Former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane is expected back in the country “soonest” following an agreement the exiled All Basotho Convention (ABC) leader signed with current premier Pakalitha Mosisili early this month.
Dr Mosisili, who succeeded Dr Thabane after the 28 February 2015 snap elections, revealed the agreement during a press conference held on Monday in Maseru.
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.
The Lesotho Times broke the story of the two leaders’ series of meetings in its 13-19 August 2015 edition. However, the premier’s Press Attaché, Motumi Ralejoe, had professed ignorance of such interaction at the time.
Titled ‘Memorandum of Discussions Held Between Dr Pakalitha Mosisili and Dr Thomas Thabane’, the two-page document outlines conditions for the ABC leader’s return from South Africa where he sought refuge on 11 May after claiming some Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) members were plotting to kill him for falling-out the military command during his two-and-a-half-year reign. Dr Thabane’s opposition allies, Thesele ‘Maseribane and Keketso Rantšo of the Basotho National Party (BNP) and Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL), later joined him in exile on 13 and 26 May respectively, citing similar fears.
Dr Mosisili told Monday’s press briefing: “You all know how the All Basotho Convention leader fled the country and sought refuge in South Africa under the pretext that his life was in danger here.
“You also know that he was followed by Honourable Thesele ’Maseribane of the Basotho National Party, and Honourable Keketso Rantšo of the Reformed Congress of Lesotho.
“As government, we are concerned about this issue, especially because Honourable Thabane is the official leader of the opposition in the National Assembly, while the other two are Members of Parliament (MPs). Their positions mean they have an important role to play on national issues in Parliament.
“The government has been exhausting several means and efforts, together with the Christian Council of Lesotho through heads of churches; SADC (Southern African Development Community) Facilitator in Lesotho (South African) Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and others, to bring these leaders back home.
“I can also not exclude myself in the effort; I initiated communication with Ntate Thabane through telephone but he refused to talk to me, although he had been claiming that I hadn’t called him since he fled. However, I persisted and eventually received assistance from our mutual friends with Ntate Thabane, who made our meeting possible in Gauteng. We were so happy when we met; our conversation went on well; we told each other all we could tell especially because we have worked together in the past on many issues in government and our families.
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“Out meeting resulted in a document, which we both signed. The gist of our agreement is that government will provide Ntate Thabane with security from members of the Lesotho Mounted Police Service whose number and identity will be determined by the Commissioner of Police and that a government house will be provided for Ntate Thabane, guarded by the police at all times.”
Dr Mosisili further said the ABC leader had agreed to return to Lesotho “soonest” after the signing of the agreement.
“Actually, I had suggested that he returns home within seven days after signing the document. But he changed that, and instead chose to sign that he would return soonest after the signing of the memorandum,” said Dr Mosisili.
The Democratic Congress leader also highlighted that he had wanted to keep their meetings and agreement a secret and was only revealing everything now “because the issue was also discussed during the meeting of the Organ (SADC Organ on Politics, Defence, and Security Cooperation) on 16 August (2015) in Gaborone, Botswana.”
Dr Mosisili said members of the Organ, which is now led by Mozambique, were happy to hear about the developments, adding: “Even Deputy President Ramaphosa, as the SADC Facilitator in Lesotho, was happy. He promised to also ensure Honourable Thabane complies with the agreement and returns home.
“I have also informed church-leaders about this agreement between myself and Ntate Thabane. And they were as well happy. I have also asked them to continue with efforts to convince Lekhoakhoa (calling Dr Thabane by his clan) to return. As the King’s government, we are ready to welcome Honourable Thabane and give him everything we promised.”
Asked what the government was doing about the return of Ms Rantšo and Chief ’Maseribane, Dr Mosisili said: “As I have already indicated, Ntate Thabane, apart from being the official leader of the opposition in Parliament, is a former prime minister. It is therefore the responsibility of this government to protect him in a special way.
“By that we do not mean Chief ’Maseribane and ’Me Rantšo are not entitled to protection. As MPs, and of course Basotho for that matter, they are entitled to protection. We are simply prioritising Ntate Thabane as someone with a greater national status of being a former prime minister. For him, we are requested by law to give him protection.”
Meanwhile, Dr Thabane’s spokesperson, Thabo Thakalekoala, yesterday told the Lesotho Times that the three exiled politicians would hold a press conference in Ficksburg, South Africa, this afternoon to respond to Dr Mosisili’s pronouncement.