…two soldiers in custody as police and army investigate the theft of communications equipment
TWO army officers are assisting the police and the army with investigations into the disappearance of 20 communications radios, unspecified quantities of chicken and mincemeat from the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF).
The army recently discovered that the 20 Very High Frequency (VHF) communications radios, used for communication in the army went missing last week. The food parcels are said to have been stolen on Saturday night.
LDF public relations officer, Lieutenant Colonel Mashili Mashili confirmed the developments, telling the Lesotho Times that the two officers were recently arrested and are helping the police and army with investigations.
“Twenty Motorola communications radios have disappeared from the signals department,” Lt-Col Mashili said.
“We don’t know when the radios disappeared but the disappearance came to our attention on Thursday last week. The chickens disappeared on Saturday night.
“Two army officers are now in custody to assist the army and the police with investigations into the matter,” he said, adding that the suspects would appear in court as soon as the investigations were completed.
Lt-Col Mashili allayed fears that the theft of the equipment could have resulted in communications or security breaches.
“Fortunately, the radios had not been programmed and were not on the line. That means our communication as the army has not been compromised,” he said.
It has not been established whether or not there is any connection between the theft of the communications equipment and previous plots to destabilise the country.
The regional Southern African Development Community (SADC) has previously warned of the likelihood of army equipment including missing arms of war being used in plots by rogue soldiers to destabilise the country.
The theft of the equipment comes barely two weeks before the expected departure of the SADC standby force.
The SADC standby force, also known as the SADC Preventive Mission in Lesotho (SAPMIL), was officially unveiled in Lesotho on 2 December 2017 as part of regional efforts to foster a conducive environment for the implementation of constitutional, security sector, public service, media and governance reforms in line with the recommendations of the regional body.
The standby force is comprised of 217 soldiers, 15 intelligence personnel, 24 police officers and 13 civilian experts.
The standby force completed its original six-month mandate in May this year but this was subsequently extended to November this year to enable it to assist Lesotho in the implementation of the reforms which were recommended by SADC in 2016.
The SADC force was essentially deployed to prevent rogue Lesotho Defence Force soldiers from destabilising Dr Thabane’s coalition as it went about implementing SADC recommended reforms to curb perennial instability in the Kingdom.
A confidential report by SADC last year stated that some arms of war had gone missing from the LDF armoury and warned that missing weapons could be used by rogue soldiers to launch reprisal attacks as efforts to hold them accountable for past transgressions intensify.
The report speaks of arms of war and ammunition missing from the armory of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) as well as heavy AK47 rifles that had disappeared from the Lesotho Correctional Services (LCS).
Early last month, Communications minister Thesele Maseribane and the deputy army commander Major General Matela Matobakele warned of a plot by come unnamed senior people to cause mayhem and destabilise the country once the SADC standby force leaves the country.
Chief Maseribane and Maj-Gen Matobakele said this while addressing mourners at the funeral of the late Corporal Mosuoe Mofomobe in Quthing.
Corporal Mofomobe was one of the soldiers who fled the country in 2014 following an army operation to arrest and prosecute soldiers accused of working together with the slain army commander, Lieutenant General Maaparankoe Mahao, in an alleged mutiny against the command of the-then LDF commander, Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli.
Chief Maseribane and Major General Matobakele said they were fully aware of a plot to cause disturbances in the country once the SAMPIL and the SADC Oversight Committee leave as expected on 20 November.
Chief Maseribane said that the people who were plotting to rebel against the government come 20 November 2018 must be stopped.
On his part, Maj-Gen Matobakele said nowadays there was talk that some people were planning to revolt once the SADC troops leave Lesotho.
He however, said the army and the police were more than capable of dealing with any attempts to destabilise the country, saying, “Indeed, SADC is leaving but we command this army”.
“The (police) commissioner (Holomo Molibeli) commands the police service and we will not tolerate any nonsense,” Maj-Gen Matobakele further warned.