. . . commander can’t be removed ‘as long as I’m alive’
By B Zihlangu & N Molomo
MASERU — A Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) Special Forces Company captain on Tuesday told a packed court martial that army commander Lieutenant-General Tlali Kamoli would not be removed through a dismissal letter “as long as I’m alive”.
Commando Captain Tefo Hashatsi said he was strongly opposed to discussion in the media of issues concerning the army, referring to a January 12 post on Mo-Afrika FM owner, Ratabane Ramainoane’s Facebook wall in which it was alleged that Lt General Kamoli would be served with a letter of dismissal.
Hashatsi was testifying before a military court trying suspended Brigadier Maaparankoe Mahao for “behaving in an unbecoming character of an officer, contrary to section 75 of the Lesotho Defence Force Act 4, 1996” after having a confrontation with Hashatsi over allegations of the anticipated change of the LDF command.
The court martial was convened after Mahao was suspended, allegedly for reprimanding Hashatsi for holding a meeting over allegations linked to the purported change of the army leadership.
Hashatsi told the court that on January 13, he convened a meeting where he discussed with 38 Special Force Company colleagues, the allegations posted on the MoAfrika FM Facebook wall the previous day.
Hashatse said he clearly told the meeting that he was against the alleged plan to serve Lt General Kamoli with a letter of expulsion.
A week before Mahao’s suspension, rumour was rife that Kamoli — who had travelled to Ethiopia on January 10 with former Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Molobeli Soulo — would be served with a dismissal letter upon his return to Lesotho.
Mahao was suspended on January 15 by Major-General Khoantle Motsomotso, shortly after the confrontation between him and Hashatsi.
“I said the issue of handing a letter to the Commander, which appeared to be instigated by some of the soldiers in the army, cannot happen while I am still alive,” Hashatsi said.
“I said if it happens, I would be dead. I continued to order them that they should be loyal to the Commander, to protect Basotho and property, (and) the government and not a political party.”
The court martial is a six-member body presided over by Major-General Lineo Poopa assisted by Brigadier Poqa Motoa, Colonel Sechaba Kaibe, Lt Colonel Mohale and Lt Colonel Lebabo.
Waiting members of the court are Brigadier Letsoela and Major Kebane, while Lt Colonel Matobo is the court’s Judge Advocate.
Advocate Major Bulane Sechele has been appointed prosecutor of the court.
Hashatsi told the court that the meeting was attended by, among others, Commando Lt Makoae and 2nd Lieutenant Makhetha.
According to Hashatsi, the initial purpose of the meeting was to wish the company a successful 2014 and discuss the successes and challenges awaiting them.
However, Hashatsi said after seeing the Facebook post referring to the change of the LDF command, he felt compelled to include the issue on the meeting’s agenda.
He further added that he told the meeting that he expected the orders he had given, among others, to show loyalty to the LDF commander, to be “followed by those present”.
“I also asked if there was anybody who had a problem and that if so they must say it because nothing would be more painful than giving orders which would be ignored,” Hashatsi said.
However, Hashatsi said he had assured them he would not be hurt by those who had a problem following his orders because they would be honest with him.
In the end, Hashatse said, he invited questions or opinions but “there were none”.
Hashatse told the court that in 1998, some soldiers ended in maximum prison because they involved themselves in matters they knew nothing about.
He said he told the Special Force Company that any soldier who knowingly got involved in politics should not blame the army when he found himself in trouble.
Meanwhile, Hashatsi also told the court that the drama began on Monday, January 13, with a phone call from Brigadier Mahao.
Hashatsi said he was on duty in the offices of the Special Forces Company at the Makoanyane Barracks when the Brigadier asked him to meet him in the parking lot near headquarters.
“I rushed to that place to meet with him and he said he wanted us to talk in private,” Hashatsi said.
“He said he was going to lie to me and that we should move away saying ‘when I lie, I would like to move away from the wall because walls have ears’,” Hashatsi quoted Mahao as
level, and do take place not only in Lesotho, but also even in other countries. Soldiers must be loyal to the state not to a particular indi- vidual.
“So my advice to you is that if you take is- sues of the change of command in a personal
“He added ‘let’s move aside’.”
Hashatse also alleged that he went together with Mahao taking the direction of the Signals offices, where he later stopped.
“He told me he was aware that I had had a meeting during which I had said the LDF commander was going to be given a letter and that he did not want to hear whether it was true or a lie,” Hashatsi said.
“He also said he did not want me to question him about it nor was he soliciting my opinion.”
During cross-examination yesterday, Hashatsi said he could not reveal some of his
sources because they were classified.
However, defence lawyer, Advocate Patrick Tšenoli put it to Hashatsi that in his main evi-
dence, he never mentioned classified sources.
“I put it to you that it is either there are no such sources of classified information or you’re
deliberately not saying who these sources really are,” Tšenoli said.
When the lawyer put it to him that he was fabricating the story because there were
no such sources, Hashatsi said this was not true.
Advocate Tšenoli is assisted by Advocates Thabang Letsie and Tšepo Thibinyane. Brigadier Mahao of the Logistics Unit has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
The accused is quoted as having allegedly said: “I want to advise you that issues of
change of command do happen at a political manner you better lift up your hands and re- sign.”
He is also alleged to have acted in a manner prejudicial to discipline when he threatened Captain Hashatsi.
“The accused did not follow the chain of com- mand in addressing his concerns to the Cap- tain, neither was he granted permission by his superiors to utter such views which sought to influence or victimise the Captain,” the charge states.