PM expands mandate for probe team
…as Ramaphosa arrives to formally introduce SADC Commission of Inquiry
SADC Facilitator to Lesotho Cyril Ramaphosa arrives in Maseru this evening to brief key political stakeholders on the terms-of-reference of the Commission of Inquiry established by regional leaders early this month to probe Lesotho’s instability.
Mr Ramaphosa, who was appointed by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to mediate in the unrest, is expected to meet with King Letsie III, Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili, opposition leaders, College of Chiefs as well as members of the Law Society, Christian Council of Lesotho (CCL) and civic society.
The SADC Independent Commission of Inquiry, to be chaired by Botswana judge Justice Mpaphi Phumaphi, was established following last month’s assassination of former Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) Commander Maaparankoe Mahao by the military.
Government says Brigadier Mahao was shot and killed as he resisted arrest for his alleged role in a foiled mutiny against the army command, but his family and other sectors of society insist his murder had been planned because he was a threat to certain individuals in the LDF.
Due to the different versions of the killing, a SADC Summit held in Pretoria on 3 July resolved to establish the Commission of Inquiry not only to investigate Brigadier Mahao’s death but also related factors that may have contributed to the country’s current instability.
According to a communiqué issued by Mr Ramaphosa’s spokesperson Ronnie Mamoepa, the Facilitator would “outline the terms of reference to His Majesty King Letsie III… and further brief Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili, members of opposition political parties, the Council of Churches of Lesotho, College of Chiefs, the NGO sector including business as well as members of the Law Society,” Mr Mamoepa said in the statement.
“The SADC Double Troika Summit of Heads of State held in Pretoria on 3 July 2015 decided, among others and, as a matter of urgency, to establish an independent Commission of Inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the death of Brigadier Maaparankoe Mahao and its deployment with immediate effect.’’
Meanwhile, on Tuesday this week, Dr Mosisili announced the establishment of the nine-member Commission in a government gazette, saying its purpose was to “look into matters arising out of diverse incidents of political/security/government nature”.
Also attached to the gazette are the probe team’s terms of reference.
Apart from looking into circumstances surrounding Brigadier Mahao’s death, the Commission would also investigate some decisions made by former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, among them his alleged attempt to overhaul the judiciary and the legality of the removal of LDF Commander Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli in August 2014 and his replacement by Lt Gen Mahao.
“The Commission shall inquire into the various changes in the top leadership of the courts such as the appointment of a new President of the Court of Appeal (in January this year), their legitimacy and ability to tackle various criminal and civil issues that have, or will come before them in relation to the Commission,” the gazette reads.
“Also to be investigated is the act by former Prime Minister Dr Thomas Thabane, of ousting from office the Attorney-General and the Director of Public Prosecutions by force of arms, and the abortive attempt to use the law to remove them from office.”
Dr Mosisili adds in the gazette that the LDF’s operation of 30 August 2014 which saw the army storm three police stations in Maseru, should also be probed.
“Furthermore, the Commission should look in particular, into the assertion by other sections of society that the operation was far from being a coup de tat, but in truth, a timely intervention by the army to forestall intended armed violence against, and the massacre of, innocent people by some rogue elements of the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS),” Dr Mosisili says.
Sub-Inspector Mokheseng Ramahloko was fatally shot during an exchange of fire between the military and police during the 30 August 2014 military raid at Police Headquarters, with Dr Thabane later claiming the raid was part of a plot to overthrow his tripartite government, which was subsequently removed after the 28 February 2015 snap elections.
Also to be probed by the Commission, Dr Mosisili adds, are claims by other sections of society that some rogue elements of the LMPS “were intent on violently disrupting, even through the use of agent provocateurs”, a planned mass protest march against former PM Thabane, for his “refusal to facilitate the uplifting of the prorogation of parliament.
“This was despite international agreements and undertaking, to which he was party, that the (nine-month) prorogation (Dr Thabane effected in June 2014 to avert a no-confidence vote in his leadership by opposition MPs) be uplifted,” Dr Mosisili said.
Again, to be included in the scope of investigation as per the gazette, would be the alleged mutiny plot within the LDF ranks “during the period August 2014 to May 2015”.
“The Commission shall inquire into the alleged involvement of Brigadier Mahao in the said mutiny, if any, as well as the circumstances surrounding his death and the assertion that he resisted arrest upon being approached for the purpose.
“The Commission shall also investigate allegations that excessive force was used against Brigadier Mahao, and the assertion that he did not pass away immediately after the shooting incident, but at a later stage after arrival at Makoanyane Military Hospital,” the gazette further reads.
The premier also says the Commission would investigate the “tenuous relationship between former PM Thabane and the LMPS”, which he notes led to the police service “experiencing the appointment of four commissioners and four dismissals in two-years-and-a-half”.
“The Commission should, in the same vein, inquire into the equally tenuous relationship between PM Thabane and the LDF, as exemplified by the removal from office of Lt Gen Kamoli as LDF Commander,” Dr Mosisili says.
“Equally, the various changes in the top leadership of the Lesotho Correctional Service (LCS), which led to the substantive holder, Commissioner Napo Sefali, being suspended from office since June 2014, which amounts to indefinite suspension.”
The January 2014 bombings of the homes of Liabiloe Ramoholi (Dr Thabane’s partner), Commissioner of Police Khothatso Tšooana, the chauffeur of Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing (September 2014) and the shooting near the SADC Facilitation Mission’s offices in February this year (between LDF members which resulted in the death of a private guard) would also be probed, Dr Mosisili also said.
The Commission, the PM says, would further look into how the police were awarded a hefty “albeit unbudgeted for salary increase” last year …“and the impact of such an increase on the fiscas, its implication for national security and proper administration of justice, regard being had to the consideration that the disciplined forces, being the LDF and LCS and the NSS respectively, had not been awarded the increase; and whether the increase was approved by cabinet.”
Dr Mosisili also wants the Commission to probe allegations by opposition political parties and some sections of civic society that the reappointment of Lt Gen Tlali Kamoli as LDF commander (in May this year after he was fired in August last year by Dr Thabane for alleged arrogance) had “resulted in divisions within the army”.
Equally, the PM further asserts, the Commission should inquire about the counter-view of society that “as a matter of fact”, prior to Dr Thabane becoming premier “there was peace and stability in Lesotho…but that he worked hard during his two-and-a-half-year premiership to destroy those fundamental requisites for democracy, hence his inability to have endured a full term of office,” Dr Mosisili says.
This was in reference to Dr Thabane’s government failing to complete its full term due to the premier’s persistent power-struggle with his deputy Mothetjoa Metsing.