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Staff Reporter

MASERU – It’s been 14 months since former army commander Maaparankoe Mahao was killed by soldiers but investigations – if there is any – have not yielded much. Instead what has dominated the news is how the investigation had either stalled or been frustrated. In June Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili said the police had resumed the investigation. That gave a glimmer of hope that finally there is movement on the investigation. But revelations that the government has established a 50-member-taskforce of the army and the police to investigate the killing have cast further doubt on the government’s commitment to the investigation. This might be a matter of perception but it should matter to any government. This week we spoke to the late Mahao’s brother Professor Nqosa Mahao about the family’s views about the taskforce and the investigation in general. We started by asking him if he can confirm if South African deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa told him about a new taskforce to investigate his brother’s murder?

He told us the prime minister had told him that the investigation has not commenced. That taskforce will have 50 people, half from the police and another half from the army. What we have however found is that it is not true that there is such a taskforce. The truth we know is that it’s meant to hoodwink SADC at its summit in Swaziland next week. The taskforce has nothing to do with the investigations into General Mahao’s death. Rather, it is a supplement to the Special Operations Unit whose primary role is to combat crime in the rural areas especially cattle rustling. The most important thing is that 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. It’s a principle of law.  How were the officers of the taskforce selected? Because those who killed Mahao were under army command it follows that those soldiers selected for the taskforce will be under the same army command.

Why do you say that taskforce does not exist? What informs that view?

It’s clear that the government does not want to investigate this matter. Earlier the prime minister told SADC that the investigation had been delayed because the forensic laboratory had been destroyed by fire. We know this was not true. 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.  You don’t stop an investigation because a forensic laboratory is not working. For many years after Independence the country did not have a forensic laboratory but investigations did not stop. We have always worked with the laboratory in South Africa, where we have always sent evidence if there is a special case. This is just an excuse. Now they are coming up with this taskforce. Why should you train 50 people to investigate a murder case? Those people are not going to a war. As the family we were satisfied with the work the initial police team was doing.  The investigation was frustrated from the start.

How so?

A team of ballistics experts was deployed in the country by SADC to conduct tests on the car and the scene of the accident. They brought huge machinery for their investigation. When they wanted to do an investigation of the car that carried Mahao from the scene they were told that cannot happen. They needed the guns used to shoot Mahao and his own gun which the army alleges he wanted to fire. They were denied access to those. They were told that they were no longer wanted in the country so they left in a hurry. They called me from Pretoria to say they had left because they were not feeling secure in the country. Those in the police briefed us that the army had refused to hand over crucial evidence like Mahao’s cell phones, the guns involved, his clothes and vehicles involved. That evidence is supposed to be in the hands of the police but more than a year later the army has not released it. Witnesses on the scene have told us that soldiers tried to wash away Mahao’s body. They asked for a broom and tried to cover the blood with sand. Mahao’s clothes have also been washed, thus destroying evidence. All that amounted to tampering with evidence and the scene, which is a crime. The army also admitted that the body was washed. The army did all these things to destroy evidence. Then the government now wants to call the same army to be part of the investigation. 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. The army is a primary suspect in this matter. That is why we said the government and the army cannot take part in the funeral. The claims of a taskforce are just a ruse that can only be believed by a gullible SADC.

You have written several letters to the police and the prime minister seeking information on the investigation. What has been the response? 

After September when the police told us that the army was refusing to release evidence we wrote to the prime minister imploring him to instruct the army to comply with requests from the police. In all this you should remember the prime minister is the de facto commander-in-chief. The King is the de jure commander-in-chief. You should know the prime minister is the chief executive of the country. So we said it was time for him to direct the army to comply with the request from the police. To our surprise the next day that letter was read on a local radio station. They were trivialising the letter. Up to now the prime minister has not responded to that letter or at least acknowledged receiving it. In March this year we wrote to the police commissioner to request an update on the investigation. We are now in August but there is no reply. In May we again wrote to the prime minister informing him that we are anxious to find out what is happening to the investigation. Again there was no reply. In July we wrote another letter to the commissioner of police through our lawyer, asking about the progress. Why would the police not respond if there was an investigation going on?

Why do you think this investigation has not gone far?

Let’s be frank. Everything that has happened coincides with the plot to kill Mahao, starting in January 2015 when the army sent him to a phantom mission in Leribe. The plan as we now know and as was said in the Phumaphi commission, was to ambush him on his way back. We know that there were some politicians involved in that plot. The same applies to the August 30 coup attempt. The challenge for the government now is they cannot take those soldiers involved in the murder to court because they might spill the beans about the involvement of some politicians. We now know that the Phumaphi report that is in the public domain is not the original one prepared in November last year. The one the public has is a sanitised version of the previous one which was more illuminating. SADC removed the names of some politicians from that report. I understand why they did that and I don’t blame them. They thought if politicians are not named in the report then they might be persuaded to implement its recommendations. SADC however forgot that in the court there is no way you can wish away the contribution of politicians in the plot.

