FORMER Law, Constitutional Affairs and Human Rights Minister Lebohang Hlaele has sensationally claimed that a plot to assassinate him was hatched at the State House, the official residence of the Prime Minister, on 2 February 2019.
Mr Hlaele, however, said he was ready to die for the All Basotho Convention (ABC) if his “blood would help re-unite the ruling party” which has been plagued by serious infighting.
Mr Hlaele won the powerful position of secretary-general at the ABC’s elective conference early last month.
His sensational claims come hardly a week after he told the Lesotho Times that his life was in grave danger because of death threats he had been receiving from unspecified sources.
He is the second senior member of Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s ABC to make claims that the State House was being used to plot an assassination. The other bigwig to make similar claims was Tourism, Environment and Culture minister, Motlohi Maliehe.
Mr Hlaele, who was fired from his ministerial post on 18 February 2019, made the startling revelations while addressing thousands of ABC followers at a rally in the Lithabaneng constituency early this week. Former Social Development minister, ‘Matebatso Doti, who was fired along with Mr Hlaele, is the member of parliament for the Lithabaneng constituency.
The Sunday rally was a massive affair which attracted thousands of ABC supporters and several ABC legislators. National University of Lesotho (NUL) Vice Chancellor Professor Nqosa Mahao who was recently elected deputy leader of the ABC attended the rally along with Ms Doti.
Other legislators who attended are: newly elected ABC chairperson Samuel Rapapa (Mosalemane), ABC parliamentary caucus chairperson Fako Moshoeshoe (Mabote), former Minister of Defence and National Security Sentje Lebona (Mohale’s Hoek), Motebang Koma (Koro-Koro), Selemo Mangobe (Taung), Lefu Hlomelang (Makhoarane), Sello Mooki (Bobatsi), Phamotse Molefi (Likhoele), Motlatsi Maqelepo (Berea), Thabo Sophonea (Thaba-Bosiu), Tšoeu Molise (Tšoana-Makhulo) and Lawrence Kibane (Peka).
Newly elected ABC spokesperson Montoeli Masoetsa, outspoken ABC activist ‘Mamandla Musa and Chaltin Tsatsanyane, the father of the ABC’s Stadium Area legislator, Mokherane Tsatsanyane, also attended. ABC councilors from Rothe, Hlotse, Qeme and Lithoteng also graced the rally.
Incidentally, Dr Thabane, the current occupant of State House, is Mr Hlaele’s father-in-law. Mr Hlaele, who is married to Dr Thabane’s daughter, Advocate ‘Mabatṧoeneng Hlaele, was fired from his ministerial position in the aftermath of the ABC’s 1 -2 February 2019 elective conference.
Although Dr Thabane did not disclose his reasons for firing the ministers, conventional wisdom is that the duo paid the price for siding with Prof Mahao at the ABC’s elective conference.
Prof Mahao contested and won the deputy leader’s post against Dr Thabane’s wishes. His victory put him in good stead to eventually lead the ABC and possibly become Prime Minister. However, Mr Hlaele, Prof Mahao and the rest of the newly elected NEC have not been able to assume office after their election was challenged by three ABC legislators Habofanoe Lehana (Khafung), Keketso Sello (Hlotse) and Mohapi Mohapinyane (Rothe).
The trio allege that the polls were marred by gross irregularities which made it impossible to achieve a credible outcome. They were recently granted an interim order by Acting Chief Justice ’Maseforo Mahase barring the new NEC from assuming office until the finalisation of the main application seeking the nullification of their election.
As the fallout from the elective conference intensified, Mr Hlaele last week told the Lesotho Times that his life was in grave danger as he has been receiving death threats from unspecified sources.
And on Sunday, Mr Hlaele cast off all restraint and told thousands of ABC supporters that he was fully aware of a plot to assassinate him. He said the plot was hatched at the State House on 2 February 2019, the last day of the ABC’s elective conference where he beat the former incumbent, Samonyane Ntsekele, to land the post of secretary general.
“The (ABC’s) February elective conference was characterised by strange things from the onset,” Mr Hlaele said.
“Just before the elective conference, I was asked to withdraw my name from the race to increase Ntsekele’s chances of winning the secretary general’s post but I refused to back down and on the 2nd of February, a plan to kill me was hatched at the State House.”
He however, did not reveal the names of those who asked him to withdraw from the electoral contest and those who were involved in the plot to assassinate him. But his statement that the alleged plot to kill him was hatched at State House implies that Mr Hlaele is implicating his father in law in any such plot as State House is the official residence of any sitting Prime Minister.
The ex-minister appeared to resign himself to an inevitable death at the hands of his alleged hitmen. He said his death would be a welcome thing if it would contribute to the reconciliation of the warring factions and ultimately to the stability of the fractious party.
But even as he cast himself in the role of a martyr, Mr Hlaele could not hide his animosity towards Mr Ntsekele, saying the latter would never return to his old post as secretary general even after his (Mr Hlaele)’s death.
