- as he refuses to back down in fight with the DC
- while DC youth league vows to protect Mokhothu
The gloves are well and truly off in the All Basotho Convention (ABC)’s fight with its Democratic Congress (DC) coalition partner.
This after the ABC secretary general, Lebohang Hlaele, challenged DC leader and Deputy Prime Minister Mathibeli Mokhothu to be “man enough” and confront him over allegations that he is behind the human trafficking allegations against the DC leader and his party.
Mr Hlaele this week told the Lesotho Times that the ABC was not scared of the DC. He said now that the DC had declared war on them, they should “bring it on” as the ABC was “ready and waiting to see what the DC will do”.
He was speaking in the wake of Mr Mokhothu’s weekend claims that the human trafficking allegations against him were made by “Satanists” within the ABC. The DC leader also called on the ABC to rein in what he described as the Hlaele faction within that party.
In the wake of Mr Mokhothu’s weekend attack on the ABC, DC youth league president Moeketsi Shale’s this week told the Lesotho Times that party youths would do everything in their power to defend Mr Mokhothu from malicious attacks by the “Hlaele faction of the ABC”.
Mr Shale said although the DC did not believe Mr Hlaele had the full backing of the ABC’s national executive committee (NEC), it was still incumbent on the latter to publicly distance itself from its secretary general.
The two parties, which only formed a coalition government in May this year, have over the past few weeks been locked in a fierce war of words over allegations that Mr Mokhothu and other senior DC officials were involved in human trafficking activities alongside a Pakistani national, Rana Qamar.
The DC accuses Mr Hlaele of spreading the “false allegations” against Mr Mokhothu and other senior DC officials.
The allegations were first made by an immigration officer, Mapeete Jonathan, in her court application challenging her transfer from Moshoeshoe I Airport to the head office of the immigration department in Maseru.
In her court papers filed last month, Ms Jonathan alleges that she is being transferred as punishment for refusing to allow Mr Qamar to “traffick” two Pakistanis into the country through the airport earlier this year.
She further alleges that she was reliably informed by a fellow immigration officer that Mr Qamar, who is married to a Mosotho woman, is close to Mr Mokhothu and other senior DC officials. Mr Qamar is alleged to have given the DC six campaign vehicles during the last elections in 2017.
Mr Mokhothu vehemently denies the allegations. Ms Jonathan insists the “donation” had given Mr Qamar leverage over the DC leadership to enable the Pakistani to demand her transfer after she refused his two fellow Pakistani travellers entry into the country in March 2020.
Although the allegations were made by Ms Jonathan, DC officials including Mr Mokhothu himself believe they were instigated by Mr Hlaele as part of an elaborate plot to get back at them for rejecting his plan to parachute his preferred candidate, ABC member Nonkululeko Zaly to the post of Home Affairs principal secretary (PS).
Ms Zaly’s appointment, the DC officials allege, would have given Mr Hlaele and the ABC control over the recruitment of civil servants and other staffers to the key ministry. Political parties in successive coalitions have been repeatedly accused of vote-buying by offering jobs to potential voters at their respective ministries.
Ms Zaly was initially appointed to the post by Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro in June this year but the latter had to move her to the Local Government and Chieftaincy portfolio after strong resistance by the DC.
The DC resisted Ms Zaly’s appointment on the grounds that the two parties’ coalition agreement clearly stipulates that each party can only appoint its members as PSs to ministries it controls.
The home affairs minister is the DC deputy leader, Mr Motlalentoa Letsosa. In terms of the two parties’ deal, his PS should come from his own DC party and not from the ABC.
As a result, Mr Letsosa refused to allow Ms Zaly into office when she reported for work on 1 July 2020.
Dr Majoro subsequently revoked Ms Zaly’s appointment on 29 July 2020 and appointed Tumelo Raboletsi as home affairs PS. Dr Majoro subsequently appointed Ms Zaly to her current local government post.