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MP defies party, backs opposition



MOHLOMINYANE Tota, the only MP for the United for Change (UFC), has defied the party’s order to stop voting with the opposition in parliament.
Tota, the UFC’s deputy leader, told thepost this week that he will vote, guided by his own conscience, and not the party’s instructions.

His defiance comes after the party publicly chastised him for voting with the opposition in parliament.
A fightnight ago, Tota angered his party when he sided with the opposition to vote against the government’s motion to continue discussing the reforms’ Omnibus Bill despite that it was being challenged in the Constitutional Court.

The government however won with 57 votes against the opposition’s 50.
The UFC issued a statement reprimanding Tota for defying its decision to always vote with the government.
But Tota told thepost this week that he was unfazed by the party’s warning.

“I will continue to vote with the opposition where need be, and I will also vote with the government where need be,” Tota said.
He said he respects the party’s position but “I also have a right to follow my conscience”.

This, he added, is because “it is not mandatory for an MP to toe the party line even when his conscience does not allow it”.
He said whether he will vote with the government or the opposition will depend “on the issue on the table”.
He said his conscience would not allow him to vote with the government on the Omnibus Bill motion.

“It was wrong,” Tota said.
“I will do the same again given another chance.”

Tota’s response comes three days after the UFC issued a statement distancing itself from his stance in parliament.
The party said its national executive committee had an urgent meeting over the weekend to discuss Tota’s behaviour.
It said its position is to always support Prime Minister Sam Matekane’s coalition government.

“‘The issue has caused a lot of confusion in the party and among Basotho at large,” the statement reads.

The party also said Tota did not bother to inform the national executive committee about his decision so that he could get a new mandate.

“He did not even inform the committee before voting,” the statement reads.
“The national executive committee held an intensive meeting with Tota about the matter because the purpose of the party is to support the government,” it reads.
The UFC said where the government goes wrong “the party will continue to confront it with peace and not with a fight” (sic).

“We have confidence in the current government because it was voted in by Basotho.”
The UFC’s statement makes it clear that the party “will not support anything against the government”.

Nkheli Liphoto

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Inside plot to oust Matekane



THE plot to topple Prime Minister Sam Matekane thickened this week amid allegations of brazen vote-buying ahead of the opposition’s planned vote of no-confidence.

The opposition is said to be ready to push out Matekane when parliament reopens sometime in September. They accuse Matekane’s government of incompetence, nepotism, corruption and using the security forces to harass opposition MPs.

But as the lobbying and touting of MPs reaches fever pitch, there are now allegations of each side using bribes to secure votes crucial in the vote to remove the government.
Democratic Congress leader, Mathibeli Mokhothu, this week accused the government of bribing its MPs to defeat the motion against Matekane.

Mokhothu, who made the allegations at the opposition’s press conference yesterdday, did not give further details or names of those bribed and those bribing.
But on Monday, the Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) MP, Puseletso Lejone, told thepost that Mokhothu offered him a M2.2 million bribe to support the opposition’s motion to upend the government.

Lejone said Mokhothu made the offer at a secret meeting, attended by almost all opposition leaders on August 14, at Monyane Moleleki’s house in Qoatsaneng.
The Thaba Moea MP said the leaders claimed that 60 MPs were supporting the motion against Matekane and wanted his vote to make it 61.

“The money was to come directly from Mokhothu,” Lejone said.
“They asked me to provide them with my bank account so that they could transfer the money.”
Mokhuthu denied the allegations, saying he wondered if Lejone “was smoking socks”.

Lejone repeated the same allegations on the sidelines of yesterday’s press conference where Matekane assured Basotho that his government has enough numbers to fend off the opposition’s attempt to push him out.
He said apart from Moleleki and Mokhothu, other political leaders who attended the meeting were Lekhetho Rakuoane, Machesetsa Mofomobe, Nkaku Kabi, Professor Nqosa Mahao, Teboho Mojapela, Tefo Mapesela and Tšepo Lipholo.

He said the leaders gave him a document showing that six RFP MPs had pledged to support the vote of no confidence. Lejone however refused to name the RFP MPs, saying he still wants them to remain in the ruling party.
He said four MPs from parties in the RFP-led coalition had signed.

They are Mohlominyane Tota (UFC), Reverend Paul Masiu (BAENA), Mokoto Hloaele (AD) and Motlalepula Khahloe (MEC).
The deal, Lejone said, was that Mokhutho would become prime minister and be deputised by Dr Mahali Phamotse.
He said the RFP’s faction was going to be rewarded with 10 ministerial seats for their role in toppling Matekane.
Nearly all the political leaders mentioned by Lejone denied attending the meeting at Moleleki’s house.

