MASERU –– The indefinite stayaway might be pencilled for Monday but the fight has already started.
The government says the security forces are on high-alert.
And already the crackdown seems to have started even five days before the actual stayaway starts.
The Lesotho Times can reveal that a number of opposition members were arrested yesterday for allegedly “threatening to harm people that will defy the call for a stayaway”.
Police spokesperson inspector Pheello Mphana confirmed that some suspected All Basotho Convention (ABC) members had been arrested in Mazenod but said he did not have a specific number.
“I am told that they were threatening people. I am told that they were telling people not to go to work on Monday. They are suspected to be ABC members but I don’t know how many they were,” Mphana said. Also a car belonging to ABC leader Tom Thabane was confiscated by the Mazenod police.
The car is a Toyota Hilux Surf 4WD model and its registration number is AH 036.
Mphana confirmed that the police had confiscated a car but said he was not aware whether it belonged to Thabane or not.
Thabane confirmed that the car belonged to him.
He said it was confiscated because the police said one of its passengers was using a loud speaker to encourage people to participate in the stayaway.
“They (government) are just making threats. My car has been confiscated as I speak. Why are they looking for violence,” Thabane said.
“We are free to say we are going to be the next government. Should I keep silent and say praise the Lord?”
On Monday police and soldiers allegedly raided the house of well-known ABC supporter Lebajoa Lephatsoa.
Lephatsoa alleged the officers who raided his house in Khubetsoana at around two in the morning told him they were searching for illegal firearms.
“They budged in, ransacked the house and turned the beds but they left empty-handed”.
The government says security forces will be on high-alert amidst fears that the stayaway might degenerate into chaos.
All Basotho Convention (ABC) youths have threatened to beat anyone who attempts to disobey the strike order.
“There will be hell to pay for anyone who attempts to disrupt the stay-away,” said a key youth member of the party.
Thabane had also warned at a previous ABC rally that “whoever disrespects the stay-away will be disciplined”.
But government spokesperson, Mothetjoa Metsing, said security forces would be deployed across the country to protect people who will not be taking part in the stay-away.
Metsing said the government was well-prepared and in a position to protect people on Monday.
“We will deploy security forces to ensure maximum security for people who do not want to take part in the opposition stay-away,” Metsing said.
“I can assure you that we are in a position to protect members of the public who wish to pursue their daily errands without hindrance.”
Mphana said there will be round the clock security throughout the country.
He said all important premises like businesses and taxi stations will be secured so that they operate normally.
“The police will provide the best possible security,” Mphana said.
“The police force is ready for whatever challenge that may arise. Nothing will deter us from providing security to those who need it.
“We will be ready to thwart any violent activities that may arise.”
Army spokesperson Mathanzima Taneso said the army was always alert.
“The army is always alert to protect the country and its borders, the general public and its property,” Taneso said.
However, Taneso could not be drawn into divulging the army’s plan of action for security purposes.
“I cannot divulge the army’s plan of action for security reasons. But whatever happens that needs the army’s intervention particularly on Monday, we will be up for the challenge,” Taneso said.
Metsing also dismissed allegations that that the government was planning to arrest opposition members
Metsing said: “In any democratic dispensation it is every person’s democratic right to hold demonstrations about issues that do not sit well with them. However, we will not tolerate people who will try to push others to be part of their plans against their will.”