- Vows to engage locals in talks with govt
- Calls for govt-opposition security body to monitor arrests
FORMER prime minister Pakalitha Mosisili has accused SADC of “hijacking” a commission of inquiry into the killing former army chief Lt-Gen Maaparankoe Mahao, saying the opposition would this time around not engage the regional bloc, but find a local mediator in its standoff with the government over participation in multi-sectoral reforms.
Dr Mosisili has also called for the establishment of a Joint Security Mechanism consisting of government and opposition officials to assess if the ongoing arrests of people implicated in various unresolved crimes are not politically-motivated.
In response, government spokesperson and Communications Minister Joang Molapo said they were amenable to a local mediator for the sake of peace and to enable the implementation of the reforms.
However, Chief Molapo dismissed out of hand the call for a Joint Security Mechanism, saying the administration of the security agencies was the sole mandate of the government.
Addressing a press conference in Maseru this week, Dr Mosisili said he “deeply” regretted seeking SADC’s assistance in investigating the circumstances surrounding Lt-Gen Mahao’s 25 June 2015 killing.
Dr Mosisili, who is also leader of the largest opposition party Democratic Congress (DC), was flanked by officials of political parties that constituted his previous coalition government.
The coalition government, which was ousted after the 3 June 2017 parliamentary elections, consisted of the DC, Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD), Marematlou Freedom Party, Basotho Congress Party, National Independent Party, Lesotho People’s Congress and Popular Front for Democracy.
Lt-Gen Mahao was fatally shot by his erstwhile Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) colleagues on 25 June 2015 just outside Maseru. The LDF claimed Lt-Gen Mahao had resisted arrest for allegedly leading a mutiny when he was killed.
However, Lt-Gen Mahao’s family accused the army of killing him in cold blood basing on the account of his nephews who were with him during the incident.
Dr Mosisili then requested SADC to help probe the tragedy, resulting in a Commission of Inquiry led by Botswana judge, Justice Mpaphi Phumaphi.
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.
The inquiry also recommended constitutional reforms, the suspension of LDF officers implicated in cases of murder, attempted murder and treason while investigations into the allegations proceed in line with international best practice, as well as amnesty for the 23 soldiers facing mutiny charges before the Court Martial.
Eight LDF members have since been charged with murdering Lt-Gen Mahao, while the 23 soldiers were acquitted of the mutiny charges this week.
Dr Mosisili expressed umbrage with the SADC inquiry’s recommendations, saying they “knew nothing” about Lesotho’s politics.
“I deeply regret establishing the commission of inquiry into the death of Brigadier Mahao,” Dr Mosisili said.
“I looked around locally and realised that there was no one who could be part of the commission. So, I turned to SADC to assist me with individuals who knew nothing about our local politics to be part of the commission of inquiry.
“But unfortunately SADC hijacked a Lesotho Commission of Inquiry, it was never a SADC commission of inquiry but that of Lesotho established under the laws of this country. This is why the commissioners were sworn in by the chief justice and it was gazetted under Lesotho laws.”
Dr Mosisili said the opposition was not looking to the regional bloc for mediation in their tiff with the government over participating in the envisaged governance reforms.
The opposition parties have refused to participate in the reforms after accusing the government of persecution and meddling in the affairs of the judiciary among other grievances.
Said Dr Mosisili: “This is why in my own opinion, I want us to have a local mediator in the standoff between the government and opposition going into the reforms process.”
The DC leader’s remarks contradict exiled LCD leader Mothetjoa Metsing’s call for SADC to mediate talks with the government over his and other exiled leaders’ return to “ensure transparency and honesty”.
Mr Metsing, his LCD deputy Tšeliso Mokhosi and Democratic Congress (DC) deputy leader, Mathibeli Mokhothu, fled to South Africa separately in August this year.
The trio skipped the country citing tip-offs from “trusted sources” about plots to assassinate them and alleged persecution by the government.
However, the Prime Minister Thomas Thabane-led four-party coalition has since rubbished the allegations, saying the government would not achieve anything in persecuting the opposition.
Dr Mosisili said they had already proposed to the government a mediator from the Christian Council of Lesotho (CCL).
The former premier asserted that the faith-based organisation had previously played the role effectively. He cited the CCL’s mediation in the disputed 2007 parliamentary election after the late former Botswana President Ketumeli Masire had “thrown in the towel”.
Mr Masire failed to break the impasse between the government and opposition after Dr Mosisili’s regime refused to compromise and told the former Botswana leader to go home.
In recent years, the CCL has been criticised for being biased in favour of the congress parties. The body’s critics have accused the CCL’s Bishop Mallane Taaso of the Anglican Church of Lesotho of having a “close” relationship with Mr Metsing.
Bishop Taaso was even booed by supporters of the four-party coalition government when he led a prayer service on behalf of the CCL at the inauguration of Dr Thabane on 16 June 2017 at the Setsoto Stadium.
Dr Mosisili slammed the booing of Bishop Taaso, saying clerics had successfully mediated in Lesotho’s politics.
“That (booing) was an aberration and we condemn that act. Associating bishops with politics is very unfair on them, as they are the same church leaders who successfully mediated in Lesotho politics when Masire failed and had thrown in the towel. We have absolute trust on the CCL,” the DC leader said.
He called for a moratorium on “politically-motivated” arrests, adding that such a move would guarantee successful implementation of reforms.
Dr Mosisili said the opposition made the proposal to the government through the mediation of the SADC Oversight Committee.
Mr Mokhosi, who was charged with murdering Police Constable Mokakale Khetheng, and former LDF commander Rtd Lt-Gen Tlali Kamoli – who faces one murder charge and 14 counts of attempted murder — are among the high profile prosecutions.
To ensure the prosecutions arrests were not politically motivated, Dr Mosisili proposed the establishment of a Joint Security Mechanism which would assess their veracity.
For his part, Chief Molapo said they were open to suggestions that would assist the country embark on the reforms process peacefully and united.
“Our understanding is that the relationship between us and the opposition is not that strained to the extent that we need someone to mediate in our discussions,” he said.
“But if the opposition is of the view that CCL should mediate, we are open to that idea and anything that will help us embark on an inclusive reforms process united and peacefully. We respect and love the CCL and we have never felt like the CCL was not objective.”
On the call for a moratorium on “politically-motivated” prosecutions, Chief Molapo said: “We don’t have politically motivated arrests. Lisebo Tang was shot and killed by known suspects, the decision not to arrest the suspects was politically motivated.
“Going to parliament to table an Amnesty Bill when one knew very well that crimes were committed was a politically-motivated decision but on our side we are saying suspects must have their day in court.”
Ms Tang was shot dead on 10 May 2014 when the car she was sitting in with her male companion, Tšepo Jane, was peppered with bullets by LDF members guarding the Ha-Leqele home of Lt-Gen Kamoli.
Mr Jane sustained serious injuries and taken to the Makoanyane Military Hospital. A police report stated that the vehicle in which they were sitting was shot 123.
On the suggestion for a Joint Security Mechanism, Chief Molapo urged Dr Mosisili and the opposition to “understand” that there was only one government at a time.
“On the Joint Security Mechanism, Ntate Mosisili is just trying to continue to have an influence in the security sector even when he is no longer in government. Administering security agencies is not the mandate of the opposition but that of a legitimate government.
“Wanting a Joint Security Mechanism is just furthering the politicisation of the security sector and we will not allow Ntate Mosisili and the opposition to do that. Imagine heads of security agencies taking orders from both government and opposition, with Ntate Thabane and Ntate Mosisili issuing different orders? What kind of a state would Lesotho be where security heads don’t know where to take their orders?” the minister added.