Kamoli in his own words

Kamoli in his own words

Staff Reporter
MASERU

August 29, 2014 – The then Prime Minister Thomas Thabane fires Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli from the command of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF).

August 30, 2014 – Under Kamoli’s command, the army attacks police stations and the State House. Thabane, who claims the attack was an attempted coup, flees the country.

September 2014 – The home of new LDF commander Maaparankoe Mahao is attacked; three of his cars were riddled with bullets

September 2014 – SADC envoy Cyril Ramaphosa sends Kamoli, Mahao, and the police boss Khothatso Tšooana outside the country as he tries to resolve Lesotho’s security crisis.

December 2014 – The media reports that Kamoli was still held up in South Africa

March 2015 – Kamoli returns home from South Africa, before Mahao and Tšooana, after Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili wins the general election, ousting Thabane from power

May 2015: Thabane, the Basotho National Party (BNP) leader Thesele ’Maseribane and the Reformed Congress of Lesotho’s Keketso Rantšo skip the country saying their lives were in danger.

June 2015: Prime Minister Mosisili reinstates Kamoli to his position as LDF commander but backdates it to August 29, 2014 when Thabane fired him.

June 25, 2015: Mahao is killed; the LDF says he died during an operation to arrest him to answer charges of mutiny

September 2015: SADC Commission of Inquiry investigating Mahao’s death invites Kamoli and other senior army officers to testify but they refuse to say anything related to Mahao’s death arguing they did not wish to implicate any soldiers who were on that operation

October 2015: SADC Commission chairman, Justice Mpaphi Phumaphi, recommends that Kamoli should be fired and that all soldiers implicated in criminal activities should be investigated and prosecuted.

November 2015 – November 2016: International pressure piles on Mosisili to fire Kamoli whom he describes as “a loyal and competent soldier”.

February 2016: Prime Minister Mosisili tells Parliament the government is negotiating a smooth exit for Kamoli

November 2016: The government announces it has concluded exit talks with Kamoli and that the LDF commander will leave office on December 1.

THE outgoing army commander Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli is a man of few words.
In fact he has never granted a detailed interview to any newspaper.
Even after the stormy events of August 2014 — with international and local pressure mounting — he remained mum, leaving the rumourmill to go into overdrive.
But when he walked into the Phumaphi Commission in September last year, the general had little room to manoeuvre.
No longer would he just refuse to comment issues.
And even when he tried to retreat into his shell the commissioners kept probing.
The results were somewhat measured but equally illuminating statements about what happened during his dismissal, his relationship with former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane and why he refused to go.
As he prepares to leave office we remind you of some of the things he told the commission:

Did he refuse to leave office?

Your Lordship, I never received any document.
In legal terms, it is called the show-cause notice, showing cause why my principal felt I was no longer suitable for the position.
I did not receive that.
Apart from that, I never received an instrument operationalising the legal notice seeking to remove me, as I did receive when I was appointed commander.
I heard here and there, this issue of Lt Gen Kamoli refusing to vacate office.
The fact that I had not reached my compulsory retirement age, one would think if one is removed from office, one would receive, in the first place, a show-cause notice why one should vacate office, and a letter thereof to operationalise the legal notice.

Did he see the gazette announcing his removal?

Yes, I did see it (gazette announcing his removal) at a later stage.
But still, the instrument that operationalised that gazette did not come to me.
In that case, I had no document to approach the court with if I had issues about being removed or expelled from office.
Things were happening very fast during those days.
And when this information came, it was on a Saturday when the courts were closed.
Then because there was a SADC Facilitation Mission already on the ground, we had various meetings with them, resulting in the Maseru Security Accord (MSA), through which security leaders were sent on leave-of-absence outside the country.

What happened on August 30, 2014 regarding his dismissal?

