- Premier highlights danger posed by Lt Gen Tlali Kamoli and the connection between the army commander and Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing
PRIME Minister Thomas Thabane knew removing Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli as Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) Commander would not be easy and had requested military support from South Africa a day before announcing the dismissal through a government gazette.
According to a letter Dr Thabane wrote to South African President Jacob Zuma on 27 August 2014 — a day before Lt Gen Kamoli’s dismissal —the premier highlighted the potential difficulties in removing the army chief, hence his request for intervention “as a neighbour and Chair of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Organ on Politics, Defence, and Security Cooperation”.
In the letter, a copy of which the Lesotho Times has obtained, Dr Thabane chronicled why he believed the army chief would not accept his dismissal, hence his fears that the country’s security situation was not conducive for the reopening of Parliament. The premier had suspended Parliament for nine months on 10 June 2014 to avoid a no-confidence vote in his leadership, and at the time he wrote the letter to Mr Zuma, was under pressure to lift the prorogation. Among those calling for the lifting of the prorogation was Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) leader, Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing, whose party formed a coalition government with Dr Thabane’s All Basotho Convention (ABC) and Basotho National Party (BNP) after the 26 May 2012 general election had resulted in a hung parliament.
However, Dr Thabane is yet to reconvene Parliament despite lifting its prorogation on 5 September as per SADC recommendations towards bringing stability to the troubled kingdom.
The premier explains, in the letter to Mr Zuma, why he has not adhered completely to the SADC recommendations: “I write…to provide you with progress on the measures that are being taken in Lesotho in our endeavor to find a lasting solution to the current political situation in Lesotho, per the decision of the 34th SADC Summit taken in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, during 17-18 August 2014.
“May I record that consultations have begun in ernest towards the reopening of Parliament. This exercise involves the Office of His Majesty the King, Speaker of the National Assembly and the coalition political parties.
“In this regard, meetings of political parties have begun to take place to draw a roadmap towards the reopening of Parliament. Discussions on the roadmap are focusing mainly on the issues that have throttled the smooth management of the coalition government, with a view to finding a lasting solution to them.”
Dr Thabane then reminds Mr Zuma of the meeting the two leaders held on 28 July 2014 in Maseru regarding the country’s security — a situation he pointed out had not improved.
“In that meeting, I highlighted some of the underlying factors that inhibit the smooth-running of government in Lesotho, namely the worrying security situation and rampant corruption involving some of the key figures in government,” Dr Thabane noted.
He continued: “On the security situation, I highlighted to Your Excellency, the discomfort that is caused by the current Commander of the Lesotho Defence Force, who flatly refuses to cooperate with the Commissioner of Police and other law-enforcement agencies in releasing members of the LDF, who are implicated in numerous acts of criminality, predominantly cases of murder and defeating the ends of justice.
“Disturbingly, intelligence reports in this currently volatile situation point to him attending clandestine meetings with dark forces keen on overthrowing the government.
“In a word, under the command of General Kamoli, our Defence Force is posing itself these days, as a potential threat to Lesotho’s democratic order and public security.
“Accordingly, I have today and pursuant to relevant legislations, including our Constitution, advised His Majesty the King to remove General Kamoli from the office of Commander of the Lesotho Defence Force with immediate effect and to be replaced by Brigadier Maaparankoe Mahao.”
Dr Thabane adds, in the same letter, that corruption had also become a factor in the country’s political instability.
“On the issue of corruption, Your Excellency will recall that I sought your assistance to provide us with technical expertise in investigating some of these highly complex commercial crimes. The issue of corruption has also now become a matter in the way of the challenges on the political situation.
“This is especially so because even the Deputy Prime Minister has been implicated in these corrupt activities involving public funds. He is due to appear in court to answer allegations, based on evidence, that he is involved in malpractices and abuse of power, leading to huge losses of public funds, possibly for personal gain and this is demonstrated by large amounts of money that are being deposited into his bank accounts over some time now.
