SUMMARY OF EVENTS IN LESOTHO

Volume 2, Number 1 (First Quarter 1995)

Summary of events in Lesotho is a quarterly publication compiled and published by  David Ambrose since 1993 at the National University of Lesotho, P. O. Roma 180, Lesotho.

 Reinstallation of King Moshoeshoe II
Mosisili Appointed Deputy Prime Minister
Rebellion In National Security Service
Lawyer Claims Reinstatement of the King Unconstitutional
National Security Service ‘Ninjas’ Act with Impunity
Report of Commission of Inquiry into Army Disturbances

Reinstallation of King Moshoeshoe II

The Reinstallation of King Moshoeshoe II took place in Maseru on 25 January 1995 before invited guests, but, it was said by many, without much public enthusiasm, the monarchy having tarnished its image in recent events, and being no longer perceived as serving any useful purpose. The uncertainty of who was King over the previous five years had led to the King’s portrait being omitted both from postage stamps and from bank notes. Bank notes played safe by replacing the portrait of King Moshoeshoe II by that of his namesake, the nineteenth century founder of the Lesotho Kingdom, King Moshoeshoe I. back to top

Mosisili Appointed Deputy Prime Minister

Late in January, a Deputy Prime Minister to replace Selometsi Baholo was finally appointed. He was the Minister of Education, Professor Pakalitha Mosisili, who retained the Education portfolio. Of more signifance to some people was a Cabinet reshuffle a month later in which the Foreign Minister, Molapo Qhobela, was transferred to the Ministry of Public Works. The new Minister of Foreign Affairs was the former Minister of Information, Mpho Malie. Informed sources within Parliament said that Molapo Qhobela had been against foreign intervention to solve the intractable problems with the security forces, and Mpho Malie would favour a more realistic stance in the face of the present stalemate.

Another appointment made at about the same time as the Cabinet reshuffle was that of Tom Motsoahae Thabane who became Adviser to the Prime Minister. This occasioned some surprise because of Tom Thabane’s association with previous undemocratic regimes. He had been Principal Secretary for Health in the Government of Leabua Jonathan, and later at different times Secretary to the Military Council and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Information during the 1986-93 Military Regime. back to top

Rebellion In National Security Service

The Government’s problems with the army and police by now were indeed well known, and had rendered it powerless to take firm action in many areas. As if this were not enough, problems now emerged with the National Security Service (NSS), which was the successor to what had once been the Police Special Branch, and in the days of Leabua’s Government had had the special role of spying on the BCP. Like army and police, its staff tended to be hard core supporters of the BNP, whose role under a BCP government was likely to be full of contradictions.

Unlike the army, the cause of whose disturbances in 1994 were undocumented by statements from either of the feuding factions, rebellious junior members ‘Detectives of the National Security Service’, issued their version of events in the NSS in full (text to be found in The Mirror of 5 April 1995).

The junior ranks claimed that they had undertaken covert investigations which implicated ‘in a serious manner three of our very senior officers in acts that culminated into harmful compromise of the National Security Intelligence establishment’. They apparently on their own initiative decided to dismiss Colonel Mohau Thaha, Lieutenant-Colonel Molikuoa Tumane and Major Tona Putsoane from the NSS, action reminiscent of the dismissal of four senior army officers by junior ranks in November 1993, and indeed action which was a prelude to later army disturbances.

When the Director of the National Security Service, Major-General Leaooa Seoane, refused to allow the dismissals, the ‘Detectives’ stated that they had in turn investigated him, and found him to be ‘at the helm of a clique’ diverting NSS activities to furthering certain political concerns. It appears that Major-General Seoane then became determined to dismiss the rebellious ‘Detectives’, and they claimed to have intercepted a letter he had written to the Attorney-General, seeking advice on this matter. At this point the rebellious NSS staff decided to take pre-emptive action, and on 20 February 1995 barred him from occupying NSS offices.

Seoane then went and occupied an office in the Ministry of Defence and on 3 March, twelve of the detectives were served with letters giving them four days in which to show why action should not be taken against them for acts of insubordination and indiscipline.

On Monday 6 March, members of the NSS took Major-General Seoane hostage, and after questioning him, also ‘arrested’ Colonel Thaha. Attempts to secure their release were made by political party leaders, church leaders, and non-governmental organisations. The NSS members refused to meet senior representatives of the Botswana, South African and Zimbabwean governments who tried to intervene. They did however meet with the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Chief Emeka Anyaoku. Soon after this meeting, on 25 March, Major-General Seoane and Colonel Thaha were released, on the understanding that both would be brought before Courts of Law on charges which the detectives said they had investigated. General rumour was that these charges were quite preposterous (planned assassination of the King etc) and so unsubstantiated that the Attorney-General was unlikely to proceed further. At the same time it seemed that no action was going to be taken against the rebellious detectives, so that the NSS joined the police and army as ‘disciplined’ forces in name only, because senior officers could not give orders which would automatically be obeyed by subordinate ranks. back to top

Lawyer Claims Reinstatement of the King Unconstitutional

There were other developments in March. It became known that a Cape Town lawyer had submitted a legal opinion to Fine Maema, the Attorney-General, that Act No. 10 of 1994 reinstating the King was likely, if challenged, to be held to be unconstitutional, and that all legislation signed by King Moshoeshoe II since his reinstatement would be regarded as invalid.

A Maseru lawyer, Thabang Khauoe, entered the limelight when he did indeed bring a High Court action to have Act No. 10 of 1994 declared null and void. On 18 March, Khauoe had a meeting in Pretoria with President Nelson Mandela, the South African Director of Foreign Affairs, J. J. Basson, and the First Secretary to the South African High Commission in Lesotho, R. G. Mahlo. It was reported that President Mandela urged Khauoe to drop the case.  back to top

National Security Service ‘Ninjas’ Act with Impunity

Shortly after his return to Lesotho on 20 March, Khauoe was said to have been kidnapped by National Security Service ‘Ninjas’. He was released 12 hours later, obviously injured, but refused to talk to the press about what had happened to him. The NSS also acted on 29 March against Monyane Moleleki, the former Minister of National Resources who a week earlier had returned to Lesotho after nearly a year in exile. He was also detained by ‘Ninjas’ while collecting his children from school, accompanied by his wife. He also made no statement to the press after his release.
 
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Report of Commission of Inquiry into Army Disturbances

Against a background of theoretically disciplined forces taking the law into their own hands, Government must have been wondering what concrete steps it could take to implement the Report of the Commission of Inquiry into Army Disturbances. Although not formally published by Government, long excerpts were published in the newspaper Mopheme of 14 March 1995. The Report recommended the restructuring of the Defence Force and its employment in civil works for which technical and professional personnel should be recruited. The Constitution should be amended to make the Defence Commission responsible to Parliament.

The Report contained many detailed recommendations, and also recommended the discharge of all found guilty of misconduct. To facilitate reconciliation and avoid further mutiny, ‘those guilty should be discharged with full terminal benefits’. Regarding the involvement of the Defence Force in disturbances, the report suggests where further enquiries might be made. In regard to the death of the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr. Selometsi Baholo it suggests that Members of ‘E’ Company could assist in explaining what happened.

The Report also made recommendations on the resettlement and where appropriate incorporation into the army of former members of the Lesotho Liberation Army. It also recommend that a special committee of experts be set up to assess claims for damage to property, personal injury and loss of life arising from the army disturbances.

[updated to 31 March 1995] back to top