COLONEL Tefo Hashatsi, who died from wounds sustained in a hail of bullets on Tuesday, was a polarising figure who was loved and loathed in equal measure by his supporters and opponents respectively.
Col Hashatsi was shot by Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) commander Lieutenant-General Khoantle Motšomotšo’s bodyguards after the latter was gunned down by Brigadier Bulane Sechele at Ratjomose barracks.
Col Hashatsi first came to prominence in early 2014 when he ordered his subordinates in the LDF’s Special Forces Unit, he was leading as a captain, to show unwavering loyalty to the then LDF commander Tlali Kamoli.
He was quoted saying Lt-Gen Kamoli would be removed “over my dead body”.
Col Hashatsi was subsequently reprimanded for that remark by then Brigadier Maaparankoe Mahao.
The reprimand resulted in the convening of a court martial for then Brig Mahao in which he was charged with “behaving in a manner unbecoming of an army officer” and for “intimidating” Col Hashatsi.
Prime Minister Thabane later dissolved the court martial against Brig Mahao and appointed him LDF commander after firing Lt-Gen Kamoli.
Lt-Gen Mahao’s appointment was fiercely resisted by some army officers who were aligned with Lt-Gen Kamoli. Among them was Col Hashatsi.
He was part of the team of officers dispatched in June 2015 to arrest LDF members accused of mutiny.
Lt-Gen Mahao was shot dead in one of the operations on 25 June 2015, with the LDF claiming he had resisted arrest. However, the Mahao family disputed the claim, accusing the LDF of killing the former army chief in cold blood as claimed by his nephews who were with him on the fateful day.
SADC established a Commission of Inquiry to investigate the circumstances surrounding Lt-Gen Mahao’s death.
The commission implicated Col Hashatsi in the assassination of Lt-Gen Mahao.
During his testimony to the inquiry, Col Hashatsi became synonymous with the “no comment” statement that he repeatedly made when asked questions about the death of the former army general.
He refused to answer whether he was present in Mokema where Lt-Gen Mahao was gunned down.
The SADC commission recommended that, among others, the army officers who were allegedly involved in the killing of Lt-Gen be arrested and be brought before the courts of law.