Opposition expresses outrage over gazette
Lesotho’s two main opposition parties have accused government of “trying to confuse and own” the SADC Commission of Inquiry established after the military fatally shot former Lesotho Defence Commander Maaparankoe Mahao.
Brigadier Mahao was killed in Mokema on 25 June this year by soldiers who had come to arrest him for allegedly being the ringleader of a group of LDF members plotting a mutiny against the army leadership.
After the murder, SADC leaders met in Pretoria, South Africa, on 3 July and agreed on establishing an independent probe-team comprised of legal experts from the region. No local is on that 13-member panel whose members have been in the country for the past two weeks.
The leaders also outlined the Commission’s terms of reference but government has since asked SADC Facilitator to Lesotho, Cyril Ramaphosa, to expand its mandate, while the South African deputy president has also made additional suggestions of his own.
SADC leaders had wanted the Commission to review army investigations into the alleged mutiny plot, investigate Brigadier Mahao’s death, probe the removal and reinstatement of Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli as LDF commander. The regional bloc had also wanted the Commission to investigate allegations by the opposition and civil society that Lt Gen Kamoli’s reinstatement in May this year had polarised the army and led to the current political and security instability in Lesotho.
However, government, through Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili, had suggested that former premier Thomas Thabane should also be probed by the Commission for a number of alleged crimes such as arbitrarily increasing police salaries with dire consequences on the nation, and sending Lesotho Correctional Service Commissioner Napo Sefali on indefinite suspension. Dr Mosisili also suggested the LDF operation of 30 August 2014, in which Sub-Inspector Mokheseng Ramahloko lost his life, be investigated as well as claims by Dr Thabane that the manoeuvres were an attempted coup.
On the other hand, Mr Ramaphosa suggested the Commission should also look into the 27 January 2014 simultaneous bombings by unknown assailants of the Moshoeshoe II homes of Liabiloe Ramoholi and ‘Mamoshoeshoe Moletsane and the Ha Abia residence of Police Commissioner Khothatso Tšooana. The Facilitator also suggested the appointment of the President of the Court of Appeal Justice Kananelo Mosito by Dr Thabane in January this year should be probed by the Commission.
The SADC terms, as well as those suggested by Dr Mosisili and Mr Ramaphosa, were included in a gazette published by government on 28 July 2015 while those by the opposition were excluded.
Among other demands, the opposition, comprising Dr Thabane’s All Basotho Convention (ABC), Basotho National Party (BNP) and Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL), had wanted the Commission to also incorporate Basotho because of their knowledge of events on the ground, and also probe allegations of murder and attempted murder levelled against the LDF.
Mr Ramaphosa was in Lesotho on Thursday to explain the terms-of reference and left on Friday after meeting various stakeholders from government and the opposition. However, according to BNP deputy leader Joang Molapo, the Commission was now in danger of becoming a farce.
“Firstly, people should be clear that this Commission of Inquiry is not government’s but was set-up by SADC, so the terms of reference are supposed to be endorsed by the regional bloc.
“The opposition is aware of the gazette released this week but its amended terms of reference won’t bring back peace and stability to Lesotho. However, the opposition is reassured after Mr Ramaphosa said the Commission would start work immediately but basing itself on the terms originally set by SADC on 3 July in Pretoria.
“The opposition is of the view that the gazetted terms of reference by Mosisili are not meant to resolve the crisis we have but just confuse members of the Commission.”
However, Chief Molapo said Mr Ramaphosa’s announcement that the original terms of reference could only be reviewed at the 16 August 2015 SADC Double Troika Summit, was highly welcome and reassuring.
On his part, ABC secretary general Samonyane Ntsekele said the absence of the opposition’s suggestions on the gazette “clearly shows that the government wants to own this Commission”.
He added: “The opposition wrote to Mr Ramaphosa and contributed to the terms of reference of the Commission of Inquiry. If Mosisili produced that gazette without considering our input, then it is very clear that he and his allies in government want to control the Commission and the opposition won’t allow that to happen.”