Kamoli to face commission

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LDF Commander LtBongiwe Zihlangu

Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) Commander Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli is tomorrow set to appear before the SADC Commission of Inquiry when it reconvenes following a weeklong break.

According to the Commission’s media liaison officer, Phumlani Dlamini, LDF Chief of Staff Major General Lineo Poopa is expected to make his appearance before the Commission after Lt Gen Kamoli.

The regional bloc established the 10-member Commission on 3 July this year to investigate Lesotho’s political and security instability, and is headed by Botswana judge, Justice Mpaphi Phumaphi.

One of the Commission’s terms of reference is to investigate the murder of former Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) commander Maaparankoe Mahao by the military.  Brigadier Mahao was killed on 25 June this year during an army operation to arrest soldiers suspected of being part of a foiled plot to topple the LDF command. The ex-LDF commander had been fingered as the ringleader of a group of soldiers involved in the alleged plot with the military later announcing he was shot outside his Mokema farm while resisting arrest. A total of 23 soldiers are currently in military detention awaiting trial by a Court Martial for the alleged mutiny. Apart from probing Brigadier Mahao’s murder, the Commission is also mandated to establish if Lt Gen Kamoli’s dismissal as LDF commander and reinstatement were legal.

In August 2014, Prime Minister Thomas Thabane fired Lt Gen Kamoli, and replaced him with Brigadier Mahao, whom he promoted to Lieutenant General.

However, Lt Gen Kamoli refused to vacate office, leading to SADC’s intervention which culminated in a snap election on 28 February this year.

The poll then produced a hung parliament, resulting in Dr Thabane’s ouster as premier. He was succeeded by former premier Dr Pakalitha Mosisili after his Democratic Congress (DC) formed an alliance with six other parties to form a coalition government.

In May, Dr Mosisili removed Mr Mahao as LDF commander, and reinstated Lt Gen Kamoli, backdating the reappointment to August 2014.

While testifying before the Commission on Monday last week as the Commission’s first witness, the LDF’s Advocate General, Colonel Bulane Sechele said Lt Gen Kamoli refused to vacate office because the army felt his expulsion was illegal.

Colonel Sechele explained when Dr Thabane fired Lt Gen Kamoli, he had ceased to have legal powers to make decisions because the three-party government he was heading, no longer commanded the constitutionally required 61 majority seats in parliament, after two MPs had defected.

Meanwhile, Mr Dlamini on Tuesday also rubbished social media claims that Justice Phumaphi had fled the country for fear of assassination.

Early this week, social networks were ablaze with ‘news’ that Justice Phumaphi had fled to his native Botswana after receiving death threats, allegedly from military elements and some politicians.

“We have not received any threats; there is nothing like that. However, it’s true that Justice Phumaphi has travelled out of the country,” Mr Dlamini said.

“I cannot say where he has travelled to, whether it’s Johannesburg or Botswana. But, wherever he has gone to, it is solely to spend time with his family; he has not fled Lesotho. He has missed his family after being in Lesotho for a while now.

“While he’s out of the country, the other commissioners who are more knowledgeable about security issues, are assessing evidence given by previous witnesses in preparation for further interviews.

“Justice Phumaphi’s main role is to balance the legal aspects of the interviews, while the other commissioners focus on the security aspects.”

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