Zimbabwe and Namibia have pledged to send experts to Lesotho and help with investigations into last week’s death of former Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) Commander Maaparankoe Mahao.
South Africa has also said it would provide pathologists to conduct an autopsy on the slain former army commander, with the examination set for today in Bloemfontein, South Africa.
South Africa’s Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, who made the announcement during his visit to Maseru this week, added Brigadier Mahao’s fatal shooting by LDF members just outside his farm about 30 kilometres from Maseru, had come as a shock to the region hence the bloc’s decision to assist in the probe.
Defence Minister Tšeliso Mokhosi has issued a statement claiming Brigadier Mahao was shot as he resisted arrest, but his family believes he was deliberately assassinated by his enemies in the LDF.
And in an effort to ensure Lesotho does not descend into chaos, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) has stepped in once again, hence Tuesday’s visit by Mr Ramaphosa.
“We came here at the request of President Jacob Zuma, who is chairperson of SADC’s Organ on Politics, Defence and Security.
“ I came to deliver a specific message to the Prime Minister, Pakalitha Mosisili, that they (SADC) would like him to come to the Troika Summit that is going to be held on Friday in Pretoria.
“I also came to respond to the Prime Minister’s request that SADC should assist with investigations into the death of Lieutenant General Mahao as well as pathology examination around his death.
“South Africa will be sending pathologists to do the examination and other countries in the region—Zimbabwe and Namibia—will be sending investigators to probe the circumstances around Lieutenant General Mahao’s death,” Mr Ramaphosa said in a statement at the end of his visit yesterday.
Mr Ramaphosa, who brokered the deal which led to Lesotho’s early elections in February this year under SADC’s umbrella, further said during his visit, he also met other stakeholders which included opposition party leaders, church-leaders, NGOs and His Majesty King Letsie III.
He also emphasised that the former army commander’s shooting had left “everyone very concerned”.
“I was initially informed by the Deputy Prime Minister (Mothetjoa Metsing) about Lieutenant Mahao’s death.
“Mr Metsing expressed his deep concern and worry about it and nearly everyone that we met is deeply worried and concerned about his death. It is this that has prompted the leaders in the region to call a summit of the Double Troika.
“They will meet on Friday and have a discussion in the presence and with the participation of Prime Minister Mosisili. And I am sure that out of that discussion will come suggestions, proposals and solutions of how to take matters forward here in Lesotho.
“Our trip was a good trip; we were well received. We ended up by going to visit the family (of Lieutenant General Mahao), the widow at her home and we passed our condolences to Lieutenant General Mahao’s brother as well and uncles. We spent time comforting them and passing on our good wishes and condolences.”
Basotho National Party (BNP) deputy leader Joang Molapo confirmed meeting Mr Ramaphosa on Tuesday alongside his opposition allies from the All Basotho Convention (ABC) and Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL).
“In our meeting, Mr Ramaphosa acknowledged that Lt Gen Mahao’s death had exposed that the security crisis in Lesotho should be attended to as a matter of urgency before it gets worse.
“According to Mr Ramaphosa, SADC was shocked about government’s decision to reinstate Kamoli as LDF commander while the region had made recommendations to Mosisili against doing so. Mr Ramaphosa said maybe if Mosisili had considered the recommendations that Kamoli should be sent on retirement, together with Mahao and (Police Commissioner Khothatso) Tšooana, this tragedy might not have happened.
“Mr Ramaphosa said it was unfortunate that the government went ahead with Kamoli’s reinstatement claiming that Lesotho is a sovereign country. He said SADC is now clear that Kamoli is a threat to Lesotho’s peace and stability and has to go,” Chief Molapo said yesterday.
RCL deputy leader Motloheloa Phooko said the opposition tabled their concerns before Mr Ramaphosa, among them that their leaders who fled to South Africa in May this year fearing for their lives, should be assisted to return to Lesotho in safety.
Former prime minister and ABC leader Thomas Thabane, BNP leader Thesele ‘Maseribane and RCL leader Keketso Rantšo, fled to South Africa on 11, 13 and 26 May 2015 respectively, allegedly after being alerted of a plot to kill them by LDF members. Government has since dismissed these claims.
“Our leaders are Members of Parliament so they should be given their right and responsibility of contributing to reform processes because they are done in the National Assembly,” Dr Phooko said.
“It is the opposition’s hope that Friday’s SADC Troika meeting in Pretoria will determine the way forward on the issue of security and Lt Gen Mahao’s death.
“Mr Ramaphosa informed us that Dr Mosisili would be expected to present a report on the security crisis in Lesotho and the death of Lt Gen Mahao.”
On his part, ABC secretary general Samonyane Ntsekele yesterday said the opposition was also informed that South Africa’s Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Nosiviwe Mapisa Nqankula led a delegation to Zimbabwe on Tuesday to brief President Robert Mugabe about SADC’s fact-finding mission to Lesotho.
The SADC delegation arrived in Lesotho on Saturday and left on Monday and had come to assess the country’s security situation and hear about the circumstances which led to Brigadier Mahao’s death.
Meanwhile, the Mahao family has called on Mr Ramaphosa to “ensure justice for our murdered son.”
The later soldier’s brother, Professor Nqosa Mahao, last night said the family had taken Mr Ramaphosa to task during his visit to their home.
“We tabled our concerns that he never took Maaparankoe seriously since he began his facilitation.
“Before Maaparankoe died, he told the family that he didn’t know whether he should take Mr Ramaphosa seriously anymore because all the issues regarding his service in the LDF were never considered.
“We told Mr Ramaphosa that despite his suspension from work, malicious investigation and prosecution in February 2014, an attempt on his life and damage to his property and exile from his country, government still decided to ignore him. He was not even compensated for the damage to his home following the 30 August 2014 attack by unknown gunmen.
“We also told Mr Ramaphosa that when SADC and the government were claiming that Kamoli was in transit in South Africa, he was still in Lesotho to strategise whatever he wanted within the LDF.
“We alerted him to go to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and demand a letter issued by a certain official from the former coalition government which sought to make it look like Kamoli had been in South Africa.
“It is our expectation as a family that Mr Ramaphosa is going to take our concerns to the SADC Double Troika Summit on Friday.
“Looking at Mr Ramaphosa’s humiliation during our meeting today, we realised that some of the people he worked with during his facilitation were not decent enough and were not telling him the truth.”
According to Professor Mahao, the family had appointed its own private pathologist despite SADC’s offer of two pathologists.
“His body will be taken to Bloemfontein tomorrow (today) for tests. It should be clear that SADC will be closely assisted by the family not the government of Lesotho in this examination,” Prof Mahao said.