‘Maseribane’s new appointment riles opposition

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’Marafaele Mohloboli

THE youth league of the opposition Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) has attacked the government for appointing former Basotho National Party (BNP) leader, Thesele Maseribane, as the country’s ambassador to Italy.

Chief Maseribane resigned his post as Small Business Development, Cooperatives and Marketing last week ahead of assuming his new job as ambassador in the coming weeks.

However, LCD youth leader, Phetho Matla, said he should not have been appointed as he still had some criminal cases to answer to. Mr Matla said the former BNP leader should in future appear before the proposed National Peace and Unity Commission to account for his alleged crimes.

The Commission will be established if the National Peace and Unity Bill of 2021 sails through in parliament. It will be empowered to grant high-profile criminal suspects amnesty provided they testify truthfully, disclose their alleged crimes in full and show remorse.

“We are aware that the National Security Services (NSS) director general (Pheello Ralenkoane) has confirmed that Thesele has been cleared by the Italian authorities to take up the ambassador’s job,” Mr Matla said at a press conference this week.

“We want him to go and come back to answer to his crimes when the time comes.

“And to the Italians, we would like to advise them to hide their matches and revolvers because he (Maseribane) has pending cases involving shootings and arson. Maseribane was cited in court as the one who burnt down the town (Maseru) in 1998 and he is also implicated in the shooting of one Kelly Mahase in 1998.

“We are not at all happy with his appointment. We are however relieved because this means that our towns will be safe from arson while he is gone,” Mr Matla said.

Chief Maseribane’s appointment has also not been well received by a group of concerned citizens calling themselves the Patriotic Basotho Movement. They penned a 5 August 2021 letter to Italian Foreign Affairs Minister, Luigi Di Maio, bemoaning the move to allow Chief Maseribane to take up his new post.

“We are extremely appalled by the appointment of Mr Thesele ’Maseribane as Lesotho ambassador to the Italian Republic.

“Nevertheless, we write this letter with utmost and humility and sincerity to earnestly urge you to reject with disdain, the appointment of Mr ’Maseribane as an ambassador to your noble country.

“This request stems from the fact that Mr ’Maseribane is swimming in a pool of acts of criminality. He has a pending murder case which is stagnating in the High Court of Lesotho, where he is suspected to have shot and killed one Kelly Mahase during the 1998 political turmoil.

“Maseribane is further suspected to have instigated the aforementioned violent political disturbances in which he successfully paralysed the government, the result of which was loss of life, injuries, massive and rampant looting, destruction of property and arson…

“Furthermore, in the recent past, Mr ’Maseribane is suspected to have been involved in a litany of crimes including but not limited to corruption and money laundering. Indeed, there is a plethora of evidence which bears testimony to this fact,” the movement states.

Among others, the movement accuses Chief Maseribane of alleged corruption in cahoots with controversial British tycoon Arron Banks.

In July 2018, Chief Maseribane was forced to defend himself after the British media prodded him over more than M1 million that was transferred to his personal account held with a South African Bank in 2013 and 2014.

The BBC queried why the funds were transferred to Chief Maseribane’s personal account and he said he enjoyed a good friendship with Mr Banks.

The BBC report also said Mr Banks also paid Chief Maseribane’s rentals while he was in exile in South Africa.

While both Mr Banks and Chief Maseribane confirmed the transactions, they refuted that the money was meant to influence the government into granting him a diamond prospecting licence in 2014.

Mr Banks is popularly known for bankrolling Britain’s exit from the European Union which has now been dubbed “Brexit”.

He is said to have funded Chief Maseribane’s BNP’s 2012 election campaign to the tune of £350 000.

The BBC reported that while he was applying for a diamond prospecting licence in 2013 and 2014, Mr Banks transferred £65 000 into Chief Maseribane’s personal bank account.

Part of the money, £16 000 was transferred a few weeks before his prospecting licence was granted.

At the time that the transactions were made, Chief Maseribane was Minister of Gender, Youth, Sports and Recreation.

Mr Banks transferred £16 000 to Chief Maseribane just weeks before his prospecting was granted in 2014.

Chief Maseribane later said he was not “ashamed of anything because he (Mr Bank) is an investor”.

He also described Mr Banks as “the ladies’ man” and told his supporters to get “ready to chow his money more”.

Countless efforts to obtain comment from Chief Maseribane were all in vain as his mobile phone rang unanswered this week.

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