SADC intervenes

 

…bloc sends team to mediate in army, police turf war

Bongiwe Zihlangu

A high-powered Southern African Development Community (SADC) delegation arrived in the country yesterday to mediate in the ongoing standoff between the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) and Lesotho Defence Force (LDF).

Tension between the two security agencies has been mounting since the LDF last month ignored a request by the LMPS to release eight soldiers needed to help with investigations into the simultaneous bombings of three Maseru homes on 27 January this year.

The Lesotho Times has established that the SADC team is set to meet senior government officials, heads of the feuding security agencies, as well as church and opposition party leaders today in an effort to find a lasting solution to the impasse.

According to sources privy to the SADC initiative, there will be a series of meetings today, in which the LMPS and LDF heads — Police Commissioner Khothatso Tšooana and LDF Commander Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli — are expected to make presentations to the SADC delegation regarding the current security situation in the country and the deteriorating relations between the two agencies.

The Lesotho Times understands the head of the National Security Service (NSS), who has been mediating between the police and military in the dispute, would also be present in the presentations.

The SADC delegation is also expected to meet the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Relations Mohlabi Tsekoa, Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing and Minister of Gender, Youth, Sports and Recreation Thesele ‘Maseribane, who are both key members of the country’s Security Committee.
Government spokesperson Selibe Mochoboroane last night confirmed the SADC delegation’s arrival in the country, but would not elaborate on the itinerary.
“Yes, there is a SADC delegation meeting with government tomorrow (today) but I cannot say for sure what the exact agenda of the meeting is,” Mr Mochoboroane said.
“But they will meet with church leaders after meeting with government.”

However, Mr Mochoboroane, who is also the Minister of Communications, Science and Technology, said the meeting could be the result of a confidential letter written by the country’s opposition parties, seeking the intervention of SADC on issues yet to be made public.
The Lesotho Times has been reliably informed the issues in question include the opposition’s dissatisfaction with how the affairs of parliament are being run, as well as the alleged interference of government, particularly Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, in the running of Lesotho’s security agencies.
Dr Thabane is the Minister of Defence, Police and National Security.

Mr Mochoboroane, however, could not commit himself to answering the question regarding this particular issue, and could only say security issues would form part of the meeting’s agenda.

But a highly-placed source yesterday told the Lesotho Times that Lt General Kamoli, Commissioner Tšooana and the NSS director, would be expected to reveal the findings of their respective investigations into the bomb-attacks.
The attacks were on the homes of Tšooana in Tšieng Ha-Abia, Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s partner, Liabiloe Ramoholi, and her neighbour ‘Mamoletsane Moletsane, in Moshoeshoe II.
“The police will make a presentation on their findings into the bomb-attacks, where their investigations led them and the fact that the military is refusing to cooperate by not releasing the eight officers into their custody for questioning,” the source said.
“We will inform the SADC team that our investigation led us to the LDF but that the military is giving us the run-around, by refusing to release the eight officers for questioning.”
The source added: “We will also inform the SADC team that we need the region’s intervention, to help us with the arrest of the military officers in question, to bring them into police custody for questioning.”

The source also revealed that although their investigations led the police to the eight officers, “we’re not saying they are all involved; we just want them to help us”.

Another source added the expectation was Lt General Kamoli, would be asked to brief the SADC mission on his findings into the attacks through the Military Intelligence (MI), while the NSS Director would also be “required to table his own findings through the NSS”.

The source again told the Lesotho Times the LDF is expected to argue the police investigation into the attacks was not objective because the investigators reported directly to Mr Tšooana “although he was one of the victims of the attacks”.

According to the source, the Security Committee formed of cabinet heavy-weights, was also of the view that the attacks should not be treated as a crime, but that a Commission of Inquiry should be established to deal with the case.
“The government side, through the security committee, is expected to lobby for the matter to be handled through a Commission of Inquiry,” the source said.

A source from the civic society, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said according to their programme, the SADC team would meet with church-leaders after a meeting with opposition political leaders late this afternoon.
A meeting with civic groups is scheduled for tomorrow at 7 am.

 

 

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