Stay in the barracks

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LESOTHO Defence Force (LDF) commander Lieutenant General Thuso Motanyane last week told a commission set up to probe last April’s attacks on the prime minister that there were still elements within the army that were bent on subverting the constitutional order.
The statement did not come as a surprise to us.
The commission is investigating the April 22 attacks at the Mokoanyane Barracks and Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s official residence last year.
The commission is headed by former president of the Court of Appeal, Justice Jan Steyn.
The commission’s terms of reference are quite clear. It seeks to “inquire into, examine and analyse the precise nature, circumstances and factual setting of the attacks” on Mosisili and the army barracks.
The commission also seeks to establish if there were any breaches of security and identify if there were any individuals responsible for the lapse or breaches.
Motanyane was the first senior army official to address the commission last week.
While part of Motanyane’s testimony was in camera we think it is critical to interrogate his statements that have been widely reported in the private media.
We found the army commander’s candid remarks quite chilling.
The essence of Motanyane’s address was that the threat of a fresh attack by rogue elements of the army remained alive.
We think it is important to note such a remark as Lesotho is a nation that is still battling to come to terms with its violent past.
We think the army commander owes the nation an explanation, even behind the scenes,  on what really happened in the early hours of April 22.
We need some reassurance that no mad gunmen will be allowed again to cross our borders unnoticed.
We raise these issues not as enemies of the state but as an institution with immense respect for democratic processes.
We are aware that some of the testimonies might be very sensitive with severe implications for national security.
But the commissioners who include among others Brigadier Rakoalane Posholi of the LDF and Major-General Simon Shilobone of the South African National Defence Forces should press hard to get to the bottom of this issue.
The commission should not be seen to be a waste of time and resources.
Those charged with maintaining security should reassure the nation that their security is vested in safe hands.
It is interesting to note that Motanyane told the commission that the army had picked information suggesting that there would be some attacks around winter last year.
He said the army had in fact anticipated the attacks.
But surely if the army had picked up this vital intelligence they should have acted immediately to pre-empt such an attack.
The nature of the threat certainly justified a pre-emptive attack against those bent on unleashing terror in pursuit of a misguided cause.
Such a pre-emptive maneouvre would have been perfectly legitimate under the circumstances.
We have not understood why the army waited for the enemy to strike first before springing into action.
It surely boggles the mind.
In the absence of a clear explanation from the army we would like to maintain that this was a bad decision by those charged with maintaining our national security.
As soon as the army sniffed that there were rogue elements within the army who were up to mischief they should have acted immediately to lock up the culprits.
We are bound by duty to raise these issues to ensure we have no repeat of the April 22 madness.
We have had in Africa misguided elements within the military who have been willing to pounce and seize power by undemocratic means when opportunities to do so present themselves.
But those that are bent on subverting the constitutional order must be told in clear terms that they have no place in a modern democratic state.
Soldiers must stay in the barracks.
Those that want to dabble in politics or harbour ambitions to assume the country’s top job must quit the army.

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Lesotho’s widely read newspaper, published every Thursday and distributed throughout the country and in some parts of South Africa.

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