tak­ing the life of such an in­di­vid­ual brings about a cri­sis. It is for that rea­son that the govern­ment of Le­sotho in­vited the South­ern African De­vel­op­ment Com­mu­nity (SADC) to help us re­spect our own na­tional flag.

Com­ing to what we are do­ing about this is­sue of work­ing to­wards chang­ing the neg­a­tive per­cep­tions about the army, we are oper­at­ing at var­i­ous lev­els in the min­istry and at the LDF.

We are mainly fo­cus­ing on work­ing from within, with the un­der­stand­ing that the ac­tions we have started to im­ple­ment will pos­i­tively re­flect through our per­son­nel’s con­duct. This is what we are do­ing as of now while we wait for the im­ple­men­ta­tion of se­cu­rity re­forms.

LT: It ap­pears your ac­tiv­i­ties are largely short-term, but what is the plan for the long term in order to make a real im­pact and bring about real trans­for­ma­tion?

Mothae: As the Min­istry of De­fence, we have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to en­sure that the LDF op­er­ates within its na­tional man­date and in con­form­ity with the con­sti­tu­tion of Le­sotho. En­sur­ing that the LDF ex­e­cutes its duty in ac­cor­dance with the laws of this coun­try would make trans­for­ma­tive ac­tions man­age­able and re­sults achieved within a rea­son­able time­frame.

The is­sue of re­build­ing the im­age of the LDF is of ut­most im­por­tance to this min­istry and it will take time, as well as a lot of work and com­mit­ment by the mil­i­tary and its partners. Al­though we are cur­rently work­ing in the short-term to project what the min­istry and the LDF are do­ing, we un­der­stand there are broader is­sues to be tack­led.

As a re­sult, im­age-build­ing will form part of our dis­cus­sions as we now be­gin to de­velop a frame­work for the se­cu­rity sec­tor re­forms, which will lead to the creation of longer-term pro­grammes fo­cused on build­ing peo­ple’s trust in the LDF.

LT: What crit­i­cal is­sues are you re­flect­ing through your mes­sages both to the pub­lic, de­vel­op­ment partners and within the LDF?

Mothae: The LDF is for the na­tion. It does not serve cer­tain in­di­vid­u­als and it has to be seen just like that. When some­thing goes wrong, we have the re­spon­si­bil­ity to cor­rect the sit­u­a­tion and not to pro­tect per­pe­tra­tors.

We would like Ba­sotho, our de­vel­op­ment partners and all the peo­ple re­sid­ing in Le­sotho to un­der­stand we have ac­cepted that we have se­cu­rity chal­lenges and we are co­op­er­at­ing with SADC to re­solve the prob­lems.

We are trans­par­ent; we are not hid­ing any­thing or pro­tect­ing any­one. The LDF is not be­yond re­demp­tion. It re­mains one of the best-trained forces in south­ern Africa.

Trained and well-dis­ci­plined, but of course, we all know what hap­pened and we have al­ready started cor­rect­ing that. With the par­tic­i­pa­tion of ev­ery­one, we can all emerge from this stronger.

LT: What do you have to say to those who have called for the LDF to be dis­banded, or have sug­gested that Le­sotho does not need a fully-fledged army be­cause the coun­try is sur­rounded by South Africa and can there­fore seek its as­sis­tance if need be? These sen­ti­ments, of course, largely come from those dis­grun­tled by the un­savoury devel­op­ments in the LDF.

Mothae: The Le­sotho mil­i­tary is not just a com­po­si­tion of cer­tain in­di­vid­u­als. It’s a con­sti­tu­tional re­quire­ment fur­ther sup­ported by the De­fence Force Act which also guides how it should be or­gan­ised and man­aged.

Le­sotho is a sovereign state, with its own mu­nic­i­pal or do­mes­tic laws on how the state should op­er­ate in line with its in­de­pen­dent state sta­tus. The fact that when we have some se­cu­rity chal­lenges South Africa and the rest of the re­gion come to as­sist, does not mean we do not need our own army.

Le­sotho is a mem­ber of SADC, the African Union, Com­mon­wealth and other bodies. We have treaties which pre­scribe how we work to­gether. For ex­am­ple, when one mem­ber-state needs as­sis­tance, the other mem­bers as­sist. It is the same at com­mu­nity level.