But according to Messrs Mokhothu, Shale and other DC officials, Mr Hlaele is still unhappy with the DC and is therefore behind the smear campaign “to teach the DC a lesson”.
Mr Hlaele hotly denies the allegations. Last week, he addressed a press conference where he said no one was above the law. If there was evidence, Mr Mokhothu must stand trial for human trafficking like anyone else, charged Mr Hlaele.
Although ABC chairperson, Samuel Rapapa, said the press conference had been given the greenlight by the party, the DC leadership insists that Mr Hlaele’s utterances reflect his faction’s position and not that of the entire ABC’s NEC.
Mr Hlaele has lately been accused of dumping the ABC faction led by the party’s deputy leader, Professor Nqosa Mahao. He is said to be hobnobbing with the faction loyal to ABC leader and former premier Thomas Thabane as he allegedly prepares the groundwork for his own ambition to lead the ABC.
It is against this background that Mr Shale this week accused Mr Hlaele of spearheading a smear campaign against Mr Mokhothu and the DC.
“We are aware that our leader and party are under attack and we are going to do everything that it takes to protect what we cherish,” Mr Shale told the Lesotho Times this week.
“The bone of contention is not about trafficking as it is being alleged. It all started with ABC wanting to take over the ministry of home affairs by making their member (Zaly) a principal secretary in that ministry. But we flatly rejected that because we had agreed that the party in charge of a ministry should be allowed to appoint its own member as PS.
“When we thought this had been dealt with, Mr Hlaele then came up with another demand to have a say in how home affairs employees should be recruited and this was also rejected. That is when he took to the media and started attacking us.
“This is how the ABC has always operated but we are not going to allow them to make us lose focus especially now that elections are nearing. I have warned the ABC secretary general to stop besmirching our leader’s name because there is no case at all against our leader.
“It was deemed necessary by the (home affairs) minister that some immigration officers should be transferred to allow the human trafficking issue to be probed. But we are aware that Ntate Hlaele is friends with some top immigration officers hence he is trying to protect them from being transferred.”
He said they were unmoved by Mr Hlaele’s calls for Mr Mokhothu to step down to allow an investigation into his alleged role in human trafficking.
“We are not shaken at all because there is no case against our leader and we are determined to protect him in every way possible.
“Ntate Hlaele should know that he is nothing in this government and he can’t do anything to change it. He has no power at all and can’t chase our leader out of office. He and his cronies like Ntate (Monyane) Moleleki are nothing.
“There is nothing they can do to change or topple this government. We know that Moleleki has joined this war because he is still hoping to get back into government so that he may get benefits for his tenure (which was interrupted when the previous government prematurely collapsed in May this year).
“I doubt if the whole ABC’s NEC feels the same way as Ntate Hlaele about our leader. We are still waiting for them to pronounce themselves on this issue,” Mr Shale said.
On his part, Mr Hlaele said he was “saddened” by the fallout between him and the DC.
“I know that my name is being dragged into this issue just because I frequent the office of the Director of Immigration, Mantšebo Phafane, who happens to be a family friend,” Mr Hlaele told this publication.
He also blasted Mr Mokhothu for not being “man enough” to confront him if he felt that he was leading a smear campaign against him.
“He (Mokhothu) has failed to be man enough to confront me over the allegations. He has instead opted to call me the king of Satanists,” Mr Hlaele said in reference to Mr Mokhothu’s weekend claims that the human trafficking allegations against him were led by “Satanists” within the ABC.
The combative Mr Hlaele said although he did not harbour any personal vendettas against Mr Mokhothu and other DC officials, the DC leader should step aside until his name has been cleared.
He also said since the DC had chosen to fight his party, they should “bring it on” because the ABC was ready and only waiting to see what the DC would do next.
“Now that he (Mokhothu) says his people should protect themselves, we are also ready and are just waiting to see what they are going to do next. We are not scared,” Mr Hlaele said.
Mr Hlaele spoke to the Lesotho Times before yesterday’s meeting between the two parties where a cessation of hostilities was agreed.