“I have provided these details purposely because they have a connection. As I mentioned earlier, the Commander of the Lesotho Defence Force is reported to be attending secret meetings with members of the opposition who are planning to overthrow the government. These meetings include members of the Deputy Prime Minister’s party who were instrumental in forging links with the opposition Democratic Congress Party led by former Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili.
“Interestingly, these days, at his rallies, the Deputy Prime Minister openly prides himself with the firm support that he enjoys from our military and his comfort that it will protect him against any action by law-enforcement agencies regarding his legal woes,” Dr Thabane says.
“Based on the above scenario, we have reasonable apprehension to anticipate that the removal of General Kamoli from the Office of the Commander of the LDF, might receive negative and potentially violent reaction from, especially the criminal element from within the Defence Force, whom he has harboured from the arm of the law.
“Accordingly, I request military support, both as a neighbour and Chair of the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security of SADC, in the event that the situation escalates to unnecessary violence and instability.”
Meanwhile, in a subsequent letter dated 5 September, also addressed to President Zuma, Dr Thabane indicates the security situation in Lesotho remained unstable “even as calm prevails on the surface”, because Lt Gen Kamoli “remains ensconced within our army’s headquarters”.
The letter was written two days after Dr Thabane had returned, under South African police guard, from South Africa where he had fled after some members of the LDF had stormed three key Maseru police stations, in what the premier later said was an attempted coup. The attacks had resulted in the death of one police officer.
The prime minister noted in his letter to Mr Zuma: “Kamoli is unwilling to report for a meeting with me, as also the Minister of Defence and National Security, to receive the formal letter of dismissal that already has legal sanction of the Commander-in-Chief of the LDF, being His Majesty King Letsie III, through a gazette notification of 29 August, 2014.
“Efforts to get the SADC team that is in Maseru to get Lt Gen Kamoli to see reason and accept the legal dismissal order, have not fructified and obduracy shown by him is causing deep concern in Lesotho.”
Dr Thabane also reminds President Zuma that since January 2014, Lt Gen Kamoli had “acted outside the laws of Lesotho” and “shown defiance towards clear directives from me as Prime Minister and Minister of Defence”.
“These have led to the decision to give him a letter of dismissal as is mandated in Lesotho’s constitution.”
The premier also highlights Lt Gen Kamoli’s refusal to vacate office, and “threatening to unleash further violence with troops under his illegal command”, which he says also confirms why Parliament should not be opened under such an insecure environment.
“(As a result) we are unable to get the new Commander, Lt Gen Maaparankoe Mahao to assume charge of the LDF and ensure that the writ of the duly constituted Government of Lesotho is strictly followed by all personnel donning military uniform in Lesotho.”
Dr Thabane also informs President Zuma that due to the prevailing security situation, government could not implement the declarations he committed to, such as the opening of Parliament on 19 September 2014, “because Lt Gen Kamoli and his cohorts make it impossible for government to operate”.
“The entire security stock is under unlawful control. Needless to mention, the country faces a high possibility of being in flames, as the renegade General Kamoli is effectively rendering it ungovernable, and holding it to ransom.”
Contacted for comment yesterday, LDF spokesperson, Major Ntele Ntoi said he could not respond to the letters as he had not seen them.
“I can only give a conclusive response to the letters you’re talking about once I’ve seen them. Even then, I would still first have to establish if I should respond to them,” Major Ntoi said.
Repeated efforts to get a comment from Mr Metsing failed until the time of going to Press last night.
However, Mr Metsing has previously rubbished claims he was running away from charges of corruption and that the LCD was enjoying military support.
During a recent media briefing held at the LCD headquarters, Mr Metsing was adamant the divide between the coalition government partners was not due to his pending corruption cases, but Dr Thabane’s failure to consult his fellow principals when making key government decisions, such as the prorogation of Parliament.
“When I was charged, I had long called for the opening of Parliament; the reopening of Parliament has nothing to do with it and whoever wants to sue must go ahead,” Mr Metsing said.
“We’ve never, at any given point, called for those instituting charges against me to drop them. We cannot suspend democracy just because some people are saying they are investigating acts of corruption.”