SADC must help resolve LDF rot

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) and South Africa have done well to deploy armed security personnel to Lesotho. But this is only to protect Prime Minister Thomas Thabane and other political elites.

The rest of Basotho remain perilously exposed to Lt General Tlali Kamoli and the band of loyalists he has reportedly assembled with stolen heavy weaponry. Which explains why many restive Basotho are too scared to stay outdoors at night and many businesses are closing early.

This is a very unhealthy situation. Yet it is understandable that many citizens have chosen to constrict themselves because they do not know when he may choose to strike again. This explains why we had hoped President Jacob Zuma would have prioritised resolving the hot issue of the leadership of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF), an issue keeping this country perilously on the edge.
It had been suggested that Mr Zuma would meet Lt General Kamoli and possibly mediate an amicable leadership arrangement at the LDF. That meeting did not take place, alongside others with key players Mr Zuma had been scheduled to meet.

It seems Mr Zuma has decided to solely focus on one issue; the re-opening of Parliament as the panacea to all the problems Lesotho is facing. That may well be the case but no one can dispute that it’s completely dangerous and unacceptable for any country to have unknown numbers of its soldiers outside the barracks, heavily armed with weaponry that cannot be officially accounted for under the leadership of a renegade commander.

We may all debate the merits and demerits of Lt General Kamoli’s firing and his replacement with Lieutenant General Maaparankoe Mahao. But what is indisputable is that Dr Thabane has the right to appoint and fire the head of the army and he simply exercised his constitutional prerogative. The lack of consultations between Dr Thabane and his coalition government partners is neither here nor there.

Lt General Kamoli should vacate his seat because his firing is legal. His refusal to go and threats to use force to stay in his position sets a dangerous precedent that may one day prove fatal to those currently blindly supporting the LDF commander.

It had also been rumoured that Lt General Kamoli was contemplating instituting court action over his dismissal. That would have been the right thing to do instead of using brute force, or threats thereof, to hang on. Unless all the reported stolen weapons are recovered and all the soldiers return to barracks and take instructions from the newly-appointed army commander Mahao, Lesotho remains on a knife edge with a very doubtful future.

The issue of the leadership of the LDF should have received adequate attention from SADC and Mr Zuma, alongside the re-opening of Parliament. It is understandable that Dr Thabane is now raising the security issue as a reason for him delaying lifting prorogation. Some might interpret that as a self-serving ruse. But there can be no doubt that the security situation of any country matters as much as the ability of its parliament to operate unhindered.

It seems Lt General Kamoli will seek to hang on until the re-opening of Parliament in the hope that a vote of no confidence against Dr Thabane will succeed and any new prime minister will keep him at the helm of the LDF. That’s of course a dangerous strategy. Not least because we now know that Dr Thabane will not go down quietly and will most likely dissolve Parliament and call for fresh elections. No credible ballot will take place with an unaccountable military.

Political parties supporting Lt General Kamoli are equally wrong. Particularly puzzling is the stance taken by the Democratic Congress. As reported elsewhere in this newspaper, the party’s functionaries led by Tlohang Sekhamane, have warned of bloodshed if Dr Thabane insists on firing Kamoli . Such brazen encouragement of anarchy is unacceptable. With DC leader Pakalitha Mosisili, seemingly AWOL, amid a serious national crisis, it seems charlatans in his party now rule the day.

While those supporting General Kamoli may achieve short term political ends, they are putting this country on a slippery slope to perdition.

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