’Maseribane speaks on ‘mutiny plot’

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BNP Leader Thesele ‘Maseribane

Billy Ntaote

BASOTHO National Party (BNP) leader, Thesele ’Maseribane, says he was “shocked” to learn he had been linked to an alleged army mutiny plot despite “being just a civilian”.

Chief ’Maseribane reported himself to the police on Tuesday over the alleged mutiny plot following his return from exile in South Africa.

The BNP leader fled the country in May 2015 along with other opposition leaders, Thomas Thabane and Keketso Rantšo of the All Basotho Convention and Reformed Congress of Lesotho respectively, claiming there was a plot to assassinate them orchestrated by members of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF).

The government has, however, dismissed the allegations, and accused the opposition leaders of fleeing the country to solicit sympathy from the international community.

Chief ’Maseribane fled around the same time the government said it had “uncovered” a mutiny plot by some LDF members.

Twenty-three mutiny suspects were arrested between May and June 2015 and are before an ongoing court martial. Fifteen of the soldiers have since been released from Maseru Maximum Security Prison and placed under open arrest, which is a form of bail in the military. The other eight remain in detention.

Former LDF commander, Maaparankoe Mahao, was also implicated as the ringleader of the alleged mutiny plot, and was shot dead by his army colleagues purportedly while resisting arrest on 25 June 2015.

However, the Mahao family has begged to differ, citing the account of his nephews who were with him during the incident.

However, a Southern African Development Community (SADC) Commission of Inquiry established to investigate the former army chief’s death concluded that the mutiny charges were “highly suspect” since there were allegations that then army commander Lieutenant-General Tlali Kamoli had vowed to deal with those who celebrated his dismissal by former premier Thomas Thabane in 2014.

The SADC commission of inquiry also recommended an amnesty for the 23 suspected mutineers.

However, the case has not been dropped, and Chief ’Maseribane was also linked to the alleged mutiny plot. The Mount Moorosi constituency legislator on Tuesday reported himself to the police accompanied by hordes of supporters.

Chief ’Maseribane then addressed a hastily-organised press conference shortly after meeting with the police, saying he reported himself to the authorities in light of claims he was linked to the alleged mutiny plot.

“This (alleged mutiny) issue is well known. It is known that there are investigations that involve my name and it is alleged that I am one of the people who were connected to the mutiny plot,” said the BNP leader.

“Luckily, my lawyers met with the officer in charge of that investigation and they discussed how they will work on this issue.”

Chief ’Maseribane said he left the police station without meeting the officer leading the investigation into the alleged involvement of civilians in the mutiny plot.

“I am waiting for the person leading the case because I went to the police station when he was not available.

“And he ended up calling me saying that when he needs me to report to the police station he will call me since he will only be available next week.”

Chief ’Maseribane also said he decided to report himself to the police to officially notify them that he had returned from exile in South Africa. “It is also important, after having fled the country, to report to the police that I have returned. This is because the police are the ones with the responsibility to safeguard people’s safety.”

Asked whether he played any role in the alleged mutiny plot, Chief ’Maseribane said he was “shocked” to discover he was implicated, even though he was just a civilian.

“To be honest, I was shocked when I heard about it. I am not even a retired army officer, so I know nothing about this mutiny issue but will respond to questions when asked by the police so that we can lay to rest any suspicions,” he added.

Contacted for comment, police spokesperson Superintendent Clifford Molefe told the Lesotho Times Chief ’Maseribane voluntarily reported himself to the police escorted by a crowd of followers.

He further said the BNP leader demanded to meet with Assistant Commissioner Motlatsi Mapola, who is responsible for Lesotho’s Central Region, only to find him unavailable as he was in a meeting.

“He then met with Senior Superintendent Api Letsie, the Maseru Urban Police Commissioner, and reported that he had returned to Lesotho.

“The police had not requested ’Maseribane to report himself to the police. However, he was told that if ever the police needed him to do so, they would make such a request and he should avail himself,” said Supt Molefe.

Asked whether there was an investigation of the alleged mutiny plot involving civilians, Supt Molefe said he would inquire whether such a probe existed or not.

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