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Don’t fire police officers: Mokhothu

  • DC leader also demands probe and arrests in Lipolelo Thabane’s murder

’Marafaele Mohloboli

DEMOCRATIC Congress (DC) leader, Mathibeli Mokhothu, has condemned government moves to dismiss police officers for the strike that disrupted preparations for His Majesty King Letsie III’s birthday in July 2019.

Mr Mokhothu advised government against the move, saying there was “too much at stake in the security sector” and firing the officers was likely to “give birth to rebels within the institution”.

The youthful opposition leader also joined fellow opposition leader, Mothejoa Metsing, in calling for the release of double murder-accused former commander, Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli, and other soldiers currently in remand prison where they await trial for various crimes.

He called on the government to find and arrest the killers of Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s wife, Lipolelo Thabane, and Police Constable (PC) Mokalekale Khetheng.

Mr Mokhothu said all this while addressing a DC rally early this week in Malingoaneng, Mokhotlong.

The Thomas Thabane-led coalition has three more years left of its five year tenure but the instability brought on by the power struggle between Dr Thabane and his All Basotho Convention (ABC) deputy, Professor Nqosa Mahao, has left many convinced that the government may not last the distance.

ABC legislators loyal to Prof Mahao have teamed up with opposition parties including the Mokhothu-led DC to file a no confidence motion against Dr Thabane and a vote on the issue will be held if parliament opens as expected on the 18th of this month.

It is against this background of instability that the governing parties and the opposition are already on the campaign trail in anticipation of elections that Dr Thabane will inevitably call if the motion against him succeeds.

Mr Mokhothu has been particularly aggressive with his campaign and was in Mokhotlong this week.

Although the DC is backing the Pro-Mahao legislators’ no confidence motion against Dr Thabane and their proposal for ABC chairperson, Samuel Rapapa, to take over as interim prime minister, it looks unlikely that Dr Thabane will agree to step down should he lose the no confidence vote. Mr Mokhothu believes the veteran leader would rather advise His Majesty, King Letsie III, to dissolve parliament and call for fresh elections. Addressing party supporters in Malingoaneng, Mr Mokhothu repeated his call for the re-opening of parliament to allow the no confidence vote. He said his party was ready for elections.

“This government is now rickety because it doesn’t have numbers. They should open parliament because we are ready to go for elections. We advise that they do so now while we are still at an early stage of our campaigns because if they wait longer we will be unstoppable. We are going to take this government from their hands.”

He mocked Dr Thabane for negotiating with some “useless parties” in a desperate bid to retain power. Although he did not mention any party by name, this could have been in reference to Dr Thabane’s recent talks with opposition Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) leader, Mothejoa Metsing. There have been widespread speculation that the talks between the two are aimed at forging an alliance to save Dr Thabane from the no confidence motion in return for Mr Metsing’s party being included in the governing coalition.

Speaking at the rally, Mr Mokhothu said deals with any party would not save Dr Thabane from losing power.

“They are busy luring useless parties….. to become part of them. This government is like a patient in the intensive care unit, it is dying. We have told them that we don’t want anything to do with them. All we want is for the (no confidence) motion to be passed in parliament.

“We won’t be bought with positions. It is either the prime minister relinquishes power in parliament or advises His Majesty to dissolve parliament. This is what the constitution says and the DC is all ready to flex its muscle.

“We don’t care whether they merge or dismantle, we are ready for elections. Just like a deer panting for stream waters, we pant for the elections. They will not win.

“They said a child had been voted into power when I was elected, so what’s their problem of going to the elections against a child,” the youthful Mr Mokhothu asked rhetorically.

“They should open parliament. They should not be hiding behind the issue of elections being expensive. Elections are not more costly than the extravagance of this government which uses millions of maloti for landscaping at the State House.

“We are ready to send someone packing. He (Dr Thabane) is old and parliament is not a bed for the elderly.”

He also condemned government moves to dismiss police officers for the strike that disrupted preparations for His Majesty King Letsie III’s birthday in July 2019.

Mr Mokhothu advised the government against the move, saying there was “too much at stake in the security sector” and firing the officers was likely to “give birth to rebels within the institution”.

Several police officers face dismissal for going on strike a few days before His Majesty’s birthday in July this year.

The officers, stationed at Berea, Mohale’s Hoek, Thaba-Tseka, Maseru Rural districts, stand accused of defying orders to return to work and to attend rehearsals for His Majesty’s birthday celebrations. The King celebrated his 56th birthday on 17 July 2019. The officers have been asked to “show cause” why they should not be dismissed from the police service.

But on Sunday Mr Mokhothu said the DC is “totally against this move of writing such (“show cause”) letters to the police”.

“There is just too much at stake in the security sector…this is going to birth some rebels within the institution. We condemn it in the strongest terms.”

He also called for the release of Lt-Gen Kamoli. He urged the government to find and arrest the killers of Ms Lipolelo Thabane and PC Khetheng.

“We want those soldiers arrested alongside General Kamoli to be released. Their cases must be heard or they should be released as we can see that they have no cases to answer.

“All the blood that was shed should be repaid and those who murdered Police Constable Khetheng and the Prime Minister’s estranged wife Lipolelo Thabane should also be arrested so that they account for their deeds,” said Mr Mokhothu.

Ms Lipolelo Thabane was gunned down in cold blood by unknown gunmen in Ha ‘Masana on 14 June 2017. The incident occurred just two days before Dr Thabane’s inauguration as prime minister.

A female companion of Ms Thabane also sustained serious injuries in the shooting. No one has been arrested in connection with the murder.

PC Khetheng went missing after he was arrested by his colleagues at a traditional feast in Sebothoane, Leribe, on 25 March 2016. His body was exhumed a year later at a mass grave in the Lepereng cemetery on the outskirts of Maseru. The cemetery is a burial site for unclaimed corpses.

Former Defence and National Security minister, Tšeliso Mokhosi, was arrested with some police officers and they face charges of murdering PC Khetheng.

Mr Mokhothu also called on the government to repeal the controversial wool and mohair regulations forbidding farmers from selling their produce from outside Lesotho.

The farmers bitterly opposed the regulations and in June this year they came together in their thousands to stage the “mother of all protests” in Maseru to press the government to amend the regulations to allow them to sell their produce from anywhere in the world and through brokers of their choice.

The farmers are planning another massive demonstration to force the government to repeal the regulations.

“Those regulations should be nullified, if they (government) don’t do so, we (DC) shall do it on the first day we assume power,” Mr Mokhothu said.

Commenting on the plight of teachers who have not paid after embarking on what the government described as an “illegal strike” for salary increments, Mr Mokhothu said teachers were reaping what they sowed because they had voted the current government into power.

“They (teachers) are eating their own porridge because they are the ones who voted this government which doesn’t want to hear them out now,” he said, urging the teachers to vote the DC this time round as the only way to have their grievances resolved.

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