SADC mission makes shock findings

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  • Asserts that Bulane, Sechele met Kamoli just before Motšomotšo assassination
  • States that Motšomotšo had no support from Military Intelligence

Ngoni Muzofa

THE government suspects that the alleged assassins of Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) commander, Lieutenant-General Khoantle Motšomotšo, met two days before his fatal shooting at the residence of former army chief Lt-Gen Tlali Kamoli, according to an explosive report by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Ministerial Double Troika fact-finding mission.

Also in attendance at the meeting was former National Security Service (NSS) boss, Colonel Tumo Lekhooa.

The report also asserts that Lt-Gen Motšomotšo had no support from the Col Lekhooa-led Military Intelligence — which could have anticipated the assassination plot. The alleged assassins, Brigadier Bulane Sechele and Colonel Tefo Hashatsi, had also been slapped with “suspension or dismissal” letters prior to their fatal altercation with Lt-Gen Motšomotšo.

The late Colonel Hashatsi

The SADC Ministerial Double Troika fact-finding mission was in Lesotho earlier this month after Lt-Gen Motšomotšo’s assassination.

Foreign Affairs and International Relations Minister, Lesego Makgothi, would not be drawn to comment on the details of the report, specifically the alleged 3 September 2017 meeting yesterday, saying the matter was part of ongoing investigations into the assassination.

While Mr Makgothi confirmed the fact-finding mission’s assertion that Lt-Gen Motšomotšo did not have the backing of the Military Intelligence, he disagreed with its claim that Brig Sechele and Col Hashatsi had been dismissed.

Led by Angolan Foreign Affairs Minister, Georges Rebelo Pinto Chikoti, the fact-finding mission conducted an assessment of the security situation in Lesotho and held meetings with key stakeholders in the country “in order to establish the root causes of the assassination and subsequently recommend the appropriate courses of action”.

Lt-Gen Motšomotšo was fatally shot on 5 September 2017 by Brig Sechele at his Ratjomose barracks office, according to the government’s account of the incident. Brig Sechele had been accompanied by Col Hashatsi on the fateful day.

Brigadier Bulane Sechele

According to the government’s account, the two senior officers had confronted Lt-Gen Motšomotšo over the police’s investigation of three army officers implicated in the killing of a woman near the home of former LDF commander, Lt-Gen Tlali Kamoli.

Lisebo Tang was shot dead on 10 May 2014 when the car she was sitting in with Tšepo Jane was peppered with bullets by LDF members guarding the home of Lt-Gen Kamoli. She died on the scene of shooting, with Mr Jane sustaining serious injuries and taken to the Makoanyane Military Hospital. A police report stated that the vehicle in which they were sitting was shot 123 times by the soldiers guarding Lt-Gen Kamoli’s premises.

Lt-Gen Motšomotšo had explained that the investigation was being conducted in the spirit of implementing SADC decisions to probe LDF members implicated in acts of criminality. Upon hearing this, Brig Sechele allegedly pulled out a firearm and fatally shot the army commander.

Brig Sechele and Col Hashatsi were mortally wounded in a hail of bullets from Lt-Gen Motšomotšo’s bodyguards who retaliated outside the office complex. Three other LDF officers were reportedly in Brig Sechele and Col Hashatsi’s “entourage”.

One of the three, Major Pitso Ramoepane, was last Thursday charged with Lt-Gen Motšomotšo’s murder in the Magistrate’s Court. He is expected to reappear before the same court on 28 September for a follow-up remand. Captain Fonane was arrested this week, while Col Phaila is still on the run.

Last Friday, SADC held a one-day Double Troika Summit in Pretoria, South Africa to map the way forward following Lt-Gen Motšomotšo’s assassination.

The agenda of the summit, which was attended by representatives of the governments of Angola, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland and Tanzania, was to consider the recommendations of the SADC Ministerial Double Troika fact-finding mission.

SADC also acquiesced to Lesotho’s request for a standby force comprising military, security, intelligence and civilian experts to assist the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) in managing the security crisis in the country.

