The murder of Lt. General Motšomotšo: did the militia overreach itself?


Over the years in Lesotho, we have witnessed ordinary citizens and soldiers murdered with impunity by those who had the power of guns. The situation took a turn for the worst from 2014 when an army rebellion against the civilian government by the Command of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) which soon transformed the army and other security units into a militia serving the interests of its leader rather than those of the nation. The level of the killings went a notch higher when the militia murdered the Commander of the LDF Lt. General Maaparankoe Mahao in 2015. The militia expected that his murder would go unpunished since the government was virtually in its pocket. That did not happen since SADC and other institutions insisted on accountability thus forcing the head of that militia, Lt. General Kamoli to be ultimately forced out of the army.

The new Commander Lt. General Motšomotšo pledged allegiance to the new government, but as fate had it, the central plank of the newly elected government was the implementation of SADC decisions arising from the Phumaphi Commission Report. Motšomotšo had apparently told all Officers and the rest of the soldiers that government policy would be abided with and those who have cases to answer will have to do so. This was why he had to be eliminated. But his elimination could only be done as either an attempt to overthrow both the Command of the army and the government or such elimination would be achieved through what is akin to a suicide mission. The consequences of such elimination have proved, as events have shown, a tipping point for the dismantling of the militia.

When Hashatsi, Ramoepana and Sechele went to the Commander’s office to kill him on Tuesday 05/09/2017 they unleashed a process of dismantling of their killing machine, which they could not have anticipated. They killed the Commander, but not the Command; they did not overthrow the government; and more importantly they released an unstoppable anger in the country and beyond on their perennial murder spree without accountability. Hashatsi and Sechele died in their act of rebellion while Ramoepana and other conspirators will go on to tell the story when their trial begins. At the same time, SADC has now finally agreed to send a Contingent Force to ensure that this time the situation is brought under control.

Internal discord and fall-out after the murder

The murder of Motšomotšo as expected brought about an outcry even from unexpected sources within the military establishment. During his memorial service, figure after figure even those who were known to have participated in earlier crimes by the militia condemned the killing in no uncertain terms. Two outspoken ones in particular need to be mentioned because of the far-reaching implications for the survival of the militia as a unit operating within the force. First was Brigadier Mokaloba who said it was a shocking embarrassment that officers within the army committed such a heinous act .He wondered what the overall plan of those plotters who murdered the Commander was. What would have satisfied them?” he wondered. But more revealing was his next statement, which applied equally to those in the military and those of their supporters outside the establishment.

Mine is just to appeal to the people behind these heinous acts. These people met with others in the night and they were also together in the morning. On the day of the incident they met in the morning and dispersed and others when the incident came, they came late to the scene. Others are now disguising as though they are not part of this incident, but what’s important is for them to surrender….

The unmistakable thing is that Mokaloba seemed determined to portray himself and the rest of the Command as ready to dismantle the rogue elements which were ensconced in the army. But he also seemed to finger those outside the military who had been part of the plot to assassinate Motšomotšo. This was major turnaround by Mokaloba. He was one of those soldiers in 2014 who were implicated in the attempt to overthrow the government. Indeed in his evidence before the Phumaphi Commission, Mokaloba was a cantankerous witness who claimed unfailing loyalty to Kamoli, dismissing Mahao as having never been a Commander of LDF. Now that he has changed tack there is hope that the militia has begun to self-destruct.

Major-General Lineo Poopa, Acting Army Commander also came out clearly in the memorial service to apologise for having failed to protect the Commander. “We are ashamed that we failed to protect our commander and we failed the nation, we failed the whole continent and we are sorry,” said Poopa. He talked about what his murdered predecessor had committed himself to and promised to continue where he had stopped.
He clearly explained what the SADC decisions are and also gave them reasons why these SADC decisions must be implemented. And he said they shall happen in a manner in which they will not harm anyone, saying only rule of law shall prevail. And I’ve also reiterated his words last week Friday, and I so repeat that Lesotho’s soldiers shall not be in harm’s way, but rule of law shall be enforced…
…Those soldiers who have been listening to people from outside the army command have been derailed and dabbling in politics….

Both Poopa and Mokaloba had been deep in the Kamoli corner for sometime but they seem determined to prove that they can wriggle out of their transgressions of old. Indeed, several soldiers who were involved in the murder of Motšomotšo have since been arrested and some charged with murder. Even others, who were also involved in some other murder cases, have been arrested. Five including a Brigadier and a Captain were charged yesterday (25/09/2017). In essence, the militia by murdering Motšomotšo may have worked against its interests.

The apparent turnabout of some in the military to show remorse genuine or otherwise in order to placate the public and in order to save their jobs was not reflected in the opposition. While they could not ignore the killing of Motšomotšo there was an embarrassing ambivalence. They regretted the killings of three senior officers and called for a Commission of Inquiry. In their statement read by Prime Minister Mosisili, there seemed to be no sign of outrage at this only regret and a need for an inquiry. For Mosisili and his allies who were at the press conference, Motšomotšo’s murder was just a footnote on the unfortunate deaths. He thus seems to have invoked a moral equivalence to the cold blooded murder of Motšomotšo by the two senior officers and their killing by the former’s bodyguards. Indeed the death of Motšomotšo was tucked towards the end of their statement rather than as a standalone or at the beginning of such a statement.It is extremely disappointing!

SADC’S response to the murder

SADC’s response to the developments in Lesotho was to the dispatch of the Ministerial Fact Finding Mission. The Mission was led by the Angolan Minister of External Affairs Georges Pinto Chikoti supported by other Troika Ministers and Ambassadors. It is their report which was tabled to the meeting of the Double Troika Summit in Pretoria on the 15th September 2017. The Fact Finding Mission observed and noted that there is a need to ensure that long-term solutions to the Lesotho crisis are found by supporting the government to undertake on an urgent basis the security sector reforms. It is clear from this report that recognition is now firm in SADC circles that Security Sector Reform must precede the broader reform process. This is what had been missing in all earlier Facilitation exercises, which saw politics as opposed to security as the source of Lesotho’s unstable environment. Thus in 2015, SADC prescribed elections as a solution rather than to suppress the army rebellion. Following the murder of Motšomotšo SADC has now been disabused of the tinkering around with the security vacuum in Lesotho but wants it solved.

Amongst the observations of the Fact Finding Mission were the following:
a) The need for an urgent deployment of a military and security technical fact finding team from the Double Troika to assess the security environment and requirements to ensure that peace and security is brought back to Lesotho. The Terms of Reference of the team should include an assessment of the previous interventions of SADC in Lesotho from 1998;
b) The need for re-training and mentoring of the LDF and also the need to weed out politicisation within the LDF. The need to ensure that the law prohibits politicians from interfering in the work of the LDF;
c) The need to review the role to be played by the King on the overall control of the army.
The above amongst others, indicates that there is now a deeper level of commitment to go to the bottom of the security challenges in Lesotho. The fact that the assessment of the successes and failures of the previous interventions was recommended is a big improvement already. Almost thirty years after the intervention and reforms, Lesotho is still where it was those years.

The Double Troika ultimately approved the deployment of a Contingent Force the size of which will be determined by the SADC Military Chiefs who have already met in Luanda in Angola. The directive was : the Chiefs of Defence and Security to assess the requirements, determine the appropriate size of the Contingent Force, and to prepare modalities for the deployment by 22nd September 2017, based on which, the secretariat should facilitate an urgent deployment by 1st November 2017…

The only outstanding issues will be finalised by the Status of Forces Agreement which could be signed in the coming weeks. This will determine the specific role that the SADC force will play in the coming months but in line with the decisions of the Double Troika. The implications of the above decisions for the militia are huge. For the first time the militia would not have the last word on its future. By killing Motšomotšo, the militia may have signed its death warrant.

Conclusion. Case for SADC military deployment in Lesotho
It is worth reiterating that Lesotho has been under the spell of the army rebellion from 2014 and since then successive regimes have either have had to endure that or embrace the rebellion. The military held sway on all the decisions and operations of the government. The intermittent and ineffective SADC interventions from 2015 onwards only kicked the can down the road rather than help to suppress the rebellion. More importantly, is that a large number of senior officers who did not willingly join the rebellion were either held in jail or forced into exile, while the rebellious junior officers were rapidly promoted two times in less than fifteen months. Some of those jumped ranks and are now part of the Command. The two who assassinated their Commander, were some of the prominent beneficiaries of the accelerated promotions process. Incidentally, they were also involved in the 2015 murder of Lt. General Mahao. The question therefore is how the rebellious troops can purge themselves.
It is delusional to expect that those in the Command, including the Acting Commander, who were united in trying to stage a coup in August 2015 and in overseeing the suppression of other soldiers since 2014 can suddenly reform themselves. First, they are unlikely to receive the trust of their colleagues who have borne the brunt of the crackdown since 2015. Second, they have to deal with other soldiers who have committed crimes, but are not in position to acknowledge the skeletons in their cupboards. The evidence given by several soldiers and the former Commissioner of Police during the Phumaphi Commission should have removed any doubt in most peoples’ minds that the LDF as presently constituted has embraced crime as its standard rather than the law.

As already pointed out, several soldiers have now been arrested for crimes including the murder of Lt. General Motšomotšo but nobody has yet been arrested for the bombings, High Treason, and the murder of both Sub-Inspector Ramahloko and Lt. General Mahao. It is those crimes which, unless a bargain is entered into, which will affect most of the members of the present Command of the LDF. This is why you need a Contingent Force to cleanse the organisation. Those in the Command who will remain need retraining and long-term observation. What we don’t need is the game which has been played by the current foreign mission at LDF which has been ensconced there but the military ethos has deteriorated while they are supposed to be training them to be professional.
Those later day converts to the view that we don’t need SADC troops in Lesotho are at best naive and at best opportunistic. No militia can dismantle itself. It has to be dismantled by someone with superior force or one perceived to have overwhelming force. SADC has committed itself to have its decisions implemented within the law. That’s what the Contingent Force will be expected to oversee.

We in lesothoanalysis wholeheartedly welcome our neighbours who have coming to put out the fire set on by the militia so that peace and stability returns to Lesotho.



Murder, politicians and rebellious soldiers

Murder as a political instrument in the 1990s
As I travel around the world and in social media, the constant question I tend to get is why do things like the killing of the Commander of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) last week happen? People have often also asked why when murder is such a horrendous crime, there is a pattern of protecting the culprits in Lesotho? Say what you want, this has become a routinised practice in Lesotho where senior military, senior police and politicians, some in uniform, have killed and attempted to hide their tracks. But murder has also tended to be followed by quite a lot of turmoil and subsequent changes at the top. It happened twice during the turbulent years of our never to be forgotten Military Council in the early 1990s; it happened in 2014 as part of attempted coup; it happened again in 2015 with the murder of Lt. General Maaparankoe Mahao; it happened again in March 2016 with the murder of Khetheng; and yet again it happened a week ago with the murder of Lt. General Mots’omot’so by some of his underlings.

Briefly murder and attempts to hide its commission has been a characteristic way in which those in office have tended to consolidate their rule. It has however been part of their undoing. During the early 1990s it emerged that the then Chairman of the Military Council, Major General Lekhanya, at the dead of night shot and killed a 21 year old student at the Lesotho Agricultural College by the name of Ramone. The initial strategy was to attempt to order a bodyguard who was with Lekhanya to make a false statement to the police claiming responsibility. This was however blown away by then Attorney General Maope who advised against that. Maope in a secret letter argued that, Mojakhomo, the bodyguard could not have shot the student because it was Mojakhomo who stayed with Ramone’s female companion and drove her to the police station. “I do not think Sgt. Mojakhomo is telling the truth,” the attorney general said in his memorandum, warning that the bodyguard is likely to break down under cross-examination at a public inquiry and reveal the truth about the shooting.

I am informing you of this matter so that you may persuade Sgt. Mojakhomo to be honest and reveal the identity of his companion that night. It might be better if the truth was told now to avoid any possible embarrassment to the government.

That strategy was abandoned but the inquest was fixed so that Lekhanya was absolved. This was however not before his opponents in the Military Council had attempted to use that to force him out of office. They failed because at least one of them had his own skeletons which Lekhanya was aware of. Colonel Sekhobe Letsie’s involvement in the kidnapping and brutal murder of two former Ministers, Makhele and Sixishe together with their wives two years earlier. This gruesome murder had been hidden until the raptures within the Military Council were broad to the surface by the murder of Ramone by Lekhanya. Having been cleared in a fixed inquest, Lekhanya moved swiftly to arrest Letsie and dismiss three other of his allies in the Military Council. Letsie went on to be convicted of murder and served several years in prison. This was result of murder. Both competitors, had callously murdered people at different times, but when one tried to use the murder of a student by the other, an even more gruesome murder was used to vanquish the opponent.

