Murder victims’ families slam Moseneke
- say they are “horrified” by ex-judge’s attempts to save Metsing, Selibe and Kamoli from prosecution,
- vow to appeal to EU and US for justice.
THE family of the slain army commander, Lieutenant General Maaparankoe Mahao, and other victims of human rights violations are livid with the head of the SADC facilitation to Lesotho, Dikgang Moseneke.
They accuse him of working flat out to save politicians, serving and former members of the security agencies from being tried for murder and other serious crimes.
They have vowed to resist his alleged schemes and if need be, they say they will even appeal to the Unites States and the European Union for justice for their relatives.
The other families who are unhappy with Justice Moseneke are those of slain Police Sub-Inspector Mokheseng Ramahloko, as well as three Maseru civilians, Lekhoele Noko, Molise Pakela and Khothatso Makibinyane. The trio were allegedly murdered by ten soldiers who are said to have strangled them at Setibing in rural Maseru on 16 May 2017 and dumped them in the Mohale Dam.
The 10 soldiers are Sergeant Lekhooa Moepi, Captain Mahlehle Moeletsi, Lance Corporal Mahlomola Makhoali, Private Nthatakane Motanyane, Brigadier Rapele Mphaki, Motšoane Machai, Tieho Tikiso, Pitso Ramoepane, Liphapang Sefako and Nemase Faso.
Sub-Inspector Ramahloko was gunned down on 30 August 2014 during an attempted coup against the first government of former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane. Politicians Mothetjoa Metsing and Selibe Mochoboroane have been charged with treason and Sub-Inspector Ramahloko’s murder alongside former army commander, Tlali Kamoli and others.
Kamoli and other soldiers have also been charged for the 25 June 2015 murder of Lt-Gen Mahao.
Their prosecutions are in line with the recommendations of a 2015 SADC inquiry into Lt-Gen Mahao’s assassination.
Despite the recommendations, Justice Moseneke has made several spirited attempts including proposing the establishment of a Transitional Justice Commission (TJC) which would, among other things, consider the deferment of the high-profile trials of politicians and any other “politically-motivated trials” until after the full implementation of the multi-sector reforms.
Justice Moseneke argues that an “all-encompassing Transitional Justice Commission” would suspend all high-profile cases “to allow the country to face the truth of what happened during the conflict and turmoil as a basis for the healing of the wounds and reconciliation of the nation”.
Should his TJC plans come to fruition, the criminal trials of Messrs Metsing, Mochoboroane, Kamoli and others will either be stopped or deferred until after the implementation of the multi-sector reforms recommended by SADC in 2016.
However, the families of Lt-Gen Mahao and other victims argue that Justice Moseneke’s zeal in stopping the high-profile trials is a grave miscarriage of justice and flagrant violation of SADC’s own recommendations for the prosecution of the slain army commander’s killers and other perpetrators of gross human rights violations.
Speaking on behalf of the families at a press conference in Maseru this week, the Mahao family representative, Lehloenya Mahao, called for the rejection of the TJC. He said its establishment would only lead to bloodshed and anarchy in the country.
Mr Mahao said that Justice Moseneke never consulted them or any other families of the victims before proposing the TJC. He said in his haste to save Messrs Metsing, Mochoboroane, Kamoli and other suspects, Justice Moseneke had shown “pure disrespect and disregard for us as families and the entire population which yearns for the swift delivery of justice to help heal our still gaping wounds at the hands of rogue army elements and deceitful politicians”.
“We strongly recommend that Mr Moseneke’s transitional justice idea be rejected and taken as purely his personal interest. It does not serve the best interests of this country in its quest for lasting peace, rule of law, good governance, harmony and democracy,” Mr Mahao said, adding the families felt betrayed by Justice Moseneke.
“SADC’s position is very clear in its decisions that those who have committed crimes should face the law and justice be delivered to provide closure to grieving families and to ensure Lesotho is salvaged from its detestable position as the perennial troublemaker of SADC.