When a neigh­bour has a chal­lenge, they al­ways call on a neigh­bour for help, but that does not mean the neigh­bour has to dis­solve his own fam­ily be­cause he has asked for sup­port.

There­fore, as much as peo­ple are dis­ap­pointed, wish­ing away the LDF is not an easy thing to im­ple­ment be­cause it’s a con­sti­tu­tional mat­ter. If Ba­sotho feel strongly about it, they can in­sti­tute some mea­sures that can lead to the dis­band­ment of the army. Ba­sotho are the ones who wanted the mil­i­tary and they are the ones to also say we do not want it any­more if they think it is not serv­ing them.

LT: Through its in­ter­na­tional op­er­a­tions, the LDF had ac­quired a good im­age, and rep­u­ta­tion. But why does it seem like the same LDF failed to ap­pre­ci­ate that char­ity be­gins at home?

Mothae: It is true that the LDF has per­formed ex­cep­tion­ally well in­ter­na­tion­ally, work­ing in dif­fi­cult en­vi­ron­ments in­clud­ing Dar­fur, Syria and oth­ers. Of­fi­cers from other coun­tries who have worked with our of­fi­cers al­ways get sur­prised when they hear of the vi­o­lent events here in Le­sotho, know­ing the dis­ci­pline our of­fi­cers demon­strated. These are the is­sues we are work­ing to ad­dress.

LT: But why this change in be­hav­iour?

Mothae: We must al­ways main­tain a rig­or­ous pro­mo­tion process to have com­man­ders who lead sol­diers to the future. I believe that is our chal­lenge. At the same time, in the mil­i­tary, a com­man­der and those work­ing close to him or her, must be aware of ex­ter­nal fac­tors that may in­flu­ence the be­hav­iour of the mil­i­tary.

This en­sures that the mil­i­tary is left to per- form and ful­fil its con­sti­tu­tional roles, with­out any in­ter­fer­ence, and also to en­sure that the mil­i­tary un­der­stands its con­sti­tu­tional role, and not to in­ter­fere in other roles which do not fall un­der its ju­ris­dic­tion.

Be­cause we are dis­cussing im­age-build­ing, which should start from within, if it has to be real and sus­tain­able, we need to work on the of­fi­cers to un­der­stand that the higher you go, the more re­spon­si­bil­ity you as­sume and the need for you to un­der­stand the dy­nam­ics around your po­si­tion as the chief-of-de­fence or as deputies or as the gen­eral staff or se­nior of­fi­cers of the de­fence force.

When you are trained in the mil­i­tary en­vi­ron­ment, it is in such a way that you are able to grow with the sys­tem, un­der­stand­ing the na­tional re­quire­ments, ex­pec­ta­tions and dy­nam­ics.

Of course, not-with­stand­ing the fact that we also have our in­ter­na­tional obli­ga­tions as a coun­try and as a de­fence force, so we must also un­der­stand the in­ter­na­tional dy­nam­ics and obli­ga­tions. An army com­man­der is not just a com­man­der of the LDF, but has to be a com­man­der who un­der­stands the in­ter­na­tional en­vi­ron­ment within which the mil­i­tary is oper­at­ing.

He or she has to un­der­stand the lo­cal en­vi­ron­ment and the dy­nam­ics as­so­ci­ated with all the op­er­a­tions. When you talk about the im­age, this is ex­actly where we now have to start and build un­der­stand­ing and ap­pre­ci­a­tion of the role of the mil­i­tary at var­i­ous lev­els. Our im­age-build­ing pro­grammes have to fo­cus on many an­gles to re­shape it to con­form to the re­quired stan­dards.

LT: You talk of the need for a rig­or­ous pro­mo­tion process when it comes to se­nior po­si­tions. Do the chal­lenges in the LDF re­flect some flaws in the pro­mo­tion cri­te­ria?

Mothae: I think if you can re­call what Lt-Gen Thuso Motanyane said dur­ing the burial of Lt-gen Motšo­motšo, he was very clear as one of the ad­vo­cates who contributed to the for­mu­la­tion of some of our de­fence poli­cies and reg­u­la­tions. If those poli­cies had been re­spected, we would prob­a­bly not have these se­cu­rity chal­lenges.

