M5million for Mahao probe

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Maaparankoe MahaoKeiso Mohloboli

AT least $400 000 (approximately M5.04million) is required for the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Commission of Inquiry into last month’s death of former Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) commander Maaparankoe Mahao.

Brigadier Mahao was shot dead as he left his Mokema farm on 25 June by soldiers who had come to arrest him. He had been accused of being part of a group of soldiers plotting to overthrow the LDF leadership, hence the fatal attack.

SADC, which brokered Lesotho’s snap elections in February this year through South Africa’s Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, had to call a special summit of its Double Troika last Friday in Pretoria where several resolutions were made regarding the Brigadier’s murder.

And among the resolutions was the establishment of the Commission of Inquiry, as well as an Oversight Committee to act as an early warning mechanism in the event of signs of instability in Lesotho.

Speaking during a press conference in Maseru this week, Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili said the inquiry was expected to last six months, and would comprise 10 judicial experts  from SADC countries. A judge from Botswana is expected to head the Committee while SADC members foot the $400 000 bill, the premier added.

SADC chairperson and Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe, chairperson of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation  and President of South Africa Jacob Zuma, Botswana President Ian Khama, Namibia’s Minister of Defence Penda Ya Ndakolo, Defence Advisor at the Malawi High Commission in South Africa Lieutenant Colonel Lawrence Mambo and Dr Mosisili attended Friday’s meeting. Mr Ramaphosa and SADC Executive Secretary Stergomena Lawrence Tax also attended the Summit.

“The Commission of Inquiry will be composed of 10 members of the judiciary from the region and led by a judge from Botswana. The name of the judge has not yet been announced,” Dr Mosisili told reporters.

“The Commission is expected to urgently investigate the circumstances surrounding the death of Brigadier Maaparankoe Mahao. The SADC Summit requested full collaboration and cooperation from the Government of the Kingdom of Lesotho in facilitating the work of the Commission.”

Asked whether locals would be part of the Commission, Dr Mosisili said: “I don’t know if locals will be on this Commission but I would wish for the deployment of foreign judges for accountability and transparency. But it will be up to the Commission to decide how it is going to work.”

The Commission, he emphasised, should be given a chance to fulfil its mandate and find out what transpired on the afternoon in question.

On the Oversight Committee, Dr Mosisili said: “The Summit decided that the Oversight Committee will be composed of two politicians, two military officers of the rank of  Brigadier, two police officers and two intelligence officers. This Committee would be chaired by one of the two politicians, and act as an early warning mechanism in the event of signs of instability in Lesotho and intervene in consultation with SADC Facilitator Mr  Ramaphosa.”

According to Dr Mosisili, the Summit also recommended the Government of Lesotho and local political stakeholders to “urgently undertake constitutional and security reforms” with the assistance of SADC.

Dr Mosisili added the Summit also touched on the issue of Lesotho’s opposition leaders who fled for South Africa in May this year fearing for their lives. Former premier and All Basotho Convention (ABC) leader Thomas Thabane, Basotho National Party leader Thesele ‘Maseribane and Reformed Congress of Lesotho leader Keketso Rantšo fled Lesotho claiming there was a plot to assassinate them by the LDF, which government has persistently denied.

“The Summit urged the government to create a conducive environment for the return of the opposition leaders to Lesotho,” Dr Mosisili said.

Asked how talks to convince the leaders to come back home were progressing, Foreign Affairs and International Relations Minister Tlohang Sekhamane said the last time the government delegation met the politicians through the Christian Council of Lesotho mediation, they had refused to return.

“The ABC leader (Dr Thabane) didn’t show up and sent a representative to the meeting. However, they told us that they were not ready to come back to Lesotho but we will not give up on convincing and making it easy for them to return,” Mr Sekhamane said.

Meanwhile, Dr Mosisili said government appreciated SADC’s continued mediation in Lesotho’s crises.

“The SADC Heads of State and Government have not only shown commitment by attending  meetings to discuss Lesotho’s challenges, but their governments are also spending a lot of money in these efforts. We, as the Government of Lesotho, are humbled by this gesture,” said the Democratic Congress (DC) leader.

On his part, Defence and National Security Minister Tšeliso Mokhosi said investigations into the alleged mutiny in the LDF were being completed with Brigadier Mahao’s arrest. The investigations started in May this year and saw several soldiers being arrested and detained at Maseru Maximum Security Prison. The soldiers claimed they were being tortured in detention by their LDF captors as they were being brought to the High Court after their relatives had sought legal recourse to confirm if they were still alive.

“LDF investigations over the mutiny were being completed with Brigadier Mahao’s arrest because he was going to be the last soldier to be arrested for the charge. It was unfortunate that the army ended up not arresting him alive because it was during the arrest when he lost his life”.

Brigadier Mahao, who was removed as LDF commander and demoted from Lieutenant General to Brigadier on 21 May this year after government argued his promotion in August 2014 had not followed due process, would be laid to rest on 11 July in Mokema.

Married to ‘Malechesa Matela (now ‘Mamphanya Mahao) on 28 February 1998, the couple was blessed with three sons: Mphanya (16), Lehloenya (12) and Setlokoane (six).

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