24 August, 2015
What Went Wrong in Just Two-and-a-Half Years?
A Regime in Question
by M. K. Mahlakeng
The SADC Commission of Inquiry to Lesotho, under Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s request, has widened its terms of references to look at the role of former Prime Minister Tom Thabane’s two-and-a-half year coalition regime in the security and constitutional ills of Lesotho. On 3 July following the death of Brigadier Maaparankoe Mahao, SADC held an Extraordinary Summit of the Double Troika and later established an Independent Commission of Inquiry chaired by Botswana High Court Judge Mpaphi Phumaphi to look into the security and constitutional status of Lesotho which has deteriorated in the past two years.
In his communiqué to Mr Ramaphosa dated 9th July 2015, Prime Minister Mosisili has requested that the commission make important additions to its terms of references. Firstly, the Commission is requested to investigate the 30 August LDF operation and/or “alleged coup” in which Sub-Inspector Mokheseng Ramahloko lost his life and subsequently led to Thabane to fleeing Lesotho to South Africa. Secondly, the Prime Minister has asked the Commission to investigate the relationship between Thabane and the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) which led to the appointment and dismissal of four Commissioners of Police in Thabane’s two-and-a-half years in office.
In conjunction to this, the Prime Minister requested that Thabane’s relationship with former Police Commissioner Khothatso Tšooana, which may have influenced Thabane to award the LMPS “hefty,albeit unbudgeted, salary increase” without Cabinet approval and to the exclusion of the other two security agencies (i.e. Lesotho Correctional Services (LCS) and LDF), be investigated. This conduct is seen to be suspicious of character and has prompted the now go-slow strike in the LCS which started in December 2014 in which LCS staffers have demanded that the government increase their salaries and restructure the institution’s ranks to be level with their counterparts in the country’s security agencies.
It is evident that this go-slow has presented several challenges (administrative paralysis) to the judiciary and police departments whereby staffers have refused to take inmates to and from court hearings and have denied them visitations from legal representatives and family members. Similarly, new inmates are refused admission into facilities causing police stations nationwide to fill to capacity in an attempt to accommodate these inmates. And lastly, according to the Prime Minister, the 12th June 2014 indefinite suspension of Commissioner Napo Sefali of the LCS by Thabane similarly merits investigation.
In addition to its terms of references, the Commissions will probe numerous constitutional and security incidents in Lesotho such as: the 27 January 2014 bombings of several homes (i.e. of Thabane’s partner Liabiloe Ramoholi, ‘Mamoshoeshoe Moletsane and former Police Commissioner Tšooana); the legality and manner of the August 2014 removal of Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli as head of the LDF and his May 2015 reappointment thereof. However, his reappointment has since been defended by the Prime Minister arguing that this was merely an attempt among several other attempts to rectify the wrongs of his predecessors’ administration; the 25 June 2015 death of Brigadier Maaparankoe Mahao; the killing of member of opposition parties; the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) investigation into the alleged mutiny plot which encompasses the alleged kidnap of former LDF members; the impact of various changes in the top leadership of the courts such as the January 2015 appointment of the President of the Court of Appeal Justice Kananelo Mosito by Thabane which is considered to possibly impact on the courts’ ability and legitimacy to handle certain criminal and civil cases.
The Commission has recognised the Lesotho Government’s requests as important factors to be added into the Commissions’ terms of references in order to find a lasting solution. Since the 2012 general elections which saw Lesotho’s first coalition government, Lesotho’s security and constitutional status has been under coverage by media outlets for the wrong reasons. Given that words such as “instability”, “coup” etc., have been rhetoric in the last two years, it is not a far-off possibility that these security and constitutional issues may be attributed to the conduct of Thabane’s two-and-a-half years’ regime.