The Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) yesterday declared no amount of pressure would force the government to fire Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) Commander Lieutenant-General Tlali Kamoli.
Party spokesperson Teboho Sekata told a news conference in Maseru that Lt-Gen Kamoli would remain head of the military until Lesotho goes to the polls in 2020 and that exiled opposition leaders might have to stay in South Africa for the next four years if the commander’s removal is a condition for their return.
Mr Sekata also condemned today’s stay-away and protest march called by a coalition of civic groups to pressurize the government into “speedily” implementing Southern African Development Community (SADC) recommendations aimed at ending Lesotho’s instability.
The recommendations were made by a 10-member team of regional security and legal experts after probing the circumstances surrounding the fatal shooting of former army commander Maaparankoe Mahao. Lieutenant-General Mahao was killed on 25 June 2015 outside Maseru by his military colleagues, allegedly while resisting arrest for suspected mutiny.
Among the Commission’s recommendations was the dismissal of Lt-Gen Kamoli “in the interest of restoring trust and acceptance of the Lesotho Defence Force to the Basotho nation”, and the suspension of all LDF officers implicated in cases of murder, attempted murder and treason while investigations into their cases proceed “in line with international best practices”.
The Commission, led by Justice Mpaphi Phumaphi of Botswana, also recommended government should ensure criminal investigations into the death of Lt-Gen Mahao are pursued “vigorously” and that the police are empowered and resourced accordingly for the task. The investigations, the Commission added, should be conducted “expeditiously and comprehensively without any hindrance and that all physical evidence be surrendered and the finality of the investigations should lead to a transparent course of justice”.
The Commission also recommended that the government should ensure the safe return of opposition leaders—Thomas Thabane, Thesele ‘Maseribane and Keketso Rantšo of the All Basotho Convention (ABC), Basotho National Party and Reformed Congress of Lesotho respectively—who fled for South Africa in May last year saying they had been alerted of a plot, allegedly by some LDF members, to assassinate them.
The leaders also claimed the alleged plot was being masterminded by Lt-Gen Kamoli.
All the three leaders have vowed never to return to Lesotho until Lt-Gen Kamoli is removed as LDF commander.
But according to Mr Sekata, Lt-Gen Kamoli was going nowhere and the government would not be forced into removing him by anyone.
The announcement by a senior partner in the seven-party coalition government should come as a blow to the opposition and civil society whose hopes for lasting peace in Lesotho had been pinned on the implementation of the recommendations.
“Of the four recommendations made by SADC’s Phumaphi Commission, it’s funny that the opposition and the rest of the people who say they are concerned and want them speedily implemented, are just interested in the removal of Ntate Kamoli,” Mr Sekata said.
“The LCD has made it very clear that we have always wanted Ntate Kamoli as army commander, when on the other hand, the opposition wanted Maaparankoe Mahao. So how is it possible that after the people have spoken and entrusted us with the government, we even dare think of removing this commander we always wanted?
“We were voted into power because of what we were saying in our campaigns. We got the commander we always believed in, so the opposition can’t just wish him away. He is there until 2020, at the earliest, and that is only if the opposition gets back into government through democratic elections.”
Mr Sekata also said it was very important for exiled opposition leaders to realise they might have to stay in South Africa until 2020 if Lt-Gen Kamoli’s removal is a condition for their return.
“Those opposition leaders will have to make peace with Kamoli being the commander because he is not going anywhere anytime soon. It’s either they make peace with it or wait for the next elections in 2020. And if they are lucky and are voted back into power, then and only then shall their wish to remove him be granted,” said Mr Sekata.
“Until His Majesty has dissolved parliament in 2020 and called for the next elections, Commander Kamoli remains in his position.”
On today’s call for a stay-away and protest march by ‘Concerned Non-State Actors’, Mr Sekata said there would be security to ensure people who want to go to work do so safely. He warned those planning the protest march against violating the country’s laws.
“They should know that their right to exercise their powers ends where ours to swing our arms begin,” said Mr Sekata.
Asked to comment on Mr Sekata’s declaration, ABC spokesperson Tefo Mapesela said the statement was unfortunate. Mr Mapesela also said the government should explain if it had mandated the LCD to speak on its behalf.
“Sekata has no authority to be saying all this. There were many recommendations made by the Commission of Inquiry so why does he think we are only interested in this particular one which calls for Kamoli’s removal?
“The government has never revealed its stance regarding these recommendations and it’s time it tells us the role of the LCD so that we may start taking Sekata’s utterances seriously,” Mr Mapesela said.
“Like I said, the government should clearly state if it has mandated the LCD to handle government issues on its own, so we know how to respond and the right platform to do so.”
However, Mr Mapesela also said the opposition still had confidence and faith that the government would implement the recommendations.
“We still have faith that the government will engage us in talks pertaining to the recommendations. The LCD is not in government alone. It is a partner in this coalition government,” said Mr Mapesela.