David Seutloali, who fled the country three months ago for South Africa, has accused the ABC of giving special treatment to certain exiles which he says has split the refugees into three rival camps.
A prominent All Basotho Convention (ABC) member who fled the country for South Africa three months ago fearing for his safety, has accused the party leadership of giving special treatment to certain exiles and completely ignoring others.
According to the despondent David Seutloali, this “preferential treatment” had split the exiles into three rival groups, and now threatens to destabilise Lesotho’s main opposition political party.
Mr Seutloali says he fled Lesotho on 20 July this year, allegedly after members of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) had come looking for him at his Ha Tšosane home the previous day.
Better known as ‘Sekalakati sa Hoohlo’, Mr Seutloali was one of five candidates who contested ABC primary elections to represent the party in the Maseru Central Constituency No 32 in the 28 February 2015 national polls.
The ABC was subsequently represented by Lesego Makhothi, who won it convincingly and is now the area’s Member of Parliament (MP).
However, Mr Seutloali says he was left with no choice but leave the country for South Africa alongside other ABC members, party leader and former prime minister Thomas Thabane, Basotho National Party leader Thesele ‘Maseribane, Reformed Congress of Lesotho leader Keketso Rantšo, as well as several members of the Lesotho Defence Force, who all feared for their lives.
The exiles have since claimed they had received information that the military was out to assassinate or arrest them prior to the flight, although the allegations have not been tested in any court of law.
But Mr Seutloali’s bone of contention is the way some of the exiles are being cared for, allegedly by the ABC, at the expense of the others.
The ABC stalwart says he is now staying “somewhere in South Africa” under very difficult conditions and believes it is time he speaks out against the “neglect” by a party he gave “so much for”, including putting his life and that of his family, in danger.
“Since I left my family and home on 20 July sensing the danger posed to me by the LDF, I have realized that some big people in our party have sidelined me and others, whose names I won’t mention now lest I jeopardise their standing in the ABC.
“I have realised that some ABC members who are in exile here regularly receive assistance, either in cash or kind, from some party leaders. The sponsors include MPs and members of the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC). To me, this simply means the party has found means to assist those in exile, but the big question is how come others, like me, are being sidelined?” he asked.
According to Mr Seutloali, he had since heard “through the grapevine” that the reason for this “abandonment” was because the party leadership did not believe their lives were in such danger to warrant leaving the country and only did so for popularity’s sake.
“It’s sad that some party heavyweights believe I just came here in search of fame, as they put it. I also understand the reason why I am not being assisted is the leaders say they do not know why and when I left Lesotho. That is strange because we did not leave the country on the same day. Everyone in exile here left on different dates but for the same reason—we all feared for our safety and not because we were looking for fame as some are claiming now,” Mr Seutloali said.
Explaining why he left Lesotho, Mr Seutloali said on the evening of 19 July 2015— almost a month after the military shot and killed former LDF commander, Lieutenant General Maaparankoe Mahao outside his Mokema farm allegedly after resisting arrest for suspected mutiny—four soldiers supposedly came to his home in an LDF truck looking for him. Lt Gen Mahao’s killing has since become the subject of investigation by the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
“The men came in a 4×4 army vehicle, which they parked outside my house in Ha Tšosane. I was not at home that evening, but my wife was. The men banged on the door demanding to be let in and that’s when my wife called me on my cell-phone.
“At the time, I was at a nearby bar. I came out and noticed the vehicle and the movement of the armed men, who were in uniform, around my house. My wife was frightened by the knock and I asked her not to cut our conversation but simply open the door to see who was knocking.
“I could hear the men demanding to know where I was. They told my wife they wanted military uniform and firearms that they claimed had been given to me by Ntate Mahao before he was shot.”
Mr Seutloali said he did not go home that night fearing the soldiers would later return for him, and crossed into South Africa the following day.
“It is both strange and disappointing that people from my party are now saying I am here for fame.
“And because of this preferential treatment of other ABC members, there is now rival factions among us here in South Africa; we don’t see eye-to-eye anymore. We have three rival camps here, and it is all because some think they are more important than others in the party. We are treated differently by the party’s executives, and this is creating problems among us.”
Mr Seutloali said he tried to communicate his concerns to ABC secretary general, Samonyane Ntsekele, via cellphone text messages, but to no avail.
“He simply ignored my messages. I sent him several and I am aware they were delivered but he never responded,” Mr Seutloali insisted.
However, Mr Ntsekele told the Lesotho Times he never received any communication from Mr Seutloali about the issues he is raising now. Mr Ntsekele further dismissed Mr Seutloali’s allegations as “lies by power-hungry people meant to destabilise the party”.
Mr Ntsekele added: “The man you are talking about has personally received some money from me, for assistance. He is lying if he says we are sidelining him and other members of the party. The party does not have any funds reserved for people in exile. What we just do as individuals is fork-out money from our own coffers and give it to those in exile. We try as much as possible to help every single ABC member who has sought refuge in South Africa.”
He also dismissed allegations of divisions among the exiles.
“This claim is yet another fabrication; it is not true at all,” Mr Ntsekele said.