SOUTH African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa has strongly voiced his displeasure with Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s request to recall Police Commissioner Khothatso Tšooana from his special leave in Algeria, warning the move would cause South Africa to withdraw all its security detail seconded to protect the premier .
It would also cause Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli to be recalled, throwing all the agreements brokered by Mr Ramaphosa, on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to diffuse the crisis in the Kingdom, into serious jeopardy.
Impeccable sources said Mr Ramaphosa had been very firm against any violations of the Maseru Facilitation Declaration and Maseru Security Accord by Dr Thabane.
The sources said Dr Thabane’s office had a week ago approached the office of Mr Ramaphosa, in his capacity as SADC Facilitator to Lesotho, requesting that Commissioner Tšooana be allowed to return to Lesotho “to strengthen” police operations ahead of the 28 February 2015 snap general election.
Lesotho was supposed to hold its general election in 2017 but after the effective collapse of the coalition government and the attempted coup by the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) on August 30 2014, Mr Ramaphosa brokered the Maseru Facilitation Declaration — a roadmap for the holding of early polls — in an effort to defuse the ensuing political and security crisis.
Mr Ramaphosa’s facilitation also resulted in the Maseru Security Accord, on October 2014, to diffuse the tensions that had simmered between the LDF and the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) since the events of august 30 2014.
Under the security accord, Commissioner Tšooana, Lieutenant General Maaparankoe Mahao — who had been appointed new LDF commander but barred from assuming the post — and Lt Gen Kamoli himself were required to go on special leave to different African or Commonwealth countries to enable the restoration of normal relations between the LMPS and LDF.
The continued feuding — spawned by intense personality clashes between Commissioner Tšooana and Lt Gen Kamoli — had brought Lesotho to the brink of civil war.
Commissioner Tšooana and Liuetenant General Mahao are stationed in Algeria and Sudan respectively, while Lt Gen Kamoli is still in South Africa and yet to leave for his final destination of Uganda.
Uganda is said to have developed cold feet in receiving Lieutenant Geneal Kamoli because it did not want to reward bad behaviour by a top military man and establish a bad precedent.
The deputies at the LDF and MPLS, Messrs Kgoantle Motsomotso and Masupha Masupha respectovely, were tasked with running both security agencies while their feuding bosses were away.
But it is understood that Dr Thabane has not been happy at all with Acting Commissioner Masupha, whom he suspects of being loyal to his enemies in the opposition.
Dr Thabane and Acting Commissioner Masupha clashed last week over the latter’s bid to oust Assistant Commisioner Sello Mosili, the head of the LMPS’s crime intelligence unit who is seen as close to Dr Thabane and has led various high profile investigations against the premier’s opponents.
Acting Commissioner Masupha tried to oust Assistant commissioner Mosili from office saying the latter had reached retirement age.
But the premier lambasted Acting Commissioner Masupha for “misdirecting himself” on Assistant Commissioner Mosili and ordered his return to work.
As a result, sources said, Dr Thabane has been eager to get Commissioner Tsoona back because of his unquestionable loyalty to the Premier.
But impeccable sources said Mr Ramaphosa would have none of this and had warned that the move could effectively lead to the collapse of all the agreed deals and put the current electoral process in grave jeopardy.
To ensure that Dr Thabane did not act unilaterally in bringing back Commissioner Tsoona, Mr Ramaphosa’s office had also warned that the premier’s current high level security detail from the South African Police Service (SAPS) would be immediately withdrawn if that happened.
That would obviously leave the Prime Minister heavily exposed as he cannot trust both the LMPS and LDF to protect him under the current acting leadership which de deems disloyal.
The Prime Minister fled to South Africa after the LDF’s attempted coup last year and only returned under heavy South African police guard.
According to the sources, when Dr Thabane’s office approached Mr Ramaphosa with the request, the bemused South African deputy president told the premier in no uncertain terms that should he recall Commissioner Tšooana from the special leave, Dr Thabane would not only lose the SA security detail but his nemesis Lt Gen Kamoli would also be recalled as well.
“When the PM’s office put its request forward, Mr Ramaphosa unequivocally told the PM if he brought Tšooana back, he would in turn withdraw the police, and also recall Lt General Kamoli from his enforced leave …..That the South Africans believe is the only way to get Dr Thabane to abide by all the agreements as he cannot afford to lose his security detail,” the source said.
One impeccable source, who is also Dr Thabane’s close ally, said it was “unfair” for Mr Ramaphosa, to threaten to withdraw the premier’s South African security “for merely making a simple request”.
Government Secretary Moahloli Mphaka confirmed, to the Lesotho Times’ sister paper the Sunday Express last week that Dr Thabane had asked Mr Ramaphosa for advice on how Commissioner Tšooana could be reinstated ahead of next month’s polls.
“That issue is currently on the table between Mr. Ramaphosa and the PM. Actually Ntate Thabane communicated with Mr Ramaphosa, for advice on how Commissioner Tšooana could be brought back, to strengthen police operations during next month’s general elections.
This matter is not conclusive yet, but it is being discussed,” Mr Mphaka said.
However, the Lesotho Times is reliably informed that Dr Thabane had already kick-started the process to return Commissioner Tsooana from Algeria.
The Commissioner had in fact arrived in South Africa on Sunday morning , but was swiftly detained by that country’s security agencies at the OR Tambo International Airport “and barred from boarding a flight to Maseru”.
“Commissioner Tšooana arrived in Johanneburg on Sunday but was stopped by South African security when he alighted from the flight from Algeria, en route to Maseru,” the source said.
“He actually told a friend of his who is here in Maseru, that he was still holed up in Pretoria on Tuesday, awaiting his flight ticket back to Algeria.”
Contacted for comment yesterday, Dr Thabane was evasive on whether or not South Africa had threatened to withdraw his security detail, as well as recalling Lt Gen Kamoli, if he decided to bring back ComPol Tšooana.
“We were looking at things from a certain perspective and were just discussing certain issues when that (recalling of Tšooana) came up,” Dr Thabane said.
“But now he (Tšooana) is staying in Algeria until the programme ends. He’s going to stay there until he’s done.”
Attempts to get a comment from Mr Ramaphosa’s spokesperson Ronnie Mamoepa, were unsuccessful as his mobile phone went unanswered.
Mr Mamoepa’s media liason assistant, Terrence Manase, requested that this paper e-mail him questions, but had also not responded at the time of going to print.