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Lekhanya speaks out on army, police fallout

Security bosses need to meet and talk, says retired major general.


Billy Ntaote

Former Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) Commander, Metsing Lekhanya, has spoken out on the on-going row between the army and the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS).

Retired Major General Lekhanya (76) was LDF commander when the army overthrew the government of Dr Leabua Jonathan on 15 January 1986, becoming chairman of the military council ruling until 2 May 1991, when he was ousted, also through a military coup.

Following the persistent squabbling between the LDF and LMPS, sparked by the bombing of the Ha Abia residence of LMPS Commissioner Khothatso Tšooana and the Moshoeshoe II homes of Liabiloe Ramoholi and ‘Mamoletsane Moletsane on 27 January this year by unknown assailants, the two security agencies have been trading insults over the incident.

The LDF Commander, Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli, has also ignored a letter written to him by Commissioner Tšooana on 14 April requesting the release, within a week, of eight soldiers the police wanted to question in connection with the attacks.

Reads the letter: “The office of the Commissioner of Police is investigating crimes of bombings that occurred around the 27th January 2014 on three families in Ha-Abia, and Moshoeshoe II. Your office is therefore requested to provide the Office of the Police Commissioner with the following information to facilitate the administration of justice: Record of purchase/acquisition of your RD 40mm HE M848. This should include the date of acquisition, place and name of company and quantity supplied and received by your office.

“Record of dispatch of your RD 40mm HE M848 from your armoury. This should include dates of dispatch, details of issuer and receiver and the purpose of such dispatch.
“Your report, which entails invoices from the supplier and copies of dispatch from armoury, should cover the periods from 1993 to date. In addition to the records above, you are required to release and direct the following eight officers (names withheld) under your command to report before the Office of the Commissioner of Police on the dates opposite their names.

Your cooperation will be highly appreciated and your response in regard to the acquisition of the RD 40mm HE M848 (grenades made in South Africa) is expected before Friday 18/04/14.”
On Tuesday last week, Commander Kamoli told a press conference held at Makoanyane Barracks the army would not cooperate with the LMPS in their investigations, and would rather have the attacks probed by an independent body “because the investigation was bungled from the onset”.
“I’ve consulted with and advised relevant stakeholders that an independent Board of Inquiry into the bombings should be established. This is because this matter was not handled properly from the very beginning and I’ve extensively consulted and discussed this on relevant platforms.”

Three weeks ago, Commissioner Tšooana told reporters of the police’s frustration at the army’s refusal to cooperate and Tuesday’s press conference was Commander Kamoli’s first public response to the bombings and the police request for the eight soldiers.
But according to Retired Major General Lekhanya, Lt Gen Kamoli was right in calling for an independent inquiry into the bombings but wrong to say he would not cooperate with the police.
“I would agree to all remedies that would ensure there are no conflicts between the police and the army, especially because the approach taken has already bungled the investigations.
“Yes, I’d accept an independent commission as the best approach to diffuse what is already a volatile situation. Such a commission would make recommendations and if need be, criminal charges laid against the assailants,” Ret Maj Gen Lekhanya on Friday told the Sunday Express.

He also questioned the decision to bring in South African experts to assist in the investigations.
“Why did we need the South African police’s assistance? The approach to this investigation was very crucial. The police should have involved the army from the onset, even if they could have had disagreements.
“There was need for all local remedies to be exhausted regarding these bombings before an outsider was brought in.
“Once you consult a third party in a situation so delicate, there is never a chance to return to the second party, and this is exactly what has happened.
“The involvement of foreign forces in a domestic issue closes doors for cooperation among the local institutions, and those who decided to bring in the South Africans should have been aware of this.
“The LMPS put suspicions on certain people and they actually exonerated themselves as the investigators that, in this case, happen to be the victims. So there was need for local remedies to be exhausted.
“We have the technical expertise to investigate these bombings. We have the Ballistics Unit in the Technical Service Department housed at Police Headquarters.
“I’m the one who founded that department particularly because we did not want to reveal our security to foreign forces,” Ret Maj Gen Lekhanya said.

He also said the fact that Commissioner Tšooana wrote such a “top secret” letter to Lt Gen Kamoli indicated a communication breakdown between the two security bosses.
“Tšooana’s letter indicates the he, as the Commissioner of Police, wanted to have it on record that he indeed, requested Kamoli’s assistance.
“It is wrong to have had such a letter disclosed to the nation. Other issues are held in confidence on a need-to-know basis.
“Why should the commander write to the commissioner? Why not meet to talk? The letter actually is making evidence.
“This conflict has put the public in a hostile situation. During my time, we used to meet almost weekly as the army, police and National Security Service bosses.
“We used to be just a phone-call away, always. We actually met on Wednesday, if not Mondays, or any time there was a pressing issue.”
However, the retired soldier said Lt Gen Kamoli was wrong to say he would not arrest the eight soldiers or comply with the police request.
“The police can only access the army through the commander, hence it is only through him that they can make a request to interview any soldiers.
“Back in my days, a BATT (British Army Training Team) member was involved in a shooting incident at Holiday Inn (now Maseru Sun Hotel).
“Following the incident, I had to ask the British Military Police to come to Maseru from London to investigate the involvement of the soldier in the shooting and the disciplinary hearings were dealt with in England.
“So even though our army is subject to national laws, they are first and foremost subjected to military laws and it is their own military laws and authorities that can hand them over to civilian courts and authorities,” he said.

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