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Moleleki warns army against partisan politics

Pascalinah Kabi

DEPUTY Prime Minister Monyane Moleleki has warned the new army command against engaging in partisan politics, saying this could lead the army away from fulfilling its role of preserving the country’s democracy.

Prime Minister, Thomas Thabane’s government last month appointed Lieutenant General Mojalefa Letsoela as new army commander, deputised by Major General Matela Matobakele, Major General Poqa Motoa and Major General Ramanka Mokaloba.

Lt-Gen Letsoela took over from Retired Major General Lineo Poopa who had been acting in the position since the 5 September 2017 assassination of army commander, Lt-Gen Khoantle Motšomotšo, by his subordinates, Brigadier Bulane Sechele and Colonel Tefo Hashatsi.

Brigadier Sechele and Colonel Hashatsi were also killed on the same day in a shoot-out with Lt-Gen Motšomotšo’s bodyguards.

Speaking at the LDF change of command ceremony, which saw Lt-General Letsoela take over the reins at the Ratjomose Barracks on Friday, Mr Moleleki warned the new army command against dabbling in party politics.

Mr Moleleki said it was unfortunate that weak political leaders were misleading the military which he said was one of the pillars of democracy and good governance.

“Unfortunately, in our country there has been a tendency by some of us politicians to mislead the military. I call upon the new leaders of the army to avoid intercourse with such politicians which aims to take them on a wrong path,” Mr Moleleki said.

He said there was a perception that the military was a parallel government unto itself as reflected by its lack of cooperation and reluctance to accept civilian control.

Mr Moleleki said this was caused by weak and unpatriotic politicians who abused the army for their political goals and entrenchment in the governance system.

“Yes, this has largely been the case, but we have a well trained professional army which only needs support from us politicians by respecting their mandate and not forcing them to get involved in political matters which are not their business.”

He said that it was government’s sincere conviction that the multisectoral reforms shall place strong emphasis on definition of the roles and procedures for military employment and promotions in a democratic dispensation.

The Deputy Prime Minister was speaking at a time when the government is in the process of working out the modalities of multisectoral reforms, including security, judiciary, media, constitutional, parliamentary and public service reforms.

The reforms were recommended by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Commission of Inquiry, established to investigate circumstances surrounding the death of Lt-Gen Maaparankoe Mahao in June 2015.

Speaking at the same ceremony, Lt-Gen Letsoela said he had been given one of the hardest responsibilities after two army commanders were assassinated in a period of just two years.

“I thank you Major General Lineo Poopa for passing the baton to me after you led the army during a turbulent era where two army commanders were assassinated,” Lt-Gen Letsoela said.

He said no country could do away with the need to provide security for its people and Lesotho was no different.

Lt-Gen Letsoela said the army had a higher duty to vigilant and be able to respond to internal and external threats.

“As everyone will readily agree, I am being entrusted with the command at the time when our internal threat levels to security are at their highest levels in decades.

“Some of the examples include the festering animosity between the army and the police and the wanton killings of senior military personnel. As you know, two army commanders lost their lives at the hands of their own military colleagues,” Lt-Gen Letsoela said.

He said the root cause of the conflict was the involvement of the army in politics which resulted in instability in the country and friction among security agencies.

“I therefore make a pledge to the government and to all Basotho that I will do everything in my power to ensure that this country has a professional and apolitical army that will make every Mosotho proud.

“I will ensure that the rule of law reigns supreme, and that the army does not use its position to undermine this sacrosanct principle. Soldiers who break the law will be handed over to the police just like everyone else. They are mere citizens in uniform.”

“As the army, we will leave politics to the politicians and the latter will greatly help by refraining from actions that will strain that undertaking,” Lt-Gen Letsoela said.

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