THABA ‘NCHU- Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) commander Lieutenant-General Tlali Kamoli hated former prime minister Thomas Thabane so much he tried to kill him on several occasions, the SADC inquiry into Lesotho’s instability heard this week.
Dr Thabane’s wife, ‘MaIsiah, told the 10-member commission in Thaba ‘Nchu that her husband had a torrid time from the LDF chief, and was lucky to be alive.
Ms Thabane cited the 27 January 2014 bombing of her home, the failed coup of August 2014 and an evening visit to State House by Lt-Gen Kamoli the same month when she found Dr Thabane on the floor barely conscious while the LDF chief sat calmly on a chair nearby, among some of the attempts on her husband’s life.
Narrating events leading to the January bombing of her Moshoeshoe II home, Ms Thabane said the attackers were targeting Dr Thabane but hit her children’s bedroom by mistake.
“Ntate Thabane was going to have a meeting at my home in Moshoeshoe II sometime in January last year, and asked me to prepare him lunch. I decided to cook him some mushrooms but didn’t have the recipe so I asked a friend by the name of ‘Mampe, to come and help me,” Ms Thabane told the commission which moved to South Africa last week from Maseru to hear the testimonies of exiled LDF members, opposition party supporters and opposition leaders.
‘Mampe, she added, obliged but came with “a stranger” Mr Thabane later discovered was a member of the LDF.
“I didn’t like it, so I put a frown on my face to show that I was not happy with the presence of this other woman. When ‘Mampe saw my expression, she asked to talk to me in private. We went to the children’s bedroom where she told me the woman was her friend called Moleleki, and that they went to the same church. She also told me the woman was a soldier. I told her I was not happy with her presence at my house.
“We went back to the kitchen to prepare the mushrooms but I didn’t change my expression, and this clearly offended Moleleki. I also saw she couldn’t wait for ‘Mampe to finish helping me.
“Then she asked to assist in the cooking and I flatly refused. I told her I couldn’t allow her to touch my food because I didn’t know her. She again tried to help clean-up the table and I told her to sit down,” Ms Thabane said.
According to Ms Thabane, her husband was at the house during this drama.
“They both saw him, and when the two left, I received a phone call from a soldier named Molumo, who is popularly known as ‘Sound’. He told me the woman who came with ‘Mampe was very dangerous. ‘Sound’ then came to my place soon after and was with another soldier named Fako. They told me Moleleki was Kamoli’s spy and had come to see where the bedrooms were in order to kill Ntate Thabane,” Ms Thabane testified.
However, Ms Thabane said when she told Dr Thabane about the plot to kill him, he did not believe her and said Lt-Gen Kamoli would never do such a thing.
“He said I should stop listening to such information, and when I realised he did not want to do anything about it, I decided to report the issue to ‘Makhotso Matiease, who is with the National Security Service. I also told police commissioner Khothatso Tšooana about the issue. Ntate Tšooana promised that the police would be alert to ensure Ntate Thabane’s safety.”
On 26 January 2014, Ms Thabane said her husband addressed an ABC rally on the outskirts of Maseru.
“Ntate did not come to my place that day because he had to attend a medical checkup in Johannesburg the next morning.
“Then in the early hours of 27 January 2014, my house was bombed and my children badly injured.
“I was advised not to allow soldiers into my house while the police were inspecting it. I was told the soldiers would be there to tamper with evidence. I followed the advice and never allowed them in until the police were done with their investigations. Ntate Kamoli also came to the scene and I was hesitant to allow him into my house. But I ended up letting him in, and he said he was not happy with the incident and would deal with it.
“My suspicion was since I had taken ‘Mampe to my children’s room, she thought it was my bedroom hence it was bombed as the attackers mistakenly believed it was mine and Ntate Thabane would be in since he was their target.”
Ms Thabane also told the commission that sometime in August last year, Dr Thabane went for medical checkup in South Africa but on his return, could not find the doctor’s report—only to hear it being read on radio.
“Ntate left with his bodyguards and when he returned, I asked to see his medication. I asked about his progress and he asked a soldier by the name of Rankhone to bring the doctor’s report from the vehicle they had travelled in to South Africa. But the papers were nowhere to be found. And to my shock, I heard the report being read on one radio station.
