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Mahao mum on Sadc army chiefs meeting


Keiso Mohloboli

Regional army chiefs met in Pretoria on Thursday to discuss Lesotho’s on-going security crisis.

Lieutenant General Maaparankoe Mahao, whose appointment as the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) commander by Prime Minister Thomas Thabane last month sparked the unrest, briefed the meeting on why Lesotho is in its current predicament.

Dr Thabane fired Lt Gen Tlali Kamoli as LDF commander on 29 August for alleged insubordination and replaced him with Lt Gen Mahao, but the former has since refused to vacate the post, arguing the dismissal was illegal.

Because of the standoff, Lt Gen Mahao is yet to enter any of the country’s barracks to address his charges, while Lt Gen Kamoli looks to be firmly in charge of the LDF.

Lt Gen Mahao confirmed his meeting with army commanders from the 15-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC), but would not give details of its outcome due to security concerns.

“I was invited to the meeting which was held in Pretoria on Thursday, and I made my presentation regarding the current security situation in Lesotho.

“Following my presentation, the 14 other army chiefs discussed the issues I had raised. I can’t get into the details of the presentation now due to security reasons, and also before the commanders’ feedback reaches the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security chairman, President Jacob Zuma and our own Prime Minister,” he said.

Lt Gen Mahao dismissed claims doing the rounds in Lesotho that he was not allowed to address the meeting because of the dispute over who is in charge of the LDF.

“Claims that I was expelled from the meeting are unfounded. What transpired in that meeting was I had to present my report and let my colleagues discuss it and come up with a solution in my absence.

“It was only proper that the issue had to be discussed in my absence as I could not be a judge in my own case.”

Lt Gen Mahao also slammed allegations by “some politicians” that he was wearing a yellow suit when he attended Thursday’s meeting due to his support of the All Basotho Convention (ABC) led by Dr Thabane. Yellow is one of the ABC’s colours.

“This has been going on for a long time now and it is wrong to drag the military into politics. Following my suspension (on 15 January 2014), speculation was also rife that I had opened a training camp where I was training members of the ABC’s Under The Tree Army (UTTA). I don’t even know anything about  such a camp and I take such allegations as propaganda meant to tarnish my image.

“The same people were recently saying I had opened an office at the Police Headquarters and invited soldiers who support me to report to that office. It should be very clear that I am not a police officer, so there is no way that I am going to operate from a police station. I am the head of the Lesotho Defence Force, and I will eventually assume office when all this defence turmoil is over,” Lt Gen Mahao said.

Contacted for comment, Acting Government Secretary, Moahloli Mphaka said he did not have details of the Sadc army chiefs’ meeting.

“Issues of security are considered highly confidential and they are reported directly to the Minister of Defence, Police and National Security, Prime Minister Thabane,” Mr Mphaka said.

Repeated efforts to get a comment from the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Affairs Director, Retired Lieutenant-Colonel Tanki Mothae, were fruitless as his phone rang unanswered.

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