MASERU — Three fugitives who returned to Lesotho last March to answer charges of treason on Monday resigned from the All Basotho Convention (ABC) party.
The resignation of the three, all card-carrying members of the ABC, could pile pressure on party leader Thomas Thabane.
The fugitives served as bodyguards for Thabane before they fled to South Africa after the June 2007 political disturbances.
Thabane has seen at least three senior party leaders, including former publicity secretary Lehlohonolo Tsehlana, quit the party in protest over his leadership style.
Motlomelo Motlomelo, Mokherane Tsatsanyane and Thabo Thantsí said they were resigning from the ABC over the treatment they received from Thabane whilst in exile.
The trio were part of a group of six men who were wanted in connection with the political disturbances that rocked the country in 2007.
They were accused of attacking the homes of government ministers and disarming soldiers guarding those homes.
They were arrested in 2007 and claim that they were tortured by members of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF).
They however skipped the country and sought political refuge in South Africa.
Motlomelo, Tsatsanyane, Thantsí and Khotso Lebakeng returned home in March after spending two years in exile.
The three told a press conference on Monday that they had resigned from the ABC in protest against the treatment they had received from Thabane.
They said even after they came back home Thabane had not shown any interest in their welfare.
They said they would not want to have anything to do with the ABC as long as Thabane remained at the helm of the opposition party.
“Thabane never cared about us. He even refused to sign the asylum papers to prove that we were in political exile,” Tsatsanyane said.
Tsatsanyane accused Thabane of making false statements claiming that he was in touch with them during their stay in South Africa when he had not contacted them.
“He was not telling the truth. We never heard from him while we were in South Africa. He has not said a word to us since our return,” Tsatsanyane said.
He said Thabane had exploited their plight in exile for selfish ends.
“Thabane enjoyed seeing us in agony to make a name for himself. Then he would go about telling people that he was checking on us yet he wasn’t,” Tsatsanyane said.
Motlomelo said they were arrested three times while in South Africa.
“We were arrested and charged with robbery, attempted murder and illegal possession of firearms,” he said.
They said they appeared before the Bethlehem magistrates’ court in September last year and were granted bail.
The trio told the press conference that no charges had been preferred against them after they returned home.
When they returned it was reported that the fugitives had sought assurances that they would not be detained by the army but would be tried by civilian courts.
Motlomelo said since their return in March no one had explained to them why they were wanted in the first place.
“It is so surprising that no one has ever said anything to us. We were the most wanted people when we were in South Africa. But all of a sudden all seems well,” Motlomelo said.
He said they were tortured by the military for days before they fled to South Africa.
Motlomelo said they were waiting for three other colleagues, including Makotoko Lerotholi, to come home before deciding whether to sue the government for torture.
The police last week said they had identified Lerotholi as the kingpin in the April 22 assassination attempt against Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili.
Motlomelo dismissed allegations that Lerotholi was behind the attack at the prime minister’s house.
“We do not believe he (Lerotholi) had anything to do with the attack. His health has deteriorated since the assaults and tortures. He has no strength to plan attacks on anyone,” Motlomelo said.
When they returned home last March the three were ordered to report to the police six days a week except Sunday.
They are still to appear in court.
One of the accused, Pakiso Semoli, died while in exile.
Haae Phoofolo, who is representing the former fugitives, however said the case had not been dropped.
He said he expected the state to proceed with the case anytime soon.
“They can only say they are free if a court of law withdraws the charges,” Phoofolo said.
The resignation of the three is yet another blow to the ABC which has seen at least three senior party officials leave the party over the past seven months.
The senior officials said they left the ABC in protest against Thabane’s dictatorial tendencies.
Thabane refused to comment on the latest resignations by the three former fugitives.
“I cannot comment on the accusations,” he said.