‘I did nothing wrong but still had to sign the accord for the sake of peace,’ says police commissioner.
LESOTHO Mounted Police Service (LMPS) Commissioner, Khothatso Tšooana, on Friday said he was leaving the country with a “heavy heart” because his banishment was unwarranted since he had done nothing wrong.
Commissioner of Police (ComPol) Tšooana, Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) Commander Lieutenant General Maaparankoe Mahao and Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli left the country on Friday in line with the Maseru Security Accord (MSA) signed on 23 October 2014.
Under the MSA, which was facilitated by the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the three men were required to go to an African or Commonwealth country on special leave to allow the restoration of peace between the LMPS and LDF, whose continued feuding — mainly due to personality clashes between ComPol Tšooana and Lt Gen Kamoli — had brought Lesotho to the brink of civil war.
The absence of the trio is 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 South African Vice-President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Speaking to the Sunday Express at Moshoeshoe I International Airport before leaving for Addis Ababa enroute to Algeria where he would be spending his leave of absence, expected to end next February, ComPol Tšooana (36) said he had only agreed to abide by the Accord for the sake of peace in his beloved homeland.
“It was not easy to leave my country, friends and family and go to Addis Ababa in Ethiopia (African Union headquarters) and then Algeria,” ComPol Tšooana said.
“Although the decision to make us sign the Accord was for the sake of peace in our country, it was unfair as I had not done anything wrong. It was quite a painful decision to make because being away from my roots and living in foreign countries is not easy. But like I said, I did nothing wrong but still had to sign the Accord for the sake of peace
The commissioner, who has been accused of being unfairly promoted ahead of more seasoned police officers because of his loyalty to Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, told the Sunday Express that only the “most gullible” would believe such suggestions.
After joining the LMPS in 2006 as a constable, ComPol Tšooana was promoted to inspector in 2009, senior inspector two years later, deputy commissioner in June 2013 and compol in January 2014, but insists his meteoric rise was through sheer hard work. ComPol Tšooana holds a Bachelor of Philosophy degree from Pontifical Urbanioan University in Italy, a BA Honours degree from the National University of Lesotho (NUL) and a Masters in Philosophy from NUL. He also holds a certificate in theology from the St Augustine’s Seminary in Roma. Still, his detractors believe he should not be holding the rank of police commissioner at his age and “inexperience”.
“I have heard all those claims that my promotion was politically influenced, and I dismiss them with the contempt they deserve,” he said. “It requires hard work, respect for authority, commitment, intelligence and kindness to be a good police officer.
“One can be in the police service for 20 years but if he or she is not working hard and does not have the qualities of setting the expected precedence within the agency, then that individual will not be promoted.
“I’m a believer, and through my hard work, I was promoted. The promotion of police officers is not done by political parties, so I won’t be bothered by these claims that my elevation was unfair because of my short service (eight years) in the LMPS,” Commissioner Tšooana said.
Asked how relations between the army and police plummeted to their current level, ComPol Tšooana said it all started when his Ha Abia home and those of two Moshoeshoe II families – Dr Thabane’s partner, Liabiloe Ramoholi, and her neighbour ‘Mamoletsane Moletsane — were bombed by unknown assailants on the night of 27 January 2014.
“The tension started when the police were beginning investigations into the three bombings and the suspects started to be violent and did not want to cooperate. You will recall that eight of those suspects were members of the LDF.
“As a Christian, the attack on my residence made me realise that power and the safety of people comes from the Almighty, not bombs. You might have bombs and guns but if you are brainless, then you won’t use them for their intended purpose,” Commissioner Tšooana said.
Meanwhile, earlier in the day, ComPol Tšooana had addressed a farewell party organised by the Lesotho Police Staff Association (LEPOSA) during which he had urged Acting ComPol, Masupha Masupha, to be fearless. According to the Maseru Security Accord, the LMPS would be under Deputy Police Commissioner Masupha, while Deputy Commander, Major General Khoantle Motsomotso leads the LDF until further notice.
ComPol Tšooana told the farewell party held at Police Training College: “Ntate Masupha, you must be fearless and face up to the enemies of the LMPS. Be an obedient leader and just do your job. I promise you, God will protect you and you won’t die simply because of other people’s wishes. You will only die when the time is right.”
ComPol Tšooana also urged Acting Commissioner Masupha to continue working on improving the welfare of LMPS staff so that they could deliver on their mandate — that of ensuring the safety of everyone in Lesotho.
The commissioner also reassured his subordinates that he would be back in his position once his leave of absence was over.
“I have heard people on local radios claiming that in Lesotho, if one is sent on leave, then he or she is going forever,” he said.
“I would like to assure you all that this will not be the case with me; things are going to be very different because I will be back as ComPol.”
On his part, LEPOSA President, Senior Superintendent Holomo Molibeli, said the entire LMPS was proud of ComPol Tšooana.
“You have not just been a leader but a father to us all. Your decision of agreeing to go on this leave while you did nothing wrong proves that you are respectful and obedient,” Snr Sup Molibeli said.
“Commissioner Tšooana is a victim of crime, his house was attacked with bombs and his family was traumatised. Instead of resolving the problem of suspects refusing to report to the police for interrogation, the SADC Facilitator, Ntate Ramaphosa, decided to send him away together with the aggressor.
“Ntate Ramaphosa has not been fair in this regard because he is taking away a victim of crime, instead of helping him heal from his trauma.
“Ever since I joined the police service in 1999, no commissioner has been this concerned about the welfare of the police, but their own interests.
“ComPol Tšooana has been the God-given Emmanuel to the entire police service because the police rank structure was only reviewed, police uniforms bought, sign language training offered at Police Training College and vehicles bought for police stations to attend to crime scenes on time when he became ComPol.”
On the other hand, Lt Gen Mahao, who left on the same plane with ComPol Tšooana on Friday afternoon on his way to Sudan via the AU head office, told the Sunday Express at the airport that it was an “emotional decision” for him to agree to leave the country.
“It is not always easy to leave friends, family and the country that you have lived in all your life,” Lt Gen Mahao said.
“I knew and understood what I was doing when I agreed to sign the Accord and also had to make my family understand my decision.
“It was difficult for them but at least they have been showing me support because they know that I will be back once my leave is over.
“I did not decide to go for my own interest but for peace and stability of this country.”
Lt Gen Mahao also dismissed claims that he was promoted to LDF Commander on 29 August 2014 — the day Dr Thabane fired Lt Gen Kamoli for alleged insubordination — because he is also favoured by the premier.
The decision to fire Lt Gen Kamoli — which he has refused to accept — was another reason why the Maseru Security Accord had to be signed.
“People claiming that I was unfairly promoted and that my appointment was politically influenced should rather say I was unfairly un-promoted in the past. My intelligence and obedience is what made me a good soldier that maybe impressed the authorities. I am not a politician and should also not be linked to politics,” he said.
Meanwhile, Lt Gen Kamoli did not leave on the same plane with ComPol Tšooana and Lt Gen Mahao on Friday.
According to sources privy to the case, Lt Gen Kamoli left by the country by road and was scheduled to catch his flight at OR Tambo Airport. He would be spending his leave in Uganda.