Mahao camp alleges assassination plot

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  • as his bodyguard fatally shoots two would-be assailants 

Pascalinah Kabi

THE Professor Nqosa Mahao faction of the All Basotho Convention (ABC) has accused its rivals of plotting his assassination in a development that suggests that the power struggle in the ruling party could yet turn bloody.

The accusations by the faction’s spokesperson, Montoeli Masoetsa, come after the weekend incident where Prof Mahao’s bodyguard, Nat Molikeng, shot and killed two men who were part of a three-men gang which had allegedly attempted to kidnap Mr Molikeng.

The 38 year-old Mr Molikeng subsequently handed himself to the police and is set to appear in the Berea Magistrates’ Court in connection with the killing of the two men. The third man escaped after the failed ‘abduction’ mission.

Mr Molikeng was previously part of Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s informal security team and he was formally employed as a chauffeur for the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, Temeki Tsolo. Upon his dismissal in the aftermath of the ABC’s February 2019 elective conference, Mr Molikeng blamed First Lady ’Maesaiah Thabane for getting him fired for allegedly supporting the Mahao faction. Mr Molikeng also accused Ms Thabane of causing chaos in the party and government through her alleged meddling in the affairs of both.  The First Lady flatly denied the allegations and insisted that Mr Molikeng had been fired for misconduct.

Police Spokesperson Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli said yesterday Mr Molikeng handed himself to the police on the night of 25 May 2019 after allegedly shooting two men dead.

Supt Mopeli said the police had so far gathered that on Saturday night, Mr Molikeng was accosted by three men as he slept in his car while his friend was shopping at Salang in Khubetsoana.

Mr Molikeng was allegedly suddenly awakened by the trio who accused him of stealing their car battery.

According to Supt Mopeli, the trio allegedly dragged Mr Molikeng from his car and shoved him into a Nissan Hardbody vehicle. As they attempted to drive off with him, he pulled out his firearm and shot two of them dead.

He said the third man escaped and reported the matter to the police. Mr Molikeng subsequently handed himself to the police along with his gun and nine bullets.

“Police reports indicate that Mr Molikeng’s alleged attackers had two cars – a golf and Nissan. They established that their Golf car battery had been stolen and suspected it was the suspect (Mr Molikeng) as he was parked next to their car,” Supt Mopeli said, adding investigations into the matter were ongoing.

Although the police are still investigating the issue, the Mahao camp strongly believes this was not an isolated criminal incident but rather part of a broader plan to “test the waters” by eliminating Prof Mahao’s security team before assassinating him.

The spectre of bloodshed in the ABC was first raised by three prominent ABC legislators Habofanoe Lehana (Khafung), Keketso Sello (Hlotse) and Mohapi Mohapinyane (Rothe).

The trio filed a court application on 11 February seeking an order to nullify the outcome of the ABC’s elective conference which ushered Prof Mahao and others into the party’s national executive committee (NEC) against the wishes of ABC leader Thomas Thabane and members of the old NEC. Messrs Lehana, Sello and Mohapinyane argued that the election of the new NEC should be nullified on the grounds that the polls were marred by “massive vote rigging”.

In their court papers, the trio went as far as predicting a “high likelihood of chaos and/or bloodshed” between the new and old ABC NECs over the control of the party due to the contested election results.

Prof Mahao has previously told this publication that he had endangered his own life by throwing his hat into the ABC elective conference contest and henceforth he would need bodyguards as “I no longer have the liberties of the ordinary citizen to freely move around and enjoy my freedom”.

This week, Prof Mahao referred all questions on the weekend incident involving his bodyguard to Mr Masoetsa. Prof Mahao said the incident was an “ABC-related issue” and therefore as their spokesperson, Mr Masoetsa was best placed to respond.

Asked if he thought the incident was linked to attempts to undermine his security, Prof Mahao said, “Until the police have concluded their investigations, I am unable to say”.

On his part, Mr Masoetsa said the “attempted kidnapping” of Mr Molikeng was part of a broader plan by foes to “test the waters” to see if Prof Mahao’s security team could be eliminated ahead of an assassination attempt on him.

Mr Masoetsa said prior to the fatal shooting of the ‘would-be kidnappers’, “certain incidents had occurred which were now making sense to us” and these pointed to a clear plot to assassinate members of their faction.

“This is a clear attack on our faction. I don’t think this an isolated criminal incident but a mission by the State House faction (the old NEC). I strongly suspect that they wanted to test our people. This person (Molikeng) is always changing vehicles. He never drives the same vehicle all the time and one wonders how he was spotted except if the neighbours have been given a clear instruction to monitor the types of vehicles he uses every day.

“The fact that these people (‘would-be kidnappers’) were travelling in two separate vehicles is an indication that there was a mission to kill Molikeng. The only thing the State House people know is to kill people and we suspect that their mission was to eliminate him (Molikeng) because immediately after kidnapping him, they told him that they were going to kill and dump him,” Mr Masoetsa said.

He said the ‘attacks’ on their faction began last Friday while the Court of Appeal was dealing with their appeal against Acting Chief Justice ’Maseforo Mahase’s controversial 8 May 2019 judgement which nullified the party’s February elective conference and installed the old NEC as the governing structure of the ABC.

“The attacks against us did not start with Ntate Molikeng, they began on Friday while the Court of Appeal was busy dealing with the ABC case.

“There were some people who came to the court before proceeding to the State House on Friday morning. They later came back and in the evening when the case had been concluded, they were extremely violent as they tried to pick a fight with our faction.

“They began attacking (pro-Mahao ABC councilor for Mantšonyane) Maoshoa Mpeoa by blocking her car and striking its bonnet. They only stopped and fled after Ms Mpeoa pulled out a gun but this shows that there are silly, violent children who are being used in assassination plots against us.

“So we think that on Saturday they wanted to test the waters by attacking one of the bodyguards to see if they can access and kill Mahao. There is no way we can divorce this issue from what is happening in the party,” added Mr Masoetsa.

Contacted for comment, the ABC spokesperson in the old NEC, Tefo Mapesela said it appeared Mr Masoetsa had inside information regarding the Saturday night incident and he should report to the police.

“He (Mr Masoetsa) should go and report to the police. I understand that there are two people who were killed and it is clear that he (Masoetsa) has inside information on what really transpired and he must just go to the police and give them the information,” Mr Mapesela said.

 

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