Govt to pick and choose from report: PM
PRIME Minister Pakalitha Mosisili has reiterated that the SADC Commission of Inquiry’s recommendations were not binding on the government, adding that they would implement some of them and discard others.
Addressing the National Assembly this week, Dr Mosisili said the government would soon study the 62-page report to assess which recommendations are implementable.
“As Government, we will go about the process of studying the recommendations and deciding which of them are implementable in the short, medium and long-term without prejudicing the interests of the nation,” he said.
“A mere glance at some of the recommendations indicates that they are implementable immediately, whereas others will take time, and still others may not see the light of day. One thing I can readily assure the House and through it the general public, is that all the recommendations will get the attention they deserve as recommendations and NOT binding orders.”
Dr Mosisili said the SADC Commission of Inquiry was convened at his request to the regional bloc following the killing of former army commander, Maaparankoe Mahao, at the hands of his military colleagues. Lt-Gen Mahao died on 25 June 2015 outside his Mokema farm, with the Lesotho Defence Force claiming he was resisting arrest for alleged mutiny when he was fatally shot.
“The sudden and untimely demise of Brigadier Mahao in the said circumstances was not only extremely tragic and regrettable, but most embarrassing to His Majesty’s Government. It was most painful to the family and to those who knew and loved that young officer who had so much promise and potential to serve our country,” the premier said.
“As His Majesty’s government, we immediately but deliberately resolved to set up a Commission of Inquiry into the circumstances that precipitated that loss of a precious life. We approached SADC to help us establish an independent commission of inquiry into the death of Brigadier Mahao.
“We sought SADC’s assistance, not because we could not set up the commission by ourselves. NOT at all! Instead, we sought SADC’s assistance because we were determined that the Commission should be as independent as possible, and that the inquiry should be as impartial, transparent and thorough as possible, being conducted by outsiders who could be expected to be as non-partisan, objective, professional and apolitical as possible. SADC obliged and dispatched a team led by Justice Mpaphi Phumaphi of the High Court of Botswana.”
Dr Mosisili said the operation to apprehend Lt-Gen Mahao had a context which should not be ignored.
“In all honesty, and without malice to anybody, we felt, and still feel that the tragic loss of Brigadier Maaparankoe Mahao’s life on the 25th June 2015 did not just occur out of the blue. That it had a context that should not be ignored or overlooked,” he said.
The premier chided the SADC Commission of Inquiry for not probing the events of August 2014, which saw LDF members attacking Maseru Central Police Station, Mabote Police Station and Police Headquarters. Sub-Inspector Mokheseng Ramahloko was shot dead during the attack on Police Headquarters in what the army said was a special operation.
“One of the issues that Government had wanted the Commission to investigate was the LDF operation of 30 August 2014 at some Police stations in town, and at which the life of one Sub-Inspector Ramahloko of the Lesotho Mounted Police Service was tragically lost,” said Dr Mosisili. “Strangely, the Phumaphi Commission and SADC did not deem this incident worthy of investigation despite rampant claims that it had been a coup attempt.
“It was, incidentally, that same episode that had prompted Prime Minister Tom Thabane, as he then was, to flee into South Africa and only return home under South African police guard! Yet lo and behold: the Commission does not only make several cursory references to this episode but makes findings and recommendations thereon!”
Instead of investigating the August 2014 incident, the premier charged, the commission “fell into the mistake” of making recommendations on alleged offences whose commission predates the incidents which it was mandated to investigate.
“For example, some of these offences relate to the years 2012, 2013 and 2014, long before the time to which the authorised terms relate,” he said.
“The offences are supposed to have been committed at various places in Lesotho (Mafeteng, Morija, Mokhotlong, etc). They range from murder to sexual offences. It is not apparent what they have to do with the five authorised terms of reference.
“But there is even a more serious concern; having dealt with wholly extraneous issues to its mandate, the Commission made findings and recommendations based thereon.”
Dr Mosisili said the report had some omissions which SADC had since acknowledged.
“Towards the end of the report, the Commission attaches or appends a number of annexures. It behoves me to comment on two of these. The first one that attracts attention because of its importance and centrality to the mandate of the Commission is ANNEXURE 5 titled ‘Ballistic Report’,” he said.
“Going through this annexure meticulously, I made the sad discovery that page 19 thereof is missing. Logically, that page should reflect photos 29 and 30 of the Ballistic Report, because page 18 consists of Photos 27 and 28, whereas page 20 displays Photos 31 and 32.
“Upon this disturbing discovery, I immediately contacted the Honourable Attorney-General (Tšokolo Makhethe) who has custody of the original copy of the report to ascertain where the omission of page 19 occurred. I also instructed the Honourable Minister of Foreign Affairs (Tlohang Sekhamane) to take the matter up with the Executive Secretary of SADC (Stergomena Lawrence Tax).
“The SADC Secretariat has now written to confirm that the report of the Commission of Inquiry formally handed over to the Kingdom of Lesotho is missing page 19 in ANNEXURE 5. They go on to indicate that they are in the process of contacting the Head of the Commission of Inquiry in order to clarify the matter.”
The prime minister said he had “no option” but to remove the names of people who were mentioned in the report but whose cases had nothing to do with its terms of reference.
“The expunging exercise has affected names of individuals against whom a recommendation that they be charged relates to a series of criminal offences alleged to have been committed at different places across the length and breadth of the country,” he said.
“Significantly, most of them happened before the occurrence of the five incidents which the Commission was mandated to investigate. The suspected offences range from murder to sexual offences.
“How recommendations came to be made against individuals in respect of offences which occurred years before the happening of the incidents which the Commission was mandated to investigate, is difficult to understand. I considered that to have published their names in such circumstances would violate their right to be treated in a fair manner.”
Concluding his remarks, Dr Mosisili said the report was “a good piece of work” which would assist the government “in more ways than one”.
“Despite the shortcomings identified in the report, which are essentially procedural in nature, and relate to its fairness, the report is, overall, a good piece of work, which we believe will help us in more ways than one,” he said.
“We also believe that the Commission made its recommendations bearing in mind the interests of the people of Lesotho, as opposed to the interests of a few individuals; as no individual person can conceivably be more important than the interests of the nation.”