THE future of the tripartite opposition bloc hangs in the balance amid simmering discontent over All Basotho Convention (ABC) leader Thomas Thabane’s continued meetings with Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili without consulting his colleagues.
Sources within the opposition who spoke to the Lesotho Times yesterday on the condition of anonymity said they were not happy with the ongoing negotiations between Dr Thomas Thabane and Dr Pakalitha Mosisili.
The ABC leader has been living in South Africa since he fled the country on 11 May this year, after alleging a Lesotho Defence Force plot to assassinate him for falling out with its command while he was premier. He was joined in exile by his opposition colleagues, Basotho National Party (BNP) leader Thesele ‘Maseribane and Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL) leader Keketso Rantšo, on 13 and 26 May 2015 respectively.
Last month, Dr Thabane’s began a series of meetings with Dr Mosisili to set the conditions for his homecoming. The meetings culminated in an agreement titled “Memorandum of Discussions Held Between Dr Pakalitha Mosisili and Dr Thomas Thabane” which was revealed by Dr Mosisili in a media briefing.
Under the agreement Dr Mosisili signed on 1 August and Dr Thabane two days later, the ABC leader would be provided with police security and a government house upon his return.
However, the negotiations were heavily censured by supporters of the tripartite opposition alliance who accused the former premier of only negotiating his safe return from South Africa at the expense of his opposition colleagues.
They also criticised Dr thabane for not factoring in the return of members of the LDF, opposition members and journalists who also fled the country fearing for their lives at around the same time as the three political leaders.
The outrage prompted Dr Thabane to hold a press conference in Ficksburg, South Africa, on 27 August 2015 to “set the record straight”. During the press conference, Dr Thabane said he would never betray his colleagues by signing a deal that excluded them adding that what Dr Mosisili referred to as an agreement for his return were mere minutes of their meeting.
Dr Thabane insisted that it was Dr Mosisili’s responsibility, as the country’s prime minister, to make sure all Basotho were safe and free to enjoy their democracy.
“I urge him to review his decision and consider including all Basotho who are with me in exile. I cannot leave these men and women behind while I come home alone. We are in this struggle together and want to be treated as one,” Dr Thabane said.
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“Facilitating my return alone would create problems not only between me and my allies in the opposition but also among our supporters.”
However, the visit by Dr Thabane’s wife, ‘MaIsiah, to Maseru on Tuesday to assess the accommodation government was offering, has raised the ire of opposition officials who accuse the former premier of being disingenuous.
“I was shocked when I heard that Dr Thabane’s wife ‘MaIsiah Thabane would come to Lesotho to inspect the government house prepared to accommodate them when they return to Lesotho from exile in South Africa,” said one source.
“Opposition supporters have now realised that if the government house was satisfactory to Ms Thabane, her husband would have accepted the offer, with the couple coming back home on Friday without considering the plight of the exiled soldiers, his allies Chief ‘Maseribane, Ms Rantšo and other exiles,” another source said.
“We agree that Dr Thabane assured his allies in the opposition and all the people in exile that he won’t return to Lesotho without them. However, we no longer trust him because of the secret meetings and decisions he has been making with Dr Mosisili.”
The source said they could no longer take Dr Thabane at his word since he attended the meetings with government on his own.
“If the others (Chief ‘Maseribane and Ms Rantšo) were involved in the negotiations, he would get the benefit of their input and discuss the terms and conditions of their return together,” the source added.
The sources said the “betrayal” was made worse by the fact that they were unable to take care of their families since government had frozen their salaries.
“We are able to eat food every day, but cannot afford to provide for our families as the government stopped paying our salaries,” the source said.
“Government officials who fled the country alongside opposition leaders no longer get paid. They can’t afford to provide for their families. There is even one soldier who was not able to attend his wife’s funeral and it is disappointing for Dr Thabane to be making deals with Dr Mosisili excluding his partners and such officials.” Contacted for comment yesterday, Chief ‘Maseribane and Ms Rantšo both refused to comment on the issue, saying relations between the opposition leaders were “still smooth although we are not yet ready to say anything for now”.
Dr Thabane’s spokesperson, Thabo Thakalekoala, yesterday denied claims that the former premier would return to Lesotho tomorrow.
“The arrangement to inspect a government house for Ntate Thabane was not a result of Dr Thabane and Dr Mosisili’s meeting last week, but was arranged some time back,” Mr Thakalekoala said.
“I want to assure opposition supporters that it is not true that Ntate Thabane is coming back to Lesotho leaving behind his partners, Chief ‘Maseribane, Ms Rantšo and all the people who are in exile.
“Opposition supporters and Basotho will be informed when Dr Thabane and all the exiles return to Lesotho. He won’t come alone but will return alongside all his fellow exiles.”