News Without Fear or Favour

Maseribane attacks “lying” coalition partners 

Pascalinah Kabi

BASOTHO National Party (BNP) leader, Thesele Maseribane, has come out guns blazing accusing unnamed fellow coalition partners of lying to regional leaders about the security situation in the country.

Mr Maseribane admitted all was not well in the current governing coalition. He has called for a meeting with other coalition partners to iron out issues. It is yet to happen.

Mr Maseribane’s BNP is in a fragile coalition with Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s All Basotho Convention (ABC), Deputy Prime Minister Monyane Moleleki’s Alliance of Democrats (AD) and Labour and Employment Minister Keketso Rantšo’s Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL).

Mr Maseribane told the Lesotho Times this week that some of his coalition partners had “lied” to the South African government that the security situation in Lesotho had deteriorated due to tensions between the army and the police.

Although he did not mention names, this was clearly in reference to Mr Moleleki who last Wednesday led a delegation to brief South African President and SADC mediator to Lesotho, Cyril Ramaphosa, on the political situation here.

Mr Moleleki’s delegation comprised of ABC ministers, Lesego Makgothi (Foreign Affairs and International Relations), Habofanoe Lehana (Law and Constitutional Affairs) and Attorney General Advocate Haae Phoofolo.

President Ramaphosa subsequently dispatched his special envoy, Jeff Radebe, to Lesotho on Friday. Mr Radebe hinted at a news conference that his second visit to Lesotho, in roughly two weeks, had been prompted by the “deteriorating security situation in Lesotho” as reported by Mr Moleleki and his delegation. He met with security chiefs unlike during his first 19 to 20 April 2020 visit when he did not meet them.  It had been rumoured that the army, or a faction of the army, had wanted to arrest Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli as part of Mr Thabane’s unrelenting efforts to fire the top cop.

Mr Radebe said he had been pleased with his interactions with the security chiefs, describing them as highly professional.  He met with army commander Lieutenant General (Lt-Gen) Mojalefa Letsoela, Commissioner Molibeli, National Security Service Director Pheello Ralenkoane and Lesotho Correctional Service Commissioner Thabang Mothepu on Friday.

He said the meeting was extremely cordial and the security chiefs gave Mr Radebe and his team a lot of information “about what is happening from their perspective”.

Chief Maseribane said Mr Radebe’s second visit to Lesotho was meant to establish if the security situation had deteriorated as per the report relayed to President Ramaphosa by the Lesotho delegation.  He insisted Mr Radebe’s trip had been prompted by lies.

In a thinly veiled attack on Mr Moleleki, Chief Maseribane accused some people of travelling to South Africa to “lie” about the country’s security situation.

“I have heard rather complex things of which I know nothing about,” the Communications, Science and Technology minister told this publication.

“Without us first meeting as a four-party coalition government, some people went to Pretoria. I knew nothing about the Pretoria trip and only learnt about that trip on social media. What do you call that?”

Two months ago, the BNP leader and the RCL endorsed a deal by the national executive committee (NEC) of Mr Thabane’s ABC and the main opposition Democratic Congress (DC) to form a new government to replace the current Thabane-led coalition. The BNP then joined forces with the ABC’s NEC, the DC and individual members of parliament of the ABC and BNP to successfully file a Constitutional Court application to nullify Mr Thabane’s unilateral prorogation of parliament from 20 March to 19 June 2020.

This week, Chief Maseribane suggested that it was likely that he was being sidelined in government business, including the discussions which culminated in the South Africa trip, due to the prorogation lawsuit. But he said he was still member of the governing coalition and had to be consulted before decisions were made.

“It would be surprising if the prorogation issue has made senior people not to understand that the four of us still collectively lead this government… These (Mr Moleleki’s trip) are the actions of people who don’t understand what it means to lead this country.

“Why did these people travel to Pretoria? Where have you seen soldiers and police officers fighting in Lesotho? Are we expected to agree to such lies? Would we be mentally sound to agree to such lies?

“I know nothing (about the South Africa trip) yet I’m the government spokesperson. They didn’t even tell me. I am their coalition partner and government spokesperson yet they didn’t tell me a thing. I don’t know a thing,” Chief Maseribane said.

He said it was time the Moleleki delegation disclosed the agenda of their South Africa visit to the nation.

“Let them explain themselves to the nation. They need to tell this nation where they got the guts to take Lesotho’s flag, soil it with lies and take it to SADC.  This is the time that we need the media to fight for this country.

“Journalists should dig deep and establish whose funds the delegation used to travel to South Africa. Or did they use their own money to go and spread lies?”

He said the political situation in Lesotho, including the prorogation issue and police investigations of high-profile individuals, were domestic issues which did not require the intervention of SADC.

Although he did not say which police investigations, this could be in reference to the police probe and subsequent charging of Mr Thabane and his wife, ‘Maesaiah Thabane, for the June 2014 murder of the premier’s ex-wife, Lipolelo.

‘Maesaiah is currently out on M1000 bail in connection with the murder. Mr Thabane has a pending Constitutional Court application to stop the courts from trying him for the crime while he remains in office. He has since told the Southern SADC facilitation team that he will only step down if he and his wife are guaranteed immunity from prosecution.

Chief Maseribane has previously said ‘Maesaiah should answer to the murder charges.  That did not go down well with Mr Thabane. In a January 2020 interview with this publication, the premier said he found it “terribly regrettable” that “somebody who I recruited into my cabinet” had made such statements.

Chief Maseribane this week said Lesotho must follow the example of the South African government which had not sought anyone’s intervention to stop the judiciary from prosecuting former South African president Jacob Zuma for various alleged crimes.

“…Police prosecutions are a domestic issue. In South Africa, President Zuma is on the brink of being prosecuted but have they (Lesotho politicians) ever seen South Africans running to Lesotho for intervention?”

The fire-spitting BNP leader said he was “no longer afraid of anyone” over any issue.

“I respect everyone but there are certain things that annoy me,” he said without elaborating.

Asked if the four coalition partners had ever sat down to iron out their differences, he said he had requested an urgent meeting with his colleagues.

“I don’t know when the meeting will be held because I have requested for a meeting to iron out these issues.”

Meanwhile, Mr Makgothi this week referred all questions on their South Africa trip to Mr Thabane’s spokesperson Relebohile Moyeye. However, the latter’s mobile phone rang unanswered.

 

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