Mmegi Online :: SADC military descends on Lesotho crisis
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Last Updated
Thursday 21 September 2017, 12:09 pm.
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SADC military descends on Lesotho crisis

Seven regional states are sending their Foreign Affairs ministers and defence chiefs for a fact-finding mission in Lesotho, as new grisly details emerge of Tuesday’s assassination of that country’s defence force commander.
By Mbongeni Mguni Thu 07 Sep 2017, 18:00 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Online :: SADC military descends on Lesotho crisis








Two Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) senior officers, Brigadier Bulane Sechele and Colonel Tefo Hashatsi, assassinated their commander, Khoantle Motšomotšo on Tuesday morning, triggering regional fear that the mountain kingdom would return to the instability that has plagued it for decades.

According to a SADC brief seen by Mmegi, regional Foreign Affairs ministers and their defence chiefs began arriving in Maseru yesterday afternoon on a fact-finding mission, following the assassination. The brief is that between tomorrow and Saturday, the delegation will meet with stakeholders who include the military, police and senior government officers, before producing a report informing SADC on the way forward.

Maseru, meanwhile, is on lock-down with security beefed up around strategic areas such as the radio and television station, as well as ministers’ residences and embassies.

Lesotho’s Foreign Affairs and International Relations Minister, Lesego Makgothi told Mmegi that Major General, Lineo Poopa had taken over command of the LDF in the interim, and the situation was under control.

He said the ministers and defence chiefs of Angola, Zambia, Mozambique, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Tanzania were expected in Maseru on the fact-finding mission. A report will be presented to the mission on the incident and situation, before the commencement of the probe.

At a July meeting of SADC’s defence troika, Lesotho asked for and received additional technical military support from the region, which the country said was required in order to implement security reforms demanded by SADC as part of a roadmap to peace and stability.

Lesotho’s new government, led by Tom Thabane and sworn in in June, has redoubled efforts to implement SADC’s security reforms, a move that has reportedly angered sections of the military loyal to Thabane and Motšomotšo’s predecessors. Part of the reforms involve implementation of retired Judge Mpaphi Phumaphi’s Commission of Inquiry into the 2015 assassination of former LDF commander, Maaparankoe Mahao. Both Sechele and Hashatsi, as well as immediate past LDF commander, Tlali Kamodi, were fingered as key actors in that assassination, with the Commission calling for prosecution of all cited.

It is believed Tuesday’s assassination was prompted by Sechele, Hashatsi and others in their camp feeling the heat from the new government and impending prosecution, while stripped of the political protection

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they enjoyed before.

“At the last SADC Summit we again stated our commitment to the SADC process and government endorsed the extension of the Oversight Committee and its beefing up with military expertise as an early warning system in case there’s any resistance,” Makgothi said via telephone from Maseru. “This incident is not going to slow down anything. It will help us in making sure SADC beefs up security, while we implement.”

The Foreign Affairs minister said on Tuesday that Sechele and Hashatsi arrived at Motšomotšo’s two-storey headquarters, where they were saluted, ushered in and made their way to the late commander’s first floor office.

“They went into Motšomotšo’s office and found him with his public relations official in a briefing,” Makgothi said. “There was an exchange of words, then Sechele drew his gun and shot Motšomotšo dead, while Hashatsi attempted to escape.

“The commander’s bodyguards outside the office heard the shot and when Sechele came out of the office, there was an exchange of gunfire resulting in his death. “Hashatsi ran for between 10 to 15 metres and was shot, but did not die immediately. He was taken to hospital and succumbed to his injuries.” Makgothi said a live grenade was found in the area where Hashatsi fell, while another was found on Sechele’s body.

“This could have been something much bigger. It was not a calculated mutiny involving others, but an act of desperation by those two individuals.” Hashatsi’s name became known in Botswana after he sued retired Judge Phumaphi over the Commission’s report. The slain colonel was also reported to be married to a Botswana Defence Force lieutenant.

Meanwhile, Botswana will not be joining other countries engaging in the Lesotho crisis. Foreign Affairs permanent secretary, Gaeimelwe Goitsemang told Mmegi that Botswana was no longer in the security and defence organs within SADC, which is the only route of intervention in the crisis.

“We have not been approached in any manner because it works through the structures of SADC,” he said. “For now the situation on the ground is calm, but through our mission in Pretoria, we are monitoring the situation and if it calls for evacuation of Batswana, this will be done quickly.”

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