It is over a year now since Prime Minister Mosisili ascended to power in Lesotho in the midst of the security crisis which had not been resolved by the early elections which had just been held. For some, elections were seen as the solution to the crisis. But the main issue in Lesotho was not a political or constitutional crisis, but the country was in a security crisis which was driven by the rebellion in the army. Needless to say that some in our region believed that elections was a magic wand which would get rid of all the troubles. Elections did not! On the contrary the rebellion was crowned by the appointment of Mokhosi as Minister of Defence and National Security. Mokhosi was, as we well know, not intellectually and temperamentally suited to lead such a key sector. He, as will be shown below would be an agent of the rebellion, providing the cover for actions of those in the military who are really in charge of the state in Lesotho. A civilian cover was convenient lest, people see that the military is in charge.
One of Mokhosi’s first actions was to announce, even before the gazette terminating the command of Lt. General Mahao was issued, that the rightful commander was Lt. General Kamoli. Indeed shortly thereafter Mokhosi actively canvassed that issue and it was ultimately done a short time after he had assumed duty. The reappointment of Kamoli as Commander of LDF coincided with the mass detention and torture of soldiers who were alleged to have mutinied. It let to over twenty other soldiers fleeing the country for fear of their demise in the revenge by Kamoli and his loyalists to those who are said to have rejoiced over his dismissal by the previous government. But more importantly, it let to the cold blooded murder of Lt. General Mahao by heavily armed LDF members in three vehicles in Mokema on 25/06/15. It is largely because of this that this post is evaluating Mokhosi as a cover for impunity for murder and other crimes within the LDF.
A ministerial role in any government is a serious responsibility requiring people who don’t sleep on the job. It is also a position which requires people who can think clearly and also take responsibility for actions of those below them in the Ministry. This is not what we have observed about Minister Mokhosi. Three or so of his actions and/or inactions will illustrate that. In his testimony to the Phumaphi Commission which was established by SADC to investigate actions of the military, ostensibly under his control, Mokhosi showed clearly that he was either unable to grasp his responsibilities as a minister under the law, or he was clearly sleeping on the job.
He testified that intelligence was received that there were some army officers and soldiers who were plotting mutiny and killing of soldiers. The matter was reported to the Acting Commander of the LDF Major. Gen. Motsomotso who in turn reported to him on the 13th May 2015. Mokhosi testified that he sanctioned the LDF to investigate the matter, and testified that after about three (3) days it was verbally reported to him by the LDF that some serving members of the LDF had been arrested. Questioned what information was presented to him and how the matter was being handled, his answer was that he did not know how and by whom the mission to deal with the alleged mutiny was being handled. He had a standard answer. “That I don’t know my Lord. It was an army matter”. The answers were clear, that the army had been given a blank cheque and the Minister was ignorant of the issues of accountability. On an important issue like that, Mokhosi only had a verbal report.
When some of the soldiers began to be rounded up and tortured Mokhosi did nothing to ensure that detainees were treated in line with international humanitarian law. He denied in several interviews that there were any soldiers who were tortured. When families of the detained soldiers applied for habeas corpus and some soldiers were brought to the court in shackles and dripping blood Mokhosi still denied there was any torture meted to those soldiers. This is in spite of visual images which were taken when those soldiers were in court. He also had his standard answer about some of those detainees on chronic medication who had not been able to access their medication. “It did not happen”. He also denied that there was ever any intimidation of journalists, family members and court officers, even though all these were documented.
Mokhosi’s bizarre behaviour did not end there. In his testimony to the Phumaphi Commission, Mokhosi denied knowledge that Lt. General Mahao was under investigation and that there was a mission to detain him. The first time he knew about that case, he claimed was when he was informed about his death.
In his evidence the Minister informed the Commission that he only learnt of Brigadier Mahao’s alleged involvement when Lieutenant General Kamoli informed him that Brigadier Mahao had been shot and later confirming his death. During cross examination, the Minister stated that he was informed that Brigadier Mahao was the last person to be arrested, however, this statement by the Minister contradicts that of Colonel Sechele who indicated to the Commission that arrests are continuing and that they are still going to continue, even after the Commission had finished its work. (Paragraph 50: Phumaphi Commission Report)
Not only was Mokhosi shown to be sleeping on the job, but he was shown to be held in utter contempt by one of his underlings who contradicted him on one of the critical issues about the murder of Mahao. But more importantly, Mokhosi could not even remember what he was doing in the office when such a dramatic development of the murder of a former Commander of the LDF took place. Is it probable that a Minister of Defence and National Security would forget what he was doing on such a significant development in his Ministry? Could it be that he took the murder as a routine occurrence?
It has often been said that over time people improve in their given tasks. Not with Mokhosi. He has now been in office for over a year, but still does not seem to understand what his role is. In June 2016, through their “Breaking the Silence” Campaign the children of the detained soldiers launched a plea for support as they march against the continued detention of their parents. In retaliation, the military according to the families of the detained soldiers and their lawyers, denied the detainees of food and medication. The army demand that they should instruct their children to abandon their campaign. For more than twenty four hours, the detained soldiers went without food and medication. Mokhosi denied that anything like that happened. He, without any investigation, boldly announced that the military have informed him that nothing like that has taken place. His responsibility to account after an investigative process are non-existent. He relies on bedtime stories by perpetrators of crimes that they haven’t done anything wrong. Mokhosi has no clue what a ministerial responsibility is.
Mokhosi goes further in his outbursts to provide cover for the military by blaming the delay to complete the court martial cases on the lawyers defending the detainees. He claims that the lawyers are driven by greed. The longer the cases go on the more money they get. He says all these things without a shred of evidence. His is a case of a person who is programmed to say “I don’t know. It never happened or the whole world is lying. Kamoli is the only person who knows.”
I don’t live in Mokhosi’s world of denial, I support the “Breaking the Silence” and will be marching with those long suffering children who have been denied the companionship of their parents for over a year. The struggle may be painful, but for the sake of the future of the young ones, I am prepared for anything.