Ramaphosa to close SADC mission
. . . as security chiefs remain in limbo
SOUTHERN African Development Community (SADC) facilitator to Lesotho, Cyril Ramaphosa, will tomorrow officially close the bloc’s technical mission in Maseru with the fate of the exiled security chiefs still uncertain, the Sunday Express has established.
The SADC Observer Mission in Lesotho was deployed in Lesotho to restore political stability after the 30 August 2014 invasion of Maseru Central, Police Headquarters and Ha-Mabote Police Station by members of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF), which former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane had described as a coup attempt.
The raid, which left one Lesotho Mounted Police Service member dead, triggered a chain of unsavoury events that led to the collapse of the coalition government and intervention by the SADC in an effort to avert a complete breakdown of the rule of law in the country.
In an interview with the Sunday Express on Friday, Head of SADC mission in Lesotho, Fannie Phakola said Mr Ramaphosa would officially bring to a close the regional bloc’s intervention in Lesotho in a ceremony to be attended by Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili.
“We will be shutting down shop in Lesotho on Tuesday but Mr Ramaphosa will be here on Monday to officially close down the office,” Mr Phakola said.
“A ceremony will be held at the SADC offices in which remarks would then be made by Mr Ramaphosa, Prime Minister Dr Mosisili and SADC Executive Secretary Stergomena Lawrence Tax.”
Speculation has been rife that Mr Ramaphosa would bring with him Lesotho Defence Force’s (LDF) Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli and Lt Gen Maaparankoe Mahao as well as Lesotho Mounted Police Service Commissioner Khothatso Tšooana from South Africa.
The trio were sent on a leave of absence in line with the Maseru Security Accord (MSA) which was signed on 23 October 2014 to restore peace between the agencies whose tiff nearly plunged the country into a civil war. This was mainly due to personality clashes between Commisioner Tšooana and Lt Gen Kamoli.
The absence of the trio was also meant to ensure peace prevails in Lesotho in the run-up to the February 2015 snap election — a result of the Maseru Facilitation Declaration also brokered by SADC on 2 October 2014 through Mr Ramaphosa.
Asked on whether the South African deputy President would also bring the security chiefs with him, Mr Phakola said he would not speculate on the issue, saying it was better to wait for Mr Ramaphosa to give an official announcement.
“I don’t want to speculate because the return of those security officials has not been officially announced,” he said.
“Among the reasons Ntate Ramaphosa will be coming is to chart the way forward with the new government on bringing back those officials.”
Contacted for comment yesterday, Government Secretary Moahloli Mphaka said Mr Ramaphosa’s closing of SADC’s mission to Lesotho was also expected to include the issuing of the timeframe for the return of the three security officials “even though it doesn’t necessarily mean they would return on Monday”.
“The SADC facilitator Mr Ramaphosa’s schedule entails officially handing over SADC business in Lesotho back to the newly-elected government and charting the way forward on the return of Lt Gen Mahao, Lt Gen Kamoli and Commissioner Tšooana,” Mr Mphaka said.
On their part, Lt Gen Mahao and Commissioner Tšooana told the Sunday Express yesterday they remained in limbo on when they would return home.
According to both Lt Gen Mahao and COMPOL Tšooana left Lesotho under the auspices of SADC and are still waiting for the regional bloc heads of states and relevant stakeholders to “show the way on when we can come home”.
The duo added that they were oriented by their army and police training to obey commands made by their superiors. As a result, they would wait until they are told to come back home by SADC and the government of Lesotho.
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