THE Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) has apologised to the Lesotho Times for an explicit threat that one of its senior officers made to the newspaper’s senior reporter Pascalinah Kabi.
On 5 December, the LDF spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Mashili Mashili wrote to Ms Kabi, accusing her of “infiltrating the LDF with the intention to spy”.
Lt-Col Mashili further accused Ms Kabi of endangering the security of the country by publishing information from a “restricted” military document.
This followed the publication by the Lesotho Times and its sister paper the Sunday Express of two articles by Ms Kabi on November 29 and December 2 respectively about demands for compensation by soldiers who fled into exile during the traumatic reign of former LDF commander Tlali Kamoli. The soldiers had been accused of mutinous behavior by Lt-Gen Kamoli but the allegations against them were never sustained. They returned to Lesotho from exile after Prime Minister Thomas Thabane won the June 3 2017 snap elections. Upon their return, they were reinstated into the LDF. They subsequently demanded compensation for the ill-treatment they had endured and submitted a document outlining their demands to the LDF.
It was that document that Ms Kabi quoted in her stories.
After publication of the stories Lt-Col Mashili accused Ms Kabi of a “calculated attempt to foment hatred and create a “chaotic situation in the LDF”. This was despite the fact that Ms Kabi had done everything to verify and balance the stories including conducting an interview with Lt-Col Mashili prior to publication of the stories. Lt-Col Mashili also strangely described the document on which Ms Kabi had based her stiry as a “restricted document” which should be put of bounds to civilians.
Instead of writing to the editor as is the norm by anyone aggrieved by a publication’s output, Lt-Col Mashili wrote directly to Ms Kabi, a mere reporter and ended his letter by issuing what appeared to be a direct threat: “We feel duty bound to put it in no uncertain terms that anyone- individually or in any form of groupings – who dare to torpedo the LDF command’s initiatives to accomplish that mandate (to unite the LDF under a unified command structure), the LDF will not take that lying down”
The management of the Lesotho Times had been in the process of engaging the Ministry of Defence over the grave threats to Ms Kabi.
The LDF Commander, Lieutenant General Mojalefa Letsoela, has now written a letter of apology which is fully reproduced below.
The Publisher and owner of the Lesotho Times, Basildon Peta, yesterday welcomed the apology issued by the LDF commander.
“We had been gravely worried by Lt-Col Mashili’s open ended threats against one of our staffers and we were not going to equally take it lying down.
“We now draw a modicum of relief from Commander Letsoela’s apology.
“The siege of terror imposed by the LDF on the Lesotho Times during the Kamoli era, including the brazen shooting of our editor, Lloyd Mutungamiri, is a matter of public record.
“We incurred the LDF’s wrath because we had dared condemn Kamoli’s conversion of the LDF from a professional army into an irresponsible militia targeting anyone who dared speak truth to power.
“With Kamoli’s demise, we had hoped that unprofessional behavior in the army had ended until we received Lt-Col Mashili’s highly charged letter threatening to repeat tragic history.
“More worrying was the departure by Lt-Col Mashili from the standard norm of writing to the editor to addressing the reporter directly using ominous threatening language…
“We are nonetheless humbled by Commander Letsoela’s apology. His humility in apologizing for such a brazen threat shows that he is a man of integrity and a professional soldier of repute. We fully support his current efforts to professionalize the LDF.”
See the full LDF below.