The fears and worries by the opposition parties in Lesotho that SADC commission report into the death last year of ex-army chief, Brigadier Maaparankoe Mahao was doctored have been confirmed. When tabling the report in Lesotho parliament in February this year, Prime Minister Phakalitha Mosisili said that he reserved the right to edit the report in the interests of national security and was not bound by its recommendations. Comparing the two reports it is clear that the original version has been thoroughly edited especially the words and terminology. One of the critical recommendations which were edited out was about the removal and demotion of Brigadier Mahao as commander of Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) by Mosisili, replacing him with Lieutenant General Tlali Kennedy Kamoli.
Mahao removal illegal; not ill-advised
In the edited version it states that the commission finds that the removal and demotion of Brigadier Mahao was legal and the manner in which it was done was flawed as the Prime Minister Phakalitha Mosisili “show cause” letter was ill-advised while the original version states that the removal and demotion was illegal. The SADC commission of Inquiry, which was led by Botswana High Court judge Mpaphi Phumaphi, found out that on perpetrators and accountability on the death of Brigadier Mahao, a witness identified two operatives.
Mosisili deletes Hashatsi’s name
“One of the eye witnesses identified two of the operatives as Colonel Sechele and Lt. Colonel Hashatsi, who were in the company of about seven (7) others who were not identified,” reads footnote 133. In the report Mosisili tabled at the Lesotho Parliament it does not state the name of the other operatives. Colonel Hashatsi is one of the influential army officers in Lesotho and is the head of the Special Forces.
Hashatsi insubordinate to Mahao
The original report also states that Colonel Hashatsi was insubordinate to Brigadier Mahao and his resentment towards him remained until the fateful day when he was shot something that is missing from the original report. “It is probable that this apparent provocation of Captain Hashatsi by Brigadier Mahao remained within the Captain until the fateful day the Brigadier was shot,” reads the report. Both reports recommend the suspension of other LDF officers implicated in other murders or attempted murders while their cases are investigated. It also recommends a vigorous investigation of the death of former LDF commander Mahao, whose killing by members of the LDF in June 2015, once Kamoli had been reinstated to his post by Mosisili plunged Lesotho into further turmoil and prompted SADC to appoint the Commission of Inquiry. The inquiry’s report was handed to SADC in November but had not been made public because Mosisili refused to receive it. It was only after SADC leaders threatened to release it themselves that Mosisili agreed.
Of Lesotho and doctored reports
This is not the first report to have been allegedly doctored concerning the political turmoil in Lesotho as the Langa commission of inquiry into allegations that Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) had fraudulently stolen the May 23, 1998 elections. The interim report called for the elections to be annulled and fresh elections to be held under international supervision but the final report which was released after some delays only said that there were irregularities during the elections but was silent on calling for re-elections. The commission was led by South African Judge Justice Pius Langa and its final report was vague leading to protests in Maseru. Mutinous members of the army seized arms and ammunition and expelled or imprisoned their commanding officers.
Fearing for coups d'état the then Prime Minister Mosisili appealed for help from SADC and Botswana and South Africa sent their troops in late September to restore order. Ironically during that time Mosisili was the prime Minister and Botswana, South Africa and Mozambique were members of the SADC Double Troika.