MASERU — Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) commander Lieutenant General Thuso Motanyane retired yesterday after 38 years in the military service.
Motanyane who joined the army in 1973 handed over the reins to Major General Phatoli Lekanyane.
Motanyane retired on the same day he celebrated his 57th birthday.
He had been the LDF commander for the past seven years.
Speaking at a command handing over ceremony at Ratjomose Barracks, Motanyane said he was confident that he was leaving “a skilled and united army”.
Many soldiers, Motanyane said, had attained proper qualifications to help develop the army.
“In my view it is with these very skills that I see the potential for these officers to take the Lesotho Defence Force to greater heights in the future,” Motanyane said.
“However, it is important to mention that time and experience have taught us that bringing skills together through a mutual effort is the only way for success to be achieved,” he said.
“As a result there is no question that I go into retirement leaving behind a command well-resourced to confront the challenges of the ever-changing security environment.”
Motanyane however acknowledged that there had been some mistakes during his command.
Speaking at the same occasion, Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili, who is also the Minister of Defence and National Security, commended Motanyane for his selfless service to the LDF and country.
“You (Motanyane) must be proud because you worked with government to make sure that peace prevailed in the country,” Mosisili said.
Mosisili passed his condolences to the family of the soldier who was shot dead during a shoot-out at a court martial at the Makoanyane barracks last week.
“It is clear that security was not tight enough at the court entrance. We need to tighten security at Mokoanyane barracks and strengthen counseling programmes,” he said.
“It is important for officers to review our contribution to the successes and failures of LDF. Some failures should not recur.”
The new army boss Major General Lekanyane said he was going to do his best to maintain the standard Motanyane has set.
“We will do our best to keep the best standards in the army. I feel honoured to take over this job and with all my heart I accept it,” Lekanyane said.
“It is through his stable leadership that the LDF is what it is today: a united organisation. He (Motanyane) selflessly served the nation and the army and instilled a spirit of patriotism in the officers,” he said.
Motanyane joined the army in 1973 and was appointed commander in 2004 following the departure of Lieutenant General Makhula Mosakeng.
Motanyane’s seven years as the army boss have been stable but he will be remembered as the man who was in charge when a group of about 15 suspected mercenaries slithered into the country, attacked Makonyane Barracks and tried to assassinate Prime Minister Mosisili on April 22, 2009.
A commission established to investigate the attacks last year criticised the security at Makonyane barracks and alleged that some soldiers might have assisted the mercenaries.
The chairman of the commission, former Lesotho Court of Appeal judge Jan Hendric Steyn said it was distressing to note that a “motley bunch of some 15 odd brigands succeeded in penetrating an army base and capturing two vehicles”.
He said the evidence clearly establishes that an all-pervasive ambience of laxity prevailed.
“It is our view that the leadership of the LDF must accept responsibility for the serious lapses of discipline that occurred and the ‘laissez faire’ attitude that prevailed,” Steyn said.
He said it was even more distressing that the mercenaries were able to overwhelm and acquire the weapons of an elite group of Special Forces at the barracks.
“The insurgents were allowed to exit the base, drive to State House and they were given access to these premises,” Steyn said.
“After their attack was repulsed, they were again permitted to enter the camp unchallenged and succeeded in exiting from it for the second time.
“Were it not for the brave actions of a few resolute soldiers, Lesotho may well once again have been propelled into anarchy.”
Steyn said although the majority of LDF officers were men and women of integrity “there are always a few bad apples in every barrel”.
He said the mercenaries “were probably assisted by a few disaffected members of an otherwise loyal defence force.”
Steyn said all role players in the political process should heed the lessons of the past.
He said the commission had recommended structural changes to improve the security network to enable “all role players to take all possible steps to prevent a recurrence of their flawed response during the emergency that arose in April 2009”.
The commission was made up of Major-General Abel Shilubane from South Africa, Col Modiri Kooagile of Botswana and a retired LDF officer, Brigadier Rakoloana Posholi.