. . . as govt, opposition parties respond
THE family of slain former army commander, Lt-Gen Maaparankoe Mahao, has called on the government to convene a panel of judges to preside over his murder case and other similar crimes committed under “or with the connivance” of the previous government.
The family also wants the government to reinstate Lt-Gen Mahao as Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) commander posthumously and to hold military funeral honours befitting a commander at his burial place “soonest”.
Lt-Gen Mahao was fatally shot by his erstwhile LDF colleagues on 25 June 2015 just outside Maseru. The LDF claimed Lt-Gen Mahao had resisted arrest for allegedly leading a mutiny when he was killed.
However, Lt-Gen Mahao’s family accused the army of killing him in cold blood basing on the account of his nephews who were with him during the incident.
Lt-Gen Mahao was appointed as LDF commander on 29 August 2014 after Prime Minister Thomas Thabane fired Lt-Gen Tlali Kamoli for alleged insubordination. However, Lt-Gen Kamoli rejected the dismissal challenging its legitimacy.
After Dr Thabane relinquished power in the wake of the 28 February 2015 snap elections, the seven-party coalition government led by Pakalitha Mosisili reinstated Lt-Gen Kamoli, arguing that his dismissal and Lt-Gen Mahao’s promotion were illegal.
Lt Gen Kamoli was reinstated in a Government Gazette dated 21 May 2015 with another gazette issued on the same day terminating Lt-Gen Mahao’s appointment as LDF commander and reverting him to a brigadier.
Lt-Gen Mahao challenged his demotion in the High Court with the case not seeing the light of day after he was killed on 25 June 2015 by his LDF colleagues.
Addressing a press conference in Maseru this week, Lt-Gen Mahao’s brother, Professor Nqosa Mahao, commended the 30 November 2017 arrest of eight soldiers suspected of involvement in his killing, saying it was a “highpoint” in their struggle for justice.
“The two years of waiting for justice took a deep emotional and spiritual toll on us as the family, especially on his widow, children and elderly mother,” he said.
The “truly vile” previous regime, Prof Mahao said, was “resolute in its determination to protect perpetrators of murders and other acts of impunity from accounting before the courts of law for their brutal crimes”.
The family commended the four-party coalition government for bringing to book suspects in serious human rights violations.
“This is an encouraging development that will strengthen the faith of many Basotho in the Rule of Law, and give hope for a peaceful future,” said Prof Mahao.
“Under the liberating watch of the new government and the professional leadership provided by the new Police Commissioner (Holomo Molibeli), the LMPS has restored the unequivocal respect of all decent and law-abiding Basotho.”
The family goes on to slam the “Mosisili-Metsing” former government, saying it “consorted with known criminals”.
“Recent revelations of a spate of murder cases and arrests in which most suspects are members of the LDF are clear evidence that under the Mosisili, Metsing, Kamoli and Mokhosi quartet, impunity was a licensed instrument of governance.
“This quartet not only institutionalised a killing machine, but went further to allow it a free hand to torture and kill at liberty in the knowledge that all those who carried these inhumane activities enjoyed full protection from the government.
“They did so in the vain hope that through fear, harassment and murder, they would permanently subvert the constitution of the land and impose a veiled dictatorship on the country and the people.”
Prof Mahao stated that the arraigned suspects were not the only ones involved in the “well-planned and authorised execution”.
“The conduct of the former government before and after the assassination betrays direct state involvement at the highest level,” he said.
“It is proper for us, therefore, to call upon the LMPS to fully and thoroughly investigate all available leads in the crime right up to the top of the former government.”
The family called on the government to declare Lt-Gen Mahao as LDF commander until his death on 25 June 2015 through a Government Gazette.
They also want military compliments due to a commander at his burial place “soonest”.
“Given the importance of a fair trial, to which we are firmly committed, we urge the government to arrange an international panel of judges to preside on Lt-Gen Mahao’s murder case and all other serious human rights violation cases, perpetrated under or with the connivance of the former government,” said Prof Mahao.
Contacted for comment, Defence Minister Sentje Lebona said: “Since the government works collectively, I think once the matter is brought to the government’s attention, it shall be deliberated on and acted upon as seen fit.”
Teboho Sekata, spokesperson of the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD), which was part of the previous government, responded saying: “Everyone is entitled to their opinion and we are not surprised that they are saying this when so many people have already died in the five-month old administration.
“If they maintain that our government was licensed to kill and protected criminals, that’s their observation. They are just trying to have a holier than thou approach.”
In the same vein, Democratic Congress spokesperson Serialong Qoo said: “We are grateful to see that this self-righteous government has paid the dues accrued to Mahao.
“It is, however, surprising to see that former LDF commander Khoantle Motšomotšo was killed during the tenure of this so-called holy government. We hope they are not going to pin this one on Ntate Mosisili as well. We want to see justice being served on those aggrieved.”