In both these cases above murder by key personnel precipitated the changes at state level. But more importantly, in both cases, gigantic attempts to hide and protect the murderers took place. Significantly, the two figures that murdered and doubled in politics, left a culture of impunity and can rightly are labelled as having laid the foundations of the present politicised army and its murderous track record. Not only did both of those emerge from the police into the army, but they left in both institutions, a legacy of unaccountability.

Politicians and the rebellion
Over and above the politicians in uniform as the two examples above have illustrated, and those I will deal with below, we have had a clearly visible and declared rebellion in the army since 2014. This rebellion was fuelled by some politicians, and later adopted by the government after the 2015 elections. Let us recall that early in 2014 three related incidents took place which formally brought to the broader public that there was a full scale military rebellion whereby the civilian government had lost control over the military.

 One Captain Hashatsi of the Special Forces, who as we learned later, answered directly to the Commander of the LDF pronounced that the then Commander of the LDF could not be removed from office by the government as long as he was alive. Rather than to discipline him a senior officer, Brigadier Mahao was court-marshalled for reprimanding Hashatsi. Hashatsi was to reiterate his stance publicly while giving evidence before the Phumaphi Commission which had been established by SADC following the murder of Lt. General Mahao;

 In January 2014 bombs by some of the rebellious soldiers were exploded in both the residences of the Prime Minister’s partner and that of the Commissioner of Police. This was probably an assassination attempt but it was an ominous sign that the rebellion had taken a new turn;

 In March 2014 in a Press Conference, Kamoli made it clear that he could not be removed by anybody. He went further to indicate that the attempt by Prime Minister Thabane to cancel the court-martial of Mahao would not stand and Prime Minister had been ill-advised. This was unprecedented and indicated that the rebellion was now in full force.

The developments leading to the attempted coup of 30th August 2014 were part of the rebellion. It is during that episode that Sub Inspector Ramahloko of the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) was brutally murdered by the rebellious soldiers. We all know that those who killed him were shielded from the courts by the de facto LDF Commander who had refused to leave office when he was dismissed. It is the same attitude to earlier ones, where murder has been a political instrument. Just like the murder of Makhele, Sixishe and their wives, Ramahloko’s murder took time to be accounted for, but it is one of the issues which have begun to bring about tumult within the LDF and cold blooded murder of its latest Commander.

Throughout this period, one sees a consistent hand which aligned with the rebellion. In the past, we could only deduce who the owners of these hands which were stirring up things in the LDF were, but from September 2014 to the present, those who were in the background, came to the fore. Shortly after the attempted coup, the then Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing began to project himself as an alternative Prime Minister. Thus after the announcement that Kamoli had been dismissed as Commander of the LDF, Metsing went on television to declare that Kamoli remains as the Commander of the force. Indeed, from then onwards no other person other than him and those in alliance with him were allowed on national television. But more significantly both Metsing’s party, Lesotho Congress for Democracy, LCD, and Pakalitha Mosisili’s Democratic Congress, which had been in power till the 2012 elections, publicly supported Kamoli’s defiance to leave office.

Tlohang Sekhamane who later became Lesotho Foreign Minister and later Finance Minister, went so far as to say that any attempt to remove Kamoli from office would lead to a bloodbath in Lesotho. Thus the invisible hand had now come to the open. As all those things were happening, the opposition parties allied to the rebellion and the LCD which was in government and opposing government, said absolutely nothing about the murder of Ramahloko. Murder had become routinised. It was no longer something that people worried about.

Post-2015 elections and adoption of the rebellion
The post-2015 elections led to the formation of a seven party coalition government led by Pakalitha Mosisili. One of the first things which the new government did was to remove the Commander of the LDF and re-appoint Kamoli as Commander retrospectively to 30/08/2014 the day he was removed from office. A witch-hunt against soldiers who were perceived to have accepted the new Commander in 2014 was begun. More than sixty soldiers were kidnapped, taken to the Setibing army camp and severely tortured. Some of those were later released while twenty three were ultimately charged in a court martial for mutiny. The kangaroo court they were being subjected to where the complainants, were now either prosecutors or part of the panel to judge them was vigorously opposed by lawyers to no avail. The court martial however never took place and is on the verge of being dissolved.

This witch-hunt culminated in the murder of the former Commander who had just been removed from office by some of those self-declared supporters of Kamoli. Mahao, was waylaid just outside Mokema, where he comes from and killed. Murder had once again surfaced and the government of the day attempted to hide behind the distinction between individual responsibility and also the responsibility of the state. Sechele, who before the High Court and also before the Phumaphi Commission of Inquiry declared himself as the Operation Commander, argued that soldiers should not be individually held responsible since they were undertaking an authorised operation. .

The national and international outcry following the murder of Mahao was matched by the silence of the government on bringing the murderers to account. The government’s hand was however finally moved to accept the setting up of an international commission of inquiry. That however did not mean that the government had finally accepted that the rebellion had gone out of hand. On the contrary evidence by the Prime Minister, his deputy and the Minister of Defence and National Security gave a picture of a government which was trying all it could to protect the murderous. Typical of answerers of government to the Phumaphi Commission were the following:

 Prime Minister Mosisili reluctantly accepted that Lt. General Mahao was legally appointed but argued that Kamoli had been removed unfairly. He expressed his full confidence in Kamoli but claimed he did not know circumstances of the operation to arrest or kill Mahao;

 Deputy Prime Minister Metsing stuck to his guns, that Kamoli was never legally removed from office. On the operation to arrest or kill Mahao, he accepted the version that Mahao was involved in a mutiny and died resisting arrest;

 Minister of Defence and National Security, Mokhosi, got a verbal report about the existence of a mutiny and gave authorisation to investigate. He claimed to know nothing about the investigations and the detention of soldiers since those are soldiers “things”. In essence according to Mokhosi, he needed not to know anything since the soldiers know best what to do. The rebellion had not only succeeded but seems to had taken over the government.

While the above are indicative, the most significant development took place when the Phumaphi Commission was about to complete its work. It is at this time that government withdrew its cooperation to the Commission. This was probably when it became clear that the Commission would not whitewash the matter under investigation. The evidence which took place in South Africa from exiles was boycotted by government lawyers. Hashatsi, who had been recalled as a witness, launched an urgent application in the High Court to stop the Commission from continuing with its work. Interestingly the respondents were the Prime Minister and Attorney General who had been linked with Hashatsi. Even the lawyers of the government and in the Commission and those who launched the case were the same. The conspiracy was clearly that Mosisili should not respond to the application so that Hashatsi would get a favourable judgement. This was however frustrated by Mrs Mahao who applied to be part of that suit.

The government then began to argue that the Phumaphi Commission report should not be released until the courts had completed Hashatsi’s case. This was unacceptable to SADC. But these actions indicate clearly that the government was not in charge. It had surrendered to the rebellion hence whatever Kamoli or Hashatsi said had to stay the way they wanted it to be. Murder had not only been legitimised, but attempts like providing an amnesty to all those in the army and the police and also civilians who thought they were acting to protect the state became necessary.
Dissolving the militia
After three and half years where the rebellion held sway, a new government took over in June 2017. The government from the beginning made it clear that the old order was going to disappear. Prime Minister Thabane during his inauguration spelled out that the civilian control over the army was not negotiable. He further announced that he was going to implement the decisions of SADC emanating from the Phumaphi Commission. These two announcements indicated that the rebellion was going to be ended. But the difficulty was that from 2015 most of the leaders of that rebellion had been rewarded with promotions leading them to be part of the Command. Some of those skipped ranks, and were promoted twice in fifteen months. Implementing those decisions which required suspension and investigation of their crimes was necessarily going to be difficult unless there was an external support.

At the same time, a newly appointed Commander of LDF from the beginning seemed determined to bring the army under the control of the government. His murder was directly related to his acceptance of the principle of civilian control over the army. Mot’somot’so had apparently told the army that all those who have cases to answer for their crimes will have to as part of the implementation of SADC decisions. The day he was murdered was preceded by the decision to sent three Commandos who were implicated in the murder of Lisebo Tang near the residence of the former Commander of the LDF Lt. General Kamoli. After she was killed her family was intimidated from talking to anybody about the murder by Kamoli’s guards and were given M10.000 funeral expenses. This was how the army behaved. They murder and know that they are immune from the law.

Government sources indicate that a day before Mot’somot’so was murdered, he had released several officers who had gone beyond retirement age. Some of the names in that list are known to have been very active members of the militia who face criminal prosecution. Terminating their contracts, sent a clear message that Mot’somot’so wanted to follow a different route from that of his predecessor. Thus on Tuesday 05/09/2017 when the Commandos were sent to the police, the tension was already high. Reports indicate that three officers went to Commander’s office and accused him of selling them out to both the police and the government. Calmly Mot’somot’sio is reported to have told them that they should wait outside until he had finished talking to a guest in the office and he would explain to them why it had to be so. One of those pulled a gun and shot him dead. It is when they went out of that office that the guards shot both Hashatsi and Sechele. The third officer whose identity I don’t know escaped but has since been arrested. As a result of the seniority of those soldiers who went on to kill the Commander, the guards were obviously constrained from stopping them to go to the Commander’s office even if they were armed.

This is characteristic of the way they had behaved over the years. They answered to no one but Kamoli who shared their view of the world. With Kamoli out of LDF, there was bound to be trouble for anyone trying to dismantle his militia. Mot’somot’so died trying to do what any Commander should do. It could have been anyone. The task of dismantling a militia is not an easy one. A few months ago, I warned that the militia no longer has the capacity to overthrow the government. It however retains the power to assassinate and cause disruption. This is what the two rebels did in desperation because they knew that their days of freedom to kill were numbered. They killed the second Commander of the army within two years. Any delay to dismantle the militia will certainly lead to more deaths. I was however encouraged by the statements by the current leadership of LDF in Mot’somot’so’s memorial service yesterday that they will hunt and bring to justice all those who were involved in the murder of Mot’somot’so.
May he rest in peace!




Protecting our government from itself: why Yan Xie has to go!

You must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place, oblige it to control itself.― James Madison, The Federalist Papers

The relationship between the government and the people can be as simple as Madison’s, one of the founders of the United States Constitution, put it in the The Federalist Papers. The principle is simple. The people give the government control over themselves and the government learns to control itself. It is not about the legal constraints that may or may not exist. It is about knowing what is right and what is wrong. The relations between the government and the people in the final analysis are regulated by moral ethical issues and self-regulation. Let no one say,” I can do it.” It is about whether it should be done and whether it is the right thing to do.

The June 2017 elections in Lesotho removed a government which had outlived its usefulness as a result of lack of accountability and also rampant corruption. The expectations of those like me who voted were high and we do not want to go back to the trenches with the new government. But the new government must at the same time show that it respects the people. It is not enough to say that the people have conferred power to the government; such a government in Madison’s terms is obliged to control itself. Let us not hear any of the government surrogates uttering the usual mumbo jumbo that it is the prerogative of the Minister or the Prime Minister to do certain things. We have to see the difference between what we rejected and what we voted for. Prerogatives are not a licence to do whatever one wants. They are expected to be exercised with diligence.

Let us also not hear the surrogates telling us about the honeymoon period! Only human beings deserve such. Institutions need no respite from public pressure and are not entitled to a honeymoon. The people gave the government power to rule, but not to disrespect them. The announcement by the Acting Government Secretary to the effect that “….the Office of the Right Honourable the Prime Minister has appointed Mr Yan Xie as the Lesotho Head of Special Projects and Prime Minister’s Special Envoy and Trade Advisor on China-Asia Trade Network “brought a chill down my spine. At first I thought it was fake news, but soon realised that it was not. Our government had acted in a manner that brings shame to us as citizens.

