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‘Politics commands the gun’


. . . as Lt-Gen Motšomotšo is laid to rest

Bereng Mpaki

THE military should always support democratic institutions and processes while understanding that politics leads the gun.

This is the formula for ensuring lasting peace and stability in Lesotho, according to Zimbabwe National Army commander General Constantino Chiwenga.

General Chiwenga made the remark while eulogising the slain Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) commander Lieutenant-General Khoantle Motšomotšo during the latter’s funeral on Thursday.

Lt-Gen Motšomotšo was fatally shot on 5 September 2017 by a subordinate, Brigadier Bulane Sechele, at his Ratjomose barracks office.

According to the government, Brig Sechele had been accompanied by Colonel Tefo Hashatsi and a third officer on the fateful day.

The trio had allegedly confronted Lt-Gen Motšomotšo over the police’s investigation of three army officers implicated in the killing of a woman near the home of former LDF commander, Lt-Gen Tlali Kamoli.

Zimbabwe National Army commander General Constantino Chiwenga

After Lt-Gen Motšomotšo explained that the investigation was being conducted in the spirit of implementing Southern African Development Community (SADC) decisions to probe LDF members implicated in acts of criminality, Brig Sechele allegedly pulled out a firearm and fatally shot the army commander.

Brig Sechele and Col Hashatsi were also killed in a hail of bullets from Lt-Gen Motšomotšo’s bodyguards outside the office complex.

Major Pitso Ramoepane, who has since been revealed as the third LDF officer, was on Thursday charged with Lt-Gen Motšomotšo’s murder in the Magistrate’s Court.

He is expected to reappear before the same court on 28 September for a follow-up remand.

Lt-Gen Motšomotšo was laid to rest in his home village of Ha Lesaoana in Butha-Buthe in a funeral attended by King Letsie III, Deputy Prime Minister Monyane Moleleki and acting LDF commander Major-General Lineo Poopa among other dignitaries.

Conspicuous by their attendance was former LDF commander Tlali Kamoli and some leaders of opposition parties.

Also in attendance were army chiefs from Botswana, South Africa, Swaziland and Zimbabwe along with representatives from the Indian army.

General Chiwenga, who spoke on behalf of military heads from SADC, said the assassination of Lt-Gen Motšomotšo was not only a loss for Lesotho but the region as a whole.

“The loss of Lt-Gen Motšomotšo is not only a great loss to the Kingdom of Lesotho and to the Lesotho Defence Force, but a loss to the entire region and our respective defence forces,” he said.

“The region remains concerned that there should be stability in the Kingdom of Lesotho. In that regard, the military should always support democratic processes and understand that politics command a gun. “Therefore we stand ready to support our brothers in Lesotho Defence Forces for them to understand these virtues.”

Head of State King Letsie III

In an emotional eulogy, King Letsie III said Lt-Gen Motšomotšo’s assassination had made Lesotho a laughing stock among other nations because foreigners were wondering how an army commander could be shot dead by his subordinates.

“This act of killing the man who was tasked with the responsibility of leading the army by other Basotho was very unfortunate, and is an embarrassment to the Kingdom and its people in the eyes of the international community.

“Everyone who knows me from around the world has been phoning and expressing concern about what is happening in my country and the kind of people we are.”

His Majesty also appealed to politicians and the general public to stop luring LDF into politics.

“Politicians should stop enticing soldiers into politics, which has jeopardised the country’s peace and stability. We need to embrace the peace-loving legacy of Lesotho’s founding monarch Moshoeshoe I,” said King Letsie III, adding that LDF members needed to obey their superiors.

In his remarks, Mr Moleleki said the government would do all in its power to restore peace and order in the country for the benefit of all its citizens.

“As part of our condolences to you the head of state and your people, we promise not to rest until we have attained peace for this country; so that it may be hospitable to all citizens,” the deputy premier said.

“I am also happy that other leaders of political parties are also present here today. And I hope we are on the same page on staying out of the business of the army and to stop enticing them with our clever talk. The soldiers are our sons and daughters, and we are all the subjects to the same King.”

He said there was nothing of consequence to be reaped by politicians in luring soldiers to their side.

Conspicuous by their attendance was former LDF commander Tlali Kamoli and some leaders of opposition parties.

“I believe it would be more important for me to use my eloquence away from the army. If we can do that, we won’t find ourselves having to go seek the assistance from outside (SADC), whom in truth, will end up taking us for granted,” he added.

For his part, Maj-Gen Poopa chided some politicians for claiming soldiers would be tortured upon being summoned by the police for interrogation.

“Stop lying to the soldiers that they are going to be subjected to torture or be killed when called by police for investigations. There is no such a thing,” he said.

“May I also ask that you stop inviting them to your secret meetings because that places the country at risk since you make them big headed.”

Maj-Gen Poopa said soldiers were not conversant with issues outside the military sphere, hence should not be involved in politics.

“Politics is not included in the training programmes that soldiers undergo at Makoanyane Barracks. Therefore, they know nothing about politics. So, when a soldier entertains the advances of a politician, he is likely to be won over because the politician can eloquently manipulate him through cunning talk.”

Reckless statements about the army, he said, also had the potential to threaten the stability of the country.

“Some of what I have heard on the radio, newspapers and social media makes one wonder whether some of us really want peace as Basotho,” Maj-Gen Poopa said.

“Right now, there is talk going around that a SADC (peace keeping force) is coming is going to do this and that to the Lesotho army.

“But I have informed the members of the army on the processes that are to follow. In order to address the current issues, we need to be supported by other countries to ensure that we look after the lives of Basotho.”

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