“As the country heads towards the pinnacle of implementation of SADC decisions, Justice Moseneke, to our horror and dismay, has emerged with his warped idea of transitional justice which compromises and defeats the very same facilitation project to which he was assigned.
“This is the man who said that the reforms are likely to have been completed in July, but now he is singing a different tune to the initial one because he wants to protect some politicians who are trying to run away from being jailed alongside the army officers who are already in prison. We are not going to let him do so and if SADC also fails to heed to our recommendation, we shall have no option but to approach other stakeholders like the Americans and the European Union.
“If these reforms are not done within our legal framework, then they are a futile exercise because they will not address the issues they were meant to address. That means they will be undermining us as a country,” said Mr Mahao.
Another Mahao family member, Mahao Mahao, also read out a statement, saying their expectation and that of the nation, “would be for Justice Moseneke to fight for the implementation of the of SADC’s decisions and not to chart his own agenda outside of the initial SADC mandate which seeks justice and peace”.
Dr Mahao said politicians accused of serious crimes were hiding behind clause 10 of the 2018 government-opposition agreement which sought to defer the trials of Mr Metsing and others until after the implementation of the reforms.
The clause has been struck down as unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court in two separate 2018 and 2020 judgements. However, Messrs Metsing and Mochoboroane have a pending appeal in the Court of Appeal where they have argued that the clause is binding on the government and judiciary as it was the product of a SADC-brokered agreement.
The victims’ families accused Justice Moseneke of continuously promoting the clause despite the Constitutional Court judgements which had struck it down as “misguided and unconstitutional”.
“The architects of clause 10 are the same suspected perpetrators of human rights violations and criminal acts who now appear to be cajoling Mr Moseneke to act in their favour to frustrate the course of justice to their advantage under the guise of national reforms.
“The idea of transitional justice is yet another attempt to prevent the wheels of justice from moving to deliver justice for victims of impunity expertly planned at state level and executed by the army. None of these attempts to abort justice are ever done with due consideration and sympathy for the grieving families.
“There is no need for transitional justice in Lesotho as there was never a civil war.
“This is only Mr Moseneke’s strategy to cripple and frustrate the whole justice process and protect suspected criminals at the expense of poor vulnerable victims and their still grieving families. It is evident beyond reasonable doubt that these inhuman and degrading acts were perpetrated by a small group of people and it cannot be said the nation is in need of transitional justice.
“Our stance is that this will never bring about peace but will deepen the seeds of animosity, retaliation and impunity, thereby leading Lesotho out of its constitutional and legal frameworks and sabotaging its judicial system. Mr Moseneke is creating a situation where reforms which are intended to strengthen the rule of law and good governance, actually weaken these principles which are the core of SADC’s objective in its preventive intervention.
“Justice Moseneke’s interest appears to be on the political perpetrators and not the victims, which is a pure and direct violation of United Nations Transitional Justice Policy whose main focus is on the victims,” Dr Mahao said.
Justice Moseneke has been pushing for the deferment of all the high-profile trials to create what he describes as an all-inclusive environment for the conclusion of the reforms process.
Acting on Justice Moseneke’s advice, SADC last month refused to give Lesotho a full record of the proceedings of its inquiry into the June 2015 murder of Lt-Gen Mahao.
Justice Moseneke’s advice has put the government in the unenviable position of having to unwillingly violate a July 2020 Lesotho High Court order to handover the full record of the SADC inquiry proceedings to Kamoli who says he needs it to prepare his defence.
The government can only handover the report of the full inquiry proceedings after getting it from SADC. The regional body had in 2016 only given the then Pakalitha Mosisili-led government an abridged report which summarised the proceedings and not the full version now wanted by Kamoli.
Justice Moseneke insists that the report of the full proceedings should not be handed over because it contains sensitive information which could scuttle the ongoing multi-sector reforms process.
The best time to hand over the report to the government is only after the reforms have been implemented in roughly eight to 12 months’ time, Justice Moseneke argues.