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Commission blames army chiefs

Nat Molomo

 

MASERU — The leadership of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) must accept responsibility for the serious lapse of discipline that occurred during last April’s attack on Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili.

This is the verdict of the Steyn Commission that was set up in January this year to investigate the attack on Mosisili and the Makoanyane Military Base on April 22 last year.

At a press briefing on Friday, the chairman of the commission, former Lesotho Court of Appeal judge Jan Hendric Steyn, said it was distressing to note that a “motley bunch of some 15 odd brigands succeeded in penetrating an army base and capturing two vehicles”.

“The evidence clearly establishes that an all-pervasive ambience of laxity prevailed. The malaise was to be found at every level of the LDF’s manpower complement.

“It is our view that the leadership of the LDF must accept responsibility for the serious lapses of discipline that occurred and the ‘laissez faire’ attitude that prevailed,” Steyn said.

He said it was even more distressing that the mercenaries were able to overwhelm and acquire the weapons of an elite group of special forces.

“The insurgents were allowed to exit the base, drive to State House and they were given access to these premises,” Steyn said.

“After their attack was repulsed, they were again permitted to enter the camp unchallenged and succeeded in exiting from it for the second time.

“Were it not for the brave actions of a few resolute soldiers, Lesotho may well once again have been propelled into anarchy.”

Steyn said although the majority of LDF officers were men and women of integrity “there are always a few bad apples in every barrel”.

He also said whereas the army had taken part in previous insurgencies “the events of 21 and 22 April 2009 were not orchestrated by the army itself or any part thereof”.

“This was done by a dissident former non-commissioned officer, the late Makotoko Daniel Lerotholi,” Steyn also said.

“He was in turn financed and supported by a disgruntled Lesotho businessman, Jessie Ramakatane.

“They were probably assisted by a few disaffected members of an otherwise loyal defence force.”

Steyn said all role players in the political process should heed the lessons of the past.

“There is no need for the nation ever again to suffer the anarchy and chaos that are the inevitable consequences of insurrection,” he said.

“We see our goal as making a contribution via this investigation and report to the enhancement of stability in the kingdom.”

Steyn said the commission had recommended structural changes to improve the security network to enable “all role players to take all possible steps to prevent a recurrence of their flawed response during the emergency that arose in April 2009”.

“The fact that the attack failed in its objective (and) that four of the insurgents were killed and 10 apprehended should serve as a deterrent and discourage others from seeking to seize power through the barrel of a gun,” he said.

Steyn told the media briefing that the commission had made numerous findings and recommendations “out of the evidence presented before the commission”.

“Many of these findings and recommendations are security-sensitive and inappropriate for disclosure in the public domain,” he said.

“However, such findings and recommendations that are not security-sensitive will be released by the prime minister in due course.”

The commission, which was appointed on January 13 2010, was made up of Major-General Abel Shilubane from South Africa, Col Modiri Kooagile of Botswana and a retired LDF officer, Brigadier Rakoloana Posholi.

The commission said it heard evidence from 40 witnesses in compiling its report which was submitted to Mosisili on Friday.

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