SOUTH Africa’s Deputy President, Cyril Ramaphosa “surprised” the leadership of the ruling All Basotho Convention (ABC) and Basotho National Party (BNP) after suggesting Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli, Lieutenant General Maaparankoe Mahao and Commissioner of Police (Com-Pol) Khothatso Tšooana should be “redeployed” as one of the solutions to the country’s prevailing political and security woes.
The Southern African Development Community (SADC) last week appointed Mr Ramaphosa to facilitate talks between the governing ABC, BNP and Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD), as well as opposition parties, aimed at finding a lasting solution to the country’s instability.
Mr Ramaphosa is expected to ensure Prime Minister Thomas Thabane reopens Parliament, whose nine-month suspension he lifted on 5 September 2014 as per SADC’s recommendations, as well as facilitate the holding of early elections, which had originally been scheduled for 2017.
But according to BNP deputy leader Joang Molapo, Mr Ramaphosa took his party and the ABC by surprise by suggesting Lt Gen Kamoli, Lt Gen Mahao and Com-Pol Tšooana should be re-assigned as part of resolving the political impasse, when the three security bosses were never part of the agenda “in the first place”.
Lt Gen Kamoli has refused to vacate office despite being fired as Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) commander on 29 August 2014 by the prime minister, leaving his successor, Lt Gen Mahao in limbo. Lt Gen Kamoli, who remains firmly in control of the LDF, has also openly clashed with Com-Pol Tšooana on several occasions, with their differences reaching crisis level in April this year after the army boss refused to hand-over eight soldiers the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) wanted to question regarding the bombing of three Maseru homes on 27 January this year. Among the residences attacked were those of Com-Pol Tšooana in Ha Abia and Dr Thabane’s partner, Liabiloe Ramoholi, in Moshoeshoe II.
According to Chief Molapo, Mr Ramaphosa should not have brought up the issue of the three security chiefs, hence the feuding parties’ decision to ask him to consult further with SADC on his terms of reference regarding the mediation.
“We felt that Mr Ramaphosa needed to return back to SADC due to a number of issues which were raised in our different consultations with him. He really wanted to understand what the situation was on the ground here and not just imposing what SADC had agreed upon, which was commendable.
“But what caused our disagreements were the facilitator’s terms of reference, which included an issue that had been dropped from recommendations agreed upon during the SADC Council of Ministers’ meeting held early this month.”
Chief Molapo referred the Lesotho Times to the recommendations made by the SADC Defence Sub-Committee (DSC) during a meeting held on 11 September in Pretoria to analyse the Lesotho situation.
After the meeting, the Committee recommended that: “All parties to the Lesotho dispute and crisis, namely Lt Gen Kamoli, Lt Gen M Mahao and the Commissioner of the Lesotho Mounted Police Services, Commissioner Khothatso Tšooana, be re-assigned other duties in order to normalise the situation. His Majesty the King, as Commander-in-Chief, to appoint their replacement.”
However, Chief Molapo, who is also the Minister of Home Affairs, said the BNP and ABC completely disagreed that Com-Pol Tšooana, Lt Gen Mahao and Lt Gen Kamoli should be put in the “same boat” because they had played completely different roles in the instability currently prevailing in Lesotho.
“We were surprised to see the issue had been put as one of the terms of reference because it had never been considered a viable option by SADC.
“Now that it has been presented by the facilitator as an option, we protested that Lt Gen Kamoli has done terrible things and it would be remiss on our part to put him on an equal footing with Lt Gen Mahao and Com-Pol Tšooana, who have not done anything wrong.
“We could not let the duly appointed new army commander, Lt Gen Mahao and Com-Pol Tšooana, be equated to Lt Gen Kamoli as they are completely different.”
Chief Molapo further said following disagreements over the trio, the deadlock over the reopening of Parliament and the new election date remains unresolved, and would be discussed again when Mr Ramaphosa returns to Lesotho on Monday next week to continue with his mediation.
“The deadlock remains, and the question is how did this issue become part of Ramaphosa’s terms of reference in the first place, hence the need for the Deputy President to return back to President Jacob Zuma (the original facilitator) to discuss the matter.
“Having said that, we are happy with Mr Ramaphosa’s facilitation because he is meeting various stakeholders.”
On his part, LCD spokesperson, Selibe Mochoboroane, said he was also surprised that the three security chiefs were on the agenda of trying to find a lasting political solution to Lesotho, but for a completely different reason.
“We, as the LCD, are clear that there is no security crisis in the country but political instability, so the issue of Lt Gen Kamoli should not come in at all in these discussions. We still maintain and believe that the political instability we are currently having can be resolved by the opening of Parliament as per the Pretoria and Windhoek declarations that the Prime Minister signed (on 31 July and 1 September 2014 respectively). These two are classified under SADC decisions and not just recommendations like the issues of the security chiefs’ reassignment,” Mr Mochoboroane said.
“Lt Gen Kamoli’s removal from office is not an option as he has not done anything wrong.
“We demand that Ramaphosa should give priority to the SADC decisions that talk about the opening of Parliament and preparations for early elections, not recommendations to have people re-assigned when they have done nothing wrong. Those are just recommendations and not SADC decisions, which was why we were also baffled to hear Ntate Ramaphosa talking about them,” said Mr Mochoboroane.