- Lemphane-Letsie blames RCL infighting for incident
THE principal secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs, ’Machabana Lemphane-Letsie, and her family were subjected to a harrowing ordeal by masked gun-toting burglars who broke into her Masianokeng home and made off with M10 000 early this week.
Ms Lemphane-Letsie said the burglars told her they wanted a share of the bribes she allegedly received from controversial businessman Yan Xie (also known as Mr John) who has been awarded several government tenders over the years.
She, however, suspects that the attack on her home is linked to her ongoing battle with Labour and Employment Minister Keketso Rantšo for the control of the Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL).
Mr John is an infamous and crooked businessman of Chinese origin who stands accused of routinely bribing government officials and politicians to get his way. He allegedly paid his way to get a park homes tender from the Ministry of Home Affairs in collaboration with some local business people in February 2019. Ms Mempane-Letsie denies any dealings with him.
Narrating her ordeal to the Lesotho Times this week, Ms Lemphane-Letsie said she was fast asleep when she was awoken by a light beamed into her bedroom as a tall man walked in.
“It was around 1am on Sunday when a man walked into my bedroom wielding a gun and lighting up the room with a torch from his cellphone,” Ms Lemphane-Letsie said.
“I screamed and he hushed me. He threatened to shoot me if I screamed again and this time I fearfully obeyed. He demanded money he claimed I had been given as a bribe by Mr John the Chinese tycoon. I just didn’t know what to do because I didn’t even know what he was talking about and I didn’t have that money.
“All I had in the house was M10 000 which was not even mine and I gave him that. He then ripped off the surveillance camera and headed towards the door where two other masked men were standing.
“My son, who had escaped through his bedroom window, ran off and raised the alarm with our neighbours. At that point the gunmen made their escape, dumping my car keys and handbag on the floor. I was shaken.
Before that, they went into my daughters’ bedroom and pointed a gun at her. None of us were harmed but we are traumatised. We thank God that we were not harmed in any way.”
Although the burglars said they were after Mr Xie’s “bribe money”, Ms Lemphane-Letsie however suspects that the attack on her home is linked to the power struggle in the RCL.
The RCL is a junior partner in the four-party coalition which also features Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s All Basotho Convention (ABC), Deputy Prime Minister Monyane Moleleki and Communications, Science and Technology Minister Thesele ‘Maseribane’s Basotho National Party (BNP).
Ms Lemphane-Letsie was recently “elected” RCL leader at a special conference held after party members “passed” a no confidence vote on Ms Rantšo and called for fresh elections to choose a new national executive committee (NEC).
Ms Rantšo’s supporters have, however, launched a court application for the nullification of the “special conference” and the “election” of Ms Lemphane-Letsie and others.
“This attack comes barely a few days after my driver was hit and killed by a car. His death came as a shock to me and it also opened my eyes to the need to get security.
“It also defies logic as to how anyone would want money now purportedly from a bribe I allegedly received last year for giving John a park homes tender in February 2019. There is no way I would still be having that money if at all I had been bribed.
“This (bribe claim) was just used to divert the attention from the actual motive of the attack and I would be naive to divorce this from the ongoing fights within the Reformed Congress of Lesotho. I have every reason to suspect that this robbery could be the result of the infighting within our party,” said Ms Lemphane-Letsie.
Police spokesperson Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli said they had received a report of the burglary at Ms Lemphane-Letsie’s home and were investigating.
Ms Lemphane-Letsie is the second-high profile female politician to be robbed at gunpoint in her home in less than a year.
Last July, ABC deputy spokesperson ‘Matebatso Doti was stabbed five times by eight unknown assailants who broke into her Lithabaneng home.
The incident happened at the height of the ABC power struggle pitting ABC leader and Prime Minister Thomas Thabane against his deputy, Professor Nqosa Mahao. Ms Doti believes the incident was actually an assassination attempt after the assailants allegedly told her that they had been sent to kill her for siding with Prof Mahao in the ABC power struggle. She lost M4000 and two guns in the incident.