In every country there are places and institutions in government which are restricted or protected from everyday interactions and people. The office of the Prime Minister is one such place. In all the countries of the world, offices like those are sensitive and places of pride. Those are places where it would not be acceptable to find foreign nationals, heading strategic organs. I already hear, the usual mumbo jumbo that Xie is a naturalised Mosotho. I have lived through all post colonial governments in Lesotho and have witnessed with horror how those naturalisations or outright sale of Lesotho passports have taken place. This is how, a large number of countries which used to allow visa free travel for Lesotho citizens withdrew those privileges. I’m not impressed. Xie may have been naturalised, but it is well-known that he is not clean. Xie is probably the biggest corruptor in Lesotho.

I will therefore not waste my time trying to find out whether he got Lesotho citizenship legitimately or otherwise. Those who the time and energy may follow us other things in Australia before they howl, oh he is a citizen. I’m reminded that in South Africa close by we have some corruptors who have also acquired South African citizenship under opaque circumstances. We are now witnessing a clamour for a judicial inquiry whether they have captured the state. Issues about citizenship and loyalty to the state are too complex to be discussed in a flippant manner that government surrogates would like us to do. In some countries issues of nationality and citizenship are taken so seriously that there are stipulations on what a naturalised citizen can and cannot do. The Australian cabinet crisis shows the sensitive nature of citizenship.

More importantly as already alluded to above, Xie is a well known personality in Lesotho. His business empire is in retail, construction, and pharmaceutical and the meat industry. Except in retail and construction, his businesses are takeovers under opaque circumstances of government businesses. But also significant is that, he tends to hide his real ownership of most of those businesses, claiming that he finances them but does not own them. Fortunately Lesotho Revenue Authority (LRA) has not bought into his claims. The question therefore is who exactly is Yan Xie? We have to explore whether Xie has the necessary credibility to Head a unit in the Prime Minister’s Office, let alone be a “..Prime Minister’s Special envoy…”

Yan Xie’s world
Yan Xie has been in business in Lesotho for a long time now. He is generally regarded as the leader of what has come to be called the Shanghai group of Chinese in Lesotho who run all types of businesses from cafes to construction. They generally are under his wing. Xie represents them and often collects donations from them for distribution when need arises. Xie knows and sponsors most politicians who matter in Lesotho. It was well known that since 2006 his Jackpot Supermarket was a shop of choice for several ministers, who did not have to pay for their routine grocery requirements. In return Xie is well looked after with government tenders and acquisition of government businesses whenever they go for sale. It is through his connections that he has been able to acquire the Lesotho Pharmaceutical Company in Mafeteng and Meraka Lesotho Abattoir among others. In all those acquisitions, Xie does not tender, but charms his way to politicians whom he sponsors in any case.

Xie acquired his citizenship on 22/12/2006 in terms of Certificate No: NAT.23/2006. There is no need for now to spell out the background to his naturalisation. But it is important to note that at that time up to the present, Xie has brought under his wing politicians of all stripes and used his Jackpot Supermarket before it was reconstituted, as a cash cow for several ministers. In addition, he has dished out money and other favours to a long list of politicians including funding their election campaigns. Being a benefactor of the powerful, Xie had become untouchable until LRA summoned the courage to investigate him culminating in his 2011 debacle where several of his businesses were raided and closed for some time for suspicion of fraud.

In reports at the time Lesotho Revenue Authority (LRA) suspected that Xie had been understating tax obligations for Jackpot Supermarket, his other retail shops and the two construction companies. He was also suspected of making false customs declarations for goods that his businesses imported from South Africa. Overall LRA suspected that he owed over M20 million in taxes for submitting documents which understated his income; he also understated his customs funds obligations, and generally did not run a clean business. With the assistance of the police, most of his known businesses were raided and closed. The benefactors of Xie were up in arms, but LRA stood its ground.

Two things are important here:
a)all known businesses of Xie were closed while LRA went on with its investigations. It is not known whether and how much Xie settled his obligations since LRA does not disclose such issues about its clients unless there is a court order. But what is known is that Xie liquidated his businesses and months later resumed business under new companies. The old companies which owed LRA no longer existed. As a result of the closure and the liquidation of those companies a number of local companies which were owed money had no alternative but to write-off substantial amounts of moneys owed. One company whose records I have seen wrote off almost M500, 000 of the debts Xie’s company owed.
b) Xie also runs a lot of companies as a silent or a hidden partner. For example he ran a company called Jackpot Wholesalers which was under a different organisation as opposed to Jackpot Supermarket. He claimed then that he was not the owner but the financier of that wholesale. It was closed, but I have no confirmation that it was liquidated like the other companies. He has a string of such companies.

The picture which emerges out of Xie’s dealings is of an extremely devious person whose business modus operandi is one of a corruptor as we deal with below. Xie doesn’t care about those businesses as long as they are a front and a means through which he stays in the front seat for government tenders. He is a ruthless tenderpreneur.

As a result of his connections, Xie has acquired several government linked businesses as already mentioned. But more significant, is that in most of the businesses he has acquired are run by some of the people who gave him the tenders without tendering. For now I will resist the temptation to mention them by name, but should the need arise, I’m more than willing to expose the scams our new envoy is engaged in. He has also won a large number of government construction businesses from Metolong to closer home in Maseru. I now know that he is already circling around to be awarded a contract to complete a new State House without tender. Xie has no shame!

Whenever he is assured of winning a government tender without going through the normal process, he is willing to do so. But quite often he uses his surrogates to tender while he lobbies for them in government. As soon as they win the tender Xie either takes over directly by buying them off or uses one of his well known tricks of saying that he finances that business. This is exactly what happened recently in the scandalous police uniform tender whereby Xie’s surrogates were awarded a tender illegitimately and then he won the trophy by buying out the main shareholder and Director of the company. Without doing anything but use his influence he had a M7, 000,000 police uniform tender. The matter is still running its course in the lethargic Lesotho courts but by the time judgement is issued, Xie’s time as a supplier of police uniforms will probably have expired. He will have fulfilled the terms of the contract and those who challenged will probably win a Pyrrhic victory. If they ultimately win several years down the line, the best they can get is to sue for compensation.

An interesting thing here is that Xie is an ever smiling character but he has around him a former police officer who does his other dirty work. People know that this is the guy who navigates Xie from falling in the hands of the law enforcement officers. If in Lesotho, we can have a person charged for delaying to register with the tax authorities, but it only remains with LRA to wrestle him and no charges follow you should know that something is wrong. Both his connections and the connections of his police friend matter!
The question therefore is whether Xie is fit for office? Is he a fit and proper person to be appointed to such an important position?

Why Yan Xie must go!
Anybody who understands global developments knows that China is an evolving economic superpower. Over and above the setting up of BRICS funding mechanisms, China has established and committed billions of dollars in development finance for Africa over the past decade as Beijing seeks to secure its political and economic clout on the continent. Any country in the world, developed or developing is scrambling to have a share in development finance and trade with this emerging giant. Dealing with this giant requires an active engagement and also sensible strategies lest one chases a passing chimera. This is why most countries, have established specific Councils which are able to strategies on how to take advantage of the potential development and trade bonanza. It is not just about grabbing anybody who is from China and assigning him to head special projects and become an envoy. More critically it is about identifying knowledgeable and credible people who could advance our interests as a country. I fear that the global business community will see us as a captured state with a corruptor as our envoy.
Xie is far from such a person. The only skill he has is as a corruptor not as a business guru. Let us just consider what he has done with “these gifts” of the businesses he has acquired as a first step. None of those businesses have prospered. He, for all intents and purposes runs a medium size supermarket and those businesses he has been gifted by successive regimes in Lesotho. The rest of his empire is dependent on government tenders.
In most countries, for people to be eligible to key positions, they require that an ethics test be passed. This is a test which attempts to find out whether the person is a fit and proper one to be entrusted with key responsibilities. Unfortunately in Lesotho, our system does not require people to be evaluated on their ethically propriety. Indeed, if Xie was evaluated, on the basis of his business dealings alone, he would have been barred from assuming any public office. He has sponsored key people in the old regime and he sponsors others in the present regime. For now, I will not release the nature and extent of the sponsorship, but am horrified how people are indebted to him.

This is why I call upon the government to release Xie from his appointment in order not to continue to embarrass us. We have gone through too much to be settled with a corruptor. To both the old regime and the present one, I wish them silence. The old regime doesn’t have to do anything but keep quiet about Xie. For the new regime, we only require them to release Xie from his post. I don’t think it will be good for anybody if we were to engage in a damaging debate about the extent of Xie’s control over them. This government needs to be protected from itself. The opposition is too weak to pose any danger to this government, but the recklessness of this government on this matter will ensure that it does not last five years. Let me repeat Xie’s sponsorship of key politicians in Lesotho is extensive and those who want to challenge me on this are advised to seat back and relax lest all is revealed. Xie must go!

The police who kidnap, torture and kill colleagues. Understanding Khetheng’s fate

It took more than fifteen months of dodging and ducking by the police to hide what had happened to their colleague, Mokalekale Khetheng who had disappeared in their hands; it took about fifteen months for the Mosisili regime to devise and attempt to hide the well-known secret of the murder of Khetheng; it took more than twelve months for an urgent habeas corpus application in the High Court to be finalised (today 14/08/2017 judgement is expected to be delivered in the High Court). But it took just two weeks for the new Acting Commissioner of Police to have suspects in the murder arrested, charged and the body of Khetheng exhumed. This is a sign that Lesotho’s criminal justice system is broken. It is however redeemable. The arrest of several senior police officers for murder is indicative that the cancer which was spreading within the police service can be stopped.

Of all the abhorrent things which happened in Lesotho since 2015 when the Mosisili regime took over, none was as fundamental in undermining the rule of law as the systematic dismantling of the police service and creating in its place a murderous militia made up of army, intelligence, and police officers. The establishment of a Joint Police and Army Unit signalled the beginning of the end of a professional police service which did not see civilians as enemies of the state. It has since emerged that both the National Intelligence Service agents and the police were now being trained on military intelligence as opposed to their traditional skills. I applaud the Acting Commissioner of Police for having dispensed with that a week after he took over.

The Khetheng case is one illustration of how far the rot had gone in turning a law enforcement organ into a criminal unit. Though some of the suspects in Khetheng’s kidnap and murder were generally senior officers, the bigger question will remain whether they were their own agents or whether they were under superior orders to murder Khetheng. For purposes of this article, we are trying to understand the modus operandi of this criminal syndicate. If those who committed crimes were willing idiots, the question will remain why the majority of untainted police officers became complicit? How can one explain the fact that it only came to the courage of one of the most junior policewoman, ‘Mabohlokoa Makotoko to break ranks thus providing a lead to the arrest of the syndicate? But more importantly, who is accountable for the existence and protection of this criminal gang which kidnapped, tortured, killed and hid Khetheng’s body for almost ten months? It is no use jailing the foot soldiers if the mastermind goes free!

The plot to kidnap Khetheng

March 26th 2016 is the day that Mokalekale Khetheng was arrested by four police officers while he was in a feast at Sebothoane, just outside Hlotse in Leribe where he was taken to. He was apparently out on bail for an alleged arson in Mokhotlong where he was based. His arrest from the beginning, as evidence emerged later, was not accidental. In two unrelated cases at the Lesotho High Court, the elements of the plot against Khetheng emerged. First was the application for a habeas corpus by Khetheng’s father which was launched in June 2016 after he received unsatisfactory response from Leribe police regarding the whereabouts of his missing son. The second case was an application in the High Court by Policewoman ‘Mabohlokoa Makotoko who was challenging her transfer from Hlotse Police Station to Tlalinyane police station after refusing to lie about the whereabouts of Khetheng.

Makotoko whose evidence became central to both cases in an affidavit revealed that she feared for her live, should she be transferred from her station where she is well-known and has insights into the disappearance of Khetheng. She suspected that she would be killed if she were to be transferred before the case of Khetheng has been finalised in the courts. This statement on its own was significant since it revealed that the police kill those who may reveal their evil deeds. Makotoko spelled out that it was generally understood, that Khetheng has been killed. She did not reveal the suspects, but by confronting Mofolo, Head of CID in Leribe, it was clear that she was pretty certain that Mofolo either killed Khetheng or handed him to those who killed him. Mofolo was handed both Khetheng and the handcuffs, and the latter was never seen alive thereafter. A trainee at Police Training College would have solved that case within weeks!
The plot to hide traces of him had been laid a long time before Khetheng was arrested. This is why police were instructed to arrest him but not bring him to the police station. In evidence in the High Court, policewoman Makotoko testified that their senior at Hlotse Police station, telephonically instructed them to move around with Khetheng after his arrest rather than to take him to the police cells. They did not do so since they were hungry and wanted to go for their lunch

She testified that after arresting Khetheng with three other police officers at Sebothoane on March 26, 2016 they brought him to their police station in Hlotse where they handed him to the then Inspector Mofolo who was heading the Leribe Criminal Investigation Division (CID).