“The assassins will not back down but I am ready to die because my blood should reunite this party. When their plans finally come to pass, I need you to stay strong and give me a proper send-off but one thing that I know is that even if I die, Ntsekele will never be the ABC secretary general again,” Mr Hlaele said.
The animosity between the two appears to have started with their contest for the post of secretary general.
The tensions escalated last week when Mr Hlaele received a letter threatening to suspend him from the party from Mr Ntsekele who is the face of the old NEC. The old NEC has so far refused to hand over power to the new NEC that Mr Hlaele is part of.
The show cause letter against Mr Hlaele stemmed from an accusation that he “fraudulently” authorised the appointment of K.J. Nthontho Attorneys to represent the ABC in a case in which Messrs Lehana, Sello and Mohapinyane are seeking the nullification of the results of the party’s elective conference.
Mr Hlaele’s ‘show cause’ letter was signed by Mr Ntsekele. Mr Ntsekele’s obvious reason for doing that stems from a belief that since the new NEC was interdicted from assuming office, then his defeated NEC retains the right to run the party.
But Mr Hlaele said he remained unfazed by Mr Ntsekele’s show cause letter. He sees it as a desperate attempt to cling to power by a group of ABC officials who are failing to come to terms with the fact that they lost a legitimate election.
He also told the Sunday rally that he was aware that the old NEC met last Tuesday to plot his expulsion from the ABC but added that the plot would not succeed.
He suggested that the party leader, Dr Thabane, did not approve of the infighting and the chaos that had so far prevented the new NEC from assuming office.
He said the veteran leader’s hand was being forced by those around him and he actually needed to be saved from his inner circle which would destroy him in the final analysis.
“They (old NEC) will attempt to expel me but I remain the secretary general of this party. We have been given a mandate to lead this party by the ABC elective conference and that is a blessing. The people have voted us into power and we should not lose hope because the enemy is out to get us.
“Let’s support our leader (Dr Thabane) because we all know that this is not him but the people around him who are leading him to a very dark place where he will find it hard to make a comeback if he is not protected by us,” Mr Hlaele said.
Mr Hlaele’s claims were backed by the ABC parliamentary caucus chairperson Fako Moshoeshoe who told the Sunday gathering that the new NEC and the party faithful have to “rescue Dr Thabane” from “people who now think that the ABC is their personal property”.
Mr Moshoeshoe said the extent to which Dr Thabane had been captured by those unnamed people was painfully brought home when the ABC leader addressed the ABC parliamentary caucus last Friday.
He said instead of addressing the pertinent issues regarding the infighting which had been raised by 21 ABC legislators, Dr Thabane merely read from a statement “that had been prepared for him by those around him”.
“I nearly wept when I saw my leader reading a six-line letter prepared for him by the people in his circle. He (Thabane) said he would not entertain any questions but only read from the paper. Whoever wrote that paper is cruel and we need to stand up and protect the ABC leader. We have left him to be surrounded by people who now think that the ABC is their personal property and we need to rescue him,” Mr Moshoeshoe said.
Meanwhile, Mr Hlaele said the rally should not misconstrued to mean that the new NEC was plotting a hostile take-over but it was rather an event which they were using to fight for the unity of the party.
Contacted for comment yesterday, Mr Ntsekele came out guns blazing, saying Mr Hlaele was spoiling for a fight and “he would get it”.
“Who did he say approached him (to withdraw from the NEC elections)? This did not happen and there was really nothing to scare me going into the elections. He was no competition and he (Mr Hlaele) knows it.
“It is only that I am not a busy body trying to pick a fight with everyone but if they want a fight from me, they will get it. They must stop poking me or else I will expose them for who they really are.
“I am only keeping it to myself because I am protecting this party but the truth of the matter is that deep down they know what they are running from, they know their source of agitation and they don’t want people to find out what they have done. Where have you ever seen a person who has won elections fighting for power?
“One day I will undress them for everyone to see them for who they really are. Just because I am quiet doesn’t necessarily mean that I don’t have anything to say, I know their secrets and if I choose to reveal them, they will wish they never picked a fight with me,” Mr Ntsekele fumed.
He also accused his party rivals of backstabbing him after all he had done for them in the past. He however, did not say what he had done for them.
“These people have suddenly forgotten where we come from, the road we travelled together and that they used me during the good times. They have suddenly forgotten that we are where we are today (in government) because of me.
“They think they can just spread lies about me for their own self-serving interests, forgetting what I have done for this party. I have gone through so much protecting this party and even today, I will continue to protect the integrity of this party even to the last minute.
“I will step down knowing fully well that I have discharged my duties well. People will later regret what they are doing to me today. They will wish I was there when things get tougher along the way, I am being made the sacrificial lamb today but on that day, the truth will come out and people will judge for themselves,” Mr Ntsekele said.