DC sends chilling warning

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‘If Prime Minister Thomas Thabane insists on firing Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli as army commander, Lesotho’s history will be written in blood,’ the party declares.  

Lekhetho Ntsukunyane

THE main opposition Democratic Congress (DC) has blamed Prime Minister Thomas Thabane for the country’s current political and security crisis.

Simultaneous attacks on three key Maseru police stations by members of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) on the morning of 30 August 2014, which snowballed into the current instability should be blamed on the veteran All Basotho Convention (ABC) leader, the DC further charges.

“We must state clearly from the onset that the current political impasse in Lesotho starts and ends with one person, and one person only, Prime Minister Thomas Motsoahae Thabane,” Tlohang Sekhamane, a member of the party’s National Executive Committee, told a press conference held at the DC head-office in Maseru on Monday this week.

“Ntate Thabane’s mission, which he has pursued consistently, relentlessly and with unsurpassed passion over the last two years he has been prime minister, has been to consolidate his position such that he can eventually rule Lesotho for a very long time outside the confines of the country’s constitution.”

Mr Sekhamane — who is also the Member of Parliament (MP) for Mokhotlong and  was flanked by fellow DC legislators, Retšelisitsoe Masenyetse and Mathibeli Mokhothu, at the briefing — further said to show Dr Thabane’s “determination” to stay in power at any cost, the premier had implemented “countless” changes in key statutory authorities.

“Ntate Thabane has been ruthlessly making changes to the judiciary, Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and other government departments to gain full control of these critical organs.

“Approached from this angle, all the puzzles of his actions fall nicely into place. Through a quick and ruthless staccato of dismissals and other maneuvers, he is now close to achieving full control of the courts, IEC, offices of the Government Secretary, Attorney General (AG), and Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), as well as the police and army.

“In fact, if he succeeds in his current bid to replace Lieutenant General Kennedy Tlali Kamoli with Brigadier Maaparankoe Mahao, then cry the beloved country. The atrocities and bloodbath that will befall this country will completely dwarf those of 1970.

“General Kamoli is quite literally and without exaggeration, the last thread by which Lesotho’s democracy is hanging. Mark our words,” Mr Sekhamane said.

According to Mr Sekhamane, it was also now hard to “explain the actions and statements of top police officials, such as COMPOL (Commissioner of Police) Khothatso Tšooana, DCP (Deputy Commissioner of Police) Masupha Masupha and PRO (Public Relations Officer) Lebona Mohloboli, outside political considerations”.

He continued: “For instance, Basotho-Batho Democratic Party (BBDP) leader, Jeremane Ramathebane, was arrested for a crime he allegedly committed eight years ago, less than  a week after raising  a no-confidence motion against Ntate Thabane and his coalition government.

“COMPOL Tšooana also pointedly refused to see Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) Mothetjoa Metsing, when asked to do so early this year. This was despite the fact that Ntate Metsing is the chairperson of the Security Committee of which COMPOL Tšooana is a member.

“Again, confronting the DPM with a court summons at the airport (on 31 July 2014) with the explanation that he is always surrounded by fierce dogs, meaning his bodyguards; using the police to forcibly throw both the Attorney General and Director of Public Prosecutions out of their offices; fleeing with the prime minister (on 29 August on the eve of  the army attacks on Maseru Central, Police Headquarters and Ha-Mabote Police Station) and accompanying him to SADC talks which took place in Pretoria (on 1 September 2014), all show that the COMPOL and the police, have now been completely politicised.

“COMPOL Tšooana says during their operation of 30 August, the LDF members were looking for the DPM’s docket. This is ludicrous because Ntate Metsing had already been assigned to court.

“Clearly his docket would already be in the office of the DPP. Why would the LDF officers be looking for it at the police station? This is a hopeless attempt to give a political angle to what was otherwise a purely technical operation.

“What COMPOL Tšooana is hiding from Basotho is that in this operation, the soldiers found explosives and assault-rifles in the police stations. Yet in the recent Maseru bombings (of three Maseru homes on 27 January 2014, one of them that of COMPOL Tšooana), the police authorities told this nation over and over again that they don’t have explosives, thereby implicating the army in those heinous acts.

“COMPOL Tšooana has a lot to explain to this nation. For example, he is a policeman, buy why did he form part of the ABC delegation at the talks in Pretoria?”

On the issue of the dismissal of Lt Gen Kamoli by Dr Thabane, and his replacement by Lt Gen Maaparankoe Mahao through a government gazette published on 29 August 2014, Mr Sekhamane said this was simply unacceptable.

“It surely does not take a rocket scientist to see that this is a politically-motivated dismissal. It is a logical part of the prime minister’s mission of hegemony, which I have already described. Most atrocious, however, is that General Kamoli has not been given a chance to be heard. This not only makes his dismissal unfair, but also illegal.

“There is already a decided case here. Giving judgment in 2002 in a case where four army officers had been dismissed without a hearing, the Court of Appeal came down strongly in their favour, quoting the audialterampartem rule. In other words, His Majesty has been advised to sign a gazette that could never stand in a court of law. With this strong and established precedent from the highest court of the land, this purported dismissal of General Kamoli is a blatant contempt of court.

