Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili is ready to face the on-going SADC Commission of Inquiry once again if need arises, according to his Political Advisor, Fako Likoti.
Dr Likoti told the Lesotho Times contrary to popular belief that government sought to frustrate the nine-member probe team led by Justice Mpaphi Phumaphi of Botswana, the premier was keen to see the Commission achieve its objectives, top among them establishing the circumstances surrounding the death of former army commander Maaparankoe Mahao at the hands of the military.
Dr Mosisili has already appeared before the tribunal but according to Dr Likoti, the Democratic Congress (DC) leader was prepared to face the commissioners once again if required to do so.
“Dr Mosisili is more than willing to return to the Commission and assist in its mission. He has been before it already and responded to the best of his ability. However, he is still willing and ready to return if the commissioners have more questions for him. With Commissions of this nature, witnesses are recalled if additional facts are needed. This is a Commission of Inquiry, and not a court,” Dr Likoti said on Tuesday.
Justice Phumaphi last week lashed out at government and LDF officials for being uncooperative and “pleading ignorance on issues that you are supposed to know”.
The Botswana High Court judge was particularly annoyed with Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) Mothetjoa Metsing and Lieutenant-Colonel Tefo Hashatsi, but Dr Likoti has begged to differ, insisting government was being cooperative.
“We are not hiding anything from the Commission. We’re cooperating the best way we know how, and also conscious of the fact that we must give the Commission space to exercise its independence,” Dr Likoti said.
To further demonstrate his respect for the Commission’s independence, Dr Likoti revealed the premier refused to meet its members before they commenced their probe on 31 August in case the visit was misinterpreted.
“Members of the Commission wanted to pay Dr Mosisili a courtesy call when they arrived, but he refused to meet them on the basis that they should conclude their mission first to avoid accusations that he was trying to influence them,” Dr Likoti said.
“He told them to wrap-up their business first, and then they could visit him afterwards. He told them ‘I don’t want your visit to be misconstrued for what it’s not’. This clearly shows we are trying to safeguard the Commission’s interests.”
Dr Likoti also strongly denied government and the military were frustrating the Commission’s efforts to get information, saying they were also affected by Brigadier Mahao’s death on the afternoon of 25 June this year. Brigadier Mahao was shot in Mokema by his colleagues, allegedly as he resisted arrest for his part in a foiled mutiny in the LDF.
“For the record, Dr Mosisili was badly affected by Brigadier Mahao’s death. This is contrary to speculation that he wanted the man dead. A man’s life has been lost; it’s tragic and highly regrettable. We need to find ways and means to ensure such incidents are not repeated,” Dr Likoti said.
“In short, we’re not here to frustrate the Commission’s efforts. If anything, our expectation is that the Commission’s recommendations should be able to assist us so that future military operations are executed without such incidents.
“However, we cannot tamper with internal military issues the same way we cannot tamper with internal legal proceedings of the Commission.
“The military is independent of government, which is in charge of policy while all operations are the business of the army. In Mahao’s case, we are talking about a legal, military operation in which an unfortunate and tragic accident happened.
“When news of the tragedy emerged, government played its oversight role of informing SADC, cabinet, parliament and the nation. We cannot direct witnesses to respond the way the Commission wants.”
Dr Likoti also said the fact that Dr Mosisili, Mr Metsing and Defence and National Security minister Tšeliso Mokhosi have already appeared before the Commission was an indication of government’s willingness to cooperate.
“It’s very rare to find government authorities subjecting themselves to Commissions of this nature. But the PM, DPM and defence minister have done just that in order to motivate other potential witnesses to do the same because the Commission was established to find solutions for Basotho.
“The PM and DPM were interviewed publicly and without any restrictions, so government cannot be said to be uncooperative,” Dr Likoti added.
Asked to comment on accusations by opposition parties that government and the army were keeping silent on critical facts in order to protect “certain elements within the military”, Dr Likoti said: “There are no elements to protect within the military.
“The PM is under no pressure from anyone; he is not under any pressure to protect any person. Remember this was not an illegal operation. I even doubt whoever pulled the trigger planned to kill a man that day when they left their home for work.”