Top army officer to lead spies

Top army officer to lead spies

Staff Reporter

MASERU – PRIME Minister Pakalitha Mosisili has appointed a senior army officer to lead the National Security Service (NSS).

Colonel Tumo Lekhooa’s appointment as NSS director general is with effect from September 16. He was the Director of Military Intelligence.

The appointment is on a three-year contract, according to the government gazette issued last Friday.

The gazette however makes it clear that Colonel Lekhooa will not be leaving the army permanently. Instead it says the appointment is on “secondment”, meaning after three years the Colonel can go back to the army.

Army spokesperson Ntlele Ntoi also confirmed the appointment but said he could not give further details because “it’s now a policy issue”.

“I can confirm the appointment but beyond that you have to speak to the Ministry of Defence because the matter is now bigger than me,” Ntoi said.

Colonel Lekhooa replaces Seeiso Lerotholi who retired on medical reasons in March this year, six months before his contract expired. His contract was due to expire in October.

Deputy Director-General Lealimo Makakole had been leading the NSS in an acting capacity since then.

Colonel Lekhooa’s appointment has however peeved the opposition which says it cannot understand why the prime minister is giving the reins of a civilian organisation to a military officer.

“Our problem is that this comes across is a militarisation of important institutions,” said Mofomobe Machesetsa, spokesperson of the Basotho National Party.

Machesetsa said the opposition “strongly believes” there are competent and experienced people within the NSS who could have been appointed to the position.

“It worries us that this is a secondment so he will remain an officer of the army. There is therefore no guarantee that he will not continue to serve the mandate of the army.”

The appointment, he added, goes against the spirit of the reform process that has just started.

“We are talking about reforming our security institutions yet we are appointing army officers to lead one of them. This clearly shows that there is no commitment to the reform process. This is what we have been saying all along,” he said.

Lerotholi, the former NSS director general, started his career as a police officer, having joined the police in 1970. He first led the NSS in 2004. He retired in 2006 but was recalled 2013.

The NSS seems to be the only security institution that has come out of the recent political crisis with its reputation still intact. The police and the army have been accused of being politically partial.

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