She explained that when they were about to enter the police station gate, they found Inspector Mofolo already waiting for them by the gate. He asked them to hand to him the vehicle key and they left Khetheng with him while they took two other suspects they brought from Ha Khabo into the charge office. Makotoko further testified that Mofolo asked for a handcuff which she gave him and indicated and that was the last she saw Khetheng. The lead was clear. Mofolo was a key part of the plot to arrest Khetheng, and hide his whereabouts. He was apparently desperate that police records should not show that he ever arrived at the police station. Being head of the criminal investigation division in the district, Mofolo knew that the paper trail is an important part of investigations. His tactics and those of his accomplices, succeeded in warding off investigations on Khetheng’s whereabouts for over fifteen months. The attempt to hide their tracks might have succeeded but for the bravery of the two female police officers who refused to dishonor their badge .Their two male colleagues pathetically accepted lie for their seniors. With heads down after their arrest, they apparently have confessed that they lied under oath in the High Court.

When the plotters were now faced with an application for habeas corpus in the High Court, their well rehearsed strategy of obfuscation became clear. They would make bland denials and attempt to delay the case until; hopefully the Khetheng family gave up. It was a well-known strategy of government lawyers in the past few months to attempt to delay cases if they felt they were on flimsy ground. We therefore expected that they would attempt to block the habeas corpus application from speedily proceeding. It would be cases of the police are studying the matter; there was snow in the mountains where Khetheng used to work; or the Commissioner of police has been away. The funny thing about the snow issue in court was that Khetheng was arrested or kidnapped in Leribe not in Mokhotlong. The snow issue was clearly just to ensure that the case did not proceed speedily. Delaying cases is such a well-rehearsed strategy that I had dared one of the lawyers involved in the case after one postponement, that the case would be made to track until 2017. He did not believe me, but it did.

Over and above the usual delaying tactics, the police claimed that Khetheng had been dismissed for desertion. In an opposing affidavit, Officer Commanding Hlotse Police Station Superintendent Thabo Tšukulu alleged that Khetheng absconded from duty from 11 Mar2016 and never reported back to work. Whether he was still a serving police officer or not was irrelevant. The Khetheng family wanted his body to be produced by those who know where he was. While this did not really matter in a habeas corpus application, the police assertions were meant to justify why they had not launched an investigations on the disappearance of a serving police officer. He was no longer in the police service, he argued.

To confound this matter even further, the response of the Commissioner of Police, to the police Union was more astounding. In their Annual General Meeting, the Union wanted to know the fate of Khetheng. Rather than respond to the query, Molahlehi Letsoepa said the missing cop was not a member of LEPOSA and he could not comment on the matter as it was before the courts of law. This is startling! Whether Khetheng was a member of the Union or not is not relevant. A law enforcement officer under Letsoepa had disappeared but he felt that his best bet is to hide behind union membership. If he did not know more than he has been ready to talk about, why did Letsoepa attempt to transfer Makotoko and later fire her for insubordination? The investigations are likely to reveal more than what we presently know.

Torture, murder and hiding Khetheng’s corpse

The elaborate plan to hide circumstances surrounding Khetheng’s disappearance in Leribe have failed and the body which the family has identified as that of Khetheng is now under DNA checks. The matter which however has come to the fore as preliminary viewing of the body has revealed is that Khetheng was severely tortured and probably died of that or a suspected gunshot on the head. The post-mortem results will probably not be made available before the trial. But to the naked eye, Khetheng died a gruesome death. The murder trial will probably give an indication on how he died and what were the motives for such a gruesome death. This sadistic killing, by police on another is unbelievable even though it is true. The police had become sadistic killing machines!

It is not clear yet, where and how Khetheng was killed, but his body was dumped at or near a rural police station in Maseru, at least 120 km from where he was last seen in Leribe. The discovery of the body at Ha Mokhalinyane did not trigger any alarm bells since Khetheng’s disappearance had not been made known to police and the public. As fate had it, the scene was attended to by a professional policeman who was meticulous on records and details. This was to become crucial when the body was discovered where it was buried. Khetheng’s picture and his clothes were to be matched with the body and clothes in the grave. after exhumation. He was moved from ha Mokhanyane soon after he attended the corpse which was found around the police station Again as fate had it, the policeman who headed that Mokhalinyane Police station, was part of the five men team which is now conducting investigations on Khetheng’s disappearance. What was the plan to dispose of the body is also what has shown the hand of those who planned the killing.

After the body was found near ha Mokhalinyane Police Station, it was sent to the Lesotho Funeral Service mortuary at Ha ‘Majane and kept there for three months. The body was then moved to another Lesotho Funeral Service mortuary at Ha ‘Mant’sebo until it was finally moved to the Maseru mortuary a day before unknown corpses which had been there for more than two years were to be buried at Lepereng cemetery. All these movements could not have been made by the Leribe police since this area does not fall within their area of operation. It was all done by the C.I.D. personnel probably in Maseru Head Office.

Another puzzling thing about these movements of Khetheng’s body is that he had been dead less than two years, yet his body was tucked in with those of unknown people who had died more than two years. The complicity of some of the staff at Lesotho Funeral Service in this crime is obvious. If Khetheng’s body was not in Maseru at the time preparations for the burial of unknown corpses were being prepared for burial, how is it that the plaque with his details was already inscribed with those which had been in Maseru for over two years? As investigations proceed, I hope they will be able to provide clarity. The weekend three of those employees of Lesotho Funeral Service spent with the police, before they were released today should have provided indicators. of who was in charge of that operation .

There is a saying that those who live by the sword will die by the sword. As I recall two senior police officers, Mofolo and Tšukulu who had been rewarded with promotions after the grisly murder of Khetheng have now been charged with murder. It took them just one day in police custody to lead investigators to the place they had buried Khetheng. Knowing what they had done to Khetheng, they probably feared for the worst if they did not cooperate. Indeed, sources indicate that an even senior police officer has confessed to a magistrate about the killing of Khetheng. That indicates that there are some at the pinnacle of the police management who are also expected to be arrested. Indeed the Acting Commissioner of speaking to policemen at Mazenod indicated that “…More people are still going to be arrested in connection with Khethen’s death…”


I have attempted to bring to the fore the fact that these macabre killings in Lesotho had spread but are now being committed by the police. But more importantly, the previous government attempted to politically defend and protect the criminals who kidnapped and murdered Khetheng. In Parliament in response to a question by a Member of Parliament for Mokhotlong on Khetheng’s disappearance, the Acting Minister of Police, who unfortunately is a lawyer by profession, obfuscated and tried to ultimately use the well-worn-out argument that the matter is now in the courts. He denied that the government had anything to do with his unknown disappearance.

In the courts, the government employed a Senior Council to defend against the Khetheng family’s application to have the body of Khetheng produced. They used every delaying tactic to ensure that Mofolo who was last seen with Khetheng did not testify. When he was supposed to do it was too late. But Tšukulu who headed the Leribe Police Station testified claiming that he has no knowledge of the whereabouts of Khetheng. Both have now been charged of murder. It shows that those who dishonour the badge are not only at the junior levels of the police. Indeed the two female police officers at Hlotse are worth more that Mofolo and T’sukulu combined in honour. The deserve an award for bravery if there is one like that.

Like in the LDF, the recent promotions of policemen have revealed that those who commit crimes were rewarded with hefty promotions. Indeed some of those promotions which were processed and announced on Sunday 04/06/2017, a day of the elections, have now been cancelled. The bulk of the beneficiaries have questions to answer for several high level crimes.

But who ultimately is accountable for this miserable state of affairs in the collapse of the criminal justice system? Does this end with the police? Aren’t those political bosses who facilitated and protected criminals also accountable? History will judge!



Righting one of Mosisili’s injustices: reinstatement of Justice Mosito as President of Court of Appeal

The rule of thumb of good governance is that public appointments and dismissals be done in good faith and without malice and vendetta. Those who forget this rule often unwittingly work against their own interests. They look petty and foolish at the end. This is the case about the concerted effort to block the appointment of Professor Mosito as President of the Court of Appeal of Lesotho. It is the same crew which mounted an unprecedented campaign to finally remove him from the Court of Appeal in the dying days of the Mosisili regime. No strategy or tactic was spared including setting up things akin to a kangaroo court to impeach him. So great was the venom of this gang, that even when Mosito resigned, they were not happy with that. They, contrary to the law which indicates that resignation aborts the process, still insisted on the issue of a bizarre gazette dismissing him as President of the Court of Appeal. It was the usual small headedness as a result of an acute inferiority complex which drove them. Small minds could not stand to have a qualified jurist who was not dependent on patronage and a scramble for legal fees from a captured government.
This crew thought finally it had succeeded to get rid of Mosito in the judicial system in Lesotho, but it had miscalculated. Mosito was reinstated a week ago in a government gazette following the demise of the Mosisili regime. It was in one sense the most emphatic rebuke of the gang which included political opportunists, lawyers and some foreign judges who served in the Court of Appeal before Mosito was appointed in January 2015. But more critically, it was a rejection of the appointment of a crew of retired South African judges who were always called upon by people with vested interests in the outcome of the impeachment of Mosito. Perhaps the greatest favour of all to Basotho was the broadcast of the proceedings of the Tribunal which had been assembled to impeach Mosito, by PC FM. It brought to the fore that the Tribunal did not even approximate one which sought fairness and truth. It was truly a Kangaroo Court, which did not even disguise its ultimate objective of getting rid of Mosito. The government side did not even have to present evidence in the normal way. The Tribunal sought evidence and prevented Mosito and his lawyers from challenging such evidence.
Mosito’s reinstatement is a welcome development but we have to understand the nature of the campaign to prevent him from assuming office and also the subsequent one which resulted in his removal in spite of his resignation. How did this conspiracy begin? What was driving this crew?

Ganging up against Mosito’s appointment
The conspiracy to block Mosito to become the President of the Court of Appeal probably started soon after the vacancy in the office occurred. This was caused by the resignation of Justice Ramolibedi who was facing several cases of impeachment ahead of criminal charges which had been spelt out in his impeachment. The public however only came to know about the manoeuvres in December 2014 when five lawyers wrote a well publicised statement queering the appointment of Mosito as the President of the Court of Appeal. The five lawyers, namely Salemane Phafane, Motiea Teele, Karabo Mohau, Zwelakhe Mda (all King’s Counsel) and Attorney Qhalehang Letsika; issued a statement ahead of the appointment challenging Mosito’s appointment. Among other things, the five lawyers argued that government could not make such a crucial decision as it would only be in power on a caretaker basis following the dissolution of parliament on 5 December 2014.

If the five lawyers had only raised the propriety or not and not the legality of appointing senior personnel when the government is in a caretaker mode, their case would have been politically understandable. The lawyers also urged Advocate Mosito to decline the appointment, noting: “Accordingly, we advise our learned colleague who has been approached, to take a principled position not to accept this appointment.
“We wish to remind him that in countries such as Kenya, judges appointed in similar controversial circumstances have been forced to resign. It is a fate we do not wish to be visited upon our learned colleague.” This was the beginning of the public spat which later went on to concretise into a two year campaign to remove him from office. The threat, that if he did not decline the appointment he may be forced to resign was clear. Theirs was not an empty threat; on the contrary it was a promise to have him removed. The five lawyers went on to appeal to the government to stop the process of appointment of Mosito.

We appeal to the powers-that-be to avoid bringing the administration of justice into disrepute and undermining the independence of the judiciary. This is because judicial officers serve important roles in ensuring human rights are protected and that all citizens have recourse in the courts of law in the event such rights are violated.
Other than to refer to an earlier case where Mosito had represented or provided legal opinion to the Prime Minister, there was nothing tangible about their fear of the administration of justice being undermined. It was just a political talk which masked personal interests of some of those who challenged Mosito’s appointment. Indeed in a later statement, the five lawyers ended up conceding that theirs was not about competence but timing of the appointment. At the time of his appointment, Dr Mosito was not only an academic lawyer as Dean of the Faculty of law, but was President of the Labour Appeal Court and had been in several panels of the Court of Appeal before. He was thus eminently better qualified than any of the people who questioned his appointment.

