Moleleki ‘not aware’ Tšooana fled the country

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Police Minister Deputy Monyane Moleleki
Police Minister Deputy Monyane Moleleki

Keiso Mohloboli

Police Minister Monyane Moleleki says he is not aware that Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) Commissioner Khothatso Tšooana has fled the country.

Commissioner Tšooana on 26 June 2015 told the Lesotho Times’ sister publication, the Sunday Express, that he had left the country the previous day after receiving information that members of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) planned to arrest him.

According to the embattled 37-year-old police boss—who has since been asked by Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili to “show cause” why he should not be retired due to poor management—the fatal shooting of former LDF Commander Maaparankoe Mahao by LDF members who had come to arrest him had made him take the tipoff seriously hence the decision to flee.

Brigadier Mahao was gunned down as he left his Mokema Seasonal Harvest Farm on 25 June 2015, with Defence Minister Tšeliso Mokhosi subsequently announcing he was shot as he resisted arrest for suspected mutiny.

Commissioner Tšooana said he could not reveal the country he had fled to for security reasons, telling the Sunday Express: “I had to flee the country yesterday (25 June 2015) after  establishing that my life was in danger following Ntate Mahao’s assassination.

“Because of security reasons, I am not comfortable to disclose if I am currently in South Africa or not.”

However, Mr Moleleki told a media briefing in Maseru on Monday this week that as the Minister of Police, he had made sure the Commissioner was safe since his return from leave-of-absence in Algeria on 2 April this year. Commissioner Tšooana, then LDF Commander Lieutenant General Maaparankoe Mahao and the man he replaced on 29 August 2014 Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli, had left the country on 21 November last year in line with the Maseru Security Accord (MSA) signed on 23 October 2014.

Under the MSA facilitated by the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the three men were required to go to an African or Commonwealth country on special leave to allow the restoration of peace between the LMPS and LDF, whose continued feuding—mainly due to personality clashes between Commissioner Tšooana and Lt Gen Kamoli who had refused to leave office after being fired by then Prime Minister Thomas Thabane for alleged insubordination, resulting in Lt Gen Mahao’s appointment —had brought Lesotho to the brink of civil war.

The absence of the trio was also meant to ensure peace prevailed in Lesotho in the run-up to the February 2015 snap elections, which were the result of the Maseru Facilitation Declaration brokered by SADC on 2 October 2014 through South African President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Commissioner Tšooana and Lt Gen Mahao, who had spent his special leave in Sudan, returned to Lesotho on the same day while it is not clear when Lt Gen Kamoli came back home as he refused to leave South Africa, where the three had briefly stayed in transit, in protest over government’s decision to withhold his salary.

But according to Mr Moleleki, he was surprised to read that Commissioner Tšooana had fled without informing him or the bodyguards that he feared for his life.

“The bodyguards deployed by the police service to protect Commissioner Tšooana have not reported anything of the sort to the authorities. As far as I am concerned as the minister in charge of the police, Commissioner Tšooana is still at his home here in Maseru,” Mr Moleleki said.

Dr Mosisili, who also addressed Monday’s conference, slammed “the media” for “jumping to conclusions without verifying the facts”.

The Democratic Congress (DC) leader, who came to power as head of a seven-party government after February’s elections, added government “knows Commissioner Tšooana to be around as Mr Moleleki has said”.

Meanwhile, the Lesotho Times was unable to get in touch with Commissioner Tšooana this week as his mobile phone was continuously on voicemail.

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