OPPOSITION youth leaders have given Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili a seven-day ultimatum to take punitive measures against controversial political activist, Bokang Ramatšella for allegedly insulting King Letsie III.
In a joint statement issued yesterday, the All Basotho Convention (ABC), Alliance of Democrats (AD), Basotho National Party (BNP) and Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL) youth leaders said failure by Dr Mosisili and his government to act on Mr Ramatšella would result in a massive protest.
According to the youths, Mr Ramatšella made disparaging remarks about His Majesty during a live local radio station programme between 8pm and midnight last Friday.
Reading from the statement during a press conference in Maseru yesterday, the BNP’s Konosoang Bereng said: “We have listened with shock and disappointment at the derogatory statement made by a criminal by the name of Bokang Ramatšella on radio against His Majesty the King. It is surprising that when the King performs his duties, he is insulted by this criminal.”
They alleged that Mr Ramatšella said: “To be ruled in Matsieng is the same as being ruled by Satan.”
“We should make this criminal and his cohort leaders aware that Lesotho is ruled by law. We cannot sit back and watch as this criminal and his cohorts in government destroy our country,” Ms Bereng said.
They said His Majesty was “attacked” for meeting and contributing to the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Oversight Committee which is currently conducting consultations with various stakeholders in Lesotho since its return to Maseru on Monday last week.
The Oversight Committee was established by an Extraordinary Summit of the SADC Double Troika held on 3 July 2015 in Pretoria, South Africa with a brief to “intervene as appropriate in consultation with Mr Ramaphosa”.
Led by retired Tanzanian judge, Justice Frederic Mwita Werema, the 10-member Oversight Committee was established with a mandate to serve as an early warning mechanism of Lesotho’s instability and to monitor the implementation of SADC decisions regarding the political and security situation in the country. The committee was also tasked with providing assistance in the implementation of constitutional, security and public sector reforms in Lesotho.
According to the youths, it turned out the King’s contribution before the committee “did not sit well” with the government.
They accused the seven-party coalition government led by Dr Mosisili of using Mr Ramatšella to insult the royal family.
They said Mr Ramatšella was a confused politician who was caught between the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) and Lesotho People’s Congress (LPC) parties.
The youths further alleged that government spent money to buy airtime slots on the radio station and used Mr Ramatšella “to drive their dirty agendas,” adding the latter was therefore afforded protection by government through its security agencies.
The AD’s Thuso Litjobo called on Dr Mosisili to “immediately protect the King against this criminal and his cohorts,” adding that failure to do so would leave them with no choice but “to believe that you (Dr Mosisili) are also part of a campaign launched by a bunch of criminals to attack Lesotho’s monarch”.
He said in the event of non-action, they would organise a massive protest against the premier, “that is if you would still be the prime minister by then, considering that your government no longer commands enough numbers in parliament”.
For his part, ABC’s Mphonyane Lebesa accused LCD leader and Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing of remaining mum in the face of the alleged unbecoming conduct by Mr Ramatšella during Dr Mosisili’s absence. Dr Mosisili arrived yesterday from the African Union summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Mr Lebesa alleged Mr Ramatšella was influenced by Mr Metsing “to disrespect the King.”
“It is quite surprising that during the radio programme, statements like: “To be ruled in Matsieng is the same as being ruled by Satan,” were uttered but you (Mr Metsing) failed to issue a statement to condemn that and calm Basotho like you usually do against the opposition,” Mr Lebesa said.
The RCL’s Fusi Koeshe accused Police Commissioner, Molahlehi Letsoepa of failing to issue an order to investigate and arrest Mr Ramatšella following the alleged utterances.
Commissioner Letsoepa, Mr Koeshe said, had been quick to order the arrests of Machesetsa Mofomobe (BNP) and Litjobo, “but you fail to do the same with this criminal (Mr Ramatšella).”
They further stated if the police cannot arrest Mr Ramatšella, they would arrest him themselves and take him to the police to detain him.
The BNP spokesperson, Mr Mofomobe, who was also present at the press conference, said Mr Ramatšella should have been charged under the Penal Code Act: Offences against the Royal Family, section 79 which states that “a person who knowingly commits any act calculated to violate the dignity or injure the reputation of the royal family commits an offence”.
Contacted yesterday, Mr Ramatšella denied making the disparaging statement, saying it had been made by a listener who called in during the phone-in programme.
“I did not make such a statement. I was in the studio as a guest and I was informed by the presenter that a listener had called in to make that statement,” Mr Ramatšella said.
“I personally did not hear that person because of technical issues in the studio but someone listening to the radio outside the studio would have clearly heard the listeners’ comments.”
He said the police were investigating the matter and they had gone to the studio to request the recording of the programme.
“I am waiting to hear what they found because I know I did not say that.”
He however, said he had appealed to His Majesty “to stay out of politics” during the radio programme.
“My comments were generally about the apparent involvement of the King in politics.
“I indicated that our King was involved in politics in 1994 when the government was toppled. I indicated that he took people from the streets, including Advocate Haae Phoofolo, and put them in government. I warned our King not to find himself in the same position again,” Mr Ramatšella said.
He further claimed that His Majesty got involved in politics again in 1998, “where he allowed nationalists to camp at his residence during the 1998 chaos. The same nationalists went on to burn the town while they still camped at the Royal Palace. How do you explain that as the King?”
Mr Ramatšella said the opposition’s anger was only sour grapes “because they know I am more powerful in politics than them”.
“They know I have records of their mishaps; I have an audio clip where Machesetsa (Mofomobe) insults Ntate Mosisili, saying the prime minister is backward like balls in a pig. That’s why they are so angry and are attacking me.”
He said there was no confusion about his political standing “as I have always remained secretary general of the LPC”.
He admitted he was under 24-hour protection, “after I received information those opposition people were out to kill me”.
I reported this information and the police conducted investigations and found it was true the opposition were on a mission to kill me. I was afforded security but I won’t expose what type of protection I have.”
He dared the opposition to carry out their threat to arrest him, saying “they can come, but they should know I am not afraid of sissies like them”.
“I know they want to kill me but they should know that I won’t go down without a fight. It’s either they kill me or I will kill them,” he said.