Mahao family speaks out

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  • Makes several demands on government
  • Expresses concern over inconsistencies in Phumaphi report

’Marafaele Mohloboli

The family of slain former army commander, Maaparankoe Mahao, has made several demands on the government and is threatening legal action should they not be met as a matter of urgency.

The family has also expressed concern at contradictions in the recently released Phumaphi report, with regards Lieutenant-General Mahao’s position in the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF).

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.

After the killing, Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili asked the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to help establish the circumstances surrounding the tragedy, 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.

Dr Mosisili released Justice Phumaphi’s report in parliament last week, but with some sections deleted from the document. The premier told the legislature he had to remove those sections because of security concerns.

However, while the Mahao family has expressed gratitude at SADC’s efforts to get to the bottom of their son’s killing, it believes Justice Phumaphi could have been more consistent in some of his findings. The family also believes the regional bloc should have made a follow-up and ensure government’s full cooperation with the inquiry.

The Mahaos expressed their frustration at a press conference held in Maseru this week, while also calling for the nation to be “calm”.

Professor Nqosa Mahao told the press briefing: “Around the death of Lt-Gen Mahao, some significant progress was made in so far as the commission ascertained certain facts which dispel and lay to rest false claims made by the LDF with regards to why he was killed. However, we cannot conceal our frustration with the fact that the commission failed in what was the most critical task.

“This concerns uncovering the names of all LDF personnel who participated in the operation that killed Lt-Gen Mahao, as well as a complete ballistics portfolio of evidence necessary in a criminal case. On both counts, the fault does not lie with the commission but the government of Lesotho and the LDF.

“From the very beginning of the inquiry, government and LDF lawyers adopted a scotched-earth stratagem of defeating the objective of getting to the bottom of the facts. In its report, the commission laments the fact that the LDF withheld material evidence from the investigation.” Evidence withheld, he said, included weapons used in the operation, the vehicle that carried Lt-Gen Mahao’s body, and the clothing he was wearing.

“The LDF also refused to provide the commission with the names of the personnel that carried out the operation,” Professor Mahao said.

“According to Lesotho’s criminal law, these sordid acts are a crime of defeating the ends of justice by tampering with the crime scene.”

According to Professor Mahao, SADC did not put enough pressure on the government to cooperate with Justice Phumaphi and his commissioners.

“Having invested more than M6 million into the inquiry, we believe SADC lacked the follow-through to intervene and demand full cooperation when these crude acts of subterfuge were underway. At that critical moment, the (SADC) Facilitator (in Lesotho), South Africa’s Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, should have closely monitored the inquiry to enable him to weigh in on the Lesotho government to fully comply with its international obligations,” he charged.

Professor Mahao also noted some of the commission’s findings, which he said warranted immediate implementation.

“The commission established that there had been previous attempts by the LDF on Lt-Gen Mahao’s life, including the infamous 30 August 2014 dawn attack on his homestead. Thus his murder on 25 June 2015 cannot be cast in isolation,

“All this evidence puts paid to the black propaganda reeled without restraint in some quarters that this was an accidental death. It confirms what we have always maintained that his death was an orchestrated and well-rehearsed extrajudicial murder by rogue elements in the LDF and some politicians,” he said.

“With these findings, the government can no longer hide behind the claims of ‘operation gone wrong’, but has to be seen to discharge its constitutional duty to facilitate criminal charges against, not only the junior operatives deployed to carry out the heinous act, but also against those who ordered it. We urge Basotho and the international community to see to it that proper justice and not a cover-up, is discharged to the full extent.”

Prof Mahao also said the government should pay Lt-Gen Mahao’s salary arrears since the commission had established that his appointment as LDF commander was constitutional.

“The commission established that Lt-Gen Mahao was properly and constitutionally appointed commander of the LDF on 29 August 2014. In the premise, we urge the government to urgently facilitate the payment of arrears of his salary from the date of his appointment which the LDF withheld from him.

“In a law-based and constitutional state, it is only fair and proper to do so,

“We shall also be raising this matter with the Facilitator, as well as that of compensation of Lt-Gen Mahao’s property destroyed by the LDF during the attack on his home on 30 August 2014.

“Redress on these matters goes a long way towards reestablishing Lesotho as a state that respects the rule of law and not a state of the might of the gun,” said Professor Mahao.

The professor however, said the family was concerned with some parts of the report.

He said: “Regrettably, we are unable to find common ground with the commission’s contradictory finding that Lt-Gen Mahao’s removal and demotion was ‘legal’, but the manner in which it was done was flawed as the prime minister’s ‘show cause’ was ill-advised (p.58). In sharp contrast in (p.44) the commission goes at length to find that the whole exercise was legally flawed.”

The family also made it clear that should the government fail to do as requested, it shall be left with no option but to instruct its lawyers “to proceed with a case the deceased had already instituted in the courts of law” regarding his salary issue.

The family has also called for the immediate suspension of all those implicated in cases investigated by the commission and for government to come up with a “transparent plan of implementation” of the Phumaphi recommendations.

The Mahaos have also urged SADC to urgently deploy a “much-boosted Oversight Task Team with a much broadened mandate to enforce compliance”.

 

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