11 May 2018

Lesotho: Justice for Mahao, No to TRC


THREE years down the line the death of Maaparankoe Mahao the slain former Lieutenant - General of the Lesotho Defence Force still instils in me a cocktail of emotions.

At a personal level I am no stranger to death. I lost half my family including my two parents before I turned 30. In a way I have managed to deal with and process the pain. But the death of Maaparankoe who is no relation of mine continues to torment and haunt me.

I recently listened to Professor Nqosa Mahao make an impassioned plea to the government not to accede to opposition demands for the government to consider setting up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) for those who have been implicated in, among things, the death of Maaparankoe Mahao.

The message that the Mahao family is sending out there is a simple and straight forward one. They want justice in line with the laws of this country. Need we say more? Maaparankoe was callously murdered in the prime of his life. He had become the chief of the Lesotho Defence Force and this is the one ambition that he once told me he cherished to achieve and discharge with honour. And he was an honourable and humble man but firm in his convictions.

In my numerous engagements with him he came across as a man who would carefully think about something before he even ventured an opinion about it. While he always took a holistic approach to the problems of this country I often found myself at the wrong end of his criticism. I suppose as a practicing lawyer I am prone to addressing the nitty gritties of life and I do not have the luxury of taking a long term and academic view when it comes to problem solving. I have to think on my feet all the time. That was the difference between me and him.

I sincerely endorse the sentiments expressed by Professor Mahao. The justice that we are looking forward to in the Mahao matter and all other similarly sad matters begins with the families of the bereaved. Any pursuit of justice in whatever form that rules out the feelings of the Mahao family will in fact be a negation of justice. It will only exonerate and ensure freedom for blood stained murderers and cause even more woes for the Mahao family.

The least we can do is to do the right thing and put whoever is implicated in these gruesome acts before the courts to face the full might of the law. Maaparankoe Mahao is no longer with us today courtesy of a renegade element in the Lesotho Defence Force and we owe it to him to ensure that the wheels of justice are set in motion. I will always stand with the Mahao family on this most fundamental tenet of our justice system.

Calls by the opposition for a TRC must be rejected. In the words of Professor Mahao 'Justice for who'? In any event where do we draw the line? If reconciliation means freeing suspected murders then we might as well do away with the crime of murder in our law and begin this process by emptying our jails.

Justice is a very important deterrent tool that will guarantee that we make a clean break with the past that we all want to put behind our backs. Of all criminality the crime of murder stands in a class of its own. While we can never bring back Maaparankoe Mahao at the very least we expect to get justice for him.

For the Mahao family who are the direct victims of this atrocity this is a clarion call that we must all honour and respect. I will not lose any opportunity to demand justice for Maaparankoe Mahao. Even if it is the last thing I will do to ensure he embraces eternity in peace.


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