“The prime minister proffers to replace General Kamoli with Brigadier Mahao. But on 15 January 2014, Brigadier Mahao was suspended from duty and charged before a Court Martial for (allegedly) contravening military law. On 24 February, while the trial was in progress, the prime minister purported to dissolve the Court Martial. However, he was advised that he had no power in law to dissolve a Court Martial, and by a letter under his hand, dated 4 March 2014, he revoked the purported dissolution and allowed the Court Martial to proceed with its work. In law, the fact that Brigadier Mahao is on suspension and is before a Court Martial, itself precludes the possibility of his promotion.”

In addition, Mr Sekhamane further alleged, Lt Gen Mahao had now became “an army politician”.

“He frequents radio stations where at times, he is welcomed with ABC songs before he makes his fiery statements. In his speeches both on radio and the print media, he spews venom, inciting army officers, insulting Commander Kamoli and the deputy prime minister, and publicly asserting that he will seize power by hook or crook. Brigadier Mahao has effectively declared war on General Kamoli, calling him a renegade soldier. For a man who has not even assumed power, this all leaves a very bad taste in the mouth. It smacks of a bad omen.”

“Just like Commissioner Tšooana, Ntate Mahao owes Basotho an important explanation: Why did he form part of the ABC delegation at the talks in Pretoria? And are we to believe that his wearing a yellow suit at these talks was only a coincidence?”

Mr Sekhamane further said the coalition government, comprising the ABC, Mr Metsing’s Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) and the Basotho National Party (BNP) led by Thesele ‘Maseribane, no longer have legal standing to be in power. The three parties formed Lesotho’s first coalition government after the 26 May 2012 general election had failed to produce an outright majority winner.

“Lesotho’s first coalition government assumed power with 61 seats in Parliament. From the time that the ABC lost Honourable Thabiso Litšiba to the DC, and Honourable Mophato Monyake, who formed his own party, Lesotho is being run by a minority government with 59 seats in Parliament. But the DC alone boasts 48 seats. It is the Official Opposition which also enjoys the support of the three other Congress parties in Parliament, making a total of 51 seats.

“The point is that we, in the DC, have been quietly looking on as events unfolded. We were content constituting His Majesty’s Loyal Opposition. But we have now come to the conclusion that we can no longer sit idly by and watch as our country slides into a political abyss. After all, we are the biggest party in Parliament with the biggest following among the populace. We can no longer allow ourselves to be ignored.

“In this regard, we can proudly say the Commonwealth has consistently included us in their missions. President (Hifikepunye) Pohamba (of Namibia) also gave us audience during his visit to Lesotho. Recently, we had long and very cordial deliberations with the United Nations delegation led by Dr Abdel-Fatau Musah from the Political Affairs and Good Offices Pillar. We call upon all other authorities and agents of peace to include us accordingly in their efforts.”

On members of the South African police and army who came to Lesotho last Wednesday accompanying Dr Thabane on his return home from seeking help from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) following the 30 August chaos, which the premier says was a coup attempt, Mr Sekhamane said: “We note with absolute bewilderment that these days, the prime minister of Lesotho is under the guard of South Africans, who have brought their sniffer dogs with them.

“We reckon the president of South Africa wanted to ensure the personal safety and security of the prime minister. This is a noble thing to do, and we appreciate this gesture. However, this is fraught with all kinds of intricate considerations. We note that in the aftermath of the 1998 political upheavals, Lesotho was presented with a huge bill to refund South Africa for the costs it had incurred in its role as peacemaker. We hope that this time there will be no such bill.

“However, we also have two major concerns about this security measure. First, it seems to target the personal security of the prime minister without an equal and simultaneous passion to ensure that the prime minister complies with the terms of the roadmap that he signed in Windhoek (on 31 July 2014) and in Pretoria (on 1 September 2014). So we now have, in our midst, a prime minister with a heightened sense of security which is independent of his own people.

“In his opinion, there is now no urgency around the roadmap. He is now free to go back and pursue his sinister agenda, top of which is the removal of General Kamoli. Our fear is that he will do this with steel determination and resolve. As indicated earlier, from that point onwards, the history of Lesotho will be written in blood. Mark our words.

“Second, we feel that the whole thing is totally unacceptable. For a prime minister to be under the security of foreign forces in his own country is an undeniable disgrace. It is unprecedented. “In fact, looked at from all angles, it is a serious affront to the independence and sovereignty of our country.”

The DC, Mr Sekhamane said, was now requesting SADC, the African Union (AU), Commonwealth, UN “and all peace-loving agencies, groups and individuals to use their influence” and ensure the following:

  • Put pressure on Dr Thabane to open Parliament on 19 September 2014, which he prorogued for nine months on 10 June 2014.
  • Put pressure on the prime minister to adhere strictly to the terms of the roadmap signed by the coalition parties in Windhoek and in Pretoria.
  • Put pressure on Dr Thabane to abandon his crusade to remove Lt General Kamoli from office.
  • Put pressure on the premier to re-instate Advocate Tšokolo Makhethe, and Advocate Leaba Thetsane as Attorney General and Director of Public Prosecutions, respectively (following their forced retirement last month).
  • Strongly encourage Brigadier Maaparankoe to stop his “political escapades” in the media.
  • Put pressure on Dr Thabane to stop the escalation of politically-motivated activities on the part of the police.
  • Actively involve the DC in all activities that are intended to work towards a resolution of the current political crisis in Lesotho.

“In conclusion, we need to point out that we strongly believe in democracy and the rule of law. We also believe that there are definite and decisive democratic avenues that can be followed to enforce these fundamental precepts of good governance.
“We hope and pray that we will not get to a point where we are forced to take our struggle to the streets of Maseru and other towns of this country.”

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