Later after Mosito was appointed, his antagonists told a journalist that they would challenge the appointment in the court of law. They did not except to the extent that all but one of those emerged as legal representatives of the Attorney General when he attempted to have the appointment nullified.

With intimidation having failed, the next stage was two pronged.. First was the sudden resignation of five South African judges in the Court of Appeal. These were Justice Douglas Scott, Justice Craig Howie, Justice Wilfred Thring, Justice Roger Cleaver and Justice Ian Farlam. Whether that was in protest that Scott who had been acting as President of the Court of Appeal was not confirmed, or whether that was an attempt to cripple the court, is not relevant. The critical point is that the mass resignation had a demonstration effect to the populace and also the legal fraternity. The spectre of a collapsing judicial system was powerful. It was a shameful thing to do for judges who had participated and enforced the awful apartheid state laws in South Africa. Mosito’s appointment, even if they objected to, did not approximate the wrongs of the system they enforced over decades in South Africa.

The mass resignations from the Court were exacerbated by the apparent reluctance of the Judicial Services Commission to fill the vacancies. Even after the President of the Court had taken the initiative to identify suitable candidates, the Judicial Services Commission declined to make appointments. That had the unfortunate result of destabilising the court. Only in October 2015 were cases on appeal held with one session having been cancelled. Only the outcry by the broader public forced the hand of the Judicial Services Commission to act.

A fascinating development is that after Mosisto was removed from office after a long campaign, three of those judges who resigned in mass, re-emerged with Farlam as acting President. The others are Louw and Cleaver. It will be fascinating to see if their consciences will now lead to their second mass resignation now that Mosito has been reinstated. But even at the personal level, one wonders how they will feel after their previous disgraceful conduct. This is more pertinent since a certain Mamello Morrison, who was Mosisili’s Senior Private Secretary, went on radio a few weeks before the June 2017 elections, stating that government has its loyal judges in South Africa who would be on standby should the Lesotho judges make adverse judgements against the government. (Maburu a rona a melomo e mefubelu a standby).

The second path that was followed by Mosito’s protagonists was to attempt to nullify his appointment through the courts of law. The Attorney General, Makhethe, launched a constitutional case on among others, that cabinet had not blessed the appointment. He lost both in the Constitutional Court and on appeal to the Court of Appeal. The interesting matter here was that the Attorney General’s legal team was composed of four of the five lawyers who had originally cried foul when they got wind that Mosito was going to get the nod for the President of the Court of Appeal. Perhaps as a sideline, we later found out that one of the five lawyers who felt aggrieved had been touted as the President of the Court of Appeal. It could therefore have been a question of sour grapes for one of them.
The moral bankruptcy of both the five lawyers and the Attorney General was later to be revealed when they did not raise a finger when six weeks before the June 2017 elections, another South African judge, Robert Nugent, was appointed as President of the Court of Appeal by the outgoing government. This is a case which Attorney General, Makhethe facilitated. It was a case of all hands on deck to prevent the possibility of Mosito being reappointed by the successor regime. It failed. This campaign did not stop after the legal collapse and shameful mass resignation of judges. It was carried to another level to fulfil the promise by the five lawyers who objected to Mosito’s appointment to force him to resign like judges in Kenya as they said. They sought to find fault in order to disqualify him as a judge.

Mosito’s ouster and reappointment
After losing in court and also having lost out in preventing the appointment of new judges into the Court of Appeal, the anti-Mosito crew now sought to find other ways of dislodging him. The entry of Leaba Thetsane, Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) became the central pillar of the new efforts to get rid of Mosito. Thetsane now sought to have Mosito charged with a delay to register and pay taxes with the Lesotho Revenue Authority (LRA). This was despite the fact that there was no complaint from the LRA. Indeed during the impeachment process masterminded by the Attorney General, LRA did not present any evidence against Mosito. Documents from that body were accepted by the Tribunal without anybody in that organisation presenting or authenticating them. It was a bizarre process which had only one object, to get rid of Mosito at all costs. But more importantly, the efforts were meant to oust him and taint him with a criminal record in order to ensure that he would not return to the bench.

It is remarkable that two senior judicial officers, Attorney General and the DPP colluded to remove Mosito from the bench. Was it as part of a common purpose with the five lawyers in December 2014 who had threatened to have Mosito removed? This can’t be farfetched in view of the fact that in all the cases which both the Attorney General launched to nullify Mosito’s appointment there were always those same lawyers representing his office. It is also significant that the same team represented Thetsane when he challenged his retirement late in 2014.

While Makhethe facilitated the impeachment, Thetsane pursued the prosecution which could only take place after the impeachment process had taken its course. All the above were achieved with specially recruited South African prosecutors and retired South African judges. Thus while a vicious panel was assembled to impeach Mosito no matter what, Thetsane was also assembling his South African prosecutors who would present their case to South African judges. While the former process had run its course, the latter still has not. The justice system which is run by people with personal vendettas serving a decaying regime of Mosisili had everything to fear from an eminent jurist who was not indebted to them. They haunted Mosito out of office to serve personal egos and used a sycophantic South African band of prosecutors and judges to achieve their objectives. At the end Mosito had the last laugh. They will continue to lick their wounds but one of Mosisili’s worst injustices has been righted. Mosito is back and lesothoanalysis heartily congratulates him.

Congratulations Professor Mosito for your worthy appointment. You took a lot as they haunted you out, but you did not despair but continued to prosper. You go back to serve in the courts after your deserved promotion in the University to a new Professorial Rank. Welcome!!!


Dismantling Mosisili’s militia: progress and challenges

The newly formed government of Lesotho as expected faces a phenomenal task to unscramble a deliberate plan by Mosisili to rule from the grave. As indicated, in an earlier article, central to the scheme was to ensure that the government would be bogged down for up to a year trying to understand what has been done and how to undo it. Though some thought that, Mosisili’s plan was just about his relatives and close allies, it was clear to me that those were transparent decoys. The real focus of the plan was to undermine the rule of law and to ensure that those who committed crimes would continue to control the levers of power and like in 2014 attempt to destabilise the government.

This gigantic plan to deceive everybody seems to have failed. The speed and focus with which the government has begun to dismantle the militia, must have taken the conspirators by surprise. The government seems to have decided to break the back of the snake before going to smash its head. The militia which had been formed had three main components. The police was its fulcrum as I will show below; the National Security Service was its eyes; and the army was the executioner. In a situation where the fulcrum and eyes have been chopped, there is little that the remaining part of the militia can do. This is more so when the militia is aware that it is now under observation internally by the other security services and externally by the neighbours. It is a situation where the militia can only resort to assassinations but cannot stage a coup.

In order to understand the enormity of the task at hand in dismantling this militia, it is important to outline what was the nature of their operation as individual units and also how the militia effectively had become a state within a state. The point to emphasise is that Mosisili was only a symbolic head of the militia. The effective head was Kamoli even after he had ostensibly left the LDF Command. Mosisili and his allies only provided the political cover particularly in the international community where he ultimately retreated to the worn out argument of sovereign right of states in their internal affairs. This is an argument which he suddenly ditched after losing elections, when started calling on SADC to institute a forensic audit of elections in a supposedly sovereign state!
Scope and modus operandi of the militia

As already indicated above, the militia operated as a unit even though specific tasks were largely handled in the different sections. The main operational areas seem to have been the police which had been dismantled as a police service. This is why the initial focus of the government seems to have been placed there. In the scale of things, police are the chief crime busters and if they become part of the criminal syndicate, it would be impossible to bring about accountability and the rule of law. Let us through three main examples show why the Lesotho Mounted Police was no longer fit for purpose. I exclude the rampant crimes of all nature which were not dealt with since the police had been turned into a militia serving interests of those who manipulated the service. The key issues which will show the crisis of policing in Lesotho since 2015 are as follows:
a) In 2014 we had cases of bombs lobbed into places where the present Prime Minister was expected to have been and also in the residence of the then Commissioner of Police. Nobody died, but those were clear cases including attempted murder which the police diligently followed and suspects were identified. Warrant of arrest were ultimately issued, but they were not effected. The investigations, as we came to know during the proceedings of the Phumaphi Commission did not continue after the 2015 elections.

In August 2014 an attempted coup was staged by LDF and in the process Sub-Inspector Ramahloko, a member of LMPS was brutally murdered at Police Headquarters. Those who staged the attempted coup and those who murdered Ramahloko are known. Investigations on all above were stopped after the 2015 elections. Making matters worse the nephew of Sub-Inspector Ramahloko was dismissed from the police for asking about the state of the investigations of the murder of his uncle.

In January 2015 bodyguards of the Prime Minister were ambushed and injured by members of the LDF close to the Royal Palace. A security guard, Qobete, in nearby premises was shot and killed. The soldiers who ambushed those guards are known but no investigations have been undertaken by the police since then.
In June 2015, the former Commander of the LDF, Lt. General Mahao, was waylaid and killed by publicly self-confessed members of the LDF. No investigations were undertaken by the police. In evidence before the Phumaphi Commission, the LMPS was characterised by evasiveness and utter stupidity as shown by one Mapola who then was promoted twice within fifteen months for attempting to deflect criticism of the police by arguing that there is evidence of civilians who cooperated with the so-called mutiny suspects.
b) In March 2016 the police arrested one Constable Khetheng at Sebothoane in Leribe and according to evidence in the habeas corpus case in the High Court; his arrest was not recorded in the occurrence book but he was handed over to one Inspector Mofolo (promoted two times since then) who took him to a place unknown. No investigations of his disappearance were undertaken.

c) Over and above the setting up of a joint army police unit which was known to have been the one unit which kidnapped and tortured people at the dead of night, the police also ran a “police uniforms for hire type of scheme” whereby army personnel were borrowed police uniforms in order to disguise their nefarious acts. To make matters worse, police spokesman, Molefe whose rank I no longer know since he has also been promoted several times since 2015, went on radio to declare that police who are not in uniform and without identification should be accepted as such. This was an attempt to spin the fact that some of those who were kidnapping political opponents refused to identify themselves. All criminals had to do was to declare that they were policemen!
The militia extended its control to the National Security Servoce (NSS) by seconding one Col. Lekhooa substantively with Military Intelligence, and more importantly one of the suspects in at least three of the crimes listed in the Phumaphi Commission Report, as Director-General. His control of the civilian intelligence agency ensured that the military was in complete control of the intelligence operations in Lesotho. It meant that there could not be any oversight over the military. It also meant that all the intelligence, past and present was now available for planning by those who ran the militia. It is now known that the most sensitive of the intelligence gathering systems were decoded and handed over to those whose mission was not security of the state, but spying on state institutions in order to commit crimes.

Finally we have to review the role of the militia in the army. The army had, like the police, been totally dismantled and served the interests of those who were focused on committing crimes. The whole Command has been largely responsible for transforming the army into a militia which has been involved in cases of High Treason, murder and torture. The most prominent members of this gang have been handsomely rewarded with promotions and some by foreign postings. Indeed those like Sechele who was arrogantly trying to intimidate the Phumaphi Commission has been one of those who have been promoted twice in fifteen months. He is now a Brigadier, whose only operation he has been in is one on the outskirts of Mokema in June 2015.
This was the unit which was the puppet master with the police and the NSS as useful idiots. But the militia’s head could not be effective without the use of those other institutions. Killing off the militia’s oxygen was thus probably the best strategy rather than going for the kill in what is going to be a complicated operation. The issue therefore is to assess the stage of the process of dismantling of the militia.
Cutting off the branches of the militia

Strategically it is clear that the new government was well briefed and took actions early enough against the militia which is still in shock and knowing that it cannot operate the way it used to in the past. First, the militia is for the first time headless at both the political level and within the military. With both the Mosisili/Metsing axis gone and also with Kamoli out of direct command the militia is stranded. Moreover, the firm direct and indirect communication by SADC to the new Commander of LDF, that there would be consequences if anybody tried to stage a coup sank. In the words of the South African foreign minister, “ …it’s not a threat, it’s just the way it is…” coups by the militia can’t be tolerated. How then has the government undertaken the task?

First, Prime Minister Thabane held face to face meetings with the Mots’omot’so, Commander of the LDF, before and after his inauguration. It is clear that the meetings were about making the Commander to know that the insubordination of the past could not be tolerated. Thabane seems to have tamed the beast, since then the LDF has now not openly challenged the government like it used to do. Two important developments have since taken place.

