Fears of violence scuttle Thabane ‘hero’s welcome’

 

Billy Ntaote

THE All Basotho Convention (ABC) and Basotho National Party (BNP) have cancelled plans for party supporters to descend on Moshoeshoe I International Airport today to give Prime Minister Thomas Thabane a “hero’s welcome”, due to fears of violence.

ABC leader Dr Thabane and BNP leader Thesele ‘Maseribane arrive in Lesotho this morning from Zimbabwe where they were attending the 34th Southern African Development Community (SADC) Heads of State and Government summit, which ended on Monday this week in the resort town of Victoria Falls.

However, Dr Thabane returns home without the chairmanship of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation, after the regional bloc unanimously ruled Lesotho could not lead such a critical structure due to the country’s political instability.

President Jacob Zuma of South Africa would now lead the Organ, with Dr Thabane deputising him and Namibia’s President Hifikepunye Pohamba completing the troika, until the next SADC Heads of State and Government summit in Botswana in August 2015.

However, the Lesotho Times has since learnt plans by BNP and ABC youths to march from Maseru Central Business District to Moshoeshoe I International Airport to receive Dr Thabane and Chief ‘Maseribane had been aborted due to fears of violence.

According to BNP spokesperson, Machesetsa Mofomobe, the party had been “reliably informed” that some “elements” had planned to use the march to start an orgy of violence and plunge the country into anarchy in an effort to destabilise the coalition government, which the BNP, ABC and Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) formed in June 2012.

“We had intended to go and give our leaders our undivided support and actually praise them for being heroes who stood their ground and did not betray their country and sacrifice its sovereignty for a SADC troika chairmanship,” Mofomobe said yesterday.

“Unfortunately, we have been informed by the police that there are threats of violence by people who intend to use the show-of-confidence march as a platform to start violence. So instead of holding this big welcome party, we have since scaled down the reception, and will only have a few of our supporters at the airport.”

Mofomobe said the initial plan had been for the youths from both the ABC and BNP to march from Maseru and then join other party supporters at the airport and give the two leaders a rousing welcome.

“Now because of these threats which we are taking seriously, we will simply ferry the supporters in our vehicles to the airport to welcome our leaders.  We don’t want to give these troublemakers the opportunity they are looking for, to cause mayhem in our country.”

On his part, the ABC Secretary General Samonyane Ntsekele said welcoming the prime minister and his entourage upon arrival at Moshoeshoe I International Airport from official trips outside the country was government protocol, with every Mosotho of goodwill free to attend.

Mr Ntsekele said since Dr Thabane would be coming from an official trip, government officials would welcome him at the airport today.

Asked about the alleged threats of violence, Mr Ntsekele said he had been told about them.

“I have heard about such threats over the radio, although there has not been any confirmation as to who could be behind them,” said Mr Ntsekele, who is also the prime minister’s political advisor.

“Still, ABC supporters intend to go give our leader a huge welcome upon his arrival at the airport and as far as I am concerned, I still think they are going to be there despite these threats of violence.”

On the other hand, the LCD Acting Secretary General, Tšeliso Mokhosi, said he was not aware of any special welcome for the prime minister, save for the regular reception by ministers and senior government officials “as per the standard practise”.

However, Mr Mokhosi said he had also heard “rumours” that ABC and BNP members planned to give their leaders a roaring welcome at the airport.

“But to my knowledge, there is nothing like that in the LCD for our supporters to go to the airport, clad in party regalia, to welcome the prime minister,” he said.

On his part, the Democratic Congress (DC) Secretary General Ralechate ‘Mokose, said the DC would never condone violence in whatever form or for whatever reason.

“We are committed to our word and we won’t protest as we don’t see how protests would expedite or even advance our cause, which is just to have the current suspension of parliament lifted,” said Mr ‘Mokose.

“What we did, as a party, is to show our displeasure regarding the prorogation by writing to SADC that the prime minister should not be granted the SADC troika chairmanship, for as long as he still has parliament suspended.

“The results, we believe, have proven that our cause was a success as he failed to get the chairmanship.”

Contacted for comment on the alleged threats of violence, LMPS spokesperson, Lebona Mohloboli said: “The police are not aware of the threats; the issue has not been brought to our attention.

“In any case, we don’t expect to see anyone holding any sort of protest or march near the airport because there has not been any request for such a gathering.

“Such marches need to be approved by the police in line with the Public Meetings and Processions Act 2012.”

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