‘Kamoli insulted me when he realised my father had escaped’
Potlako Thabane—the son of former prime minister Thomas Thabane—on Thursday told the SADC Commission of Inquiry how he was “insulted with words depicting a woman’s body parts” by army commander Lieutenant-General Tlali Kamoli at State House in the early hours of 30 August 2014.
Mr Thabane told the probe team he had gone to see if his father was safe after receiving information members of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) were taking over police stations, when he met an extremely angry Lt-Gen Kamoli.
The LDF commander, he added, was furious after being told Dr Thabane had escaped from State House despite his orders to the guards that he should not leave the residence.
Dr Thabane, who fled to South Africa that morning, later called the army maneuvers a failed coup.
Mr Thabane on Thursday told the commission led by Botswana judge, Justice Mpaphi Phumaphi, he could not repeat what Lt-Gen Kamoli had called him that morning.
“After receiving a call of the army movements, I contacted a certain LDF officer at State House. I wanted that officer to communicate with Ntate Thabane about the information I had received but the man said he could not enter the prime minister’s room because of his junior rank,” Mr Thabane said, adding it was after this conversation that he went to State House.
“Strangely, unlike other days I had visited State House, there were many heavily-armed LDF members standing in groups. I was allowed in after consulting with the soldiers at the entrance,” Mr Thabane told the commission.
“During the consultation, I learnt that Ntate Thabane had just escaped from the house after receiving information the army was after him. Moments later, Ntate Kamoli arrived at State House. He was furiously asking the soldiers, and then me, where the prime minister was. Apparently, he had earlier ordered senior soldiers on guard that they should make sure Ntate Thabane did not go anywhere and that he should remain at State House.”
Mr Thabane further said he told Lt-Gen Kamoli that he had been told his father had left the residence.
“This response seemed to make him more furious and he hurled insults at me. I am embarrassed to say the exact words before the commission,” he said.
But the commissioners insisted he repeats the words in a way they could get what he meant and Mr Thabane said: “He insulted me with words depicting women’s body parts.”
He added: “I respect Ntate Kamoli, but I am not afraid of him.”
Dr Thabane’s daughter, ’Mabatšoeneng Hlaele (nee Nkoea Thabane) also told the commission how she and her husband, smuggled the premier out of State House that night.
“It was around 9pm and I was coming from Limpopo, South Africa, with my husband. We were driving to our house in Ladybrand when we received a call from Ntate Thabane’s partner, ’Me Liabiloe (’MaIsaiah Thabane). She told us in a whisper that we should go to State House immediately. She said things were not looking good following a meeting Ntate Thabane had just had with Ntate Kamoli. She said Ntate Kamoli had left the premises very angry following the meeting,” she said.
However, Advocate Hlaele said despite this message, they drove to Ladybrand instead of State House.
“At around 2am, we received another call from ’Me Liabiloe. This time she told us that Ntate Thabane was being stubborn and refusing to escape although he had been informed that the soldiers were coming for him,” said Advocate Hlaele.
“We then drove to State House and saw many soldiers there, which was unusual. Inside, we received information from some soldiers that Ntate Kamoli had issued an order that they should not allow Ntate Thabane to leave State House that night.”
Advocate Hlaele added with the help of some soldiers, they eventually managed to convince Dr Thabane to leave State House.
“We managed to get Ntate Thabane into our car and drove him out of the premises.
“At the gate, we were supposed to turn the lights on inside the vehicle so that the soldiers could see all the people inside. But with the help of a certain Mr Makhele, who knew Ntate Thabane was with us, he did not instruct us to switch the lights on.
“We then took Ntate to our home in Ladybrand. I remember him talking for the first time that night when we reached the Maseru border. He said this was the fourth time he was travelling under such circumstances from Lesotho to South Africa. He told us the other time he had to be put into the boot of a car to go through the border.”
The SADC Commission, which began its probe on 31 August 2015, is among others, investigating how former LDF commander Maaparankoe Mahao was killed by his military colleagues on 25 June this year in Mokema.
The army has since claimed Lt-Gen Mahao was resisting arrest for alleged mutiny when he was shot.
The nine-member commission of legal and security experts, is expected to take 90 days to complete its work and submit a report to the Southern African Development Community (SADC) leadership.
Several witnesses have since appeared before the commission, among them Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili, his deputy Mothetjoa Metsing and Lt Gen Kamoli.