TRC boss claims army assassination plot
TRANSFORMATION Resource Centre (TRC) Director, Tsikoane Peshoane, says he was tipped off on Friday of a plot to assassinate him and the monitoring of his movements by some members of the Lesotho Defense Force (LDF).
Mr Peshoane told the Sunday Express yesterday that the source, whom he said was a high ranking LDF officer, said a meeting by the army “top brass” had resolved to “manage” the civil society organisation in light of its “influential role” on the government’s decisions with regards to the military.
“I got the tip-off around 7pm and immediately headed home without even telling my colleagues because I didn’t want to scare them. I just disappeared,” he said.
“According to my source, who is very reliable and a high ranking officer in the army, the TRC topped the agenda in a management meeting that was held last Monday.”
Mr Peshoane said he was told the meeting was chaired by an officer who was part of the court martial for soldiers accused of mutiny.
“I was told that the meeting is usually convened for the army top-brass to update each other on their activities.
“This time around, there was a suggestion that the TRC should be managed as it seems to be very influential in the government’s decisions with regards to the army.”
The TRC director said he was not surprised by the warning, saying it was not the first time the organisation was under threat.
“Given the history that we have with the LDF, these threats are not surprising at all.
“There have been threats before and tip-offs, but we always took them lightly depending on who told us. This time around, we won’t take them lightly at all given our activities on behalf of exiled solders.”
Mr Peshoane said the TRC played a role in the return of 23 LDF members from exile in South Africa last month.
Some of the officers fled the country from as far back as 2014 citing threats to their lives from their colleagues. Others skipped Lesotho in 2015, after being accused of plotting to violently remove the LDF command led by then commander Lt-Gen Tlali Kamoli.
Between May and June 2015, the LDF arrested 22 officers whom the agency accused of mutiny. They were accused of working in cahoots with former army commander, Lt-Gen Maaparankoe Mahao, who was later killed by fellow soldiers in June 2015.
After the killing, the South African Development Community (SADC) established a commission to probe the circumstances surrounding the incident led by the retired Justice Mpaphi Phumaphi of Botswana.
The 10-member commission carried out its investigations between 31 August and 23 October 2015 and concluded that there was no mutiny plot and recommended an amnesty for the suspected mutineers.
The suspected mutineers were however, not granted an amnesty, with then premier, Pakalitha Mosisili’s administration placing 22 soldiers on open arrest.
The Dr Mosisili-led coalition government was, however, ousted in the wake of the 3 June 2017 snap elections which ushered in the current four-party governing coalition headed by Prime Minister Thomas Thabane.
The Dr Thabane-led government has since sent the 45 mutiny-accused soldiers on an indefinite leave of absence to give them time to decide whether or not they want to continue as members of the security agency.
It also postponed the mutiny court-martial to next year. TRC and the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace have since called on Dr Thabane to recall the court martial to formally discharge soldiers accused of mutiny.
“We facilitated the return of the exiled army officers,” Mr Peshoane said.
“We also urged the government to drop all the mutiny charges and cancel the open arrest conditions given to those who were kept in maximum security prison.”
Mr Peshoane said they also called for the charges to be dropped because accomplice witnesses claimed to have been tortured to implicate other soldiers in the alleged mutiny. The witnesses have written to Dr Thabane saying they were forced to lie.
“We also called on the government to rule out the army officers’ on their witness list in the mutiny charges. This means there is no longer evidence that can connect the army officers to the mutiny charges and there is no case.”
The TRC’s activism on behalf of the mutiny accused soldiers, he said, could have incensed some LDF members.
“If the army thinks that eliminating me will be eliminating the TRC, they are misdirected. I am not the TRC and I shall not be deterred from doing my job nor will the TRC. We are big human rights movement and this won’t help in any way.”
Mr Peshoane said the threats were not directed at him only, but other TRC staffers as well.
“As one of our staffers was going to Banjul to attend the ordinary session of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights in 2015, his laptop was mysteriously stolen in his car,” the TRC director said.
“The bulk of his presentation was on the violations by the LDF. The laptop was never recovered. So this is not new at all.”
Mr Peshoane added that he had notified Defence and National Security Ministry Principal Secretary, Retired Colonel Tanki Mothae and the police.
Rtd Col Mothae confirmed knowledge of the matter when contacted by the Sunday Express yesterday, but said he was yet to look into it.
Repeated attempts to contact LDF spokesperson Brigadier Ntlele Ntoi were fruitless as his phone rang unanswered, while his deputy, Lieutenant-Colonel Mashili Mashili, said he could not comment as he was on leave.
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