FORMER premier Thomas Thabane says the people who caused his nearly two-year exile in South Africa should not fear retribution if he returns to power since his only focus would be on developing the country.
The All Basotho Convention (ABC) leader has also called on Lesotho’s security agencies to be apolitical and not to be used by politicians to supress their opponents.
Dr Thabane said this while addressing hundreds of ABC supporters during a rally held earlier this week in Mafeteng to drum up support for the party ahead of the 3 June 2017 general elections.
King Letsie III dissolved the National Assembly on 6 March 2017 and then called for elections after a four-party opposition bloc mustered enough support to oust the Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili-led government in a parliamentary no-confidence vote.
Dr Thabane said the outgoing seven-party coalition government had acted as if they owned the country, adding that he decided to return from exile to re-establish good governance and stability.
The ABC leader and his opposition colleagues Thesele ’Maseribane of the Basotho National Party and Keketso Rantšo of the Reformed Congress of Lesotho returned to Lesotho on 12 February 2017 after an almost two-year self-imposed exile in the neighbouring country.
The trio had fled the country in May 2015 saying they had been alerted of a plot to kill them by the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF), an allegation the army has vehemently denied.
Some members of the LDF also fled the country between May and June 2015 after 23 of their colleagues were arrested for allegedly being part of a plot to unseat the army command.
The LDF has since released all the detainees in batches under open arrest – a form of military bail.
The opposition leaders had accused then army commander Lieutenant-General Tlali Kamoli of masterminding the alleged assassination plots and insisted they would only return home when he had been removed from the military command.
Lt-Gen Kamoli retired in December 2016, paving the way for the opposition leaders’ return. However, some LDF members remain in exile.
The ABC leader told the gathering he fled the country in 2015 along with bodyguards assigned to protect him by the LDF after learning of a plot to assassinate them.
Dr Thabane said the “onslaught” he and the other people forced into exile were subjected to by the government made him wonder if Dr Mosisili ever thought he would leave office one day.
“I wonder what this government want to see happen when they step down and I take over after these elections? Just like I have always said; this world belongs to God and not anybody else,” he said.
“No one can turn this world into his personal property. And now I am back among you with some of the people who fled the country with me and now working as my security guards. Their crime was volunteering to be my bodyguards.”
The former premier asserted that vengeance would not better the lives of the country’s impoverished majority, but only good governance and the rule of law.
“We could have considered chasing out of the country people behind such heinous acts as intimidation and assassination plots upon attaining power.
“However, I don’t thing retribution will bring about progress in Lesotho. In any case, revenge is the work of heathens who don’t believe in God. So we won’t be doing any heathen deeds.”
The security forces, Dr Thabane asserted, should be depoliticised and not abused by politicians to suppress their opponents.
“This country cannot progress if governments continue to supress opposition parties by abusing the disciplined forces who are supposed to be apolitical.
“It is unfortunate that this abuse of state resources to suppress us is being perpetrated by people who lost in the past elections.
“Soldiers should not be gullible and be used by deceitful politicians who are only good at destroying their careers.”
Dr Thabane expressed hope that the upcoming elections would bring about peace in the country to usher the return home of Basotho still in exile.
“I wonder when Moshoeshoe’s country will have peace. The exiled soldiers cannot return home because they are still doubtful about their safety. Peace should reign after these elections,” he said.
“We should go and vote to make sure we never face such problems again. I nearly died because of these people who are ruling us today. Make sure to vote them out of power on polling day.”
The ABC leader also touched on the bloody famo music warfare that has rocked the Mafeteng district, urging the gangs to find peaceful solutions to their differences.
Bloody fights among some of the Mafeteng-based famo gangs, namely Terene, Seakhi, Phula Bobete, Thanya Masoleng, Mahana Puso, Tornado and Terata ea Hlaba have claimed scores of lives since 2009.
Dr Thabane urged prominent Mafeteng-based famo artiste and leader of the Terene (train) faction, Rethabile “Mosotho Chakela” Mokete — who is also an ABC supporter — to broker a peace deal with his rivals.
The Terene gang is fiercely opposed to a rival gang Seakhi with their feud having political undertones.
The rivals are identified by the colour of their blankets — yellow and black for Terene and maroon and black for Seakhi.
“I urge Ntate Chakela and your famo gang rivals to abandon this tendency of attracting women by showing off how powerful you are by killing one another from today.
“The tendency of being famous for killings should come to a stop from today. I firmly condemn the killings among famo musicians.”