THE family of Lieutenant General Maaparankoe Mahao has written to the government requesting that he be posthumously reinstated as commander of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF).
They also requested the government and the LDF to perform a “military honours ceremony” at his graveside in Mokema “befitting a soldier and officer of his rank”.
In an interview with the Lesotho Times last night, the newly appointed Lesotho Defence Force Commander, Lieutenant General Mojalefa Letsoela said the Mahaos’ request was being handled by the Ministry of Defence and had not yet been referred to his office.
“I will only know of the decision we are going to take when I receive a directive from the Ministry of Defence. For now, the Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Defence (Colonel Tanki Mothae) is in a better position to comment on the matter,” Lt-Gen Letsoela said.
However, Colonel Mothae was not reachable for comment on his mobile phone.
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 but that claim was dismissed as a hoax by a regional inquiry into his death.
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 and proceeded to launch state a coup attempt in August 2014. The coup attempt kick started a chain of events that led to snap elections in early 2015.
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 all 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.
The LDF claimed that Lt-Gen Mahao had been shot while resisting arrest over an alleged mutiny plot. However, the army’s version was dismissed by both the soldier’s family and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) commission of inquiry headed by retired judge Mphaphi Phumaphi.
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.
Justice Phumaphi’s 10-member commission carried out its investigations between 31 August and 23 October 2015 and found that Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s appointment of Lt-Gen Mahao as army commander was legal. SADC recommended, among other things, that the government should investigate the killing of Lt-Gen Mahao and prosecute those found to be responsible.
In their 11 February 2018 letter to the Government Secretary, Moahloli Mphaka, the Mahaos requested that “by a Government Gazette, Lt-Gen Mahao must be reinstated posthumously as LDF Commander and at the rank of Lt-Gen”.
“Such a gazette is the right thing to do to correct the illegality committed by the previous government when it purported to remove and demote him from those positions without any basis in law.
“The family is also convinced that as part of righting the wrongs of the former government, it is proper for the LDF to perform the military honours ceremony at Lt-Gen Mahao’s place of interment at Mokema as befitting a soldier and officer of his rank.
“While it is common cause that the family prevented the former government and LDF Command from having any role in Lt-Gen Mahao’s funeral proceedings because we deemed them prime suspects in his planned assassination, we believe the time is now ripe for the ceremony. The changes that have occurred in government and in the command of the LDF provide an opportunity for Lt-Gen Mahao’s dignified send-off,” part of the letter states.
The family requested that the military send-off be held on and close to 25 June- the anniversary of Lt-Gen Mahao’s assassination.
The family also thanked the government for their cooperation with the family which has thus far seen the arrest of eight soldiers in connection with his murder among things.
The eight army officers are Captain Litekanyo Nyakane, Captain Haleo Makara, Sergeant Lekhooa Moepi, Sergeant Motsamai Fako, Corporal Marasi ‘Moleli, Corporal Motšoane Machai, Corporal Mohlalefi Seitlheko and Corporal Tšitso Ramoholi.