FRANCISTOWN: Chief Justice Maruping Dibotelo has appointed Justice Mpaphi Phumaphi as a presiding judge over the recent Lesotho political crisis that was precipitated by the killing of a former army chief.
Speaking during a dinner hosted for officers of the magistrate on Friday in Gaborone, Dibotelo said Phumaphi would preside over a Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) independent commission of enquiry into the circumstances surrounding the death of former Lesotho army chief Lieutenant General Maaparankoe Mahao.
Dibotelo said after careful reflection, he chose Phumaphi after SADC’s regional body on politics, defence and security chose Botswana to provide a judge who will preside over infightings in Lesotho.
Media reports have insinuated that Mahao’s murder has sparked panic and fear in the opposition and forced many of them to flee the country. The regional body’s council on politics, defence and security “decided as a matter of urgency, to establish an independent commission of inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the death of Mahao, and its deployment with immediate effect,” the SADC office stated in an e-mailed statement following Mahao’s assassination.
This followed an emergency meeting of leaders of Zimbabwe, South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Malawi and Lesotho in Pretoria, to discuss the political instability in Lesotho.
According to media reports coming from Lesotho, several soldiers have been arrested and assaulted for allegedly conniving with Mahao and former police commissioner Khothatso Tsooana – another Tom Thabane loyalist – to overthrow the government of Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili.
Some of these soldiers who came to court after relatives got court orders for the LDF to produce them, were limping or bleeding from their injuries.
High Court Judge Semapo Peete issued a warning that Lesotho was not a military state, according to media reports.
Thabane has fled the country, claiming he had been tipped of a plot to kill him. He fled with Basotho National Party (BNP) leader, Thesele Maseribane, with whom he cooperated against Metsing in the previous coalition, which was defeated by Mosisili in February elections.
Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL) leader, Keketso Rantso, who fled after unknown assailants launched a night attack on her house, followed them.
The eruption of renewed political violence has placed a big question mark over the intervention of South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, who brokered a settlement after Kamoli’s coup attempt last year. The deal brought forward elections, which had been scheduled for February 2017, to this year.
Under the deal, the feuding security chiefs, Mahao, Kamoli and Tsooana were all removed from their posts to try to restore stability.
But Mosisili immediately re-appointed Kamoli to his former position as head of the army and the violence began soon there after.
US ambassador to Lesotho Matthew Harrington has warned that his country will discontinue its large aid package to impoverished Lesotho if the violence does not stop. The European Union has given similar warnings. But Mosisili has dismissed all criticism and warned donor countries not to interfere in Lesotho’s internal affairs.
Mahoa’s killing follows the recent murder of prominent businessman, Thabiso Tsosane, a good friend of Thabane and funder of his All Basotho Convention (ABC) party.