ALTHOUGH general elections are still two years away, outspoken former First Lady ‘Maesaiah Thabane and the equally garrulous Mokhotlong legislator, Tefo Mapesela, are already treating the nation to an exciting sneak preview of a probable fierce contest between them.
This after Ms Thabane publicly declared her intention to challenge Mr Mapesela for the right to represent the constituency at the 2022 general elections.
She made her intentions known over the weekend while addressing villagers from Ha Mojakisane in Mokhotlong. Ha Mojakisane is the home of Mr Mapesela who is also Agriculture and Food Security minister. He was born and raised there.
Over the weekend, Ms Thabane who runs the ‘Maesaiah Trust Fund, took the battle to Mr Mapesela’s doorstep.
She donated four wheelchairs to disabled villagers and promised to assist the village’s community police.
Political rallies and campaigns are currently banned in terms of public health regulations aimed at curbing the spread of the deadly Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
But being a wily operator, Ms Thabane took advantage of the fact that events relating to donations are allowed to declare a political war on Mr Mapesela.
Addressing the Ha Mojakisane villagers, Ms Thabane said she was ready to roll-up her sleeves in preparation for a fierce fight with Mr Mapesela for the Mokhotlong seat.
When this publication called her this week to discuss her aspirations, Ms Thabane said she was indisposed and she was therefore unable to talk about her ambitions.
“I am not feeling well. I have a sharp pain between my breasts and I don’t feel strong enough to talk. Please understand,” ‘Maesaiah said.
But in her weekend address to the Ha Mojakisane villagers, Ms Thabane warned Mr Mapesela to prepare for a fight because she would be challenging him in 2022.
“I was born and bred in this constituency,” Ms Thabane said.
“The Mokhotlong member of parliament (Mapesela) originates from this same village I am visiting today. I am very brave and I purposely picked this village for a reason.
“This village is governed by the chief and as long as the chief allows me to come here and talk to his people, I will come and talk to you. I fear nothing.
“I am urging you to start appreciating the power of your votes from now onwards. Don’t be swayed by lies sold to you. I only came here because of the love and sympathy I have for you…
“I am going to traverse this constituency so that those making insults should up their game in making those insults while I double my efforts of giving to the people …. but we will all get the answers in 2022,” Ms Thabane.
She bemoaned that despite being home to the country’s largest diamond mines including the Letšeng Mine and the site for the construction of the multi-billion-dollar Polihali Dam, Mokhotlong still suffered from high unemployment and poverty.
“Some people flood this place during election time because they want your votes. Immediately after you have voted them into office, they forget about you. Today I am here to ask you to stop being used only to be discarded as soon as people get what they want from you. Stop being anyone’s ladder.”
Ms Thabane said it was painful to see young people unemployed when this could be rectified by those they had voted into power provided “they did their job”.
“Since I was born, I have never heard anyone suggesting that the government should establish a factory in Mokhotlong to create employment. The high unemployment rate in this district has forced parents to continue staying with their grown-up children.
“We have a mine here in Mokhotlong but I have learnt that every month end, mine workers are transported to Maseru. That means you are not being recognised. Polihali Dam is in Mokhotlong. I don’t know if there is a recruitment office here to help you get jobs in that project.”
Mr Mapesela has since welcomed Ms Thabane’s challenge with both hands.
He even mocked her over the allegations that she murdered her husband, former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s ex-wife, Lipolelo, on 14 June 2017.
Ms Thabane spent almost the entire month of June in custody after being charged with murder before being freed on bail by High Court Judge Thamsanqa Nomngcongo.
While welcoming the challenge by the “jailbird” Ms Thabane, Mr Mapesela complained that she was being unfairly allowed to campaign under the guise of donating to the needy.
“So, this jailbird (‘Maesaiah) is campaigning for elections in our constituencies in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic hiding behind her trust fund.
“It is unfair that this jailbird is campaigning while we are not allowed to. Allow us to campaign so we can whip her. Every time this jailbird goes to the constituencies to donate food, she seizes the opportunity to campaign for election. Allow us to campaign so we can whip and remind her that she is a jailbird,” Mr Mapesela said in an audio recording this week.
In a subsequent interview with the Lesotho Times, Mr Mapesela said although he welcomed her challenge, Ms Thabane had been allowed the unfair advantage of campaigning while everyone else was barred from doing so.
He questioned why she was allowed to use her charity work to campaign when the opposition Alliance of Democrats (AD) had been stopped by the police from donating to Bobatsi constituency villagers in Mokhotlong in June this year. The police stopped the AD event and dispersed its members on the grounds that the gathering contravened the Covid-19 regulations.
“It seems Ramoholi (Ms Thabane) is a feared god in Lesotho. Our hands are tied by the Covid-19 regulations but she continues to politic under the pretence of her trust fund…
“The AD was stopped from politicking in Bobatsi yet this one (Ms Thabane) is talking politics freely without being stopped from doing so. I don’t know why the police have not stopped her from politicking. Notwithstanding her breach of Covid-19 regulations, I accept her challenge.
“There is nothing wrong with her challenging me for the constituency except that she is embarking on this journey at the wrong time when we are not allowed to campaign.
“It is not wrong for anyone to challenge another but doing so when we have been told not to hold rallies because of Covid-19 regulations is wrong. I will handle her at the right time. I am not afraid of her,” Mr Mapesela said.
It is not yet clear whether or not Ms Thabane will challenge Mr Mapesela within the confines of the ABC or if she will contest him on a different platform. It has been alleged the Thabanes are mulling forming a different political party which would also see Mr Thabane return to active politics. Ms Thabane is also reportedly mobilizing for a vote of no confidence against the current Majoro led coalition when Parliament resumes.