Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) Commander Lieutenant-General Tlali Kamoli was back before the SADC Commission of Inquiry on Monday where he maintained he never saw his dismissal letter hence his refusal to vacate the post.
Lt-Gen Kamoli was making his second appearance before the 10-member commission led by Justice Mpaphi Phumaphi after his initial testimony of 11 September.
The commission is probing circumstances surrounding the death of former LDF commander, Maaparankoe Mahao, at the hands of his military colleagues.
Lt-Gen Mahao died on 25 June this year outside his Mokema farm, with the LDF claiming he was resisting arrest for alleged mutiny when he was fatally shot.
Responding to his lawyer, King’s Counsel (KC) Salemane Phafane, the LDF commander said he was never fired, while he refused to answer some of the questions, insisting they were not among the commission’s terms of reference.
Lt-Gen Kamoli said: “I cannot say the government secretary did not fax the letter or email it to me but since this new IT does not delete information that easily, I think I could have at least seen the letter in my email messages, if indeed it was sent to me.
“…I observed that in my summons, there was an attachment which was alleged to be my dismissal letter dated 28 August 2015. This letter emanated from the office of the Prime Minister and was addressed to the president (of the Court Martial), Major-General Poopa which I am not. The letter read and I quote: ‘Please be advised that pursuant to Section 100 (1) of the LDF Act of 1996, the Court Martial constituted to hear and determine the case against Brigadier Maaparankoe Mahao is hereby dissolved. Signed by Dr Motsoahae Thomas Thabane, Member of Parliament, Prime Minister and Minister of Defence and National Security and copied to Brigadier Maaparankoe Mahao.
“I told this commission before and I am saying this again that I never received any letter of dismissal whatsoever.”
Adv Phafane then asked of a 26 August 2014 meeting Lt-Gen Kamoli held with Dr Thabane “where you were informed of your dismissal and were seen walking out fuming, contrary to the evidence that you gave to the commission that you were never informed of your dismissal”.
In response, Lt-Gen Kamoli said nothing of the sort happened on the day in question.
“My Lord, there was a meeting at State House on 26 August 2014 between former Prime Minister Dr Motsoahae Thomas Thabane, former Minister of Gender Thesele ‘Maseribane, the then Commissioner of Police Khothatso Tšooana and National Security Service Director-General Ntate Lerotholi,” Lt-Gen Kamoli told the commission.
“The issue of my dismissal did not arise in that meeting, not even a hint of it. When I went in, Ntate Thabane said to me: ‘Commander, I have called this meeting because we are from Victoria Falls where we failed to get the chairmanship of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation due to political problems that we have in this country. So I called this meeting for us to find out what went wrong. He then said Ntate ‘Maseribane should continue with the meeting.
“Chief ‘Maseribane then said as you have heard, it is true that we are from Victoria Falls where we failed to attain the chairmanship. He then informed us that before we arrived at the meeting, the Deputy Prime Minister (Mothetjoa Metsing) was there but he had just left.
“He further said the DPM gave them (his coalition government partners Chief ‘Maseribane and Dr Thabane) an ultimatum that if they didn’t drop his corruption case by Friday, he was withdrawing from the coalition because he had the support of the army and that he would not be arrested.
“It must be noted that the meeting was on a Tuesday. After saying that, Commissioner Tšooana confirmed that the soldiers were supporting Ntate Metsing.
“Ntate ‘Maseribane also said the army’s support of Ntate Metsing was making it difficult for government to function.
“The prime minister asked me to say something and I reminded him that I once advised him to engage Ntate Metsing on the issue for the sake of their coalition. I also told him it would be appropriate for the security chiefs to meet all the coalition leaders at the same time. I again said it would not be a problem to meet the prime minister alone since he was the head of the security institutions we were heading.
“In addition, I also said since this was a very serious allegation against Mr Metsing, I would request with all humility that he be called to the meeting so we could hear his side of the story. Mr Lerotholi echoed the same sentiments, but in response, Ntate ‘Maseribane became angry and we dispersed. I was never called to another meeting on 29 August 2014 and was not told about any dismissal.”
Adv Phafane asked Lt-Gen Kamoli about allegations that he refused to avail LDF members wanted by the police for questioning.
In response, Lt-Gen Kamoli said he did not understand the question, prompting Justice Phumaphi to explain.
“Evidence before this commission is that letters the police wrote to the army command for the release of suspects who had allegedly committed crimes, were not responded to,” Justice Phumaphi explained.
However, Lt-Gen Kamoli said the case in point happened before he was appointed LDF commander, and so he could not be held responsible.
“I won’t address the issue because CIR 673\01\12 (case number) happened before I became commander of the LDF and it is no longer before the courts of law.
“Again, I won’t deal with the issue because nothing of this nature appears in the commission’s terms of reference,” Lt-Gen Kamoli retorted.
Adv Phafane also asked Lt-Gen Kamoli about an order he allegedly gave prior to the LDF takeover of three Maseru police stations on the morning of 30 August 2014. Dr Thabane later called the army manoeuvres a coup attempt led by Lt-Gen Kamoli.
“Is it true that in August 2014, prior to the LDF attacks of Maseru police stations, you ordered State House security to detain t Dr Thabane, Chief ‘Maseribane, Mr Metsing and Police Commissioner Tšooana until you arrived?” Advocate Phafane asked.
However, Lt-Gen Kamoli said he was not going to respond because the issue was also not part of the commission’s mandate.
“Regarding this issue, just like the others, I request the honourable commission to excuse me from saying anything because it doesn’t appear in the terms of reference,” Lt-Gen Kamoli said.
“It is not that I don’t have anything to say about the issue, but the matter was removed from the terms of reference. I am a very obedient soldier who wouldn’t want to appear to be going against those in authority.”
Lt-Gen Kamoli then asked Justice Phumaphi if the people who made such allegations against him were present because he wanted to cross-examine them.
In response, Justice Phumaphi asked the commission to retire because Lt-Gen Kamoli’s request had come “unexpectedly”.