Mahao’s killers to face the music

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Brigadier Maaparankoe MahaoBongiwe Zihlangu

In a new twist to the probe around Brigadier Maaparankoe Mahao’s assassination by the military two months ago, the SADC Commission of Inquiry has also been tasked with “identifying his killers with a view to ensuring accountability for those responsible for the death”.

The 13-member Commission has also been mandated to establish the circumstances around Brigadier Mahao’s admission to Makoanyane Hospital following his shooting on 25 June in Mokema, as well incorporating the pathologist’s report in its investigation.

Brigadier Mahao was shot allegedly as he resisted arrest for being behind a foiled mutiny plot against the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) command. His killing prompted a special summit of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), which agreed to establish an independent Commission of Inquiry headed by Botswana Judge Justice Mpaphi Phumaphi.

The Commission was given specific terms of reference by the regional bloc, but government and SADC Facilitator to Lesotho, Cyril Ramaphosa, later agreed to expand its mandate. The expanded terms were published in a government gazette dated 28 July 2015, which also paved the way for the Commission to commence its probe.

However, after SADC rejected the amendments last week, government  had to issue another gazette dated 21 August 2015.

While the latest gazette largely contains SADC’s original terms of reference, it also introduces a new dimension to the probe by highlighting Brigadier Mahao’s killers should be held accountable for their actions. This addition to the gazette contradicts Police Minister Monyane Moleleki’s claims that the Commission’s findings would “not be prosecutable”.

“The Commission will assist in the identification of any perpetrators with a view to ensuring accountability for those responsible for the death of Brigadier Mahao,” reads the new gazette.

“The Commission will also investigate whether security forces used excessive force when apprehending Brigadier Mahao, the immediate circumstances leading to his death and those around his admission to hospital”, it adds.

Addressing the media on Monday this week, Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili said after extensive consultation with the regional bloc, government had resolved to amend its original gazette.

“We had proposed additional terms of reference, as had the opposition and SADC Facilitator to Lesotho Cyril Ramaphosa,” Dr Mosisili said.

“But things did not go as expected, with SADC stating that due to time and financial constraints, as well as limited expertise of members of the Commission to investigate some of the issues we had raised, the Commission’s mandate should not be expanded, hence the publication of this gazette, which is an amendment to the original one.”

Dr Mosisili also revealed because the probe’s duration had been increased from 60 to 90 days, its budget had also been hiked from $400 000 (about M5million) to about $600 000.

“The Commission’s budget has been increased by about $200 000 due to the fact that its duration has been increased from 60 to 90 days. The additional budget will come straight from the SADC fund,” Dr Mosisili said.

“Initially, the argument was that the Lesotho government should take care of this additional cost.  However, we also contended that it was not our fault that the Commission resumed work much later than was originally scheduled.”

Terms of Reference in Full

  1. Review investigations into the alleged mutiny plot. The review should also cover the alleged kidnapping of former members of the LDF and alleged killings of members of the opposition.
  2. Investigate the immediate circumstances that led to the shooting of Brigadier Mahao.
  3. Investigate allegations that Brigadier Mahao resisted arrest in a manner that merited his fatal shooting.
  4. Investigate whether security forces used excessive force when apprehending Brigadier Mahao.
  5. Investigate the immediate circumstances that led to the death of Brigadier Mahao.
  6. Investigate the circumstances surrounding Brigadier Mahao’s admission to hospital.
  7. Investigate the alleged mutiny plot and the alleged involvement of Brigadier Mahao.
  8. Incorporate in the investigation the report of the pathologist.
  9. Investigate the legality and manner of the appointment of Lt General Mahao in 2014 and his demotion and removal as head of the LDF in 2015.
  10. Investigate the legality and manner of the removal of Lt General Kamoli as head of the LDF in 2014 and his reappointment in 2015.
  11. Investigate allegations by opposition parties and Civil Society stakeholders, that Lt General Kamoli’s reappointment has resulted in divisions in the LDF and led to political and security instability.
  12. Investigate the authorisation and execution of the LDF operations to arrest Brigadier Mahao.
  13. Assist in the identification of any perpetrators with a view to ensuring accountability for those responsible for the death of Brigadier Mahao.
  14. Investigate any other matters relevant to the inquiry.

 

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