MASERU — Former trade minister Mpho Malie is suing a ruling party MP for alleging he was behind last year’s attempt on Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s life.
Malie, chairman of the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) elders’ committee, says Lebamang Maqaleha, the party’s MP for Mechachane, defamed him when he made the allegations during a constituency committee meeting sometime “on or about July/August 2010”.
Malie wants Maqaleha to pay him M1.5 million in damages, according to court papers filed in the High Court on November 25.
On April 22 last year a group of about 20 mercenaries attacked the Makoanyane Military Barracks and the State House where Mosisili lives with his family.
They kidnapped soldiers on guard, stole guns and hijacked two army vehicles which they used to attack the State House.
They however abandoned their mission when they faced stiff resistance from soldiers at the State House.
Four of the suspected bandits were killed in the subsequent gun battle with security forces while the other two were arrested before they could flee to South Africa.
Seven others were arrested in South Africa where they are currently battling Lesotho’s efforts to have them extradited to face a battery of charges that include murder and attempted murder.
A commission of inquiry established by Mosisili found out that the men were led by the late Makotoko “Mashai” Lerotholi, a former army officer who fled the country in 2007 after being accused of attacking government ministers’ homes after disputed elections that year.
Most of the mercenaries were Mozambicans.
The commission also established that Jessie Ramakatane, a Lesotho businessman also wanted in connection with the 2007 disturbances, recruited the mercenaries and funded the April 22 attacks.
The bandits received military training at Ramakatane’s farm in South Africa before launching their attack, according to the commission which was led by Justice Jan Steyn.
The commission also found that the mercenaries got inside help from some army officers who were part of the plot.
It recommended that those soldiers who were suspected to have aided the mercenaries should be charged.
Malie claims that Maqaleha defamed him when he told a party meeting that he was one of the people behind those attacks.
“Even in the party there are people who are in concert with these people,” Maqaleha is quoted in the court papers as having said, during an address at the meeting.
“Malie and Metsing and others want (to take over) leadership (of the party) and they want to kill the Honourable Prime Minister.”
Mothetjoa Metsing is the Communications Minister and secretary general of the LCD.
“They are the ones who instigated this mission and have participated in the plan,” Maqaleha is alleged to have told the meeting.
Maqaleha is alleged to have claimed Malie, Metsing and others had worked with Ramakatane to plan and execute the mission to assassinate Mosisili and topple the government.
The MP is further alleged to have said “Malie and Metsing and others had gone to Teyateyaneng looking for aid from a certain businessman without the knowledge of the Honourable Prime Minister.”
“What were the aid and monies for except that they were going to use them for their ill motives? They were going to look for those people from Mozambique and Malawi so that they can execute their ill motives”.
In his court papers Malie says Maqaleha’s statements were “false, wrongful and defamatory to him”.
“They were made with the intention to defame him and injure his reputation.
“On the other hand, the gravity of these false allegations expose plaintiff’s life to danger as they refer to the head of the government, the Right Honourable Prime Minister.”
He adds: “Moreso as there was a commission of inquiry that was established to investigate the issues surrounding the attempted assassination of the Honourable Prime Minister and plaintiff’s name never surfaced nor was mentioned therein and the incriminated people are known”.
Malie says his integrity as a prominent businessman, politician and former government minister had been damaged because of Maqaleha’s claims. He said while he was a government minister between 1993 and 2006 he had contributed to the development of Lesotho.
“He is also a member of the Lesotho Evangelical Church, a frequent church goer and a devout Christian whom people look up to and is well respected within the community he lives.”
He also lists the seven years that he spent as a student at the National University of Lesotho and the various positions that he has held in the LCD to show that he is a man of integrity.
“The afore-going premises make plaintiff a person with character and reputation,” the court papers say.
Malie also wants Maqaleha to pay the cost of the lawsuit.
It is very rare for politicians from the same party to sue each other in Lesotho.
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