Lekhooa’s secondment to the NSS from LDF has been terminated. This was the first significant action which indicated that the new government is intent on initially clipping the wings of the militia before going for the jugular. Removing Lekhooa from NSS is probably the most important action which will ensure that the oversized military role in all aspects of Lesotho’s body politic is reduced. From a security management approach this is as the doctor prescribed. Intelligence is the foundation of governance. This is only the beginning.

Third, the government decisively stopped the Court Marshall against the so-called mutiny suspects who have since 2015 been tortured and incarcerated at the Maximum Security Prison. This was the centrepiece of bargaining by the old regime against its opponents. The plan was that, those detainees would be used to bargain the amnesty of the criminal suspects in all the cases referred to above. The release of the detainees would be contingent on the criminal suspects being provided indemnity. Like kidnappers, the demand was to compare perpetrators with victims. There could not be any equivalence. The next stage is to ponder whether the Court Marshal should be dissolved or not.

The fourth significant action in dismantling the militia has been to initially sent on leave Letsoepa, the Commissioner of Police, while investigations about his role in undermining his oath of office to maintain a professional police service were being undertaken. The appointment of an Acting Police Commissioner was an important first step. Letsoepa above all members of the militia, undermined police solidarity in protecting known killers of a fellow policeman; recruiting police on the basis of political leanings; promoting suspects in crimes like the disappearance of Constable Khetheng. But to make matters worse, Letsoepa, a day after elections and on a Sunday, promoted over twenty cronies into senior positions irregularly and without a budget.

In all my days as a political observer in Lesotho, I have not seen such a brazen attempt to undermine a police institution. I have also never seen government circulars issued a day after elections and on a Sunday. Only the militia could have thought of things like that. That he has now been written to by the Government Secretary to show cause why he should not be removed as Police Commissioner is not a surprise!

Challenges ahead
The attempts so far have been well-thought out and will be the basis for action in the next few weeks when additional measures will be taken to move from the branches to the stem. In his Speech from the Throne a week ago, King Letsie III indicated that SADC decisions arising from the Phumaphi Commission will be implemented in full and swiftly in order to bring about stability. This is where the key challenges lay. One of the key recommendations which the Commission made was that all those in the LDF suspected of committing crimes should be suspended while investigations are continued. In the meantime, almost all those who were listed in the Report have now been promoted twice with most skipping the ranks. Most of the suspects have moved from junior officers to being part of the Command. While it is possible to try to suspend them, it is not clear whether they will not attempt to resist. It is therefore prudent to move cautiously and solicit SADC support to implement this part of the recommendations.

Second, we have those detainees who are now in open arrest. Their Court Marshall case is still intact. Most of those have been severely tortured and may need medical and psychological counselling. It’s not enough to stop the Court Marshall case to go on. Indeed the best case scenario is to dissolve the Court Marshall. The Prime Minister has the power under the law to do so. But the question which has to be considered is their re-integration into the force where they were tortured by their juniors who now suddenly have become senior to some of them. How safe are they before the suspects are suspended? This has to be thought very carefully.

Thirdly, we still have to consider the exiled soldiers whose salaries and other benefits were stopped in 2015. Like their colleagues who were at Maximum Security, they have suffered a lot. They also cannot just walk in into the barracks after these developments. Their security must be paramount in any decision taken before the suspects are removed. What the government should be able to do is to ensure that their livelihoods are improved before they come home in safety. This is reportedly what the Minister of Communication; Joang Molapo is reported to have said to the local media. I totally agree with that approach. There is to need to ensure that they return in safety rather than to hand them over to the remnants of the militia who would be desperate by now and could harm them.

The militia is now being dismantled. We have however to be aware that in desperation it could hit anywhere like an unguided missile. There is no need for premature celebration. The road ahead is still tough but most of it should be over before the end of August 2017.


Reflections on the struggle against impunity: June 2017 elections and beyond

The recent defeat of the militia through an electoral process has been long and bitter. Now that the new government has assumed office, it is appropriate to reflect on how the changes came about. The changes, I argue, happened in spite of the key institutions of state and beyond which in other countries tend to play a critical role. Ours are moribund and not fit for purpose.
From the beginning of 2014, Lesotho was under a full-fledged army rebellion which initially was publicly spearheaded by one junior officer by the name of Hashatsi who dared the government to remove then Commander of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF). On the face of it, this was a rebellion led by Hashatsi, but in reality it was a rebellion by Lt. General Kamoli and most of his Command who were initially in the background. When carefully looking at the situation however, important signals came to the fore which indicated that Hashatsi was just the face of the rebellion. Military ethos would never have allowed a junior officer to be in rebellion without consequences. The rebellion was shown for what it was when the following signals came to the fore. The suspension of Brigadier Mahao, who had dared reprimand Hashatsi, for challenging the prerogative of the government of the day on matters of who is placed in Command.
Shortly after that, the rebellious troops attempted to assassinate both the Prime Minister and the Commissioner of Police by placing bombs in a place where they thought the former would be and at the residence of the Commissioner of Police. They both survived. A chain of events took place culminating in the attempted coup of August 2014. The rebellion was not quelled, instead a snap general election was held in February 2015 with the hope that it would provide the solution to the broader political and security challenge. That was delusional as events were to prove.
After the 2015 snap elections, the rebellious troops and their political allies were triumphant. The Democratic Congress (DC), led by Pakalitha Mosisili cobbled a seven party coalition to form a government. This government however, as developments were to show, was just a front for the military which ruled. It is the same rebellious troops which now called the shots. They managed to have a puppet regime which condoned all their crimes and also rewarded them handsomely with promotions and other goodies. Since this junta had no self control and the government was just a means of providing them with cover, it went berserk; killing, torturing and threatening both civilians and soldiers with impunity. International pressure and internal dynamics brought about the collapse of the regime, leading to yet another election in 2017, the third in five years.
The 2017 elections were clearly the most pivotal in modern Lesotho politics. It was a question of either the maintenance of the military backed regime or the election of a government which would be able to confront the rebellious troops which had now consolidated their control of all security structures. It was an election like no other. From the beginning there were fears of violence and rejection of the results by the losers. In the end, the losers were disarmed by international pressure from being spoilers, but the militia which had emerged, remains. This is where the challenges of the new government begin. How it handles that will determine how long it stays in office.

Post-2015 politics in Lesotho
The triumph of the military rebellion after the 2015 elections began to be felt almost immediately after the formation of the new government. The first step was to remove all the senior personnel who had been appointed by the outgoing government. This was more pronounced in the security sector where both the Commander of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) and the Commissioner of Police were relieved of their Command. Simultaneously, a major crackdown was taking place in both the LDF and the police. Those in the army who were suspected of having been loyal to the old order were being haunted out. Within weeks after the elections, more than sixty soldiers were abducted by hooded men and taken to the torture chambers at Setibing Military base. The level of depravity of torturers was only to be revealed later in several cases of habeas corpus in the Lesotho High Court.
Reporting on its mission to Lesotho, the Southern African Litigation Centre graphically detailed the situation of the detained soldiers. Once abducted, the “soldiers were typically taken to Sedibeng, in an area that is particularly cold and where it often snows in the mountains”.
Here the detainees were forced to walk on ice, sprayed with cold water or thrown into a frozen and dirty stream. Wet and in the cold, they are then tied to a pole and hooded overnight whilst being insulted and asked for information. While tied, some detainees are beaten and gun shots are fired around them.
Two cases of severe torture were reported in Lesotho Times dated 18 June 2015, when two soldiers were brought to the High Court. Bleeding as he was sitting in the dock, Col. Posa Stemmere narrated his ordeal to the judge that he had been tortured by his captors since his arrest and was in pain.
I feel pain all over the body; from head to toe. My feet and hands are swollen, while my hands are also numb from the assault while in detention. Sometimes urine comes out of my body unexpectedly, and my feet are so weak I cannot stand for long.
Col. Stemmere then told the court that he has bruises all over the body from beatings by his captors, and now had “endless headaches” due to the torture.
He also told the judge that he had never seen a doctor since his arrest, and requested that he be allowed medical examination and treatment. A similar story was narrated by Corporal Motlatsi Letsilane , who also told the judge that he felt cold all over the body. “My feet are swollen and numb” said Corporal Letsilane, “I also have endless pain on the right side of my ribs and a running stomach”, he concluded.
The problem, he added, started after his arrest and detention by LDF members on 25 May 2015. “I am not well. My feet are swollen and numb. I also have endless pain on the right side of my ribs and a running stomach,” he said.
As part of the strategy to clampdown and eliminate all potential sources of resistance, the new military backed regime waylaid Lt. General Mahao who had just been stripped of his Command of the LDF in favour of Lt. General Kamoli, at Mokema. He was murdered and taken to Makoanyane Military Hospital where his body and clothes were washed, partly to hide evidence on details of his killing. Announcing Mahao’s death, Minister of Defence, T’seliso Mokhosi claimed that the former was killed while resisting arrest. This as was demonstrated by Major Mangena of the South African Police, in evidence to the Phumaphi Commission was most implausible.
It is under these circumstances that SADC dispatched a Fact-Finding Mission to Lesotho, headed by South Africa’s Minister of Defence and Veterans Affairs. Mapisa-Nqakula decisively reported about the deteriorating security situation in Lesotho, contradicting the Lesotho government’s version that all is well in the country. Amongst the critical issues raised by the Ministerial Fact Finding Mission Report (SADC/DTS/3/2O15/3) were the following observations:
(i) the security situation in the country is tense as evidenced by the flight of the opposition leaders, the alleged ‘mutiny plot’ and subsequent investigations and the death of Brigadier Mahao;
(ii) concern about the impending court martial and its consequences on the political and security situation in the country;
(v) general concern about the role of the army;
(ix) the King’s serious concern on the deteriorating security situation in the country, especially the role of the army.
At the centre of Mapisa-Nqakula’s mission report were issues about the overall behaviour of the military and its reach into the political process. The army, as can be observed, was seen as the cancer in the body politic of Lesotho.
The setting up of the Commission of Inquiry led by Justice Mphaphi Phumaphi from Botswana was a direct response to the Ministerial Fact-Finding Mission. It is the report of this Commission which has provided the basis for the resistance against the military backed regime in Lesotho. The central issues to understand about Lesotho politics after 2014 therefore have been laid bare. It is about the army rebellion which was not suppressed and ultimately took over the state with politicians providing political cover. The resistance to the junta; the fall of the military regime; and resultant election battle are part of a continuum of the struggle against authoritarian rule in Lesotho.
The resistance against militia
Lesotho’s peculiarities are many, but its most frustrating ones are the following:
a) Weakness of our judicial system. Lesotho’s constitution places the judiciary at the centre of our human rights protection. In addition, Lesotho is a signatory to the United Nations Convention against torture. Unlike in any other country with democratic constitutions, the Lesotho courts are docile. I dare say that they are either captured or unable/unwilling to stand for victims of human rights. The moment, a case against the militia or its associated institutions goes to court, you can always predict that the militia will win or just get a slap in the face. There are so many cases which were launched by individual soldiers who were detained at the maximum security prison for their freedom. In all those cases, the perpetrators were allowed to continue with their crimes. I am not only talking about issues of substantive law, but also those processes and the reputation of the courts. Three examples will be sufficient:
 In several habeas corpus applications the report of the Southern Africa Litigation Centre points out that soldiers indicated that many had been “snatched” or “kidnapped” by heavily-armed, masked men dressed in black “with no clear procedure of arrest, no arrest warrants, and no clarity of charges under which the arrests were effected. But more importantly, the Centre pointed out that “…. masked militia armed with AK47s were reported as having ‘forced themselves’ into the judge’s chambers to accompany the detainees and sustaining a heavy presence in court in a manner intended to intimidate the judiciary”
 As part of the habeas corpus applications, as already pointed out earlier, Colonel Stemmere, sitting in the dock bleeding and in severe pain, was handed over to his torturers with a lame order that he should not be tortured. But more importantly, in court, the only thing the court thought appropriate, was that he should be given some tissues to wipe off his blood. This is a case where we should just give up on the court system in Lesotho until it is reformed.
 Several cases of policemen who have been dismissed by the militia and court orders for their reinstatement have been ignored. Notable cases are those of policewoman Makotoko who was based in Leribe and testified that Policeman Khetheng who has disappeared was arrested by her and handed over to Inspector Mofolo. She went further to testify that she was instructed to lie in the Attorney–General’s offices. She refused and was later dismissed for some other matter. She has not been re-instated. Another policeman Motebang Ramahloko whom the court has ordered his re-instatement, has not. He was dismissed after inquiring about the case of his murdered uncle in the 2014 attempted coup. There is usually no point to try to take offenders for contempt cases. The courts in Lesotho tend to negotiate with those who violate their orders if they are powerful. They don’t enforce their orders.

b) Weakness of the law society. Another body which constitutionally has power to protect the law is the Law Society. Since the turmoil began, the Law Society has gone into hibernation. We saw murder being committed and the institutions which are supposed to protect the rule of law not enforcing the law; we saw soldiers being tortured and vivid images of them in court bleeding; we also saw hooded men with AK 47 rifles in court intimidating lawyers and families of the detained soldiers; we have also witnessed the blatant intimidation of lawyers representing the detainees, some of whom ended up in exile. The Law Society has been conspicuous by its absence in those issues about protection of human rights, its members and indeed the protection of the constitution as part of its mandate. It is clearly an organisation which has no value to the nation as a whole.

c) Inadequate advocacy institutions. Lesotho has not been blessed with credible media and advocacy institutions. When the crisis came to the fore in 2015 it was always difficult to get the news, analysis and advocacy. Perhaps the exception was the Civil Society institutions which began to champion the cases of the detainees and other people who were harassed by the militia. In essence institutionally, the battle against the militia was only consistently fought by the civil society organisations which assisted the spouses of the detainees.

