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Need for commission of inquiry after ‘coup attempt’

by Lesotho Times
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THE unfortunate and calamitous events of 30 September left an indelible mark on this nation’s democracy and rule of law. There is need, therefore, to punish the culprits to ensure we avoid their recurrence. I thereby call for Prime Minister Thomas Thabane to immediately establish a commission of inquiry.

Legal scholars and political analysts might beg to differ and, instead, argue that those responsible for the clearly criminal conduct be brought before the courts. While I am not arguing for the non-prosecution of those responsible, it is high time that government takes note of the deep-seated differences within our security agencies, namely the police and the army.  Furthermore, there are worrying signs that unless the causes of these differences, some of which emanate from politicians, are dealt-with, the ugly events of that early Saturday morning are bound to recur in the future.

That a national army can attack a national police force is unheard of anywhere else in the world, except Lesotho. This unique event, which occurred in a country as tiny and as homogeneous as ours, is unprecedented and calls for immediate action.  Obviously, some sinister forces have brutally undermined our security and stability as a nation. They need to be confronted head-on and conquered.

The security agencies in the melee are a source of national pride, unity, democracy and identity which is encapsulated in the two pieces of legislation that established and govern them.

The Police Service Act, 1998, part II, Section 4, under the General Functions of the Police Service provides; “The police service maintained under section 3 shall be called the Lesotho Mounted Police Service, and it shall be deployed in and throughout Lesotho to uphold the law, to preserve the peace, protect life and property, to detect and prevent crime, to apprehend offenders, bring offenders to justice and for associated purposes”.


The Lesotho Defence Force Act, 1996, part II, section 5, provides the “The Defence Force shall be employed:-

  • In the defence of Lesotho


  • In the prevention or suppression of (i) terrorism

(ii)  Internal disorder

 The maintenance of essential services including maintenance of law and order and prevention of crime, and such other duties as may, from time to time, be determined by the Minister (of Defence)”.

Section  12(3) further provides; “The Commander of the Defence Force shall:-

(a) report to the Minister on all matters under his charge in the day-to-day discharge of his duties;

(b) advise the Minister on matters of general policy relating to the Defence Force; and

(c) carry-out any other duties that the Prime Minister may require him to execute”.

Other than the Judiciary, Executive and Legislature as well as a robust free press, our institutional democracy and independence rest on an apolitical, efficient and transparent defence and police force. Both forces have to be free from political interference and manipulation. They have to be complementary to execute their legislative mandate which, at times, overlap but should never be contradictory.  A stable defence and police service is the bedrock upon which our democratic aspirations and beliefs are premised.  Any attempts to destabilise and interfere in the affairs of these security institutions ought to be rebuffed, resisted and accordingly punished.

Granted, a commission of inquiry involves huge budgetary strains on our tiny fiscus, but it will be money well spent. If only for the security, and stability of this nation as well as integrity of these security institutions.


There are underlying and, at times, well-founded insinuations of some politicians having had a hand in the attempted coup. Indeed, the background to this attempted coup not-so-conclusively points to the involvement of some senior politicians and parties.

The dismissal of the army commander and prorogation of parliament appear to be a smokescreen to other agendas that some politicians are, understandably, for their political careers and integrity, afraid to put on the table as causes of their displeasure with the coalition government.

While I am a protagonist of the idea of “having their day in court”, my contention is that criminal prosecution will only scratch the surface.  A commission of inquiry will unpack all the underlying motives behind this unprovoked attack on unsuspecting police officers, who were only carrying out their duties.  Criminal prosecution will only deal with the symptoms and not the causes, as well as the instigators behind the unfortunate events.  The latter two aspects would be well taken care of by a commission of inquiry.

A commission should, therefore, be appointed to investigate and enquire into the events leading up to the events that fateful Saturday. It should include the circumstances surrounding the run-up to the fateful Saturday.

The Commission should ideally also be given the legal power to summon whoever it deems will be of assistance to enable the reaching of an informed and justiciable conclusion.  It should have the power to summon everyone, in the absence of justifiable excuses, so that it may reach an informed conclusion. We can, for instance, assume in the absence of contrary proof, that anyone who refuses summons of the commission has something to hide.

The commission should ideally be enjoined by law, to observe the principles of natural justice, which are the bedrock of our jurisprudence. These are, firstly, no one should be a judge in his own cause and secondly, everyone, however nominally mentioned in its proceedings, should be heard before the commission.


The conclusions of the commission, together with its recommendations, should be tabled before the prime minister.  The recommendations should include, wherever it deems fit, institution of criminal and civil proceedings to named individuals, political parties and even the state.

The mandate of the commission should be also to unearth the motives and shortcomings behind the conduct of these two critical institutions of state security.

I am obliged to recommend these powers for the commission because there is so much political point-scoring and blame game among politicians that this nation ought to, and is entitled to know exactly what transpired prior to, during and in the aftermath of the carnage of that Saturday.

It will be on the basis of the recommendations of this commission that future conduct, relations and structures as well as the legal framework of these security institutions will be mapped-out going forward, for the benefit and stability of this nation.  All those who had played a role that fateful day, will then be known to this nation.

These are the distinct advantages of commissions as opposed to criminal prosecutions.  However, I am not for one moment, lest I be misinterpreted, suggesting that criminal prosecutions of the culprits should be done away with. I am merely pointing-out the complementary nature of the two interventions in unearthing the deep-seated tensions that exist between the major role players and the security institutions inter se and in relations with other major stakeholders.

Legal reforms and societal changes and attitudes are informed by the courts as well as findings of commissions of Inquiry.

In this regard, we need not go any further than the Ramodibedi Commission of Inquiry into the Land Act and the Leon Commission of Inquiry into the events leading up-to, during and after the attacks on the official residence of the then prime minister, and others.


While the prime minister need not necessarily implement the recommendations of the commission, they will, however, shed some light on the circumstances surrounding these attacks and ways to curb them in future.  It is indeed even a blessing that both security agencies fall under Dr Thabane.

Commissions, like courts of law, play a pivotal role in that they do not just lay the blame at the door of someone but also afford them an opportunity to be heard and explain their actions.  They are impartial and dispassionate and, like the courts, lays bare all the truths and facts. Valuable lessons will be drawn from the commission going forward.

In setting up the commission, our politicians and government will have afforded this nation an opportunity to know exactly what happened and who is to blame. The nation would also know what remedial interventions are needed to avoid a repeat of these unfortunate attacks. I am sure despite many challenges that seem insurmountable, we will ultimately get it right as a nation.

Our national institutions of security, stability and democracy will be all the more our nation’s pride. They will be the repositories and guardians of our freedoms, identity and respect.  Surely, this traumatised nation deserves to know all the truths and legislate accordingly.  The culprits need to face the full might of the law. We need a nation that is steeped in the rule of law, stable democratic and defence institutions that are free from political interference.  We deserve better.  Period!

In conclusion, let me say:  fairness is a human concept based on personal circumstances and in relationship as to how others are treated.  Because God is just, He must reward the righteous and punish the wicked.

In the Old Testament in the Book of Numbers 14:18 It is said; “The Lord is slow to anger; abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion. Yet He does not leave the guilty unpunished; He punishes the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation”.




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