Former Health PS flees
THE former Principal Secretary (PS) in the Ministry of Health, Lefu Manyokole, has fled Lesotho, claiming his life is in danger after his home was twice besieged by state security agents.
Mr Manyokole, who served as PS for Health until the end of last year under the government of former premier Thomas Thabane, joins a string of other Basotho who have skipped the country in recent weeks, saying they feared being assassinated.
The former PS said he had decided to flee despite having successfully interdicted the government from evicting him from his Old Europa official residence in Maseru, which he first occupied when he was appointed Station Manager for Ultimate FM under the Ministry of Communications in 2006. That court victory last month and his proximity to Dr Thabane, could have further infuriated his enemies who want to see his complete downfall, he claimed.
Mr Manyokole said his ordeal started when he ignored a notice to vacate his government house. A group of 13 heavily-armed men, whom he said had claimed to be police officers from the Special Operations Unit (SOU), had subsequently stormed his house and demanded to see him but he was away. Two unmarked bakkies, he claims to have been filled with state security officials, had visited his parents’ home in Lekhaloaneng, also looking for him.
Last week on Monday, he said another group of men claiming to be police officers had besieged his Maseru home for the second time. Sensing danger, Mr Manyokole said he had started spending time away from his Old Europa home, and he could not be found each time his house was besieged.
“The second group to visit my house for the second time comprised of guys who are known by one of my relatives to be working for the army. If as a civilian, the police want me for any suspected crime, why should they bring the army?……,” asked Mr Manyokole.
The former PS, who is known to be very close to Dr Thabane, says he feared that his proximity to the former premier was the main reason why he was being targeted not because of anything he could have done in any of his previous jobs.
“I am not scared to face any questions about any alleged wrongdoing in any court of law because I know I am clean. What I am scared of is the killings that have now become routine in Lesotho,” said Mr Manyokole.
“You have seen what has been happening in Lesotho… all the mysterious and not so mysterious killings….all the abuses…. Nothing happens and nobody in the upper echelons of power cares about justice for victims……
“Ntate Letsatsi (Minister of Communications) will simply wake up and claim that your killing was the work of criminals… Life then moves on while your family suffers.
“I can’t afford that because I have a young family. My last born child is only eight….
“To justify their claims that the spate of killings in recent times are the work of criminals, I believe they can even fabricate arrests and stage phantom court appearances to vindicate their claims.
“Many people are fleeing because they rightly fear assassination. Everyone knows that I have been in Lesotho since they kicked me out of the government. However, I feel I cannot take the risk anymore in light of what I have recently experienced at my home.”
Mr Manyokole had gone to court demanding to be reinstated to his previous job as station manager at Ultimate FM under the Ministry of Communications. He argues in his court papers that Dr Thabane had only seconded him to the Ministry of Health. After the current coalition government won power in the February 2015 elections, Mr Manyokole was among the many Thabane-appointed principal secretaries who were fired.
Mr Manyokole (52) then asked to be re-instated to his old job as station manager at Ultimate FM arguing his secondment to the Ministry of Health had lapsed with his firing. Alternatively, he said the Ministry of Communications could retire him and pay him all his benefits expected by retirement at the age of 60, if they did not want him back in his old job. He claims his requests were rebuffed and he has since been out of employment.
He said he had not received any of his benefits, which were due by 31st of December 2015, after he was fired as Health PS. In fact, following his firing, he said he had reported for duty in January 2016 at Ultimate FM but was not allowed to resume his post. He claims he was then taken aback when he was served with a notice to vacate his government house, because he was no longer a civil servant, despite not having any of his full benefits from his employment at Health or Communications paid.
“As I speak to you now, they have not paid me any of my benefits after they fired me as PS Health. They have refused to reinstate me to my old job at Communications after my secondment lapsed with the political decision to remove me as Health PS… How do they expect me to live?” asked Mr Manyokole.
But it was the storming of his home by Ministry of Public Service officials, in the company of the 13 heavily armed police officers claiming to be from the SOU, that he claims sent shivers down his spine.
“They gained access by breaking the gate and demanded to my relatives present that I vacate the home forthwith while refusing to provide details of all their names,” he said.
It is this incident that initially prompted Mr Manyokole to rush to court for an Interdict against the government and won. Mr Manyokole said he could not understand why any eviction would require such “draconian heavy-handedness”.
His decision comes after leaders of the Democratic Congress youth league – Secretary-General Letuka Chafotsa, Chairman Lekhotla Matsaba and spokesman Maliehe Lempane also fled the county last week fearing for their lives after alleging they had received threats.
This was after they alleged corruption in the awarding of a lucrative government fleet management contract by Finance Minister Dr ‘Mamphono Khaketla. Six businessmen from a consortium that claims to have won the tender during the evaluation but was sidelined after refusing to pay a M4 million bribe also fled last week fearing for their lives. One of the businessmen, Letsatsi Mabona, has since given graphic interviews to the South African media explaining the details of the alleged attempts to extract the bribe from his consortium.
However, Dr Khaketla has since denied the allegations and has demanded M6 million from the DC youth league leaders for the “defamatory statements” the duo issued against her and businessman Thabo Napo.
Also in exile fearing for their lives are all opposition leaders as well as a number of soldiers, including a very senior army officer Colonel Matobakele, who fled after mutiny allegations.
A principal secretary is the administrative head of a ministry while a minister is a political head. While principal secretaries are civil servants who should serve any government of day, they are generally treated as political appointees in Lesotho and come and go with whichever party or parties are in power. Even Dr Thabane appointed his people as PSs after initially forming government in 2012, replacing most of those hired by Dr Mosisili.
Police spokesperson, Superintendent Clifford Molefe, said he had no information about Mr Manyokole’s claims.
“In the first place, if the police are looking for you to come and answer questions because they suspect you of any crime, and you know you are innocent, why should you run away?” asked Sup Molefe rhetorically. He said he needed time to verify if any investigations had been instituted against Mr Manyokole.
“At the moment, I am not aware whether there are any investigations instituted against him by the police ….or whether there could be any report made to the police about his purported fleeing.”