What the above indicates is that the battle for freedom was largely an individual one rather than institutions. You had individual lawyers, family member and their associates and international organisations which played a critical role leading to the collapse of the Mosisili regime. Of particular importance, were the families of the detained, exiled soldiers; it was also the families of those in the army and police who had been murdered by the militia. The #BreaktheSilence campaign where the spouses, children and allies of those families rallied in Maseru to raise the spirits which were beginning to lag was particularly important in the resistance.

The 2017 elections and beyond
The passing of the vote of no confidence on Mosisili and the subsequent calling of the June 2017 elections signalled the beginning of the end of the militia which had terrorised Basotho over three and half years. Even before the elections were held, it was obvious that Mosisili would lose those elections since he had squandered the goodwill he had by aligning himself with the rogue elements in the LDF. A few months ago, in one issue of lesothoanalysis, I had predicted that Mosisili would lose those elections and would probably not even emerge with the figures allowing him to be the Leader of the Opposition. There I missed it by one seat. He got 30 seats which, were it not because of defections in his party, he would qualify to head the opposition. It’s good sometimes to be wrong so that your adversaries can have something to talk about.
If Mosisili thought he would win the 2017 elections, it would only be if he believed fairytales which some of his advisors told him. The lesson is that people who will not tell you the truth in order to enhance your ego, are not useful. If they can’t tell you what is wrong, they are of no use to you!
The issue however is that this elections which were like no other, were saved by international pressure. The Head of the SADC Observer Mission was very strong, warning that people who refuse to accept the outcome would not be tolerated. After all the Missions gave the elections an all clear, those who still harboured to reject the outcome of the elections knew that they had to walk a straight and narrow path. This is why the opposition to the new government was limited to pleading with SADC to institute a forensic audit of an election it had already declared credible.
The second key issue which has saved the country from any turmoil has been a robust statement from the South African Minister of Foreign and International Affairs, that the coup in Lesotho would not be allowed. This was the final nail on the coffin of coup makers. They could not sustain the coup.
Beyond elections, therefore, the key issues will be those of dismantling the militia and implementing the decisions arising from the Phumaphi Commission. The robust role of the international community will also be important here in ensuring that the resistance of the militia is broken. I want to be able to see the militia in reformed courts answering for the crimes they committed over the years.


A friendly advice to Thabane on learning from the past and doing things differently

After a tumultuous two years rule by Mosisili, the voters confirmed what parliament had decided earlier by passing a vote of no confidence on him and his government. The leading party in the previous coalition government headed by Mosisili was thumped by Tom Thabane’s All Basotho Convention (ABC) which increased its seats by two while Mosisili’s Democratic Congress (DC) lost seventeen seats. Compared to 2015 elections, the big loser is clearly the DC. The table below illustrates the point above.
Party year Number of seats Percentage Seat change
ABC 2015 46 37.8 N/A
ABC 2017 48 40.52 +2
DC 2015 47 38.4 N/A
DC 2017 30 25.82 -17
It must also be remembered that there were three constituencies which were declared as failed elections as a result of the death of three of the contestants. ABC is expected to win all three thus bringing its number of seats in parliament to 51.
With elections behind us, and Prime Minister Thabane having unveiled his coalition partners and a new cabinet, real work begins now. It is a herculean task in view of the mess that has to be sorted out. It is for this reason that lesothoanalysis this week heartily congratulates the winners and proffers a friendly advice to the new Prime Minister.
I know that the new Prime Minister brings into the job, administrative, managerial and political experience spanning several decades. He also brings with him a team of experienced political figures as his coalition partners. More importantly, Thabane is a much older man than most in his cabinet. In Lesotho we still have this reverence for age and as such one could say how dare you proffer to advise him on how he should tackle this task when you are ten years younger than him? Times have changed. Age alone is no longer the sole criterion for wisdom. I have been humbled by some of the advice I have received from people from a different generation. Importantly I dare say that I bring over forty years of administrative and academic experience to know where the traps are and how to avoid them. Indeed, if Mosisili had bothered to read and understand the issues I brought up in lesothoanalysis over the past year, he would probably still be Prime Minister of Lesotho. Instead, he listened to charlatans whose only interest was how they could flatter him into believing their fantasies rather than the reality which was starring them in the face. It would be a tragedy if the hopes of the people of Lesotho were to be dashed because our new Prime Minister did not listen to advice like his predecessor did.
There are simply too many challenges which will face Thabane’s new coalition. But the trick is to identify key pillars of those challenges and then go for others later, important though they may be. It is not because some challenges are less important that I leave them aside, but the ones I wish to advise the new government on have a potential to either intensify instability in the country or bring down the government. Amongst these are the issues about security; image of the country; and the mundane issues about administration. I know the latter is less exciting but it has the capacity to break the government if not handled well. But before that let’s remind ourselves of the past.
The pitfalls of the 2012 coalition
When the coalition government took over in 2012, hardly did people realise that it had through amongst others agreed to implement a“semi-feudal” arrangement where coalition partners shared government ministries as opposed to merely sharing ministerial positions. It was a situation where each of the coalition partners created as an exclusive enclave in government departments. Thus from the Principal Secretary to the lowest public servant, the public servants there owed allegiance to the party allocated that Ministry. Rather than have a cohesive government structure, in practice the Prime Minister could not intervene except through the party concerned. It was a chaotic system which was bound to collapse.
As a result of that “semi-feudal” arrangement, the question of appointments and everything in that Ministry ultimately was a party responsibility rather than a government one. This extended to Ambassadorial positions and the District Administrators. Need I mention that a divided public service leads to easy routes for corruption and maladministration? But more importantly, this semi-feudal” arrangement lead to a situation where two Principal Secretaries were placed in the Ministry of Communications, with one appointed by the Prime Minister in terms of the law, and another forced his way through the party which controlled the Ministry. One post was occupied by two Principal Secretaries leading to accountability confusion.
This is one of the first lessons from the past which need not be repeated. A Minister, even in a coalition government answers to the Prime Minister and not to the coalition party whose Minister controls that Ministry. Public servants should not be placed in Ministries on the basis of party affiliation. They shouldn’t even be known to belong to a political party, as long as they are public servants. I will deal with this further on the reforms.
Lesotho’s international image
Small states like Lesotho have to work harder than others to create international linkages. Their most important asset and security rests in the creation of international linkages and support since by themselves they are vulnerable. During the 1980s for example, at the height of South African destabilisation in Southern Africa, Lesotho was able to pursue an independent foreign policy only because it had built an international support system in Southern Africa and beyond. This is why the apartheid regime’s pressure was withstood for a long time.
Since 2015 when Mosisili took over as Prime Minister he squandered all the international support Lesotho had. Innumerable SADC Summits were convened to discuss the Lesotho issue. The African Union, the European Union, and the United States among others have said it publicly and in writing on numerous occasions that Lesotho has to get back to the community of states which are accountable and respect the rule of law. These were ignored. Mosisili gave all the above the middle finger. Perhaps Mosisili will be remembered for his parting shot to SADC through its Chairperson King Mswati of Swaziland where he decried the organisation’s interference in the internal affairs of the country. Knowing full well that he was going to lose the elections, he went so far as to threaten withdrawing Lesotho from SADC which he has lost its way.
This is where Thabane and his government have to begin. Restoring the country’s image internationally is a top priority. It is also a matter of survival for the new government. The traps ahead, which took almost two years to put in place, need bold leadership and humility to the peers in the region and partners beyond. Lesotho needs international support to overcome its immediate and long term challenges.
The security dilemma
Prime Minister Thabane, more than anybody, understands that the crisis that Lesotho faces in the security arena. He has been a victim of army rebellion which started when he was Prime Minister in 2014. A junior officer by the name of Hashatsi, boldly and publicly announcing that you would not be allowed to remove Kamoli as Commander of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF); army personnel planting bombs in the place they expected him to be at; Kamoli hosting a public conference to announce that he could not be removed in office and that Prime Minister was ill advised when he attempted to dissolve the Court Marshall which had been instituted against a Senior Officer, then Brigadier Mahao, for attempting to caution Hashatsi to keep out of those issues about who can or not be removed as Commander; an attempted coup on 30/08/2014, leading to his flight into South Africa; threats to kill him in 2015 leading to his second flight to South Africa only returning weeks before parliament was dissolved.
Other than the removal of Kamoli after he was reinstated, the Command and structure of the forces has become more complicated. Hashatsi and all that lot which has been pin-pointed to have been part of the rebellion and other serious crimes have been elevated to be part of the Command of the LDF after their multiple promotions at times skipping the ranks. To complicate it even further, most of those who were in the Command of LDF are presently in exile or are still facing mutiny charges. Moreover, Lekhooa, another suspect in the crimes committed in the past two years has been seconded from LDF to head the National Security Service (NSS). This does not end there; the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) has now been effectively dismantled. With some of its leadership suspected of involvement in the High Treason case in 2014 and other serious crimes including making other policemen like Khetheng disappear after an arrest, the security environment could not be worse.
Knowledgeable and/or good intentioned, this web woven by Mosisili, is simply too intricate to be dismantled without serious reaction. One of the key decisions of SADC on Lesotho for instance is that those in the military who have been implicated in crimes be suspended until their cases have been investigated by an enhanced and resourced police force. This cannot be implemented as long as all those in command are suspects. This is why international support is so crucial in unravelling this web.
In order to quash the army rebellion once and for all an urgent action plan to seek SADC support to implement the security related decisions immediately has to be developed. The plan should aim at ensuring that ahead of the reforms the following should have been achieved:
a) Dissolve the Court Marshall and have all those in open arrest be released from their two year ordeal;
b) Suspend all the suspects in LDF and LMPS identified to have criminal cases to answer;
c) Have all exiled soldiers indemnified and restored to their positions;
d) Dissolve the joint army and police unit immediately.
It is important to understand that the above suggested actions are only the basis for the total overhaul of the security establishment as part of the reform process. No reforms would be possible before the above are in place.
Mundane issues of administration
Prime Minister Thabane must know that he is surrounded. Mosisili made sure that he would rule from the grave by placing his relatives and associates in all the key positions in the government. Even a week before the elections, he continued to deploy people in foreign missions. That means that he will be talking issues through them to the international community. There are ways of course in the modern era to short-circuit those, but there will always be bottlenecks until the obstacles have been removed. In dealing with the obstacles, firmness, fairness and dexterity will be necessary. This is why questions of administration must not be neglected.
As Lesotho moved to elections, all political parties signed a pledge to implement reforms. Key amongst those reforms is the public sector reforms. We have a public sector now which was not characterised by appointments based on merit. It was all patronage. This ensures that the system as a whole lacks credibility. The backbone of any government is a professional public service which continues even after the change of government. Indeed, even when you have a week Minister, as long as the professionals in that Ministry are strong, it will not be obvious. This is why it is important to ensure that the reform process begins. But the reform process should not wait for the formal process itself. Prime Minister Thabane can ensure that there is credibility in the system if he shows by the appointments of senior officials that he is committed to reforms.
The quality of the people who will be appointed will be a good indicator. Let him forget about political party stalwarts and opportunists who will bring nothing into the system. If he wants to be credible, he must be able to say, this second round as Prime Minister, he will focus on merit and not whether people have been close to him. He has a golden opportunity to appoint people who are better skilled than those in Mosisili’s government.
Perhaps I have to say that the rule of thumb of judging whether the new administration has prospects of surviving long enough is to see whether it is able to differentiate government administration from both the political party and the family. The political party anchors the government, the family provides social support, but they should never be seen to be fulcrum on which the state revolves. This is more so when you have a coalition government. The advice to the new government is that government business is not a political party or family affair. It is sacrosanct and must not be compromised by any outside interests. Failure to do that will doom this government to failure.
Lesotho is also plagued by corruption and this government must dedicate itself to ridding the country of that scourge. The starting point is to recognise that Ministers in our system of government are not Chief Accounting Officers. They must at all times avoid invading the territory of the Principal Secretaries. Ministers must not try to be Principal Secretaries and vice versa. Once there is no clarity there, the struggler about tenders will begin and inevitably there will be the beginnings of the fall of this government. Had the Bidvest scandal not emerged there is a good chance that Mosisili’s government would still be limping on. Ministers have no role in the award of tenders and that should be emphasised from the beginning. Chief Accounting Officers must be made aware from the beginning that they will be held accountable when things go wrong. That is administration.
Conclusion and going forward
Sustaining a new regime requires strength, decisiveness and dexterity in dealing with issues. The need to be decisive is required now that Thabane has won decisively against Mosisili. Delaying to take action now will dilute the legitimacy that he now has. If Thabane had been decisive in January 2014 when the roots of the rebellion began to show, we probably would not have had an attempted coup of August 2014. The rebellion was left alone to chart its direction without serious attempts to quell it. The utterances of Hashatsi and Kamoli later indicated clearly that they no longer regarded themselves to be under civilian control. This was confirmed later in Sechele’s testimony to the Phumaphi Commission that the military was a law onto itself.
I’m aware that the circumstances of 2014 were different. Thabane had to also deal with a third columnist at every stage who sought to undermine him. Thabane now has the power and authority working with his partners to act decisively to ensure that the key issues about security are sorted out. I would like to conclude with the words of Machiavelli in his The Prince where he underlines that strength, which electoral victory has given you, is not sufficient to sustain your rule; you also need to be cunning.
A prince must imitate the fox and the lion, for the lion cannot protect himself from traps, and the fox cannot defend himself from wolves. One must therefore be a fox to recognize traps, and a lion to frighten wolves. Those that wish to be only lions do not understand this. Therefore, a prudent ruler ought not to keep faith when by so doing it would be against his interest, and when the reasons which made him bind himself no longer exist. If men were all good, this precept would not be a good one; but as they are bad, and would not observe their faith with you, so you are not bound to keep faith with them.”
Mosisili imitated the lion, using the military to suppress all those opposed to him, but never recognised the traps. The new Prime Minister must be strong and wise!
As we go forward we must ensure that over and above these, we recognised critical issues like youth unemployment which is now beyond an economic challenge but a security challenge as some of the things which the new government has to defeat if it is to survive. That is a time bomb which could explode at anytime.
As we go ahead with other programmes we must remember that we have to salvage international assistance which is dependent on accountability and rule of law.
Let ones again congratulate the new government and hope it listens.


