Soldiers’ wives petition King Mswati III
. . . plead with incoming SADC chair to intervene in Lesotho
SEVEN wives of detained and exiled Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) members have lobbied incoming Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) chairman King Mswati III to intervene in the “suffering” of their husbands at the hands of the army command.
Led by ‘Mamphanya Mahao — the wife of slain former army commander Maaparankoe Mahao — the wives made the plea on Friday during the SADC People’s Summit in Manzini, Swaziland.
The SADC People’s Summit is held parallel to the 36th Ordinary Summit of SADC Heads of State and Government which is being held in the kingdom from 15 – 31 August 2016. The agenda of the SADC People’s Summit was to deliberate on issues affecting the region and craft a communique that was to be sent to heads of states and governments.
The detained soldiers are part of 23 LDF members who were arrested between May and June 2015 for allegedly plotting to violently remove the LDF command.
Seven of the soldiers have since been released from Maseru Maximum Security Prison and placed under open arrest, which is a form of bail in the military. The other 16 remain in detention.
Scores of LDF members also skipped the country citing threats to their lives from their colleagues. However, the LDF has consistently denied the allegations, saying the exiled soldiers were fleeing prosecution for mutiny charges.
During the SADC People’s Summit wives called on King Mswati III to ensure the SADC Commission of Inquiry recommendation for army commander Lieutenant-General Tlali Kamoli’s removal is implemented. The 10-member Commission of legal and security experts probed Lesotho’s security and political challenges following the fatal shooting of Lt-Gen Mahao on 25 June 2015. The probe was held between 31 August and 23 October 2015 and recommended the dismissal of Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) commander Lieutenant-General Tlali Kamoli and the return of exiled opposition leaders among others.
“We plead with His Majesty King Mswati III that, as he takes over as SADC chairperson, he should put an end to our families’ suffering under our own government,” said one of the wives.
“We call on him to ensure the current army commander is removed from office as per SADC recommendations.”
“Our husbands were taken away from their homes and families and incarcerated without proof and tangible reason,” said another wife while wiping away tears.
“Anything can happen in Lesotho. We are here today, but you must all know that we are also concerned about whether we will still have our jobs. We might return home to receive letters terminating our employment contracts.”
“The government and army have taken away our families’ privileges, including our conjugal rights after abducting our husbands and detaining them without committing any crime,” another wife said.
In her remarks, Ms Mahao said the wives not only needed the summit’s support but also of the Swazi people.
“I ask the summit to offer us its solidarity, especially the people of Swaziland to convince SADC to remove our tormenters,” she said.
“I plead with Swazis in particular because their king will be taking over the chairmanship of SADC. If they persuade him to make sure SADC recommendations are implemented, he will listen.”