7 September 2017

Lesotho: Sechele Had Chequered Career

Photo: Daily News
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BRIGADIER Bulane Andrew Sechele's death in Tuesday's gun battle which also claimed the lives of Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) commander the LDF Lieutenant General (Lt Gen) Khoantle Motṧomotṧo and Colonel Tefo Hashatsi at Ratjomose Barracks, brought to an end a long and somewhat controversial military career dating back to 1996 when he joined as a junior soldier occupying a rank of Private.

Also a lawyer by training, Brig Sechele rose through the ranks and he first gained public attention for his work in the army's legal department in 2010 where he served as a prosecutor in the Court Martial which tries soldiers on disciplinary and criminal cases that are defined under the Lesotho Defence Force Act of 1996.

It was during that time when he addressed some members of the LDF in effort to win their support to challenge a new law that had been passed to introduce a contributory pension fund for public officers including soldiers.

Before then, government had been the sole contributor to a consolidated fund which would ultimately benefit public servants.

Brig Sechele's activities thus brought him into the spotlight as he became unpopular with the-then army command, which accused him of causing instability within the army.

Undeterred, he unilaterally filed a constitutional case before the High Court challenging the Public Officers' Defined Contribution Pension Fund Act of 2008, arguing that the law violated his rights because he was not consulted before it was enacted.

He contended that his salary was his personal property and it would be affected by the law which provided that public officers should contribute five percent of their salaries into the pension fund.

He cited as the respondents, among others, the Public Officers Defined Contribution Pension Fund, then LDF Commander, Lt Gen Thuso Motanyane, and former Defence Minister, Pakalitha Mosisili who was also Prime Minister at the time.

He lost the challenge and appealed against the judgment but lost again before the Court of Appeal in April 2011.

However, the Court of Appeal ordered that the clause relating to the money a pensioner should get should be amended to include that the pension should not be less than what beneficiaries got before the enactment of the law.

The case set a precedent which is often cited by lawyers in cases of complaints by former civil servants in pension issues.

Brig Sechele prosecuted a case against former army commander, Lt Gen Maaparankoe Mahao, before the Court Martial.

Lt Gen Mahao had been arraigned on charges of intimidating the now deceased Colonel Tefo Hashatsi in 2013.

Col Hashatsi, who at the time was a captain heading the Special Forces department of the army had warned his subordinates at the parade against posting issues relating to the then army command on the social media.

Lt-Gen Mahao, who was then a brigadier called Col Hashatsi and told him to stop telling his subordinates what he had told them because the army was ultimately under "civilian control".

Lt-Gen Mahao was charged under the sections of the Lesotho Defence Force Act of 1996 for allegedly intimidating Col Hashatsi.

However, Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, dissolved the court martial, fired Lt-Gen Tlali Kennedy Kamoli and appoint Lt-Gen Mahao as army commander.

The tension between what was considered the Mahao and the Kamoli factions intensified and Brig Sechele, who was believed to be loyal to the latter headed an investigating team which arrested 23 soldiers on mutiny charges.

The operation to arrest those army officers resulted in the shooting of Lt-Gen Mahao near his Mokema home on 25 June 2015.

Lt-Gen Mahao's killing ignited international condemnation and then premier, Dr Mosisili asked SADC to probe his death.

Lt-Gen Mahao's death also put Brig Sechele on the spotlight as he commanded the LDF operation that claimed the life of Lt Gen Mahao.

He even testified to that effect before the SADC Commission of Inquiry led by Justice Mpaphi Phumaphi of Botswana.

The 10-member commission carried out its investigations between 31 August and 23 October 2015 and recommended, among other things, that government should investigate the killing and prosecute those found to be responsible.

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