My Lordship, sometime after midday on 30 August (a Saturday), there was a delegation of the SADC Organ comprising mainly of South Africans.
They called saying they wanted to see me. I said yes, come and see me.
They came to my office and found me. They told me that my Prime Minister then, had left the country saying I was toppling the government.
I asked which Prime Minister were they talking about because behind my desk in my office, there were still three portraits there: those of the King, Prime Minister Thomas Thabane and myself.
I asked them, do you know him?
They said yes.
I asked them again, who is this person in the photo on the wall behind me?
They said Dr Thabane. Then I said, he’s still in charge.
They then went their way and I had my lunch.
Then when I was still having lunch, my military assistant told me they had heard over one of the radio stations, one man who is confusing this country, saying that I was no more the commander.
It was on a Saturday.
Then after the meal, one of the visitors who had come earlier and I had exchanged numbers with, called to tell me she had also heard over the radio that I had been removed from office.
I said yes, you are the second person to give me this information.
Then she asked, what are you going to do? I then I asked her, what if it were you?
In actual fact, in South Africa, how are people removed from office, over radios?
Then she said no and I said OK.

Did he disobey the King?

My Lord, there’s also this issue, of Lt Gen Tlali Kamoli disobeying the orders of the Commander-in-Chief (His Majesty King Letsie III).
I think I should give some clarity on that issue.
In 2014, I was directly answerable to the Minister of Defence, Dr Motsoahae Thomas Thabane, the then prime minister.
The issue that I refused to obey the orders of the Commander-in-Chief is false.
There’s nowhere in our statutes where you will find that.
It’s unlike South Africa where the laws state clearly that the Commander-in-Chief is the President of the country. It is not the case in this country.
I don’t report to His Majesty the King. I report to the Prime Minister.
But I could hear some time when you were asking some of the witnesses here, getting so hard on them that this commander defied the orders of the Commander-in-Chief, as if there was a day that I was sitting one-on-one with him, discussing military issues. That is not the case in this country.
Was there bad blood between him and Thabane?

If he were to enter this room right now, he would come to me and give me a hug.
Even today, I can assure you that if he were to enter this place today, he would just come straight to me and hug me.
I am telling this Commission the truth, my Lord, I am not joking.
I told this to (SA) Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa when he was facilitating here in Lesotho.
I told him that if the former PM was to come here alone, you would see a different man from what you have been told.

Fortunately on October 24, 2014 when we were signing the Maseru Security Accord at the Lesotho Sun Hotel, it was I, the late Brigadier Mahao, Commissioner Tšooana and Deputy Prime Minister Metsing.
Deputy President Ramaphosa came through the door with PM Thabane.
The former PM came straight to me and I saluted him.
And he said to me “Hey, General! Don’t hide so long”.
Then even before responding to what he had said, I looked at Deputy President Ramaphosa.
He said: “Ah, Basotho! I told you, this country of yours is very small. I knew you’d come together!”
Even now, if he were to come here now, you would see a different story from what you have been told or what he has been made to say.
Because when he’s alone, he cannot say those things that he has been made to say.
I respect him, he is my father. He was my PM, I respect the elderly.

Was there a fallout between him and Thabane?

No, there wasn’t (a fallout with Thabane), not even on a single day.
You know, whenever I was in his office, he would say to me, “General, I am so lucky to have a general like you. Fortunately I served almost every government that Lesotho has ever had, from the English, Dr Leabua Jonathan who was scared of the Lesotho Liberation Army (LLA), so he was not that comfortable.
“Then it was Major General Metsing Lekhanya, who somewhere somehow got disturbed by his own army.
“Then it was Ramaema and then Dr Mokhehle and later Dr Pakalitha Mosisili.
“He was also disturbed by terrorists since 2007 up until he was nearly killed at his home in 2009.
“But as for me, Motsoahae Thabane, I’m very comfortable to have a commander like you.”
He was always giving me a hundred-percent plus.

Why does he think Thabane fears him?

My Honourable Commissioner, this kind of question (on why Thabane feared him so much) is very difficult.
But I can tell you that the media here is very polarised.
They report things that are not factual. I don’t know why the former PM has to be scared of me like that, when we have never fallen-out.
The former PM himself does not fear me. There are people around him who fear me because they know what they have done.
So they have just made him a face: an international face that they present to the outside world, that the former PM is being persecuted by Kamoli.
The old man, with due respect, doesn’t have that.
He’s being told what to say by people who use him as their international face.

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