A very uncouth public spat

A very uncouth public spat

THE public fallout between Defence Minister Tefo Mapesela and senior members of security agencies has yet again raised serious questions about the political direction Lesotho is taking.
At a time when we thought we had taken significant steps to normalise relations between the security agencies and the government, Mapesela comes out flying, knocking off all pretense to a normalised relationship between politicians and the security agencies.
It would be an understatement to say we were taken aback by the caustic, bare-knuckle attacks on Lt Gen Mojalefa Letsoela, Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli and National Security Services boss, Pheello Ralenkoane.

Here was the clearest indication that all was not well within the four-party coalition government.
The attacks did little to reassure Basotho that we had moved from those dark days when relations between the civilian element of government and security agencies were at their lowest ebb.
That is the tragedy of the whole thing.
It is interesting to note that Mapesela is accusing the security bosses of undermining his authority after they refused to take lawful orders.
He argues by defying his authority, the three could effectively lead to the collapse of the coalition government led by Prime Minister Thomas Thabane.
In fact, Mapesela has labelled the trio “rebels” who are out to undermine his authority. He said Lt Gen Letsoela was cut from the same cloth as Lt Gen Kamoli.
Those are serious charges.
Given the sensitivity of the matter, we would need to be persuaded to believe the media was the correct forum for Mapesela to raise these issues without risking harming his stature in the eyes of the public.

As Minister of Defence, much is expected of Mapesela in how he handles sensitive matters that have implications on Lesotho’s national security. We do not believe that engaging in an uncouth debate over the media was the best approach.
Much as he was infuriated by the “leaking” of the conversation, Mapesela would have done himself a whole lot of good by engaging with the security chiefs in private.
Trying to throw mud at each other in newspapers will only harm their reputation. By doing so Mapesela runs the risk of coming across as a blabbermouth.
It would be reckless on anyone’s part to allow such sensitive matters to be fodder for gossip.

Sensitive matters that could have a bearing on national security must never be allowed to find their way into the public arena in the manner they did.
Perhaps the biggest lesson all must take to heart is that we must exercise extreme caution as to how we deal with social media and other new technological gadgets.
The new media means we must all be on guard as to how we communicate and discuss sensitive matters. That is particularly true for those in the security sector. That of course should be a no-brainer.
Of course the latest spat between Mapesela and the security chiefs could be an indication that very little, if any, has changed as Lesotho pushes to reform its security agencies.
On the other hand, it could point to politicians battling to lay their hands on the army in a bid to push their own agenda.
The likes of Mapesela still believe the LDF has remained thoroughly unreformed two years after Lt Gen Kamoli’s ouster. He wants all remnants of Lt Gen Kamoli’s era weeded out.
That is why it is critical for the current SADC-driven reforms to proceed with haste so that Basotho are on the same page.

 

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