Mahao family ‘hopeful’ of justice

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Mahao’s Family spokesperson Lehloenya Mahao

’Marafaele Mohloboli

THE family of Maaparankoe Mahao says the outgoing government was undone by its failure to implement all Southern African Development Community (SADC) recommendations that include probing the former Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) commander’s killing.

The family spokesperson, Lehloenya Mahao, this week told the Lesotho Times they were hoping the next government would prioritise investigating the circumstances surrounding his brother’s killing.

Lt-Gen Mahao was fatally shot by his colleagues on 25 June 2015 just outside Maseru. The LDF announced Lt-Gen Mahao was resisting arrest when he was killed, which the family has dismissed as untrue.

The Mahao family accused the army of killing him in cold blood basing on the account of his nephews who were with him during the incident.

After the killing, Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili asked SADC to help establish the circumstances surrounding the incident, resulting in a Commission of Inquiry led by Justice Mpaphi Phumaphi of Botswana.

The 10-member commission carried out its investigations between 31 August and 23 October 2015 and recommended, among other things, that government should investigate the killing and prosecute those found to be responsible.

It also recommended that then LDF commander Lieutenant-General Tlali Kamoli be relieved of his duties “in the interest of restoring trust and acceptance of the LDF to the Basotho nation”.

Lt-Gen Kamoli was eventually retired in December 2016.

Other recommendations of the Phumaphi inquiry included the suspension officers implicated in cases of murder, attempted murder and treason while investigations in their cases proceeded in line with international best practice”.

Dr Mosisili announced last June that an investigation into the killing was underway. However, the Mahao family has accused the government of deliberately stalling the probe.

Mr Mahao said they were grateful for the insistence by Lesotho’s development partners for the implementation of the recommendations, adding that SADC had been slow in ensuring that Maseru fulfilled its commitments.

The Americans have been steadfast that Lesotho would only continue to benefit from the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) facility after taking “concrete actions” that address concerns about “impunity and the rule of law” as well as implementation of the SADC Commission of Inquiry recommendations.

AGOA gives duty-free and quota-free access to the US market to eligible Sub-Saharan African countries including Lesotho.

“The retiring of LDF commander Tlali Kamoli and release of the mutiny accused soldiers from Maseru Maximum Prison are two recommendations which the government had always been very clear they would not implement,” Mr Mahao said, referring to 23 accused mutineers who were arrested between May and June 2015 and eventually placed under open arrest, which is a form of bail in the military.

“Because of the pressure of development partners, especially the US, the government had to swallow their words that there would be a bloodbath in Lesotho if Kamoli were to be retired. They are now eating humble pie.”

Mr Mahao said the family remained hopeful that his brother’s killers would face prosecution.

“Even though the process is not happening at a desired pace, we are however certain that one day justice will prevail and those who assassinated our brother will answer for it.”

He said the Dr Mosisili-led government’s collapse through a parliamentary no-confidence motion was partly because of its failure to implement SADC inquiry recommendations.

Dr Mosisili was toppled by an alliance of four opposition parties, namely All Basotho Convention, Alliance of Democrats (AD), Basotho National Party and Reformed Congress of Lesotho after garnering the support of up to 74 MPs in the 120-member National Assembly, which just requires 61 seats to form government.

Soon after the vote, Dr Mosisili advised King Letsie III to dissolve parliament, with Lesotho’s third general elections in five years slated for 3 June 2017.

“When motivating why the no-confidence motion should be passed, the AD’s former Kolo constituency legislator Teboho Lehloenya accused the government of failing to live up to its promises to be reformist and uprooting corruption,” Mr Mahao said, adding the implementation of SADC reforms would be one of the key issues in the coming polls.

“It is therefore very important to note that the government’s failure to implement these recommendations and prosecute those who assassinated the commander are great shapers of what the outcome of the elections might be.

“These are the two issues which most parties, especially those in opposition, will be using to campaign in the up-coming snap elections.”

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