Commission says it wants facts not hearsay

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Justice Mphaphi Phumaphi, Chairman of SADC Juidicial Commission of Inquiry to Lesotho

Justice Mphaphi Phumaphi, Chairman of SADC Juidicial Commission of Inquiry to Lesotho

…as SA legislators grill Ramaphosa over SADC probe team

Bongiwe Zihlangu

The SADC Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Lesotho’s instability will only entertain witnesses with “hard evidence and facts”, says Commission chairperson Justice Mpaphi Phumaphi.

Addressing the press on Monday after the probe team’s swearing-in ceremony presided over by High Court Judge Justice Teboho Moiloa, Justice Phumaphi from Botswana  said he was looking forward to members of the public giving evidence during the 13-member Commission’s 60-day tenure.

“This is now the beginning of serious business. We will be looking to some of you to give evidence, to assist us in surmounting this big hurdle that is facing us,” Justice Phumaphi said.

“We’re walking a tight rope here; you should all understand that. But what we want are facts. We don’t want opinions. An opinion is one thing, but we need facts on the basis of which we can reach conclusions.

“From where I normally operate, there’s something we don’t accept, which is hearsay. We accept direct evidence. You tell us what you perceived with your five senses: you heard, somebody screaming outside for instance. You saw with your own eyes something happening. You smelled something; you felt something that you touched,” Justice Phumaphi said.

In his address, Justice Moiloa urged members of the Commission to “discharge your functions according to the oath you have taken”.

“May I congratulate you and commend you to God to guide you in your heavy duty and wish that you may discharge your functions, according to the oath you have taken,” Justice Moiloa said.

Meanwhile, while addressing the South African parliament on Tuesday, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, who is SADC Facilitator to Lesotho, commended Justice Phumaphi for emphasising that the Commission would “only accept facts”.

“Judge Phumaphi has announced that they are going to accept people who only table before them facts so they can evaluate them and come to some conclusions,” Mr  Ramaphosa said.

“We believe this is a high-powered Commission that will be able to execute its work.”

Quizzed by legislators on the credibility of the Commission, and whether it would adhere to its prescribed terms of reference as set by the regional bloc on 3 July 2015 in Pretoria and the implementability of its findings, Mr Ramaphosa said the “the commission is as credible as you can get”.

“It is chaired by a judge from Botswana and quite a number of its members are people who I’d say, are fiercely independent, who are going to do their work without fear or favour. They are going to ensure they base everything that they do on facts,” Mr Ramaphosa said.

“As to the implementability of their findings, they will be presented before SADC and SADC will be able to evaluate the work they would have done and come to certain recommendations.

“The recommendations will be made to various stakeholders in Lesotho, like political parties and NGOs, and many of them will have one role or another to play in their implementation.”

In addition, Mr Ramaphosa maintained the Commission was a great opportunity for Lesotho to “utilise this process started by SADC, to move forward with greater determination to embrace peace and stability” as well as  ensuring the country attained “lasting political stability”.

He added: “Frankly speaking, Lesotho has been dogged by a number of incidents that have led to feelings of instability. But right now, the situation is stable and we’re hoping we’ll be able to deepen stability once the commission comes up with findings, which everybody will abide by.”

In a related development, SADC tomorrow holds a summit in Botswana, which would, among others, deal with whether or not to expand the committee’s mandate.

A fortnight ago, Justice Phumaphi rejected a government gazette containing additional terms, saying he had specifically come to Lesotho to work on SADC-prescribed terms of reference.

The terms, adopted on a provisional basis to
allow for their expansion and modification once the Commission was
established, were to
review investigations conducted by the Lesotho Defence
Force (LDF) into the alleged mutiny plot in the army, covering also the alleged kidnapping of former members of the LDF and alleged killings of members of the opposition; investigate the circumstances surrounding the death of former LDF Commander Maaparankoe Mahao in June this year; investigate the legality and the manner of the appointment of Brigadier Mahao to the LDF command in August 2014 and his demotion and removal in May 2015; investigate the legality and manner of the removal of Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli as head of the Lesotho Defence Force in August 2014, and his
reappointment in May 2015; and investigate allegations by opposition parties and civil
society that Lt Gen Kamoli’s reappointment had resulted in divisions in
the LDF, as well as political and security instability.

However, there have since been proposals by government and opposition parties that the
terms of reference be fine-tuned. These would be considered by the SADC Double
Troika Summit scheduled for 16 August in Botswana.

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