Inquiry into Lesotho’s former army chief to start soon

Image courtesy stock.xchnge

Image courtesy stock.xchnge

The independent commission of inquiry appointed by regional leaders last month, mainly to probe the killing of Lesotho’s former army chief, is about to start its work.

And its terms of reference are to be expanded to probe even more deeply the root causes of the instability in the country, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, who is Lesotho facilitator for the Southern African Development Community (SADC) indicated on Saturday after visiting the country.

The commission is headed by Botswana High Court Judge Mpaphi Phumaphi and has 12 other members, Ramaphosa said. According to Lesotho media, several commissioners are military and police officers and one of them is Brigadier Helena Ras, an internationally-respected forensic pathologist from the South African Police Service.

The main focus of the commission’s investigation is the death of former army chief Brigadier Maaparankoe Mahao near Maseru on June 25. The government of Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili claims Mahao was shot dead by soldiers while resisting arrest for his alleged complicity in a coup plot.

But Mahao’s family and political supporters insist he was murdered in cold blood because of his enmity with top figures in the government, including his successor as army chief General Tlali Kamoli.

When SADC leaders appointed the commission at a summit in Pretoria on July 3, they also gave the commission a much wider mandate to investigate the recent instability in Lesotho, including an attempted coup against the previous Prime Minister Tom Thabane on August 30 last year.

Ramaphosa said in a statement on Saturday that he had just visited Lesotho to explain the terms of reference of the commission to King Letsie III, Mosisili, members of his cabinet, and opposition leaders.

He has presented Letsie with the final report of his facilitation in Lesotho and the recommendations which SADC leaders made at their July 3 summit for constitutional and security reforms in Lesotho.

SADC had made the recommendations “because some of the problems that beset Lesotho have to do with constitutional matters as well as security reform matters”, Ramaphosa said. If these were accepted, “a much more stable and conducive atmosphere will be created in Lesotho so that greater and more lasting stability can be engendered…” he added.

Though the recommendations have not been made public, officials have said that the key one is the need for a constitutional amendment to deprive the Lesotho Defence Force of its authority to perform police duties.

The politicisation of the military is widely regarded as the root cause of the present troubles as well as past instability in Lesotho. Ramaphosa said the government and the opposition had accepted the terms of reference of the commission of inquiry but they, and he himself, had all proposed to add to them.

These amendments would be considered by the SADC security troika summit meeting on August 16.

Meanwhile, though, the commission, which had only been given 60 days to complete its work, would proceed immediately “with great speed, with firmness, with determination” and would “leave no stone unturned” to get “to the depth of what has been happening here in Lesotho”.

Ramaphosa’s spokesperson Ronnie Mamoepa clarified that Ramaphosa had met officials of the three opposition parties, the All Basotho Congress of Thabane, the Basotho National Party of Thesele Maseribane, and the Reformed Congress of Lesotho party of Keketso Rantso – but had not met the leaders themselves.

They are still living in South Africa for fear of their lives, having fled about the time Mahao was killed.

 

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