ABC MP flees to South Africa
AN All Basotho Convention (ABC) Member of Parliament says he has fled to South Africa after being warned of a plot to kill him while another has gone into hiding citing similar fears.
As an atmosphere of fright grips the country in the wake of a spate of murder cases and attempted murders this year, the MP for Maseru Constituency Number 32 Lesego Makgothi said he was now in South Africa after being forewarned by a senior official in the state security cluster of a plot to target him.
Another MP for Khafung Number 23, Habofanoe Lehana, also of the ABC, said he had gone into hiding after armed men attempted to use his friend to track him.
ABC Secretary-General Samonyane Ntsekele said fear had gripped members of the opposition whom he said were scared for their lives because of their outspokenness against the coalition government’s “regressive agenda”.
Staunch ABC supporter, Moeketsi Senoamali Phakisi, popularly known as ‘Mofula oa poho’ said he had also fled into hiding after receiving a tip off he could be harmed. Mr Phakisi is not an MP but a kind of mascot for the main opposition party.
“The opposition MPs are scared for their lives because the government wants to silence all forms of dissent. . .,” said Mr Ntsekele.
The government has, however, dismissed the opposition MPs’ allegations, and accused them of “fabricating stories” to create a smokescreen to hoodwink the outside world into believing that there is no peace and stability in Lesotho. Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili also recently, in a speech in Parliament, lashed out at opposition figures whom he accused of politicizing every criminal act in Lesotho.
But the opposition MPs insist there was a well-orchestrated plot to target them to instill fear in those who are particularly outspoken. They claim several opposition MPs have encountered various threats particularly during this current recess period of Parliament to ensure they become comatose when the House re-opens.
The ABC’s Lithoteng Constituency MP, Lehlohonolo Moramotse’s daughter-in-law, was shot dead late last month as she drove into the MP’s Lower Seoli residence. Mr Moramotse subsequently said he believed he was the target of the attack because his daughter-in-law had been driving his car and the assailants mistakenly thought he was the one behind the wheel.
Mr Makgothi recently spearheaded one of the numerous opposition walkouts from the National Assembly after protesting that his party’s input had not been included in a main report tabled in the house on the local government electoral bill. He believes his outspokenness could be one reason he was now being targeted.
Mr Makgothi said he had been tipped off by a friend in the state security cluster that he was targeted for harm. The tip, Mr Makgoti claims, came in the wake of other ABC MPs having been alerted by their own sources that they were being targeted.
The MP said even though one is inclined not to always panic and to sometimes ignore some of these threats, the situation becomes different when the warnings come from a senior person in the state security cluster. The situation becomes even more serious when action corroborating a tip off begins unfolding.
“I got a call from one high ranking security official to leave my place within 10 minutes (on Monday). I immediately got worried because the person who tipped me is in a very good position to know about any nefarious plans….I therefore could not ignore his warnings,” said Mr Makgothi.
A few minutes later, Mr Makgothi claimed, a heavily-tinted unmarked Toyota Tazz vehicle was parked outside his gate. He then called for help from friends who started responding.
“As a group of friends were approaching the house, my wife then went out to try and ask the occupants of the car what they wanted, but the car then sped off. . .” Mr Makgothi said.
In light of the warning he had received from the state security cluster official just before the mysterious car parked outside, he said he could not take chances and decided to leave. The legislator said he had earlier participated at a meeting at which “I spoke truth to power” and implored the government to treat all Basotho citizens equally regardless of political affiliation and to stop targeting citizens who hold different views.
For his part, Mr Lehana said he was now in a “place of safety” after receiving a tip-off on the same Monday that four armed men, claiming to be policemen, were looking for him.
He said the four armed men first arrived at a friend’s place, in a red car bearing South African GP number plates, and claimed they were searching for illegal guns in the area. They then asked the friend to accompany them to Mr Lehana’s place. The friend went around the house and evaded the men after which he alerted Mr Lehana by phone that he was being looked for by armed people.
“After the call, I got in touch with Mapoteng and Teyateyaneng police stations and they denied all knowledge of any police mission to search for illegal guns. By then my friend had already fled and there was no one to lead them to where I was” Mr Lehana claimed.
The MP said he had not left the country, adding that he believed he is outspoken and a natural target for anyone bent on intimidating or harming opposition MPs. Mr Lehana questioned why legitimate police officers would use a South African number plated vehicle.
“I am very overwhelmed and scared about what has become a pattern of scare tactics against opposition MPs. My advice to my fellow MPs is not to disregard any tip-off against them. We are in a very tough period. Anything can happen,” he said.
The MPs seemed to suggest that they could not be bothered with reporting these incidents to the police because they don’t expect any protection from authorities.
When four people were shot and killed in a bar located at Ha Mantšebo bus-stop in Qeme in February this year, the ABC was claimed the victims were its supporters who had been targeted after attending the party’s event in the area. The government insisted the killings were purely criminal and never political.
Appearing on the Lesotho Television last night, Communications Minister Letsatsi accused the opposition of “fabricating” stories about attacks on them to paint the government in a bad light. Mr Letsatsi said the only aim of the opposition was to try and mislead the world that there was no rule of law in Lesotho. He rejected any suggestions that the government was hell-bent on silencing dissent.