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‘Kamoli wants to be PM’

 

LDF Commander LtKeiso Mohloboli

Thaba ‘Nchu

Colonel Matela Matobakele on Thursday told the SADC Commission of Inquiry that Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) commander, Lieutenant-General Tlali Kamoli, wants to be prime minister and has been plotting the takeover since 2012.

The exiled colonel said he knew Lt-Gen Kamoli’s ambitions because he worked very closely with him before seeking refuge in South Africa in March 2014 after receiving an anonymous tip-off that his life was in danger.

The first of 21 exiles who are testifying before the commission since it relocated to South Africa from Maseru on 1 October, Col Matobakele (53) said Lt-Gen Kamoli’s ultimate goal is to occupy the highest office in the land.

“Lt-Gen Kamoli doesn’t want to be commander of the LDF; he only sees the  position as a stepping stone to becoming the prime minister of Lesotho.  I know about this because I worked very closely with him and held several meetings with him so I know about his ambitions,” Col Matobakele told the commission established to investigate the killing of Lt-Gen Maaparankoe Mahao by the military on 25 June this year.

“In one of several meetings I had with him, and please don’t ask me the date,  he once asked me to organise a battalion to do some work for him. He told me that battalion was going to help me stage a coup. He further told me that if I wanted to live, I must keep what we discussed confidential because if I told anyone, he would kill me. I did as I was told but at the same time, I sensed danger because knowing the person he is, I thought he was setting me up so that if something went wrong with the coup, I would be held accountable, and he would be in the clear,” said Col Matobakele.

Because of the gravity of what he had been asked to do, Col Matobakele told the commission that he decided to share the information with some of the officers.

“I was worried with Lt-Gen Kamoli’s plan to overthrow the government, so I shared the plan with Lieutenant Colonel Matlali and Brigadier Maaparankoe Mahao.

“They both advised me to report the matter to Deputy Commander, Major-General Khoantle Motšomotšo and Chief of Staff Major-General Lineo Poopa.

“I followed the advice, but nothing was done about it. I also informed the then Minister of Defence, Ntate Thomas Thabane who was also the prime minister but he did not believe me. He said that would never happen,” he said.

Divisions in the LDF

According to Col Matobakele, the LDF started experiencing serious divisions when Lt-Gen Kamoli became commander in 2012.

“He started causing serious divisions in the army the first day he took over the LDF command in 2012 by making sure there was distrust among the soldiers.

“For example, he would badmouth other soldiers to me and the next day, do the same about me to the same soldier.

“As colleagues, we ended up not trusting each other and this caused divisions between the various departments.

Col Matobakele further said if anyone believes Lt-Gen Kamoli likes the current seven-party coalition government led by Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili , then that person is very mistaken.

“That notion is very wrong because even if Ntate Thabane had not assumed  power in 2012, and Ntate Mosisili had remained prime minister, the LDF was still going to try and takeover government. I would like this honourable commission to take my word that what happened to Ntate Thabane on 30 August 2014 when he had to flee for South Africa because soldiers were after him, was also going to happen to Ntate Mosisili had he been in power.”

Asked by Commissioner Helana Ras about the testimonies of soldiers currently  detained at Maseru Maximum Prison—that he was part of a plot to topple the LDF command—Col Matobakele said the statements were made under severe torture. He also said this was not possible because he was already in exile when the mutiny was allegedly being plotted.

“It is said on the charge-sheet that you promised to provide armoured vehicles called rams to the soldiers who were planning this mutiny. What do you say about this claim?” Commissioner Ras asked Col Matobakele.

“I was already in South Africa during the dates of the alleged mutiny so it is not true that I made such a promise. Again, where would I get the rams from? Please be aware that the people who implicated me on those charge-sheets had been tortured and were under pressure to implicate others in order to save their lives.”

Mahao’s murder

Col Matobakele also told the commission that plans to kill Lt-Gen Mahao started way back in 2008. Lt-Gen Mahao was killed by fellow soldiers on 25 June this year just outside Maseru. Government says he was resisting arrest for his part in a foiled mutiny when he was shot in Mokema.

Col Matobakele told the commission: “Contrary to what many people think, Ntate Kamoli’s plan to kill Ntate Mahao did not start on 29 August 2014. This was the day Ntate Mahao was appointed to take-over as LDF commander. The plot did not start on 30 August 2014 either, when his house was attacked by LDF members. The plot started as far back as 2008 after he was promoted to Brigadier and subsequently deployed to the SADC office in Botswana as Chief of Staff.

“In 2011, Lt-Gen Kamoli also went to Botswana under SADC but came back before Ntate Mahao. I don’t remember the dates but it was during lunchtime when Kamoli said we should discuss the return of Mahao from Botswana. He said we should deal with Mahao when he returned and that he must die. He said we should discuss how best to deal with him,” Col Matobakele said.

“Then on 1 January 2014, Lt-Gen Kamoli commanded Brigadier Mahao to go to Leribe and attend to a water-crisis affecting soldiers who had been deployed there. But there was no such crisis in Leribe; it was just a set-up to ambush him when he was on the way to the district.

“I was then Director of Operations and I was tipped-off by one of the soldiers that there was an ambush planned for Mahao. I was shocked because I did not know anything about his trip to Leribe even though I was the one in charge of operations at the time. I then called Mahao and made him aware of the trap; he told me he was aware of the plot and had already found means to make the plan fail. He also told me not to worry.

“I then realised that Lt-Gen Kamoli’s plans to kill Mahao were indeed serious.”

Exile in South Africa

Testifying how he fled Lesotho, Col Matobakele said he was president of the court-martial trying Second-Lieutenant Phaila, who was being accused of participating in the 1998 political riots that rocked the country.

“Phaila used to threaten me, so I was appointed president of his court-martial because Lt-Gen Kamoli wanted me to give him a life sentence.

“Then at the beginning of March 2014, I was still living at Makoanyane Barracks, when I received an anonymous call. That person told me not to ask his identity but it was a man. He asked where I was and I told him that I was still at my house.

“He then said: ‘The situation is very bad; I am only going to give you 15 minutes to leave but please don’t use the gate ’. I suspected that it was Colonel Bulane Sechele because I know his voice; he been my subordinate for quite some time. I didn’t ask questions and I did as I had been advised. I then stayed in Maseru for five days and then crossed the border on the sixth day. I stayed at the Lesotho High Commission in Pretoria until the Defence Attaché at the embassy, Colonel Ntšohi, asked me to leave this year.

“I had to find a place to stay in South Africa because government did not do anything about my plight.”

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