Agitating for a coup? Metsing’s desperate plea for protection of the militia and formation of a government of national unity

As opposed to a rebellion a coup is never a spontaneous development. It takes time and plotting to put the pieces together. The important thing to note however is that all coups are a result of agitation often outside the barracks. The calculations whether the environment exists for a coup; and, the probability of success of staging such a coup are then made by those who have weapons of war. It is under these circumstances that recent statements of the outgoing Deputy Prime Minister, Mothetjoa Metsing, on the military and fraud in the June 2017 elections in Lesotho, have to be understood. They are tantamount to incitement to stage either a rebellion or a coup.
For Lesotho, the spectre of coups has been with us for a long time. The only successful coups in Lesotho have however been staged before our modern constitution that came into effect in 1993. Since then we have been faced with numerous military rebellions and unsuccessful coups. The last unsuccessful coup in Lesotho was staged in August 2014. Its repercussions however continue to reverberate up to the present since it was never suppressed. On the contrary it was embraced as a legitimate action by the government which took office in 2015. Metsing was the Deputy Prime Minister in that regime which was essentially a mask for military rule. The civilian authorities were then mere cover for the real wielders of power. It is therefore not surprising to hear Metsing portraying himself and those around him as the great protectors of the military against the imminent coming to power of Tom Thabane as new Prime Minister.
It is important to elucidate and analyse three things which Metsing desires. First, he wants to prevent Thabane to take over power in order to protect the soldiers, who in his words “..put their necks on the block that we ended up taking power..” Second, Metsing alleges that there has been massive voter fraud and requests SADC to institute a forensic audit of the voters roll. Thirdly Metsing and his cohorts demand that a Government of National Unity (GNU) be formed. Strange as it sounds, it is Metsing who ridiculed the idea of a GNU in 2015 after the elections. Where do these statements lead us in the post- elections period in Lesotho?
Metsing on the “army” issue
In places where you have the army as a state institution rather than a privatised army, citizens of all political stripes should have the confidence that such a body serves the broader national interests rather than partisan ones. It would therefore be unheard of for politicians to portray themselves as the protectors of such a military establishment. In Lesotho, we have had the experience of some politicians who tend to wrap themselves up with the army. When they fail to get support to either stay in power or to get to power, they suddenly become the great protectors of the army against their opponents. Metsing has a reputation for doing just that. From 2014 when he had his difficulties with the law about corruption, he suddenly was surrounded by over a dozen heavily armed soldiers wherever he was. This continued until he boldly declared on “national television” that Kamoli who had been dismissed as Commander of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) would remain in his position regardless. He incited continued rebellion within the military.
After the Mosisili led coalition took over in 2015, Metsing was primarily the person who frustrated the implementation of the SADC decisions after the adoption of the Phumaphi Commission Report. He talked reform in order to stop reform. His cohorts in the military were protected from the courts for cases which ranged from High Treason to murder spelled out in the Phumaphi Commission Report. It was a case of one turn deserves another since the military had protected him from answering for his difficulties in court. It is understandable now that he would like those to continue being shielded from the courts.
Talking to his supporters shortly after losing the elections, Metsing began to openly argue that all means must be found to stop Thabane from taking over power from his coalition. That was a futile attempt since Metsing and his allies could never muster the numbers to stop Thabane from ascending to power. He argued that the army needed to be protected for their role in bringing about the out-going coalition government.
Let me tell you that it is because of members of the country’s army who put their necks on the block that we ended up taking power, and if today Thabane attains power, it is clear that some of them would be in danger.
There are some people whose future should be protected by us, regardless of our individual aspirations. This is our obligation and I am surprised that some LCD members don’t want us to approach Mochoboroane while on the other hand some DC followers do not want Moleleki to be approached.
For Metsing, the issues are clear, it is either Thabane is stopped from gaining power after he won the elections, or the army, which can now be clear that he has turned it into a militia will face danger. It is not that Metsing’s fears are baseless. All the political parties undertook to implement the SADC decisions which include the suspension of those of his allies who have committed serious crimes pending further investigations. The point is that his statements are tantamount to incitement to the militia to stage a coup. It is unheard of that an outgoing Deputy Prime Minister can incite the army against the incoming government. This is more so now as a result of the rapid promotions of those implicated in serious crimes into the Command positions within the military. They could be expected to use their positions to undertake doomed from the beginning actions against the incoming government.
The question of paying tribute to the military for facilitating the coming to office of the outgoing coalition government is not new. Mosisili pronounced on that shortly after he had taken office. What is new is that Metsing is now talking about the protection of those who put their necks on the block to ensure that the outgoing government took power. It is a clear indication that those of his cohorts in the military which has become a militia should resist the new government.
On rigging the elections
Almost a week after the elections which the Mosisili coalition spectacularly lost, Metsing, supported motley of politicians held a press conference on Friday 9th June 2017 to declare that there was tangible evidence of fraud in the elections. “…there is damning and tangible evidence that there were fraudulent activities and tampering of the voters’ roll..”
Some people voted twice and even thrice because their names appeared more than once in different lists. All these fraudulent activities were in contravention of the electoral law.
In our view, elections are a pillar of democracy. And in a situation where there is fraud in the electoral lists, there is simply no way the results would reflect the will of the people or be democratic.
Not only did Metsing make his outlandish statement about the elections which were monitored by well over 700 observers from Lesotho and all over the world, but his demands for a forensic audit must be fulfilled before the end of June 2017. We have to say that all the observers from SADC, African Union, SADC Parliamentary Forum and the Commonwealth to mention only a few, gave the elections a clean bill of health. The only reservations by all the above was the undefined role of the army which turned up heavily armed in some polling stations without the knowledge and concurrence of the Independent Electoral Commission which complained that they could scare off voters.
The question of fraud in Lesotho elections is a red herring. The level of transparency of the voting process is way beyond what is found in most electoral processes. Indeed, all political parties participate from the beginning of the process until they all sign the outcome as a sign of concurrence with the process and the outcome. Those who are unhappy about the process and the outcome don’t sign the form announcing the results. Moreover, they have ample opportunity to file a complaint at the voting station. Beyond that they can always petition the High Court about their grievance. Metsing and the rest of the losing crew have not filed any complaint or file a petition with the High Court. All what they are doing is to stir up the pot in order to prepare for a coup.
The challenge for Metsing is that he lost the elections badly. In spite of being borrowed votes in twenty five constituencies by a bigger political party, the Democratic Alliance (DC), Metsing’s party only managed to win only one constituency. Through the borrowed votes, he now has eleven seats from the proportional allocation, in the National Assembly of 120 seats. His pronouncement about fraud is merely a way of trying to deflect attention from his ever diminishing support base. He now wants to cling to power through unorthodox means.
On the formation of the GNU
Shortly after the elections of 2015, the former Prime Minister of Kenya Odinga Odinga, heading the AU Observer Mission in Lesotho, proposed that the inconclusive nature of the elections in Lesotho at the time called for a formation of the GNU. For him the issue was one of ensuring that the two biggest parties shared power in order to stabilise the country. Metsing was the first person to dismiss that, since he would have been relegated to a minor partner. He also rejected that when the matter was raised a few weeks before the vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister was brought up. He knew at the time that his position as Deputy Prime Minister would elude him. But now that he has lost the elections and is fearful that his past will catch up with him when he is not in government, he vigorously advocates the GNU. For Metsing, this is for him as an individual and not the issue of stability of the country as he claims.
There is nothing wrong with the GNU as such, but in our region, it has been used as a weapon for those who have lost elections to be in power. We saw that in Kenya and also in Zimbabwe. The strategy to inflict as much violence on the populace as possible so that people will concede that it is better to allow the loser to rule than to allow people to be brutalised is an abhorrent thing to tolerate. There would be no reason to have elections if losers can force their way through violence to be in power.
The critical question for Metsing and that motley of politicians with him is that losers cannot dictate terms. The question of GNU is one that can be pioneered by the winners who want to be inclusive. What Metsing and others should hope for is that the winners are magnanimous after their resounding victory. For Metsing and his allies, theirs is to lie low and begin to prepare for the elections five years down the line rather than stir the pot or make unrealistic demands to the victors.
Lesotho has gone through elections which reflect the will of the people. They were not fair, but the opposition stood its ground to show that it was not a fluke to pass a vote of no confidence in parliament against Mosisili. They represented the majority of the electorate. Mosisili to his credit has steered clear of public statements which would indicate that he has not accepted his defeat. Metsing on the other hand wants to fight on and hopefully end up annulling the unfavourable vote he got.
The army as opposed to the militia has nothing to fear from the new government. But the militia should know that the rule of law and accountability are the only future for Lesotho. Those who have committed crimes should know that the world expects them to answer for themselves in the court of law. That is not vindictiveness, but the rule of law.
The problem with this Jammeh like attitudeby Metsing of accepting defeat and then trying to resist to leave office is that it is not sustainable. If Metsing and his allies have not noticed, they are being intensely monitored and cannot sustain a coup. The world has changed and they’d better realise that the days of coups has long past.
There will be calm in the Kingdom despite the rubble rousing by Metsing and his co-conspirators!
We heartily congratulate the winners of the Lesotho elections.


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