Lesotho Defence Force Military Intelligence Officer Mantha Tekane was fired this week for allegedly tarnishing the images of Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing and army commander Lieutenant-General Tlali Kamoli through social media.
Private Tekane was in Maseru Maximum Security Prison for the alleged smear campaign when he received his dismissal letter on Tuesday.
He was part of a group of soldiers arrested for alleged mutiny between May and June this year, but later released for lack of evidence.
However, Private Tekane was rearrested early last month for the alleged smear campaign.
On 10 November, Private Tekane was slapped with a letter asking him to show cause why the LDF should not fire him for denigrating the army commander and deputy premier “through social media and leaflets…to the prejudice of public and national security”.
The letter, headlined ‘Show Cause Notice – Your Discharge From Service’ was signed by the Right Honourable Lt-Gen KT Kamoli, reads: “ Whereas you are a member of the Lesotho Defence Force whose duty is to ensure public order and the security of Lesotho under the command of the LDF.
“And whereas you, contrary to your duty as a soldier of the LDF, planned, supported and propagated the denigrations, through social media and leaflets, about the commander and officer of the LDF, including the Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) to the prejudice of public and national security.
“And whereas you planned, wrote and caused to be published the mendacities, about the commander and certain named senior and junior officers of the LDF, including the DPM intended and or calculated to bring into hatred or contempt or to excite dissatisfaction against them in the execution of their duties.
“And whereas your conduct was inciting to violence, disorder, counselling defiance and disobedience to the lawful authority within the LDF and the Basotho nation.
“And whereas you were found in possession of leafless containing information of the nature stated above, it is not in the interest of the Defence Force for you to remain in the force and the public interest requires that you be discharged from the Defence Force.
“Now therefore, you are required to show cause, if any, why you may not be discharged from the LDF pursuant to Section 31 (b) and (e) of the Lesotho Defence Force Act No 4 of 1996. Your written representation must be delivered to the office of the commander of the LDF within seven days, failure of which leaves me with no other understanding but that you have acquiesced to the proposed discharge.”
In response, Private Tekane denied the charges, and noted through a letter dated 18 November and written by his lawyer, Advocate Makhetha Motšoari: “My client can confirm that he is a member of the LDF with duty to ensure public order and security in terms of the law, which duty he has thus far, discharged with diligence and loyalty. Since the day our client joined the service, he has no bad record. He has been serving the nation with utmost discipline.”
Adv Motšoari further noted it would not be fair for the LDF to fire his client because of rumour.
“Client informs us that he has never planned, supported and propagated any denigration through any medium about the commander of the LDF or any civil authority with a view to prejudice national security. This is just but an allegation and it would not be fair and just for the LDF to discharge client on the basis of allegations,” the lawyer argued.
According to Adv Motšoari, his client “is presumed innocent until such time he has been found to have committed the alleged conduct by proper courts”.
“Client informs us that he has never incited any violence, disorder, defiance or disobedience within the LDF or the country at large. Since our client is denying the alleged misconduct, it is best and proper for the LDF to at least wait for the proper authorities to make a decision on that especially after hearing all the evidence.
“Client informs us that he has never been found in possession of any leaflets containing any subversive information. Assuming they were found in his possession, it would still be prudent for the LDF to have heard the necessary evidence as the law so requires.
“It would be arbitrary, unfair and prejudicial to discharge him from service on the basis of allegations as they appear on your letter which bears reference of this communication.”
However, after this response, Private Tekane was again served with a show cause letter dated 4 December 2015, and again signed by Lt-Gen Kamoli. The letter reads in part: “On 18 November 2015, your representative presented your written representation, which has been clearly understood. Now therefore, find hereunto attached further particulars in the form of an affidavit and annexes of Mr Mothusi Ratia rebutting your contention that ‘your show cause’ is based on allegations’ not ‘evidence’.
In response to this second letter, Adv Motšoari wrote: “Client has instructed us to respond, as we hereby do, that those allegations by one Ratia are untrue, fabricated and unfounded. Furthermore, we note that the impending dismissal of our client is based on the ‘evidence’ of the said Ratia whom our client has not had an opportunity to cross-examine. In the circumstances, the dismissal of our client based on untested evidence offends against the rules of natural justice and therefore unfair.”
However, Adv Motšoari yesterday told the Lesotho Times that his client was eventually fired on Tuesday this week.
“I don’t want to go deep into Private Tekane’s dismissal letter because I have not had enough time to study it. But what I can confirm is that he has been fired and is no longer a soldier.
“He was still in Maximum Security Prison when he was served with the letter yesterday (Tuesday) and was immediately released from detention,” Adv Motšoari said.
Efforts by the Lesotho Times to get a comment from Private Tekane were fruitless yesterday as his mobile phone was not reachable. The Lesotho Times could also not reach the LDF for comment on the issue, while the mobile phone of Defence Minister Tšeliso Mokhosi rang unanswered yesterday.