Mahao family demands answers from SADC

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Keiso Mohloboli

The family of slain former army commander, Maaparankoe Mahao, is demanding answers from SADC after the regional bloc failed to release Justice Phumaphi’s report last month as expected.

Regional leaders appointed the Botswana judge to head an investigation into the killing of Lieutenant-General Mahao outside his Mokema farm on 25 June this year. The ex-army boss was shot dead by Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) members who had come to arrest him for suspected mutiny.

However, SADC is yet to release the  Phumaphi report despite the judge completing interviewing witnesses on 23 October.

According to a letter written to SADC Executive Secretary Stergomena Lawrence Tax by the Mahao family lawyer, Advocate Haae Phoofolo (KC), the delay in releasing the report had become cause for concern.

Advocate Phoofolo’s letter reads: “The Commission of Inquiry was due to submit a report of its findings and recommendations to the extraordinary meeting of the SADC Troika on 20-21 November 2015 in Maputo.

“According to scanty information at our disposal, the said meeting did not convene, thus leaving us in the dark as to its status and the commission’s report. This letter is an expression of our serious concerns in our capacity as such over the following issues: The absence of information and our apparent exclusion in the exchanges between the Secretariat and the Lesotho government concerning the release of the commission’s report and or hurdles that have bedevilled its timeous release. There is a cloud of confusion surrounding the failure of the release of the report on the above cited dates because the position of the government as stated by its spokesperson is that the summit did not sit on account of the pending case in the High Court of Lesotho where the commission has been sued, when on the other hand, an agent of the secretariat who conversed with our Attorney T Mosotho informed him that the summit failed to convene on account of not meeting the requisite quorum of leaders from the region.

“In any event, it is our respectful view that it would be fundamentally irregular should the publication of the report be suspended pending the Hashatsi matter. You will be aware, madam, that there is no operative order of court against the publication of the report. It is our respectful view that as a relevant stakeholder in the conduct of the Commission of Inquiry, there is a need to apprise us of all the relevant and pertinent issues surrounding the issuance of the report and to date, there has been no courtesy of communication of any form that has been directed to us on behalf of our client.”

Advocate Phoofolo further points out that the publication of the report is of  public interest.

“It is clearly common cause that the issuance of the report to relevant stakeholders coupled with its publication for consumption by members of the public in the Kingdom of Lesotho is a matter of great public concern. It is our humblest view that the cloud of uncertainty and secretive manner with which the issuance and publication of the report by your good institution is treated over an issue of public importance yields ‘national prejudice’. It is clearly in this spirit that we urge your good institution to advise us on all the relevant developments pertaining to the issuance of the report.”

Speaking to the Lesotho Times yesterday, Advocate Phoofolo said the Mahao family had the right to know what could have happened to their son.

“The Mahaos are the interested and important party to identify the killers of their son. The SADC Commission of Inquiry came here to investigate the circumstances of their child’s death and all we are saying here is whatever the reasons for the delay, SADC should at least give the family courtesy and inform them. The Mahaos must not hear things through rumour,” Adv Phoofolo said.

Asked if his office had received any response from Dr Tax, Adv Phoofolo said he had not, “not even acknowledgement of receipt from Dr Tax.”

Repeated attempts by the Lesotho Times to seek a comment from Dr Tax failed yesterday.

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