. . .Major-General’s anticipated departure shrouded in secrecy

Mokaloba to command Sadc troops

Staff Reporters

MASERU – Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) Inspector-General Ramanka Mokaloba has been appointed Force Commander for next month’s two-week Sadc military exercise UMODZI in Malawi, as the regional body escalates preparations for creation of its standby force.

The training camp - code named Exercise UMODZI – will run from October 1 to 17 after its recent launch by SADC Executive Secretary Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax at Sadc Headquarters in Gaborone, Botswana. “As part of force preparation for the Sadc Standby Force (SSF), the Exercise UMODZI aims at preparing the SSF to effectively assume its standby responsibility at the continental level under the African Standby Force (ASF) in January 2019,” Sadc said in a statement.

“The Exercise will simulate the deployment of a Rapid Deployment Capability by the Sadc SF in which the African Union (AU) deploys a Peace Support Operation (PSO) as a conflict resolution measure in the African continent.” According to the Sadc statement, Exercise UMODZI’s top brass will include head of mission Eunice Tembo Marambiwa Luambia of Zambia, force commander Major General Ramanka Josias Mokaloba, and Malawi police force’s Hannings Mgabe Mlotha as commissioner of police.

Also, Botswana Defence Force’s Brigadier G.L. Tshweneetsile will be rapid deployment commander, while director, development – co-operation ministry of national development planning, Zambia, Caterine Mwewa Lishomwa will head mission support. Mokaloba’s appointment, observers say, can be viewed as a change in how the country’s military is viewed after being thrust in the spotlight for fanning insecurity and political instability for nearly decades.

This has intermittently compelled the regional body to deploy troops and most recently the Sadc Preventive Mission in Lesotho (SAPMIL) in November 2017, whose mandate was to “create a conducive environment for the implementation of reforms and Sadc decisions”.

Mokaloba is not new to exercises of this nature as he was part of the strategic leadership, for the Amani Africa Peace-Keeping Exercise in South Africa a couple of years ago. Neither Mokaloba nor LDF Commander Lt. Gen. Mojalefa Letsoela, could be reached for comment at the time of going to print. However, LDF spokesperson Lt. Colonel Mashili Mashili confirmed to Public Eye yesterday that Mokaloba would soon be departing for Malawi, adding “he will be leaving with a contingent of 10 army personnel, travelling in the LDF aircraft”.

“I can confirm that Major-General Mokaloba has been appointed Force Commander for Sadc’s UMODZI Exercise,” Mashili said. Asked if the LDF saw Mokaloba’s appointment as a positive step and perhaps even a vote of confidence in the Lesotho army after years of prolonged instability, which led to the military being classified as politically polarised at one point, Mashili dismissed the question as pure speculation arguing that “even when the country was going through difficulties, we never ceased to participate in Sadc activities”.

“We have never been out of the Sadc system. Sadc has never shut its doors on us. We’ve always attended all Sadc activities. It’s therefore wrong to assume that this is an expression of confidence after past years’ events because they have always had confidence in us,” Mashili said.

However, he said the LDF command was not “ready to address this matter in the media”. “The Commander is not yet ready to talk about this in the media. But he said I must stress the fact that we are leading the exercise because of our credentials and that Major-General Mokaloba was also in the forefront of the Amani Afrika Exercise,” Mashili said.

“The Commander also said I must relay that the fact that SAPMIL was deployed to Lesotho did not have a bearing on our participation in Sadc exercises and activities.” Exercise UMODZI is aimed at enhancing the operational capability of the Sadc standby force, and to test and harmonise existing doctrines and standard operating procedures.

Among other things, Exercise UMODZI will practice how to operate in conflict zones and test the force’s communications and information systems capabilities; practice Civil Military Cooperation; and look at the effectiveness and efficiency of logistical support to Sadc operations.

In her address at the exercise’s launch, Dr Tax commended member states for their cooperation, in particular the Government of Malawi, which will host the Exercise. Dr Tax also noted that, “Peace and Security remain one of the critical ingredients of sustainable socio-economic development of the SADC region”, in which respect, “Malawi will contribute to the fulfilment of the SADC Treaty vision of "Shared Future”. This envisages creating an environment of peace, security and stability will go some way towards fulfilling the African Union’s (AU) “aspiration of Silencing the Guns in Africa by 2020”.

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