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Mahao family up in arms

Mourners carry the casket with the body of former LDF Commander Maaparankoe Mahao at his funeral on 11 July 2015 in Mokema.
Mourners carry the casket with the body of former LDF Commander Maaparankoe Mahao at his funeral on 11 July 2015 in Mokema.
  • Accuses military of refusing to cooperate with police over Maaparankoe Mahao’s murder

Keiso Mohloboli

The relatives of slain former army commander, Maaparankoe Mahao, are  accusing the military of refusing to cooperate with police investigations into the murder and have since sought the assistance of Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili.

The family says the army continues to deny the police access to the vehicle which ferried former LDF Commander Mahao from the spot he was shot outside his Mokema farm on 25 June this year, the firearms used in the attack, as well as his own weapon, two mobile phones and spectacles.

The Mahaos also say the military has refused to tell the police the names of the soldiers who took part in the operation hence their appeal to the premier to intervene.

According to the family, since the former LDF Commander Mahao was fatally shot by his colleagues allegedly while resisting arrest for suspected mutiny, “due process in accordance with the laws of the land has not taken place”.

The Mahaos’ frustrations are chronicled in a letter the family wrote to Dr Mosisili on 14 September 2015.

The letter, which was copied to His Majesty King Letsie III and signed by Lehloenya and Phatoli Mahao, reads: “We take the opportunity to pay homage and wish you well in steering the ship of Lesotho governance.

“We are confident that the Right Honourable the Prime Minister is aware of the callous murder of Lieutenant General Maaparankoe Mahao on 25 June 2015.

“After all, the Prime Minister initiated certain processes at the Southern African Development Community (SADC) in this regard.

“The family of the deceased is, however, deeply perturbed that more than two months since the murder, due process in accordance with the laws of the land has not taken place. Particularly disturbing are the following facts:

  1. The Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) has briefed the family of their frustration in investigating the matter. In particular, the LMPS has briefed us that the Lesotho Defence Force has obstructed their access to the vehicle that carried the deceased from the scene of the murder; the weapon or weapons that caused the demise of the deceased; the deceased’s firearm; the deceased’s two mobile phones and the deceased’s spectacles.

(2)  Above all, the LMPS has informed us that the LDF has declined to give them the names of the LDF personnel who were involved in the so-called operation on the fateful 25 June 2015.”

The Mahaos say the conduct of the LDF in refusing to cooperate with the police is “inhumane” and only meant to hurt the family even further.

“It is the family’s considered opinion that this conduct on the part of the LDF hierarchy is inhumane and seeks to inflict more pain on the family of the deceased,” the family writes.

“Above all, this conduct has no justification whatsoever and is plainly unlawful and nugatory to civilised norms in a democracy.”

The Mahao family is now putting the responsibility of ensuring the army cooperates with the police in the investigation right at the premier’s doorstep as head of government.

“Sir, as Prime Minister and Chief Executive of Lesotho Inc., it is our humble opinion that ultimately, it is your responsibility to right wrongs when organs of government trample upon the law and the human rights of citizens.

“Nothing is worse than the gruesome execution of a law-abiding citizen in broad view of relatives and other citizens. Still, nothing is worse than organs of the state crudely seeking to throw a cordon of protection around perpetrators of such a grisly crime that has shocked the nation and the international community alike.

“We assert that as head of government, you have sworn to protect the constitution and all other laws of the land. Above all, in the capacity of Prime Minister, all organs of state including, the LDF, are directly under your administrative authority and powers and you have the ultimate duty to call them to order when they abuse the might in their behest.

“The family thus make a plea to you, for the sake of justice, accountable governance and the good name of Lesotho, to direct those who lead the LDF to hand-over to the police, the items mentioned above and names of the personnel who carried out the operation that resulted in the death of Lt Gen Mahao.

“We hope that providence will guide you to do the right thing to provide the necessary leadership on this matter, as indeed it should guide you on all others”.

Contacted for comment on Friday, the Prime Minister’s Press Attaché, Motumi Ralejoe, said he was not aware of the Mahao letter.

Mr Ralejoe also said his personal opinion was it would not be wise for the Prime Minister to interfere with the proceedings of the SADC Commission of Inquiry which has since started probing Brigadier Mahao’s murder.

“From what you have told me about the contents of the Mahao family letter to the Right Honourable the Prime Minister, my view is that it would not be wise for the Prime Minister to interfere with the proceedings of the Commission of Inquiry. After all, this Commission was deployed here to investigate the circumstances surrounding the death of Mahao,” Mr Ralejoe said.

Police spokesperson Clifford Molefe yesterday confirmed the LMPS briefed the Mahao family about how their investigations were progressing but refused to talk about the LDF.

“Investigations are still in progress even though the police have not had access or the chance to inspect the vehicle that carried the deceased from the scene of the murder, the weapon or weapons used on the day, as well as his property,” Senior Inspector Molefe said.

Efforts to seek a comment from LDF Public Affairs Officer, Colonel Ntlele Ntoi, were fruitless yesterday.

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