An extraordinary meeting of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation scheduled for yesterday in Maputo was cancelled due to a High Court case lodged last month by Special Forces Commander Lieutenant-Colonel Tefo Hashatsi.
Top of the agenda of the regional summit was a report compiled by Justice Mpaphi Phumaphi about the death of former Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) Commander Maaparankoe Mahao on 25 June this year.
Lieutenant-General Mahao was shot dead outside his Mokema home by LDF members who had come to arrest him for suspected mutiny.
The shooting sparked outrage both in Lesotho and internationally, prompting Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili to invite SADC to help establish the circumstances surrounding the killing.
The regional bloc obliged by appointing Botswana’s Justice Phumaphi to lead a 10-member team of security and legal experts in probing the killing. However, the commission prematurely concluded its probe on 23 October instead of 9 November after the LDF refused to release 23 soldiers detained at Maseru Maximum Security Prison to testify. The soldiers were arrested between May and June this year for allegedly being part of Lt-Gen Mahao’s foiled mutiny plot.
Lt-Col Hashatsi was among several witnesses who testified before the commission but later filed an urgent application before the High Court seeking to stop the investigating team from calling him for a second grilling.
In the court action, Lt-Col Hashatsi claimed the commission had been biased against him during his first appearance on 17 September, hence his application.
He singled out Justice Phumaphi for special mention, saying the judge made him appear the prime suspect in Lt-Gen Mahao’s killing.
Because of the alleged bias, Lt-Col Hashatsi wanted the respondents—Prime Minister Mosisili, Justice Phumaphi, the Commission and Attorney General Tšokolo Makhethe—to give reasons why the inquiry should not be discontinued.
Lt-Col Hashatsi further wanted the court to rule the commission acted beyond its powers when it conducted hearings in Thaba ‘Nchu, South Africa, from 1-7 October, where exiled opposition leaders and members of the army gave testimonies.
He also wanted the court to order the commission to surrender to the Registrar of the High Court, evidence it had since gathered about him.
Lt-Col Hashatsi further wanted the respondents to show cause why the commission should not be “restrained and interdicted” from making any findings in relation to him, and also stopped from summoning him again “pending the outcome of this application”.
However, Justice Tšeliso Monaphathi only agreed to Lt-Col Hashatsi’s request not to appear before the commission again but allowed the hearings to continue.
The judge also said the other prayers in the application would be argued beginning 2 December 2015.
Meanwhile, speaking to the Sunday Express last night, Foreign Affairs and International Relations Minister Tlohang Sekhamane said the SADC meeting had been indefinitely postponed because of the court case.
“Even though I am not going to be specific about the dates, what I can tell you is that SADC Executive Secretary, Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax, invited the government of Lesotho to a meeting in Maputo where Justice Phumaphi was expected to table his report on the Commission of Inquiry,” the minister said.
“The government responded by pointing out that there was still a case before the High Court against the Commission and that it was going to be heard on 2 December 2015.
“The government asked SADC to allow the courts to hear out the case first and determine whether it was appropriate for Justice Phumaphi to table the report.
“But again, according to the Public Inquiries Act of 1994, it was expected that Justice Phumaphi would submit the report to the prime minister so he could table it before the National Assembly of Lesotho first and then take it to SADC afterwards.
“SADC accepted this explanation.”
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