We will not receive Phumaphi’s report until Hashatsi’scase is over, says prime minister
Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili has declared that his government is not going to receive the SADC Commission’s report into the killing of former army commander Maaparankoe Mahao until the High Court has finalised Lieutenant-Colonel Tefo Hashatsi’s case challenging the inquiry’s legitimacy.
Dr Mosisili made the announcement in Qacha’s Nek on Friday as he introduced his seven coalition government partners during a public gathering held at Pitso Ground.
The premier invited SADC to help establish the circumstances surrounding Lieutenant-General Mahao’s fatal shooting by his colleagues on 25 June this year, resulting in an inquiry led by Botswana judge Justice Mpaphi Phumaphi.
Among the many people who testified before the commission during its probe which took place between 31 August and 23 October, was Lt-Col Hashatsi. However, the Special Forces Commander later challenged the inquiry’s legitimacy in the High Court citing, among others, that one of its members had not been properly sworn-in. The Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) officer also wanted the court to rule that the commission acted beyond its powers when it conducted hearings in Thaba ‘Nchu, South Africa, from 1-7 October, where exiled opposition leaders—former prime minister and All Basotho Convention leader Thomas Thabane, Basotho National Party (BNP) leader Thesele ‘Maseribane and Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL) leader Keketso Rantšo—were among those who gave testimonies. Lt-Col Hashatsi further wanted the commission to expunge evidence it had gathered about him pertaining to the shooting after noting in the application that Justice Phumaphi and Commissioner Ndlovu “confronted me with allegations that I had been present when Mahao was killed and that I was a suspect”. This, he said, was a clear indication that the commission was biased hence his prayer that its probe be declared illegal as it violated his rights.
Because of this court application which is still before the High Court, the Phumaphi report has not been made public although it was submitted to the SADC troika on politics, defence and security comprising South African President Jacob Zuma, Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi and a representative of new Tanzanian President John Magufuli in Johannesburg last weekend.
On Tuesday, the Prime Minister’s political advisor, Fako Likoti, told the Sunday Express’ sister publication, the Lesotho Times, that SADC had no right to dictate to Lesotho after the regional bloc had expressed “great concern” at Lt-Col Hashatsi’s court challenge. The troika also resolved to dispatch its mediator in the Lesotho crisis, South Africa’s deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa to Maseru as a matter of urgency, to engage the government of the lawsuit.
Mr Ramaphosa is expected in Maseru this week, although SADC Executive Secretary Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax yesterday said she could not say exactly when he would be arriving in the troubled Kingdom.
Analysts, civil society and opposition party leaders also condemned Lt-Col Hashatsi’s lawsuit as a “tactic” to delay the Phumaphi report believed to be highly critical of the government over Lt-Gen Mahao’s killing. The critics also accused government of complicity in the lawsuit although the premier and Attorney General are cited among the respondents.
On Friday, Dr Mosisili reiterated Dr Likoti’s statements, and went further to say his government would only receive the report when Lt-Col Hashatsi’s court case has been finalised.
Dr Mosisili said: “Today, I am glad to introduce the leaders of the current coalition government to you ‘Melele’ (people of Qacha’s Nek).
“I would also want to give you assurance that this coalition government will complete its five-year term. I want you all gathered here today to go and tell people who have speculating that Lesotho will soon be going for general elections, that I said 2020 is where we are headed. I want you to tell them that we will only be going for Local Government elections in 2016.”
Turning to the Phumaphi inquiry, Dr Mosisili said his government wrote to Dr Tax warning the regional bloc against releasing the report before the High Court case is finalised.
“We had advised SADC to wait for the High Court judgement before the release of Justice Phumaphi’s report.
“Now that the report has been submitted to SADC, the government of Lesotho has written to SADC and told the regional body to hold the report and not submit it to Lesotho because we are not going to receive it before the judgement,” Dr Mosisili said.
“I saw one of the local newspapers with a headline saying ‘SADC Commission to liberate Lesotho’, while other people have been speculating that the recommendations in Justice Phumaphi’s report are binding and must be implemented. But those are just recommendations and not compulsory.”
Commenting on Dr Mosisili’s statements, Chief ‘Maseribane yesterday said the Democratic Congress (DC) leader “should act like a prime minister”.
The BNP leader continued: “Ntate Mosisili’s claims that the government will implement the recommendations of the report should it only decide to do so and not through pressure by SADC. This shows that maybe Ntate Mahao’s death was a decision of the cabinet he is leading. It gives an impression that it was cabinet’s decision to kill Mahao and later discredit any investigations conducted into his death. Ntate Mosisili must be a real leader, a statesman and must not expect the nation to simply forget about General Mahao’s death, just like that.”
Chief ‘Maseribane further said Dr Mosisili should remember that it was during his first term as premier, in 1998, when SADC was invited to intervene in Lesotho’s political turmoil.
“We did not know SADC until he brought the bloc in to resolve the country’s political chaos of 1998,” Chief ‘Maseribane said.
“He must stop being dishonest to the nation, instead, he must man up and keep his promise of bringing peace and stability back to Lesotho.
“As a leader, he must make sure that opposition Members of Parliament go back to the National Assembly and not threaten that there will be by-elections in their constituencies should they continue boycotting sittings.
“He must work on bringing back home, all Basotho living in exile in South Africa because he has not done anything about it.
“What I am simply saying is that Ntate Mosisili must just work together with SADC Facilitator to Lesotho, Cyril Ramaphosa (SA deputy president) and make sure that Justice Phumaphi comes back to Lesotho and investigate the alleged mutiny which led to the killing of General Mahao by the military.”
Chief ‘Maseribane also took a swipe at Dr Likoti whom he called an opportunist “who always has his bead buttered on both sides”.
“Likoti will never point him in the right direction. He is not a congress and always has his bread buttered on all sides,” Chief ‘Maseribane.
“He is a man of opportunities and I have known him, for a long time to be a BNP member. You would expect him to be disciplined and a man of character because of his police training, but he is totally the opposite. I wish Ntate Mosisili could know better because somewhere down the line, Likoti’s loyalty to him will simply fade away. Just like that.”
Contacted yesterday evening on Chief ‘Maseribane’s claims that he would lead the premier astray and also that he was a former BNP member, Dr Likoti said: “It is nonsensical for ‘Maseribane to claim that I am a member of the BNP because when I was still a commissioner of the Independent Electoral Commission, he and his fellow members of the then government led by Thabane claimed that I was not part of them but a congress. It is really interesting that now I am with people they claimed I was aligned with, they associate me with nationalists.
“Then again, ‘Maseribane, of all people, must stop claiming that whatever recommendations have been made by Justice Phumaphi will be binding because Justice R. N Leon (of South Africa) once recommended that a certain politician should be charged with murder for the 1998 political riots and the government decided not to implement that recommendation.
“’Maseribane must just go back to school and complete his Form C so that he can be clear about advisors of political leaders. At least Ntate Mosisili is being advised by a Mosotho not some Indian from a family called Gupta the way Thabane tried to do when he was the prime minister.”