Metsing issues fresh Kamoli demands

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’Marafaele Mohloboli

WHICHEVER All Basotho Convention (ABC) faction wants the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD)’s support for or against the looming no confidence vote against the Thomas Thabane-led coalition will have to agree to an additional deal for the release of double murder-accused former army commander, Tlali Kamoli, and other soldiers currently awaiting trials for various crimes.

This according to LCD leader Mothetjoa Metsing who issued the latest demand while addressing party supporters this week in Qaqatu in Mohale’s Hoek.

Mr Metsing’s demand for the release of Lieutenant General Kamoli follows his initial demand for the establishment of a GNU as a prerequisite for supporting either ABC leader Dr Thabane in his quest to stave off the no confidence vote or ABC deputy leader Professor Nqosa Mahao in his faction’s bid to oust Dr Thabane.

Dr Thabane and Prof Mahao are locked in a fierce battle for control of the ABC. The power struggle began in the run up to and continued in the aftermath of the ABC’s February 2019 elective conference where Prof Mahao clinched the deputy leader’s post. Prof Mahao contested against the express wishes of Dr Thabane and some senior ABC officials who argue that Prof Mahao is a political greenhorn who should not have been elected ahead of seasoned ABC stalwarts like Finance Minister Moeketsi Majoro, Public Works and Transport Minister Prince Maliehe and former party chairperson, Motlohi Maliehe.

Previous talks and court litigation have so far failed to end the impasse which has seen Dr Thabane “expel” Prof Mahao and his fiercest allies, Lebohang Hlaele (secretary general), Samuel Rapapa (chairperson), Montoeli Masoetsa (spokesperson) and ’Matebatso Doti (deputy spokesperson).

The quintet, who were “expelled” in June 2019 for alleged insubordination after they convened and addressed rallies in apparent defiance of Dr Thabane’s orders for them not to do so, hit back by suspending Dr Thabane and other senior officials from the party. They were only stopped by a High Court order from holding a special party conference on 6 July 2019 which would have expelled Dr Thabane from the party.

Repeated attempts to reconcile the feuding ABC factions have failed and the power struggle will most likely be resolved through litigation currently before the courts and by the no confidence motion that was filed in parliament by the ABC’s pro-Mahao legislator for Koro-koro constituency, Motebang Koma, on 5 June 2019.

The motion is expected to be tabled and voted upon anytime from now after parliament was re-opened last Friday.

The survival or ouster of Dr Thabane hinges on the voting behaviour of the opposition. So far the largest opposition party, the Democratic Congress (DC) have pledged to vote with the 20 pro-Mahao ABC legislators but Mr Metsing, whose LCD has 11 seats, is still holding out for deal with either faction. The LCD could be the deciding factor and without their support, the Mahao camp could lose the vote.

Mr Metsing initially demanded a GNU as a condition for his support for or against the no confidence vote and this week, he issued a fresh demand for the release of Lt-Gen Kamoli.

“There are people whose lives are miserable because of their affiliation to the LCD,” Mr Metsing told the LCD supporters without elaborating whether or not Lt-Gen Kamoli and fellow detained soldiers are affiliated to the LCD.

“Some people are in prison and the least that we can do for them is to give them assurance that we are still with them in their hard times.

“I will not work with anyone who wishes for Kamoli to rot in jail. And if this is the (pro-Mahao) faction’s stand that (Kamoli should rot in jail), then they should not even bother approaching me for any kind of a working deal.

“I will not strike any deal with to work with anyone as long as these soldiers are in custody. I am very clear on this issue and this is my message to anyone who is thinking of approaching me for a deal. Even if I want power, I will not attain it by selling out their (Kamoli and others’) blood especially when we have evidence that there are so many murderers who are freely roaming the streets.”

In an interview with the Lesotho Times last month, Mr Metsing said the release of Lt-Gen Kamoli “was discussed and ventilated before the SADC Facilitator South African President Cyril Ramaphosa in a recent meeting”.

“All I can say is that he (Lt-Gen Kamoli) should not to be in jail now.  More significantly, charges against him have taken so long to be consolidated and surely he must be released on bail. I still plead for justice for him and other similarly accused detainees to be released on bail,” added Mr Metsing.

Lt-Gen Kamoli retired from the army on 1 December 2016 under immense pressure from Lesotho’s regional and international development partners who demanded an end to the impunity and human rights abuses that occurred during his tenure at the helm of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF).

He was subsequently arrested in September 2017 and faces charges of murdering former army commander Lt-Gen Mahao in Mokema, Maseru on 25 June 2015.

In the matter he is co-accused with Captain Litekanyo Nyakane, Captain Haleo Makara, Sergeant Lekhooa Moepi, Sergeant Motsamai Fako, Corporal Marasi ‘Moleli, Corporal Motšoane Machai, Corporal Mohlalefi Seitlheko and Corporal Tšitso Ramoholi.

Former National Security Services (NSS) director and head of Military Intelligence, Tumo Lekhooa, was also roped in among the accused. But r he has not attended any court session since he fled the country in 2017.

Lt-Gen Kamoli also faces a murder charge stemming from the 30 August 2014 killing of Police Sub-Inspector, Mokheseng Ramahloko.

Sub-Inspector Ramahloko was shot and killed by soldiers during the attempted coup of 30 August 2014 at the Police Headquarters in Maseru. The soldiers who allegedly acted on the instructions of the then army commander, Lt-Gen Kamoli, also raided several other police stations in Maseru and seized an assortment of weapons.

Lt-Gen Kamoli and others face attempted murder charges in connection with the 27 January 2014 simultaneous bombings of the Moshoeshoe II homes of First Lady, ‘Maesaiah Thabane, and the Ha Abia residence of former police commissioner, Khothatso Tšooana.

In this case, Lt-Gen Kamoli is charged alongside Major Pitso Ramoepane, Captain Litekanyo Nyakane, Sergeant Heqoa Malefane and Corporal Mohlalefi Seitlheko.

LCD deputy leader Tšeliso Mokhosi also faces charges of murdering Police Constable Mokalekale Khetheng in 2016.

Mr Mokhosi is charged alongside former police commissioner Molahlehi Letsoepa and four other police officers. The other officers are Senior Superintendent Thabo Tšukulu, Superintendent Mothibeli Mofolo, Inspector Mabitle Matona and Police Constable Haleokoe Taasoane who are all currently on suspension from the police service.

Ten soldiers are also accused of murdering the three men in Maseru in 2017.

The 10 soldiers are Brigadier Rapele Mphaki, Sergeant Lekhooa Moepi, Captain Mahlehle Moeletsi, Lance Corporal Mahlomola Makhoali, Private Nthatakane Motanyane, Motšoane Machai, Tieho Tikiso, Pitso Ramoepana, Liphapang Sefako and Nemase Faso.

The soldiers allegedly kidnapped and murdered the three men after the trio had just been released from police custody where they were detained in connection with a shooting incident that occurred at the Maseru border gate on 13 May 2017.

Three foreign judges, namely Justice Hungwe and the Botswana duo of Justices Onkemetse Bashi Tshosa and Kabelo Kenneth Lebotse have been recruited to preside over Lt-Gen Kamoli, Mr Mokhosi and other high profile trials involving serving and former members of the security agencies.

But some senior judicial officers accuse Lt-Gen Kamoli and his co-accused of instituting “frivolous” lawsuits to delay the commencement of their trials in the hope that the government will collapse and be replaced by a more sympathetic one that will free them.

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