Minister denies SADC reprimand

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Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Relations Tlohang Sekhamane

Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Relations Tlohang Sekhamane

’Marafaele Mohloboli

Foreign Affairs Minister Tlohang Sekhamane on Tuesday denied receiving a letter from SADC reminding government of its obligation to support the Phumaphi Commission.

The letter was written on 20 October 2015 and followed an application lodged in the High Court by Special Forces Commander Lieutenant-Colonel Tefo Hashatsi.

The officer was challenging the Commission’s authority to investigate the fatal shooting of former Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) commander Maaparankoe Mahao on 25 June 2015 by his military colleagues.  The case is still before the High Court and government says it is the reason why the Phumaphi report has still not been made public.

However, SADC has since warned against interfering with the Commission whose investigation began on 31 August and ended on 23 October. Minister Sekhamane denies receiving such communication from SADC Executive Secretary Stergomena Lawrence Tax.

The Lesotho Times has however, obtained a copy of the letter, which is addressed to Mr  Sekhamane.

Reads the SADC letter signed by Ms Tax: “With concern, we have been informed that one Lieutenant-Colonel Tefo Hashatsi of the Lesotho Defence Force is suing the Right Honourable Prime Minister and the SADC Independent Commission of Inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the death of Brigadier Maaparankoe Mahao, in the High Court of Lesotho. In his papers, he disputes the Commission’s authority to interview him and craves that it be disbanded.”

“The Honourable Minister may wish to recall that on 3 July 2015 in Pretoria, South Africa, the SADC Extraordinary Double Troika Summit established and adopted the Terms of Reference of the Commission. Subsequently, at the meeting held from 17-18 August 2015 in Gaborone, Botswana, the SADC Summit reaffirmed the Commission’s Terms of Reference.”

The letter further highlights “Paragraph 7 (a)(i) of the Commission’s Terms of Reference”, which obliges government to cooperate with the probe “and ensure unhindered access to all places, persons or sources of information relevant to its investigation.”

But Minister Sekhamane said he was not aware of the letter and also told the Lesotho Times that SADC would not make such demands.

Mr Sekhamane also spoke about government’s stance on the Phumaphi Commission whose report was expected to be unveiled in Mozambique on 21 November.

“Maybe the letter came last week while I was away in Malta, and besides, there is simply no way SADC would reprimand Lesotho over the Commission.

“SADC called us to Mozambique to be part of the tabling of the report and we declined. Instead, we wrote them a letter and told them that there was still a case in court questioning the Commission’s authority. We informed SADC that we were still waiting for the court’s ruling on the authority of the commission,” Mr Sekhamane said.

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