Newly appointed defence and national security minister says ensuring the country’s stability tops his agenda
Defence and National Security minister, Tšeliso Mokhosi, says his priority is to ensure Lesotho becomes a stable country once again through instilling professionalism and discipline within the two agencies whose fallout with the previous government contributed to an early parliamentary election two months ago.
In an interview with the Lesotho Times soon after being sworn into his new portfolio on Monday this week, the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) acting secretary general, further said restoring cordial relations between the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) and Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) led by Democratic Congress (DC) deputy leader Monyane Moleleki, would also top his agenda.
Incessant power-struggles between the LDF and LMPS leadership in the previous tripartite government led by All Basotho Convention (ABC) leader Thomas Thabane, and the premier’s dismissal of Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli as army commander on 29 August last year for alleged insubordination—which he rejected arguing it was illegal—exacerbated an already volatile situation.
The resultant instability was cited by stakeholders as one of the reasons Lesotho needed international intervention to avert a civil war, and following protracted negotiations between the feuding government leaders, spearheaded by South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa under the umbrella of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), Basotho went to the polls on 28 February 2015, instead of the original 2017.
With the polls subsequently bringing in a new government headed by DC leader Pakalitha Mosisili, Mr Mokhosi said he would work hard to bring harmony within the security agencies, adding stability was the only way investors would make Lesotho their country of choice, and also Basotho’s pathway to prosperity.
“Peace and stability between security institutions are not only important for the protection of livelihoods but also economic growth and the development of a nation.
“The tension which existed between the police and army during Thabane’s leadership will soon be a thing of the past,” said Mr Mokhosi.
According to Mr Mokhosi, the country cannot be peaceful if its security agencies are at loggerheads and their leadership constantly trading insults.
“Lesotho can’t have peace and stability if its security institutions are not stable themselves. We would have to make sure not only as ministers or heads of security institutions but the whole nation, that we don’t make inflammatory statements in the media that could see us return to a past we are trying so hard to forget.
“Basotho should learn to be fire-extinguishers and not fire-starters because it is time we move forward and develop this nation which suffered so much during the two-and-a-half years Thabane was the prime minister of this country,” Mr Mokhosi said.
Mr Mokhosi added he would engage his police counterpart, Mr Moleleki, in ensuring the LMPS and LDF see themselves as associates and not rivals as had become the case before the ABC, LCD and Basotho National Party government collapsed last year after coming to power in June 2012 amid great expectations of unity and prosperity.
Asked about the LDF command, Mr Mokhosi said it was not up to him alone to decide on the issue but government as a whole since it was an alliance of many political parties. Although Dr Thabane had gazetted Lt Gen Kamoli’s dismissal and his replacement with Maaparankoe Mahao who held the rank of Brigadier at the time of the appointment, the announcement did not have any effect as the status quo remained. With Lt Gen Kamoli calling the dismissal unconstitutional, his defiance was supported by the then man opposition DC, as well as the LCD, which had fallen out with the BNP and ABC in the government.
In an effort to defuse mounting tension over the issue, SADC decided to send the two and Police Commissioner Khothatso Tšooana on indefinite leave of absence outside the country on 21 November 2014, to allow the restoration of good relations between the LMPS and LDF, and also ensure peace prevailed during the 28 February 2015 parliamentary elections. The elections returned Dr Mosisili to power once again, after being the country’s prime minister from 1998 until his ouster by the BNP, ABC and LCD alliance in the 26 May 2012 poll.
Lt Kamoli returned to Lesotho at the weekend, while Mahao and Tšooana are expected back home this week.
However, according to Minister Mokhosi, he was only in a position to comment on the status of Lt Gen Kamoli.
“I would like to add to what the Ntate Metsing said when the National Assembly election results were released and confirm that Ntate Kamoli is still LDF commander. The relevant stakeholders will look into the matter from a legal perspective and reinstate Lt Gen Kamoli to the post. I don’t want to speculate on Ntate Mahao’s future within the LDF, but I can assure Basotho that the case would be resolved in line with the LDF Act of 1996 and the country’s constitution,” Mr Mokhosi said.
Meanwhile, in his keynote address when officially closing the SADC Mission to Lesotho on Monday this week, Mr Ramaphosa said he was happy the election results had been accepted by all the relevant stakeholders.
Mr Ramaphosa also praised Lt Gen Kamoli, Lt Gen Mahao and Police Commissioner Tšooana for making a “patriotic decision” for the sake of their country’s peace, when they agreed to leave the country last year.
“I would like to applaud the three security chiefs for complying with the provisions of the Maseru Security Accord, which led to their departure in November last year.
“Lt Gen Kamoli has since returned in good health and I am very pleased to see him coming back fully-bearded, and that he showed himself to be a real soldier by being disciplined,” Mr Ramaphosa said, adding Tšooana and Mahao would return “soon”.
Dr Mosisili, on his part, said he was happy Lt Gen Kamoli was back in the country.
“He looks healthy,” Dr Mosisili, who is going to lead a seven-party government, said. “By the same token, we are looking forward to the arrival of the others. The government of Lesotho wants to assure you that they would be most welcome to join their families without fear.”