MASERU — The Mokhotlong Principal Chief Mathealira Seeiso is locked in a nasty fight with his junior, the Maphiring Area Chief Theko Lerotholi over how they should discharge their duties.
Lerotholi told the Lesotho Times last week that while he expected Chief Seeiso to be the epitome of good governance the chief had instead turned out to be “a tyrant who instructs his subjects to disrespect the authorities”.
Seeiso on the other hand says he expects Lerotholi to be a respectful young chief and set a good example for his subjects but instead “he is a renegade chief who commits crimes instead of stopping them”.
At the centre of the two chiefs’ fight is their subject, Tšeliso Sebeka, a livestock farmer.
Sebeka is described in various letters written by Seeiso, Lerotholi, local government councillor Makalo Lengoasa and a village chief under Lerotholi’s jurisdiction, ’Malerotholi Moshoeshoe as a notorious man who allows his livestock to graze on preserved pastures.
Lerotholi says when he ordered Sebeka to stop grazing his livestock in the protected pastures he stubbornly said Seeiso had allowed him to do so arguing the land belonged to him as the most senior chief in Mokhotlong.
“This man Sebeka does not respect me as his chief and I have realised that he is influenced by my chief, the Principal Chief, to behave this way,” Lerotholi said.
Lerotholi said Seeiso is disregarding every protocol so that he could have direct access to Sebeka without any interference.
“He is misusing his position as the Principal Chief with the unfortunate thinking that chiefs junior to him will keep quiet,” he said.
Lerotholi applied for a High Court order interdicting Sebeka and three others from grazing in protected pastures which was granted by Justice Tšeliso Monaphathi.
Lerotholi wrote Seeiso a letter in May 2006 warning him against meddling in the internal affairs of his villages.
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In July 2011 Lerotholi sought the intervention of the District Administrator saying Seeiso was meddling in affairs of his villages, alleging that “perhaps he wants me to fail in administration as he is not happy that I am the chief of Maphiring”.
In November 2011, Sebeka entered into an agreement with a family in one of Lerotholi’s villages of Luma under Chief ’Malerotholi Tšita Moshoeshoe.
This agreement does not show a transfer of land through the local government or the village chief but bears the office stamp of the Principal Chief.
“I am afraid given how my chief’s stamp is being used.
“It can be easily used for criminal activities and I want him to do something about that although he will not listen if that comes from me,” Lerotholi said.
Lerotholi said he has since stopped giving chieftainship services to Sebeka and in June last year he left his home village of Likoae to Luma.
Sebeka was introduced to the chief of Luma by Seeiso himself.
The letter of introduction showed that the Area Chief of Maphiring does not want to assist get services and therefore the Principal Chief has taken it upon himself to help him.
This irked Lerotholi.
In June last year he wrote Seeiso a scathing letter, which was copied to King Letsie III, Chieftainship Minister Mothetjoa Metsing and the Mokhotlong District Administrator.
In the letter, Lerotholi complained that Seeiso did not even bother to call him to ask why he is not assisting Sebeka get services but decided to help him.
He said Sebeka “is a criminal and you seemed to support him in his criminal activities”.
Lerotholi further complains that Seeiso had instructed the Mokhotlong police to arrest him, which they did not do “because they can differentiate between a wrongful instruction and a correct one”.
Before long, the chief of Luma wrote to Lerotholi in April last year asking him to intervene because Sebeka’s livestock were destroying the preserved pastures. “I ask for help from you because you are my chief,” Moshoeshoe wrote.
Around the same time, a local government councilor wrote a similar letter of complaint against Sebeka.
The chiefs have since appeared before the Director of Chieftainship, Mikea Molapo, but their differences were not resolved because Lerotholi allegedly refused to co-operate.
In his response, Chief Seeiso said Lerotholi “is a troublesome young chief who got sacked from the army where he worked”.
“It is common knowledge that he caused troubles for his seniors in the army until he was relieved of his duties,” Seeiso said.
He said he decided to help the communities in villages under Lerotholi’s jurisdiction because “their chief does not want to perform his duties and they correctly came to me as his senior”.
Concerning Sebeka, Seeiso said he had no option but to “hear his cries for help because his chief had turned into his enemy”.
“The crimes of this boy Lerotholi against Sebeka are in the hands of the Mokhotlong police,” Seeiso said.
“What kind of a chief produces a gun against his subject when he suspects that the subject has committed a crime?
“He went to Sebeka’s house and broke his door and he was holding a gun,” he said.
“I have many reports about his criminal conduct and where he misused his gun. Perhaps it is because he joined the army as a small boy.”
Seeiso said Lerotholi does not know how he saved him from being hauled before the Chiefs’ Disciplinary Commission “because I have always thought he will come to his senses”.
“He is my child and he does not realise how much I love him.”
“My child is a complete renegade and I think he has attracted disciplinary action,” he said.
The Directorate of Chieftainship confirmed the fight between the chiefs.