“My opinion is the bodyguards were commanded to leak the report to the station to embarrass Ntate Thabane.
“From that day, my relationship with the bodyguards became very tense; I made sure they no longer handled Ntate Thabane’s food and drinks because I did not trust them anymore.”
Lt-Gen Kamoli visits State House
Ms Thabane also told the commission of a visit to State House by Lt-Gen Kamoli sometime in August 2014.
“One of Ntate Thabane’s bodyguards came to the bedroom one evening in August to inform him that he had a visitor. And that visitor was Kamoli.
“I continued watching TV, and after about one hour and Ntate Thabane had not returned, I decided to look for him.
“I went upstairs because that’s where he had gone with Kamoli. I knocked on the door of the lounge where they were supposed to be holding the meeting and nobody responded. I didn’t hear any voices in the room, so I decided to enter. I saw Kamoli sitting on a chair facing the entrance, but there was no Ntate Thabane. I looked around but he was not there. Kamoli didn’t say anything to me and I didn’t ask him where Ntate Thabane was.
“I came closer to where he was sitting—only to see Ntate Thabane on the floor with bubbles coming out of his mouth. I became terrified because he was with Kamoli who was just sitting there and not assisting him although he was barely conscious.
“I helped Ntate Thabane to sit and then stand. I supported him out of the room even though it was very difficult for him to walk. When I was trying to save Ntate Thabane, Kamoli was silent and just looking at us as if nothing was happening. Before we reached the bedroom, Kamoli passed us and went down the stairs without saying goodbye and left.
“When I got to the bedroom, I immediately called Ntate Thabane’s son Potlako, and one Dr Thabane but their cellphones were on voicemail. Then I remembered I had holy water. Ntate Thabane’s eyes were closed, and I forced him to open his mouth and drink the holy water. And by the grace of God, he opened his eyes and I saw that his strength was coming back.”
Ms Thabane said the following morning, she took her husband to hospital in South Africa.
“After examining him, the doctor gave us a report of what had happened and I would kindly like to give the medical report to the commissioners in camera,” Ms Thabane said.
According to Ms Thabane, she asked her husband what had happened in that room with Lt-Gen Kamoli, but he would not tell her.
“When he refused to tell me what had happened, I threatened to leave him and he ended up telling me. I would also like to tell the commission what he told me in camera.”
According to Ms Thabane, an LDF member by the name of Major Mosakeng called on 29 August last year and informed her he had been given a task he was not willing to perform.
“He also said the situation at State House was not looking good, and I ended up waking-up Ntate Thabane. We looked through the window and saw many soldiers patrolling the yard. Ntate Thabane said I must not be afraid because State House was protected by the army.”
However, Ms Thabane said after both realised the situation was far from normal, Dr Thabane asked her to pray with him “so that we could die after having prayed”.
She then explained how they later escaped in Dr Thabane’s daughter’s vehicle on the morning of 30 August. That morning, LDF members took over three Maseru police stations following a shootout with Dr Thabane later calling the army action that day an attempted coup led by Lt-Gen Kamoli.
LDF tenders and police recruits
Asked by the head of the inquiry, Justice Mpaphi Phumaphi of Botswana, about allegations that she was getting LDF tenders because of her position, Ms Thabane said she was never awarded a contract by the military.
“I am not in business and don’t even have a licence to do so. It is a lie that I was ever awarded tenders by the LDF. My brother named Tsebo Ramoholi is the one who was awarded a tender and the only thing I did was borrow him my car and assist him with money to buy uniform he wanted to supply to the LDF. The tender was never mine,” she said.
Ms Thabane also said she never forced the police to recruit unqualified trainees.
“I don’t know anything about the recruitment of police trainees.”
One of the commissioners, Noel Ndlovu, wanted to know if the police had issued a report on the bombing of her residence.
“Investigations were done but I heard that the dockets disappeared when Ntate Tšooana was on special leave in Algeria. I wrote a letter to the acting police commissioner at the time, Ntate Masupha, for an explanation but I didn’t get it.
“But still, I am convinced my house was bombed by Kamoli because of his hatred of Ntate Thabane.”