However, the bloc mandated defence and security chiefs from the region to determine the size, tenure and scope of the contingent force before its deployment to the Mountain Kingdom.

The Lesotho Times has seen a copy of the Double Troika Summit’s draft annotated agenda, which states that Lt-Gen Motšomotšo and Acting Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli had been mandated with implementing the recommendations of a SADC Commission of Inquiry which included the apprehension of soldiers who had committed various crimes.

The SADC Commission of Inquiry was established in the aftermath of the fatal shooting of former LDF commander Lt-Gen Maaparankoe Mahao in June 2015 by his erstwhile colleagues.

The 10-member commission led by Botswana judge, Justice Mpaphi Phumaphi, carried out its investigations between 31 August and 23 October 2015. Among its recommendations was criminal investigations into the death of Lt-Gen Mahao leading to prosecution, the suspension of LDF officers implicated in cases of murder, attempted murder and treason while investigations into the allegations proceeded in line with international best practice.

Reads part of the Double Troika Summit’s draft agenda: “Just before Chief of the Defence Force was shot dead, he had given instructions to hand over the three members of the LDF suspected of the murder of one Lisebo Tang and attempted murder of Tšepo Jane to the police. Even as that was done, there was an indication of resistance by some senior LDF officers who were fingered in the Commission of Inquiry Report namely Brig Bulane Sechele end Col Tefo Hashatsi.”

Despite efforts by Lt-Gen Motšomotšo to notify senior LDF officers of the emphasis of an August 2017 SADC Summit on implementation of the reforms, “it was clear to the government that the commander did not have the full cooperation of some LDF senior officers in particular those who were fingered by the Commission of Inquiry”.

“The government also noted that the chief of defence force had no support from the Military Intelligence (Ml) which was supposed to be his eyes and ears on the ground that could have served as the early warning to the defence chief,” states the draft agenda.

The MI’s director is Col Lekhooa, who was fired as NSS director-general by Prime Minister Thomas Thabane in July this year and sent back to his old job. Col Lekhooa has since challenged his redeployment in a case still before the courts of law.

“Prior to all this, there have been reports that some members of the LDF have taken arms and ammunition from the armoury under the pretext of conducting military exercises. It has been found out that the LDF command could not account for the said weapons and ammunition,” further reads the fact-finding mission’s findings.

The mission cites the training of 300 military personnel at Ox Bow “which was shrouded in secrecy and which the government was not aware of”.

However, acting LDF commander Major-General Lineo Poopa told the fact-finding mission that the Ox Bow training was standard practice for recruits.

The mission also reported that the government suspected that secret meetings were continuing to take place.

“There is suspicion of meetings that continue to take place, including on Sunday the 3rd of September at the residence of the former commander (Lt-Gen Kamoli), that included the deceased assassins and the former Director General of Intelligence whose intentions is not known.

“There is need for clear decisive action by the government in order to be seen to be committed to the provision of security for Lesotho going forward. The rule of law must be seen to be applied in order to regain the confidence of the people of Lesotho and SADC as a whole.”

The fact-finding mission also discovered that Brig Sechele and Col Hashatsi had been given their marching orders by Lt-Gen Motšomotšo prior to the fatal altercation.

“The two deceased officers had received suspension or dismissal letters issued by the LDF commander in a move to implement the SADC Phumaphi Commission recommendations aimed at restoring peace and stability in Lesotho.”

Defence and National Security Ministry Principal Secretary, Colonel Tanki Mothae, referred this publication to Foreign Affairs and International Relations Minister Lesego Makgothi when asked to comment on the report.

For his part, Mr Makgothi confirmed that the government told the fact-finding mission that Lt-Gen Motšomotšo did not have the backing of the Military Intelligence.

“We said in our report to the Double Troika Summit that General Motšomotšo would not have died if he had the support of the Military Intelligence. With the support of the Military Intelligence, something like that would not have happened,” he said.

The minister rubbished the mission’s claim that Brig Sechele and Col Hashatsi had been dismissed.

“Sechele and Hashatsi were not given letters of termination. They were not on contract and would not have been dismissed like that. Due process would have been followed for them to be dismissed,” he added

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