Fired cabinet minister and chairman of the ruling All Basotho Convention (ABC), Motlohi Maliehe, has made sensational claims that State House, the prime minister’s official residence in Maseru, was used as a secret venue by a group of party stalwarts who plotted to assassinate him.
This and other damning allegations are contained in Mr Maliehe’s response to the letter that the ABC wrote to him, demanding that he ‘show cause’ why he should not be suspended from the party for his public attacks on First Lady, Maesaiah Thabane, in May this year.
Mr Maliehe, who also served as Minister of Tourism, Environment and Culture until he was sacked by Dr Thabane this week, is set to appear before a disciplinary committee over his public attacks on Ms Thabane.
Mr Maliehe grabbed the headlines in May this year when he launched a blistering attack on Ms Thabane while addressing a rally in Hololo constituency in the Butha-Buthe district.
Mr Maliehe accused Ms Thabane of fomenting chaos in the party and in the government through “constant meddling” in the work of ministers and officials. He demanded that the First Lady stops meddling in state affairs forthwith or risk derailing the government.
The ABC chairperson further accused the First Lady of derailing the government by seeking to control ministers and how they performed their duties. He further accused Ms Thabane of violating the constitution and “abetting corruption” by instigating the removal of ministers who refused to comply with her demands. The stinging remarks have now resulted in Mr Maliehe’s Waterloo as a cabinet minister.
The ABC’s National Executive Committee (NEC) had subsequently written to Mr Maliehe and asked him to ‘show cause’ why he should not be suspended from the party for attacking Ms Thabane.
The outspoken ABC chairperson responded to the party’s ‘show cause’ letter on 29 May and his response has been a closely guarded secret until this week when the Lesotho Times saw a copy of his letter.
Mr Maliehe cited several reasons why the party should not suspend him. Among these is the sensational allegation that there was a long-term plot to assassinate him. Mr Maliehe said the conspirators who were known to him, had convened secret meetings at State House to plan his elimination, a veiled accusation that the Prime Minister himself could have been part of the plot since his home cannot conceivably be used for such s nefarious act without his consent. However, Mr Maliehe neither mentions the PM nor his wife directly in the letter.
“People, whom I know their names (sic), have been meeting at the State House plotting to kill me for a very long time now and I will reveal their names if need be,” Mr Maliehe stated in his letter to the ABC.
“While travelling in my vehicles, my children were stopped twice on the road by people asking my whereabouts yet it was a well-known fact that I stay at Maseru West and I travel in my official vehicles.
“Three weeks ago (early in May) my staff was trailed and chased by fully armed people who thought I was travelling in that car and I know who these people are and who sent them to kill me,” he added.
Mr Maliehe also said he was left with no choice but to speak his mind at the Butha-Buthe rally after being continuously sidelined from decision-making meetings of the party by Dr Thabane who repeatedly failed to give him an audience to air his grievances.
He said he was sidelined from meetings that were held to make serious decisions like the setting up of a cabinet in the aftermath of the June 2017 national elections, meetings on the firing and hiring of ministers as well as the appointment of principal secretaries and ambassadors.
He accused Dr Thabane of ignoring his phone calls as well as refusing to discuss his ministerial duties with him.
He said his case was unlike that of other ministers who reported on their ministries’ work to the premier before cabinet meetings were held. He said Dr Thabane sidelined him and he (Dr Thabane) only got to hear about his ministry’s endeavours at the cabinet meetings. The premier never convened any pre-cabinet meetings with him, Mr Maliehe said.
Mr Maliehe said his attempts to get ABC secretary general Samonyane Ntsekele, deputy leader Prince Maliehe and deputy chairperson Kemiso Mosenene to intervene and end his isolation failed.
He also said his efforts to appoint a four-person Lesotho Tourism Development Corporation (LTDC) board were thwarted allegedly by Dr Thabane and Government Secretary Moahloli Mphaka.
“I tried everything to meet with the Prime Minister to straighten out these matters and until today (29 May) when I write this letter, I still haven’t met him. This means my hands are tied and the (LTDC) board cannot perform its duties yet the law gives the minister all the powers to appoint the board and no one else,” Mr Maliehe said.
He also said that despite being the ABC chairperson, he was sidelined even when it came to crucial party matters like the appointment of a replacement of former ABC deputy leader Tlali Khasu.
Mr Khasu left the ABC on 17 September 2016 after being suspended for three months for allegedly castigating Dr Thabane during a radio programme.
His spirited attempts to challenge the suspension in courts of law proved futile as the High Court upheld the decision to suspend him.
Mr Khasu subsequently formed the True Reconciliation Unity (TRU) party in January 2017 together with another former ABC stalwart, Pitso Maisa. The party fared appallingly on June 3 2017 and seems to have since died a natural death.
Mr Khasu was replaced by Maliehe Prince Maliehe (not a relation of Mr Maliehe) in January this year. According to the fired Mr Maliehe, the appointment of his namesake was made at one of the secret meetings which he was not invited to.
“In a secret meeting, a decision was taken to fill the post that was left vacant by Ntate Tlali Khasu. While I don’t have a problem with the person appointed to that position, I do have a problem with the manner in which that decision was arrived at because that process was marred by dirt and never carried out in line with the ABC constitution.
“What concerns ABC supporters regarding the manner in which things are being run in the party including the lack of growth, complaints being tabled on social media, lack of confidence in the party structures concerns me as well. I have tried everything in my powers to have my grievances and the grievances of party members addressed. And with all communication channels purposely shut down, I had to speak out my mind before I die and I spoke my mind at the wrong place.
“Being part of the ABC structures, I was never going to keep quiet when the ABC’s founding principles are being disregarded and dragged through the mud by members whom even today I am not satisfied that they have a true understanding of what the ABC is about.”
He said the ABC had an obligation to rescue Lesotho from all the challenges facing this country like corruption but it was unfortunate that such challenges were left unattended.
“Based on the above reasons, I totally disagree that the NEC which I am part of, should suspend me either from the NEC or the party.” This week Mr Maliehe would not be drawn into discussing the letter further except to confirm that the document that the Lesotho Timeshad seen was authentic.
Relentless efforts to get comment from Dr Thabane’s office about the alleged use of State House in discussions of plots to kill Mr Maliehe failed.