Home Affairs Minister Lekhetho Rakuoane is contemplating legal action against ‘Mamphanya Mahao for alleging he was privy to a plot to kill her husband.
Ms Mahao told the ongoing SADC Commission of Inquiry that Advocate Rakuoane allegedly advised her husband to accept his demotion from heading the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) if he wanted to be “spared” from Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing.
‘Mamphanya’s husband, Lieutenant-General Maaparankoe Mahao, was fatally shot in June this year by soldiers who had come to arrest him for allegedly plotting to lead a rebellion in the LDF. Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili had removed him as LDF commander the previous month but he was challenging the dismissal in court, arguing it was illegal.
Following his murder, government claimed Lt-Gen Mahao was resisting arrest when he was killed, but his family disputes this version of events, insisting it was a carefully planned assassination by jealous colleagues.
A 10-member SADC Commission of Inquiry led by Justice Mpaphi Phumaphi of Botswana is currently interviewing witnesses to establish what happened to Lt-Gen Mahao and other security-related issues afflicting Lesotho.
Last week, Ms Mahao was before the commission when she made the stunning allegation against Advocate Rakuoane and Mr Metsing. The claim sent shockwaves across the nation as it suggested two of the country’s political heavyweights could have known of the assassination which took place on 25 June this year in Mokema, just outside Maseru.
However, soon after the testimony, Advocate Rakuoane said he was not yet in a position to comment, but yesterday announced he was considering taking the matter to court.
Addressing a press conference in Maseru, the Popular Front for Democracy (PFD) leader said the accusation had come as a shock to him, adding he wanted a court of law to test the claim. The PFD also rallied behind its leader, and vowed to report the issue to the police and then the courts of law.
“My party, my family and I would rather I seek legal recourse. I would like to take this matter to court because these are very serious allegations by ’M’e ‘Mamphanya,” said Advocate Rakuoane, whose party formed a coalition government with Dr Mosisili’s Democratic Congress, Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) led by Mr Metsing, Lesotho People’s Congress, National Independent Party, Basotho Congress Party and Marematlou Freedom Party after the 28 February 2015 snap elections.
“I am yet to make a decision; I will only do so following legal consultations. I might also respond to her on the same platform, which is the commission, if I am called to testify.
“But I prefer going the legal route because the courts are more reliable as they assess the depth of evidence put before them. The commission, on the other hand, does not have the time to do so.”
The PFD, on the other hand, defended its leader and accused Ms Mahao of being used by the opposition to tarnish the minister’s reputation, as well as that of Mr Metsing.
In a statement read by the party’s deputy leader, Thabang Kholumo at yesterday’s press conference, the PFD noted: “This is a ploy to divide government. ’M’e ‘Mamphanya’s testimony seems to suggest that Advocate Rakuoane was privy to the plan to kill Brigadier Mahao.
“That clearly shows this was something cobbled up recently; a new way of thinking to vilify our leader and Ntate Metsing.”
Mr Kholumo, who is also Deputy Minister of Education and Training, added it was “suspicious” the Mahao family worked with Advocate Rakuoane during preparations for Lt-Gen Mahao’s burial, even accepting his contribution of a cow and groceries “only to say this about him now”.
“How are we then expected to view ‘M’e ‘Mamphanya’s testimony now, when the family never shunned Advocate Rakuoane, or accused him of any wrongdoing before?” Mr Kholumo asked.
“Why can’t we entertain the suspicion that she is being used by the opposition?”
The PFD also urged Advocate Rakuoane to report the matter to the police for a docket to be opened and witnesses summoned “so that a lawsuit can be filed”.
According to Mr Kholumo, there was no way the accusations could go unchallenged due to their gravity.
“The allegations are very serious and tarnish our leader’s image. We call for him to take legal action so that the true facts of the matter can be established. We want peace and justice; we are not happy that the Phumaphi Commission is being used to peddle unfounded lies against some people,” Mr Kholumo said.
“As the PFD, we are saying let’s open a case with the police; we will push our leader to take action. We need all politicians involved in criminal activities and murder to be held accountable.”
Contacted for comment on Advocate Rakuoane’s statement, as well as the PFD’s accusations, Ms Mahao said she was not aware of the media briefing in question.
“I cannot comment until I have studied the contents of the press briefing you are referring to. I will respond at a later stage,” Ms Mahao said.
On the other hand, the Mahao family lawyer, Advocate Haae Phoofolo (King’s Counsel) told the Lesotho Times it was “legally right” to sue a person for defamation even if the statement was made before a commission of inquiry or court of law.
Adv Phoofolo told the Lesotho Times last night: “If Ntate Rakuoane feels he was defamed by ‘Mamphanya’s testimony, he can sue her for defamation. Even people who testify before courts of law can be prosecuted for defamation if need be. That is why people must always be careful of what they say before the courts or commissions of inquiry like the one we are currently having in Lesotho.”