Security risk?

SHARE   |   Monday, 25 January 2016   |   By Phillimon Mmeso
Lesotho Defence Force commander of special Forces, Colonel Tefo Hashati Lesotho Defence Force commander of special Forces, Colonel Tefo Hashati

The adage that love knows no boundaries can best describe the situation at Botswana Defence Force (BDF) as they found themselves in dicey situation after one of their female army officers chose to marry the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) Commander of Special Forces Colonel Tefo Hashati. To compound the situation further for BDF is that the controversial Colonel Hashati is one of the leading figures in the political crisis that has gripped the mountainous kingdom. One of the bold and influential figures not only in the army but also in government, Hashati is the one who took SADC to court over the findings of the Commission of Inquiry which was led by Justice   Mphaphi Phumaphi.

According to reliable sources, Hashati has already completed the traditional part after paying lobola and is waiting for civil marriage. It is alleged that the female army officer who hold the rank of Lieutenant is from Molepolole and she is ready to walk the aisle with colonel Hashati. The two officers are said to have met during their regional exercises and Hashati didn’t waste time in proposing. Information gathered by this publication has revealed that the situation has caught BDF high command by surprise as their Act is not clear on cross-border fraternisation and they have since stalled the civil marriage to investigate the risks. The lady has, according to sources, threatened to resign to go and settle in Lesotho. 

BDF does not allow love relations between senior female officers and junior male officers. One of the reasons that are giving the BDF headache is that Hashati is not an ordinary army officer but a controversial one and commander of Special Forces.Asked about the BDF position on cross border fraternisation, the Minister of Defence, Justice and Security Shaw Kgathi said he would consult. Efforts to get comment from him later failed as his phone was unreachable and BDF didn’t respond to the questionnaire sent to them at the time of going to press. The Patriot on Sunday wanted to know what their position on the issue was and whether it was true that they have since suspended the civil marriage pending investigations on the issue.

Phumaphi hearing
During the hearings of the commission of inquiry, Hashati lodged an urgent application to set aside the commissions’ summons, arguing that he was subjected to a verbal attack by commission chair, Judge Mphaphi Phumaphi during his first appearance. He accused Phumaphi of being arrogant and harsh on him and during his testimony, Colonel Hashati put his service pistol on the table something that didn’t make Justice Phumaphi comfortable. Phumaphi told him blatantly that he will consider him a suspect if he does not say whether he was present or not when Mahao was shot. Hashati’s name appears prominently in Phumaphi report and is regarded as playing a pivotal role in the assassination of Brigadier Mahao.

One of the recommendations of the report is for the reforms within the security sector and this include removal of him and Kamoli from the army. LDF Spokesperson Colonel Ntlele Ntoi confirmed that Colonel Hashati is getting married in Botswana and that army commander Tlali Kamoli has given him permission to do so. He said the LDF Act does not bar army officers from marrying army officers in another country as it is a sign of good cordial relationship. “We have a very good relationship with BDF and we are happy that one of our officers is marrying in Botswana,” he said. Asked if they don’t think the marriage might compromise security, Colonel Ntoi answered in negative, reasoning that it will strengthen relationship between the two nations.

Who is Hashati?
Born in Mafeteng colonel Hashati is one of Prime Minister’s Pakalitha Mosisili’s trusted allies and General Kamoli’s right hand man. Hashati is remembered for his statement that LDF Commander Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli could only be dismissed “over his dead body”. He was one of the hostile witnesses during the hearing as he kept on answering questions with no comment or just nodded his head. As squadron commander of Special Forces, the reserved Colonel Hashati was tasked with the arrest of soldiers who were suspected on mutiny, including the assassinated Mahao.

In December last year, Hashati applied for urgent court application in Lesotho to have the Commission set aside and to prevent it from making any findings in relation to him. He argued that the Commission was unlawful and has operated in a procedurally flawed and prejudicial manner. Hashati has been implicated in the operation leading to Mahao’s killing and was called to testify before the Commission. According to Southern African Litigation Centre when he first appeared in court, Colonel Hashati was uniformed and armed but on the second day he came unarmed but was escorted by an armed officer.