Lesotho on the edge

SHARE   |   Monday, 15 February 2016   |   By Phillimon Mmeso
Mosisili, Kamoli and Phumaphi Mosisili, Kamoli and Phumaphi

The recently published Phumaphi Commission Report of Inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the death of Brigadier Maaparankoe Mahao is missing critical information. The report – which was tabled instead of being published on Monday by Prime Minister Phakalitha Mosisili at Lesotho National Assembly – is missing page 19 on Annexure 5 which is supposed to reflect photos 29 and 30 of the ballistic report. Mosisili said that they have contacted the SADC Secretariat on the missing page which he said is a very sensitive annexure. “I deemed it extremely important to mention this anomaly myself to allay any fears or suspicion of foul play,” said Mosisili to the National Assembly. Mosisili also tempered with the report against the SADC Double Troika recommendations by removing names of soldiers implicated in some criminal activities. He said that he found annexure 9 problematic as it mentions names of people who remotely relate to any of the five areas covered by its mandate and said that the Commission was out of order by incorporating annexure 9 in their report.

Mosisili made it clear that the Phumaphi report recommendations are not binding and that some of the recommendations may not see the light of the day. “The Phumaphi Commission is not unique or special. It follows many others that have come and gone before it, such as the Leon Commission of 2001, and the Steyn Commission of 2010,” he recalled. Sources at Lesotho have revealed that Mosisili couldn’t finish his speech as members of the oppositions chanted songs of dissatisfaction. On Friday afternoon the lawyer who represented opposition leaders during the hearings at the Phumaphi Commission Advocate Khotso Nthontho was arrested on charges of perjury. He also represented some LDF members in a habeas corpus application and once complained his life was under threat. There is fear in the country that the country might go back to its political turmoil as the opposition feels that Mosisili has expunged the report.

Key characters in the Lesotho saga
He has been caught between a rock and hard surface by the recommendations of the report especially the one calling for the sacking of Lieutenant General Tladi Kamodi as the commander of Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) and the Commander of the Special Forces Colonel Tefo Hashati. Mosisili, who once served as Defence Minister, is a leader under immense pressure as he knows that the two men are in charge of the country. The report has revealed that Kamoli was seen on several occasions attending meeting at Mosisili’s residence before he became the prime minister. A source close to the ruling party has revealed that Mosisili is a stressed leader as he is faced with taking a decision that might cost him either his life or political career. “He doesn’t want to commit the mistake done by Tom Thabane by relieving Kamoli his duties as army commander as he knows that there will be an upheaval,” said the source. Some have labelled him as just a ceremonial prime minister as the people who are in charge of government are Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing and General Kamoli.

General Kamodi
The soft-spoken commander of LDF has his ego dented by the commission which has said that though his appointment was legal, it has caused political upheaval in the country and led to political leaders fleeing the country. The mediator South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and other concerned parties had previously asked him to hand over to his deputy but after Mosisili won the elections and forming coalition government he reappointed him as the commander. He has been accused of ordering a pre-dawn military raid on Prime Minister Tom Thabane’s residence and the national police headquarters last year in August. General Kamodi, who trained with Botswana Defence Force (BDF), is an influential figure in Lesotho and chances of him being removed as Commander might not see the light of the day. The report states that his reappointment as the army chief was preceded by grave political and security instabilities that spelt the collapse of former Prime Minister Thabane coalition government. He has been the Commander of the LDF since 2012 but was influential within the army and government since 2007.

Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing
A power player in the Lesotho politics Metsing, who fell off with Thabane when the former tried to institute commission of inquiry into corruption within government, is the invisible hand in decisions taken by Mosisili. He passed a motion of no confidence on Thabane which led to the former closing Parliament and fleeing to South Africa. Though his party Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) is not popular amongst Basotho he has a way of getting into power by forming coalitions. He was in coalition with Thabane’s All Basotho Congress until they fell off and formed coalition government with Mosisili last year. A close ally of General Kamoli, Metsing will have a big input into what is being implemented from the Phumaphi report. According to the Phumaphi report, Lieutenant General Kamoli used to be sneaked at the residence of Metsing for meetings during the political upheaval.

Colonel Hashati
He once hinted that General Kamoli will only be removed as the LDF Commander over his dead body and as the commander of the Special Forces, Hashati is said to be having an influence in the running of the country. During the Commission’s hearings, Hashati is said to have come with his service pistol and put it on table something which is said to have made Justice Mphaphi Phumaphi uncomfortable. He is a key person who forced the Lesotho government to refuse to accept the findings of the commission on the basis that he has taken the commission to court. During his court appearances Hashati is said to have carried a service pistol or had his body guards armed inside the court room. Hashati is one of the army officers that Phumaphi Commission recommended in Annexure 9 that they should be relieved of their duties. The High Court of Lesotho also this week dismissed his bid to nullify the commission’s findings. In his ruling Justice Tšeliso Monaphathi agreed with SADC assertion that they enjoy immunity. Hashati, who is implicated in Mahao’s murder, wanted the court to quash all the commission’s findings, expunge his evidence, and disregard evidence adduced in South Africa.

President Ian Khama managed to convince Lesotho to accept the Phumaphi Report after SADC Double Troika members failed to convince the mountainous kingdom to accept the report. As the Chairman of SADC, Khama will have to go back to his negotiation skills and talk to his Lesotho counterpart to implement the recommendations of the report. Central to the report is the removal of Lieutenant General Kamoli and Colonel Hashati from the army; a tall order for Mosisili.

The regional block will have a lot on its hands if Lesotho refuses to implement the recommendations and might re-consider suspending the country from the activities of. One of the conditions from the SADC Double Troika chaired by Mozambique was for Lesotho to publish and not table the report and was not to expunge it. During the extra ordinary meeting held in Gaborone recently, the Troika recommended to SADC Heads of State that Lesotho should be suspended from the regional block after she refused to accept the report. It was after the persuasion by President Khama that Mosisili accepted the report and promised to publish it in 14 days as per recommended by SADC. Currently the situation in Lesotho is said to be going back to its turmoil as opposition parties are crying foul and this might force SADC to call an extra ordinary meeting to deal with Lesotho. The United States of America which also pressurised Lesotho will play a critical role in ensuring that the country returns to normalcy.