By Thoboloko Ntšonyane
MASERU- Hardly a week after a joint controversial statement issued by the chiefs of security institutions, the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) Commander Lieutenant General Mojalefa Letsoela has made chilling remarks in a video that is currently trending.
A video currently gaining traction has captured the attention of both the members of the public and the parliament.
The members of parliament (MPs) had debated a motion that was tabled by Dr Mahali Phamotse condemning last week’s joint statement, also, on Monday Hon Rethabile Letlailana also rose on point of order calling out the utterances by the army Commander.
The parliament also called for the retraction of the statement.
In a video, Lieutenant General Letsoela is seen telling his subordinates that he will not manage to facilitate the ceremonial flag and the Constitution handing over. It could be deduced that he meant from one prime Minister to another as is the case when there is change of government.
He further said he would not be made a “fool” by marching in between the parade in that ceremony, instead, this flag would go “somewhere, perhaps somewhere in between “.
This statement has set tongues wagging and has also attracted criticism in some quarters.
Last week, Commissioner of Police (COMPOL) Holomo Molibeli, Commander of the LDF and the National Security Services (NSS) Director-General Phello Lenkoane issued a statement seemingly warning against the motion of no confidence that is to unfold in the National Assembly.
They said theirs is to protect the Constitution and ensure law and order.
Reading the statement, COMPOL said they have learned that there are people who are planning to destabilize the country and cause disorder for their gain. This he said would result in chaos resulting in the loss of lives and public property.
They further said that the country cannot be returned to that state, saying they will work with the government to restore the dignity of the country and maintain investor confidence.
“Basotho have made it clear that they want democratic governance and not a government for parliamentarians by the parliamentarians, the public has expressed a desire for the reforms. Removing one another in parliament is not in the best interest of the nation,” he charged.
They also vowed that the change of government in parliament would not happen, instead what they said should happen is the implementation of the National reforms.
Lesotho Council of Non-Governmental Organization (LCN), an umbrella body for NGOs in Lesotho said the joint statement by the heads of security agencies was “overreaching and borders being unconstitutionally given the functions of the security agencies”.
LCN continued: “The constitution further provides the roles of the security sector as maintained of internal security, defense of Lesotho, and national and/or internal security.
“Where the security sector is seen to encroach upon sectors of non-concern, CSOs [civil society organizations] are justified to intervene based on their role as a mechanism of public oversight, to avert actions of human rights violations, a threat to democracy, rule of law and security overreaching.”
The LCN pointed out that in as much as the move by the MPs to endorse the vote of no confidence in the government “may be irritating ” to the extent that some people believe doing so is tantamount to “misuse of representative democracy “, it says the security has no business in interfering with that democratically sanctioned processes and ought to leave the parliament to transact its business.
Also, the Law Society of Lesotho denounced the statement saying it “raises serious concerns”.
“The Law Society of Lesotho unreservedly condemns the actions or statements that undermine the security forces political neutrality, thereby endangering the very foundations of our democracy. We underscore that the security is not a mere convention; it is a constitutional imperative that cannot be compromised,” reads their statement.
They further called on these security chiefs to “address and rectify” the situation.
Section 2, an organization that advocates for the supremacy of the Constitution has called to order the heads of security institutions.
“The pronouncements made by these agencies, indicating that they would obstruct any constitutional change of government in parliament, raises serious concerns about the separation of powers and the integrity of the democratic process. Such statements imply an undue interference in the legitimate workings of a representative democracy, and this cannot be countenanced.
“The citizens of Lesotho have entrusted their democratic institutions with the authority to make decisions on their behalf. It is the role of parliament, as the supreme legislative body, to deliberate and act on matters of national significance, including motion of no confidence.”
The army Commander’s statement comes days ahead of the impending motion of no confidence in the Prime Minister Ntsokoane Matekane-led government. If the motion passes, Matekane will step down making way for the former Deputy Prime Minister and the current Leader of the Opposition Hon Mathibeli Mokhothu.
Reacting to the utterances made by the army Chief, Dr Moeketsi Kali, a lecturer at the Department of Political and Administrative Studies in the National University of Lesotho (NUL) characterized them as the “continuation and emphasis” of the previous public statement.
Dr Kali added: “The message is clear and does not deviate from the previous joint statement despite the civil society statements that condemned it. This implies that the army is not hearkening to the calls demanding the withdrawal of its joint statement let alone asking for an apology.
“This should reveal a need to safeguard democracy… through preventive measures. This role could be advanced by the opposition lest the waves of change become insurmountable.”
Asked where the statement leaves the citizens, he said the citizens can only stand and watch the winds of change like a “helpless child”.
He however highlighted that through the efforts of the CSOs and media, citizens’ voices can be expressed cautioning that the two groups are void of interests.
“Otherwise the disgruntled electorates can only express their elation and ululation as their oppressors see Canaan land close but cannot enter therein. The ecstasy would be triumphant against their former exploiters. Hence, the proverb that ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’ would transpire,” he said.
On whether there is a likelihood of a repeat of August 30, 2014, where there was a security uprising that was labeled as a “coup attempt”, he said the currently unfolding situation indicates a semblance of unity adding that it can be stopped “from within but without”.
The Political Science scholar also cautioned that prospects of an external intervention are slim if not unlikely as it were with Zimbabwe.
“The outcry of the opposition will resonate in the corridors of SADC [Southern African Development Community] as some leaders wear out [President] Cyril Ramaphosa’s doorsteps. A cordial relationship would be witnessed between opposition and security agencies but only then would pigs fly and if the latter is far from occurence so is the former.
“Hence one could only fathom gloom, despair, and distress. Lesotho under these circumstances is bound to underscore its name in the books of SADC, not for any plausible milestone but the tales told to the far worlds in the pasts,” Dr Kali said.