The army has a very good pro­mo­tion pol­icy, and other set of rules that guide all op­er­a­tions, in­clud­ing a se­lec­tion cri­te­ria on what must hap­pen for one to be a se­nior of­fi­cer. Re­spect­ing those reg­u­la­tions is wis­dom.

This re­spect was demon­strated clearly by the past LDF lead­er­ship, which did a lot to shape the in­sti­tu­tion. For ex­am­ple, we had a num­ber of re­struc­tur­ing pro­grammes work­ing to­gether with all the poli­cies I am re­fer­ring to. Lt-gen Motanyane was ac­tu­ally hands-on on such mat­ters and so were other gen­er­als be­fore him.

Rig­or­ous re­struc­tur­ing started dur­ing Lt-gen Makhula Mosak­eng’s era be­fore he moved this pro­gramme fur­ther, leav­ing it in the hands of Lt-gen Motanyane who ac­tu­ally ad­vanced its level.

If such hard work had been re­spected and pre­served, the LDF would have been far ahead. It is sad that some of the poli­cies and stan­dards set by these gen­er­als were over­looked and never fol­lowed. As a re­sult, we have again been pushed back­wards.

The two gen­er­als I have just men­tioned re­ally worked hard in try­ing to en­sure that good sys­tems worked for ev­ery­body.

LT: Does the mil­i­tary dis­cuss a suc­ces­sion plan with the prime min­is­ter and min­is­ter of de­fence, for in­stance, to en­sure the se­lec­tion of the right can­di­date for the com­mand po­si­tion?

Mothae: Of course. We think a suc­ces­sion plan is very im­por­tant. The prepa­ra­tion for a com­man­der or com­man­ders to suc­ceed the in­cum­bent should be very clear. There should be cri­te­ria stat­ing that for one to be the gen­eral, this is what is re­quired. Se­nior pro­mo­tions also con­sider the is­sue of ma­tu­rity, be­cause in the army we believe the older you be­come, the more ma­ture, ex­pe­ri­enced and wiser.

Ma­tu­rity is crit­i­cal be­cause you are lead­ing an in­sti­tu­tion which has a huge potential to in­flu­ence cer­tain de­ci­sions and which can also un­leash se­ri­ous vi­o­lence in the coun­try. If you lack ma­tu­rity and ex­cel­lent man­age­rial skills, you will not be able to un­der­stand and man­age the in­ter­nal and ex­ter­nal dy­nam­ics.

The army has the potential to mount vi­o­lence against any­body and ev­ery­body be­cause it is the mil­i­tary. There­fore, who­ever man­ages or com­mands the mil­i­tary must have a clear un­der­stand­ing that this is what we pos­sess but it is not meant to un­leash vi­o­lence; it’s meant to pro­tect the ter­ri­to­rial in­tegrity of our coun­try.

LT: What bit­ter lessons did you learn from the as­sas­si­na­tion of Lt-gen Motšo­motšo, a month af­ter your ap­point­ment as prin­ci­pal sec­re­tary?

Mothae: I learnt that we had taken a wrong turn some­where along the way and now com­man­ders that de­cide to take the right di­rec­tion are killed in Le­sotho be­cause of those who do not want to see a sta­ble de­fence force.

The sad­dest part of this whole is­sue is when you dis­cover that cer­tain in­di­vid­u­als are be­ing used to carry out these atroc­i­ties on be­half of the mas­ters hid­ing in the dark. It is very sad.

I am sure we have all learnt some key lessons from all this – that it is not worth it. I re­alised painfully why the army should al­ways re­spect the rule of law. And I am sure with all the sup­port from other army of­fi­cers, so­ci­ety at large and other partners, we will to­gether cre­ate an en­vi­ron­ment where LDF com­man­ders will never be killed again.

“A com­man­der is a na­tional flag-bearer, and tak­ing the life of such an in­di­vid­ual brings about a cri­sis.

DIVERS from the South African po­lice pre­pare to search on Tues­day for three men sus­pected of hav­ing been dumped in Mo­hale Dam by some mem­bers of the Le­sotho De­fence Force in May this year.

EX­PERTS and in­ves­ti­ga­tors as­sess the scene on the bridge where the bodies are said to have been dumped.

DIVERS plunge into the dam on Tues­day.

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