BOTSWANA’S High Court Judge, Mpathi Phumaphi, has been appointed to lead the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Commission of Inquiry into last month’s death of former Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) commander Maaparankoe Mahao.
According to Botswana media reports, Justice Phutheho was appointed presiding judge for the Commission of Inquiry by the country’s Chief Justice, Maruping Dibotelo, who announced the appointment last Friday. Justice Phutheho will lead nine other members of the judiciary from the region, with the SADC Summit having requested full collaboration and cooperation from the government of Lesotho in facilitating its work.
Brigadier Mahao was shot dead as he left his Mokema farm on 25 June by soldiers who had come to arrest him following accusations of being part of a group of soldiers plotting to overthrow the LDF leadership. However, Brigadier Mahao’s family has accused the army of killing him in cold blood basing on the account of his nephews who were with him during the incident.
The former LDF commander was buried in Mokema on Saturday, with thousands of Basotho from all walks of life in attendance.
The regional bloc, which brokered Lesotho’s snap elections in February this year through South Africa’s Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, had to call a special summit of its Double Troika last Friday in Pretoria where several resolutions were made regarding the Brigadier’s murder.
Among the resolutions was the establishment of the Commission of Inquiry, a proposal initially made by Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili. The bloc also resolved to set up an Oversight Committee to act as an early warning mechanism in the event of signs of instability in Lesotho.
The Commission of Inquiry’s probe is expected to take 60 days and will also look into LDF attacks of three key Maseru police stations on the morning of 30 August 2014, which former premier Thomas Thabane later said was a coup attempt as well as subsequent but related events.
SADC also recommended that Lesotho facilitate the safe return of the tripartite opposition leaders Dr Thabane, Basotho National Party leader Thesele ‘Maseribane and Reformed Congress of Lesotho leader Keketso Rantšo who fled Lesotho for South Africa in May this year, claiming they had received death threats.