Mahaos confident of justice

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’Marafaele Mohloboli

THE family of slain army commander, Maaparankoe Mahao, has expressed confidence that the new government will ensure justice prevails over the latter’s killing in 2015.

Lt-Gen Mahao was fatally shot by his colleagues on 25 June 2015 just outside Maseru. The Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) subsequently announced Lt-Gen Mahao was resisting arrest when he was killed, which the family has dismissed as untrue.

The Mahao family accused the army of killing him in cold blood basing on the account of his nephews who were with him during the incident.

After the killing, the-then Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili asked SADC to help establish the circumstances surrounding the incident, resulting in a Commission of Inquiry led by Justice Mpaphi Phumaphi of Botswana.

The 10-member commission carried out its investigations between 31 August and 23 October 2015 and recommended, among other things, that government should investigate the killing and prosecute those found to be responsible.

It also recommended that then LDF commander Lieutenant-General Tlali Kamoli be relieved of his duties “in the interest of restoring trust and acceptance of the LDF to the Basotho nation”.

Lt-Gen Kamoli was eventually retired in December 2016.

In the aftermath of his killing, the LDF reportedly retained his personal belongings including a side firearm, two mobile phones and spectacles.

The LDF also allegedly refused to surrender physical evidence which could help in the furtherance of the investigations.

One of the deceased’s elder brothers, Qamako Mahao told the Lesotho Times that the family recently met with Defence Minister, Sentje Lebona, and they were optimistic that justice would finally be served in the matter.

“We were notified by the wife of our late brother ’Mamphanya Mahao that the minister of defence wanted to meet us and we held a fruitful meeting last Thursday,” Mr Qamako said this week.

“The minister gave us an update on the missing goods and that they were tirelessly working on issues surrounding the killing.

“We however, made it very clear to him that in as much as we appreciated the efforts that were being made, we were not going to accept the goods because they must to be given to the police who have been investigating the killing of our brother.

“Since they were confiscated at the scene of crime, they might be used as exhibits in the courts of law. You should also take into account that we were told that our brother had used his firearm to shoot at his colleagues when he was resisting arrest, so we think it’s only fair that his personal belongings should be taken to the police.”

Mr Qamako also said one of the late Lt-Gen Mahao’s phones was used to call and torment his son long after his father was killed, thus leaving the boy traumatised.

“We would therefore like to see justice being done in full as it is a right enshrined in the constitution of Lesotho. We would like to see investigations going into full swing.

“We strongly believe that whoever kept Lt-Gen Mahao’s stuff did so unlawfully and we would like to see such people being held to account.”

Mr Qamako said the family was confident that justice would prevail and they would get closure on the matter “because this is the same government which helped fight for justice before it came to power”.

Prime Minister, Thomas Thabane’s All Basotho Convention (ABC) combined its 48 seats with those of the Alliance of Democrats (nine), Basotho National Party (five) and Reformed Congress of Lesotho (one) to form government in the aftermath of the 3 June 2017 snap elections.

They replaced the seven parties’ coalition government that was headed by Democratic Congress leader, Dr Mosisili.

The previous administration was accused of dragging its feet in implementing the SADC recommendations which included investigating Lt-Gen Mahao’s killing and the prosecution of those found to be responsible.

Meanwhile, Defence Minister, Mr Lebona confirmed meeting the Mahao family last Thursday.

“The meeting was held after I demanded to have an update on the matter since Lt-Gen Mahao’s killing has always been of public interest.

“We had a very fruitful meeting with the family and agreed that Lt-Gen Mahao’s belongings shall be handed over to the police to help them further their investigations as they have always wanted to proceed.

“No one has given me a valid reason why it was a problem to release that stuff over the years but now that we have made a breakthrough it remains for the police to commence their investigations and justice will be served,” Mr Lebona said.

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