By Bongiwe Zihlangu
MASERU — Brigadier Maaparankoe Mahao of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) was yesterday suspended for intimidating one Captain Hashatse of the Special Forces.
According to highly placed military sources, Mahao was suspended by Major General Khoantle Motsomotso after trying the quell discontent expressed by junior Special Forces members over allegations made in the local media that LDF Commander Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli would be served with a letter of imposed leave which could lead to his dismissal, upon his arrival from Addis Ababa yesterday.
Attached to the suspension initiated by Major General Motsomotso, the sources said, is a letter containing charges against Mahao in which he is accused of behaving in a manner “unbecoming of a Brigadier”.
Kamoli at the weekend travelled to Addis Ababa Ethiopia with Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Molobeli Soulo and other senior government officials on state business.
According to another source, Motsomotso made the announcement of the suspension in a lengthy meeting with military officers at the Ratjomose Military Barracks that started just after 2 pm yesterday and extended until early evening.
“The meeting was very long and continued until early evening. Major General Motsomotso announced in that meeting that Ntate Mahao has been suspended,” the source said.
One of the sources privy to Mahao’s suspension said the Brigadier had also confirmed the suspension and charges instigated against him.
However, the source also questioned Motsomotso’s line of thinking saying Mahao was within his rights to institute disciplinary measures against the captain of the Speacial Forces “because he is his senior”.
“This is why I strongly believe that Mahao is going to win that case fair and square because he was only doing his job,” the source said.
Mahao last night in a telephone interview with this paper confirmed his suspension saying he was served with the letter yesterday afternoon and read his charges to the Lesotho Times.
“I was suspended with full pay but also told to leave the office with immediate effect and return my service gun,” Mahao said last night.
Mahao said in the charge sheet it was stipulated that on Monday January 13 2014, he threatened one Captain Hashatse of the Special Forces at the Makoanyane Military Barracks about “issues surrounding the contemplated change of command”.
Mahao said in the charge sheet he is said to have confronted the Special Forces Company Hashatse and reprimanded him about elements of subversion in a meeting with the company.
He said the charge sheet states that he (Mahao) said to Hashatse, who was seemingly against the contemplated change of command, “I want to tell you that the issue of the change of command happens at a political level not only in Lesotho but in many other countries across the world and that military officers should be loyal to the state and not any one particular individual”.
The charge sheet also adds that Mahao said to Hashatse: “If you feel like the issue of the change of command will affect you personally, resign.”
“The accused did not follow the proper chain of command in addressing his concerns and that neither was he granted permission by his superiors to utter such views which sought to influence/victimise the victim,” Mahao said reading from the charge sheet.
Furthermore, Mahao said, the charge sheet also stipulated that he was in contravention of sections 75 and 77 (2) of the LDF Act, 1996 thus “behaving in the unbecoming character of an officer”.
The alternative charge on the charge sheet, Mahao said, is that he behaved in a manner prejudicial to “good order and discipline in the military”.
“On Monday January 13 at the Makoanyane Barracks the accused conducted himself in a bad manner as in his capacity as brigadier he did not follow the chain of command, acted in a covert manner,” Mahao read from the charge sheet.
“It became clear in his statement towards Captain Hashatse that he supports the idea of the change of command and threatened captain with resignation.”
Several attempts to get a comment from LDF spokesperson Ntlele Ntoi were unsuccessful as his phone would not go through.