“By the living God, I have never been in a meeting with that man (Lejone),” Mokhothu said, adding that Lejone’s allegations are “defamatory”.

Mahao said he last visited Moleleki’s house, which is up the road from his, 22 years ago. Mofomobe said Lejone is lying about the meeting because he wants to curry favour with Matekane, whom he had been criticising for months.
Mofomobe said all his meetings with Lejone were at the BNP Centre and their agenda was toppling Matekane.

“We were discussing his (Matekane) incapability to rule this country,” Mofomobe said.

Rakuoane and Mapesela said they have never been to Moleleki’s house.
So did Kabi who implied that Lejone could have smoked something intoxicating “to talk about a meeting that never happened”.
Lipholo, Rev Masiu, and Tota said they were not at that meeting while Moleleki said he had “no comment”.

Staff Reporter

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Matekane abusing state agencies, says opposition



THE opposition has accused the government of weaponising security agencies to harass and intimidate their MPs.
The accusations come as the opposition plots to push a vote of no confidence against Prime Minister Sam Matekane when parliament re-opens in September.

Opposition leaders told a press conference yesterday that the government has resorted to using the army and the police against its MPs because it is afraid of the motion.
Democratic Congress (DC) leader, Mathibeli Mokhothu, said the security bosses have been willing tools for the government because their bosses are desperate for Matekane to renew their employment contracts.

He was talking about Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli, army boss Lieutenant General Mojalefa Letsoela and National Security Service (NSS) boss Pheello Ralenkoane.

“Employment contracts for the security agencies’ bosses are the ones causing these problems because the commanders end up working towards pleasing the government for their contract extension,” Mokhothu said.

He said the army has also started setting up roadblocks closer to parliament to search MPs. Mokhothu said the army searched Nkaku Kabi and Advocate Lebohang Maema KC at the parliament premises last week.

“The government is now bringing back the security agencies into party politics,” Mokhothu said.
“This was the first time the army entered the parliament premises to search members and other people there. It is an embarrassment.”
“The responsibility of our soldiers is to guard the borders and ensure security, not to enter politics or set up roadblocks on the parliament roads.”
“They are now running the country like a shop or a company.”

Basotho National Party leader, Machesetsa Mofomobe, alleged that Matekane had a meeting with the security bosses in Teya-teyaneng to discuss how they could use their institutions to clip the opposition’s wings.

“The LDF, LMPS and NSS boss’s contracts have expired, and now they are using the institution to get extensions,” Mofomobe said.
“The LDF and LMPS are doing this deliberately to protect the government.”
thepost could not independently verify this allegation.

Tefo Mapesela, the Basotho Progressive Party leader, said Matekane’s government is taking Lesotho back to 2014 when the army was wooed into politics.
He warned that officers who allow themselves to be used as pawns in political fights might find themselves in jail while their political handlers enjoy freedom.
He referred to Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli who has been in remand prison for seven years as he faces charges of murder, attempted murder and treason.
Mapesela however said the opposition will not be intimidated because it is their democratic right to bring a motion of no confidence against the government.

“When there is time to enter a motion of no confidence it is time, it is written in the law, there is nothing wrong there,” Mapesela said.
“I once launched a motion of no confidence in the previous parliament, but I was never arrested or threatened.”

“We do not owe Matekane anything. When the time has come he has to go. We will lobby others as it is not a crime.”

The Basotho Action Party’s Nqosa Mahao criticised the police for issuing a press statement with political undertones.

In a controversial statement last week, Commissioner Molibeli said the police were aware that some MPs were coercing their colleagues to support their plot to topple the government.
Molibeli also said they were aware that such MPs were surrounding themselves with armed groups.

“Police warn those perpetrating these acts to stop immediately to avoid action that could be taken to protect the country,” Molibeli said.

Matekane made the same allegations at his press conference yesterday.
Professor Mahao said the statement shows that the police have now been entangled in politics.

“Every time parties experience internal problems the leaders conspire with the security agencies,” he said.
“The opposition leaders are now being harassed because the government wants to stop them from exercising their rights.”

The opposition’s charge sheet against Matekane

  •  Filling of statutory positions despite the reforms aiming to change the system.
  • Corruption
  • Nepotism
  • Using security agencies to deter MPs from ousting Matekane.
  • Job losses.
  • Lack of job creation.
  • Failure to fulfil campaign promises.
  • Protecting mining companies’ interests at the expense of Basotho.
  • Incompetence and lack of communication skills.
  • Arrest of MPs by the police.
  • Cherry-picking reforms that insulate his government.

Staff Reporter

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