New Mahau investigation

New Mahau investigation

PRIME Minister Pakalitha Mosisili told South African deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa last Friday that government has set up a special taskforce to investigate the Brigadier Maaparankoe Mahao’s killing.

Mosisili told Ramaphosa this was because the police’s investigation launched soon after Mahao was shot by soldiers in June 2015 has stalled.

thepost can reveal that the taskforce will be made up of the 50 officers, 25 from the army and 25 from the police. Mosisili further told Ramaphosa that the officers who are part of the team had just come out of a pass out parade, a possible indication that they were either being trained for the investigation or new recruits will be involved.

This paper can reveal that the team will be made up of junior and mid-ranking officers. Sources have said the taskforce will be one of the issues Mosisili will mention at the SADC Summit in Swaziland next week to show that the government is making progress on the investigation into Mahao’s death. Lesotho is under pressure from SADC to show that it is investigating Mahao’s death, as recommended by the Phumaphi commission report.

Mosisili is also expected to brief the summit on the progress government has made in implementing some of the commission’s recommendations on the constitutional, electoral and security reforms as well as the return of exiled opposition leaders.

Ramaphosa revealed the details of the taskforce in two meetings he had with the opposition and the Mahao family soon after meeting the prime minister and his coalition partners. National University of Lesotho vice-chancellor Professor Nqosa Mahao, the later Mahao’s brother, told thepost that Ramaphosa had briefed the family about the taskforce. Basotho National Party deputy leader Joang Molapo also confirmed that the Ramaphosa had told them about the team.

Professor Mahao said he was shocked that the army is going to be involved in the investigation when its members are suspects in the alleged crime.

“He (Ramaphosa) told us that the prime minister had told him that the investigation had not commenced,” Professor Mahao said. He said the family’s own investigation has revealed that this taskforce is not meant to investigate his brother’s murder as Mosisili claimed to Ramaphosa.

The taskforce, he said, is a supplement to Special Operations Unit (SOU) whose main purpose is to fight crime in the rural areas, especially cattle rustling. Professor Mahao said even if the taskforce was indeed meant to investigate Mahao’s murder its composition is questionable.

“The army has confirmed that its soldiers killed Mahao. The question we should be asking is how the army can now be involved in an investigation in which its members are suspects. In law we say a monkey cannot be a judge in its own forest,” Professor Mahao said.

“How were the officers of the taskforce selected? Because those who killed Mahao were under army command it follows that those who are selected for the taskforce will be under the same army command.”

The professor said it was “clear that the government does not want to investigate this matter”.

“The involvement of the army in this is a violation of the autonomy of the criminal justice system. The army does not feature anywhere in that system.”

Molapo said in their meeting the opposition asked Ramaphosa about the “absurdity of the government’s taskforce”.

“We asked him about the logic of involving the army in the investigation in which it is a suspect. I asked him where in this world does someone investigate themself,” Molapo said.

“Ramaphosa was clear that he was not there to offer an opinion but to inform us about what the government has told him as the facilitator. We understood that his job is not to investigate but facilitate.” The establishment of the taskforce represents a significant shift from what the government has been saying about the investigation.

On June 20 the prime minister told parliament that “Lesotho is guided by a time-tested international procedure” in the investigating the murder.  The police, Mosisili said, will make “comprehensive investigations” and pass their findings to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). The DPP examines these findings to determine whether or not there is a case, he said in the statement he also gave to the SADC Double Troika Summit in Botswana.

“If there is a case, he (DPP) pursues such a case in the courts of law, and the law takes its course. In this case, Government has already submitted the Phumaphi Report, together with the Report of the Pathologist, to the Police,” he added.

“The Police have resumed their investigations. It is expected that the procedure described above will be followed to its logical conclusion. The importance of prompt and decisive action on this matter has been duly communicated to both the Police authorities and the DPP.”

Professor Mahao said he sees the new taskforce as a ruse to hoodwink SADC into believing that the government is working to investigation. The taskforce is being done in preparation of the SADC Summit to be held in Swaziland next week, he opined, adding that the family’s attempts to get information on the investigation has been “consistently frustrated”.

The family has written several letters to the prime minister and the police requesting information on the investigation. But Professor Mahao said none of those letters have been replied or acknowledged. “What we have gathered is that there was a team that was investigating the matter but it was disbanded when it got too deep for comfort,” he alleged.

Prime minister’s spokesperson Motumi Ralejoe said he was not preview to the details of the meeting between the prime minister and Ramaphosa. “So I cannot talk of any taskforce. Let’s wait for the report he will give at the summit,” Ralejoe said.

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