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Metsing behind coup attempt: ‘Maseribane

 

Bongiwe Zihlangu

BASOTHO National Party (BNP) leader, Thesele ‘Maseribane, has accused Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) Mothetjoa Metsing, of being behind Lesotho’s current turmoil “to cover up his acts of corruption and avoid accounting for his actions”.

Chief ‘Maseribane — whose party and Mr Metsing’s Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) and the All Basotho Convention (ABC) led by Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, formed a coalition government after the 26 May 2012 general election had produced a hung parliament — told the Lesotho Times this week that the country would not be in its current political and security instability had it not been for the DPM.

According to Chief ‘Maseribane, who is also the Minister of Gender, Youth, Sports and Recreation, Mr Metsing was allegedly on a mission to destabilise the coalition government to avoid being hauled before the courts of law to answer for his corruption charges.

Mr Metsing briefly appeared before the Maseru Magistrate’s Court last month, alongside five others, charged with defrauding Maseru City Council of M53 million, but the case was immediately withdrawn.  The police later said this was to conduct further investigations. The LCD leader is also locked in a legal battle with the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO), over its acquisition of his banking details from Standard Lesotho Bank and Nedbank Lesotho, as part of the corruption investigations against him.  The DCEO has demanded that Mr Metsing explains the source of funds, amounting to M446 000, deposited into the two accounts between April 2013 and January 2014 but the premier has refused, preferring to petition the courts over the matter.

In papers filed before the Constitutional Court on 11 August 2014, Mr Metsing wants the acquisition of his private banking details declared illegal and a violation of his family and private life. The DCEO has since filed its intention to oppose Mr Metsing’s application.

According to Chief ‘Maseribane, last weekend’s invasion of Maseru Central, Police Headquarters and Ha-Mabote Police Station by members of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF), which Dr Thabane has since described as a coup attempt, was allegedly orchestrated by Mr Metsing to derail the investigations and also to ensure the removal of the coalition government, which has vowed to fight corruption regardless of who might be caught in the anti-graft crusade..

Speaking to the Lesotho Times from South Africa, where he and Dr Thabane fled to on Saturday morning soon after the army’s invasion of the three police stations,  Chief ‘Maseribane said Mr Metsing had “plunged Lesotho into instability and uncertainty by masquerading as an advocate of democracy and insisting that Dr Thabane should lift the prorogation of parliament, when in actual fact, he is avoiding to be exposed”.

“Metsing would rather plunge this country into uncertainty, in order to avoid answering his corruption cases,” Mr ‘Maseribane charged on Monday, telling the Lesotho Times he was still in hiding in South Africa as he feared for his life. He has since returned  home under heavy South African police guard alongside Dr Thabane and others.

The LDF plan, according to Chief ‘Maseribane, was to abduct him and Dr Thabane, and then announce the dissolution of the two-year coalition government.

“The intelligence we received was that the soldiers wanted to abduct me and the prime minister, together with Metsing. Only in Metsing’s case, it was going to be a ruse because he was part of the plan. They wanted to kill us, but by the time they came looking for us on Saturday morning, we had already gone, and we were now in South Africa,” Chief ‘Maseribane said.

According to the BNP leader, Mr Metsing had allegedly pleaded with him and the premier to stop any investigations against him in exchange for cancelling a demonstration Mr Metsing’s party had planned to stage earlier this week to pressure Dr Thabane to lift the prorogation of parliament.

The demo, which had been scheduled for Monday was subsequently cancelled after the police refused to sanction it for fear it would spark violence.  Dr Thabane requested King Letsie III to prorogue Parliament on 10 June 2014.  This was at the height of Dr Thabane’s dispute with Mr Metsing, who accused the premier of failing to consult him and Chief ‘Maseribane when making key decisions pertaining to government, in the consultative spirit of their alliance.

“Metsing came to us last week, saying he was appealing to us to withdraw the cases against him and that in exchange, his political party would drop the march,” Chief ‘Maseribane said.

“However, we were shocked when we learnt of the plans by the military and that he was part of it.”

Chief ‘Maseribane also told the Lesotho Times that last week, Mr Metsing visited him at his Maseru West home, where they had a bitter exchange over the issue.

“He swore to me that by this week, Thabane would no longer be prime minister. He looked me in the eye and told me point-blank that in a week’s time, Thabane would no longer be prime minister and I was shocked,” Chief ‘Maseribane said.

The BNP leader added instead of “lying to the public”, Mr Metsing should be honest about his reasons for pushing for the lifting of parliament’s prorogation because as far as the BNP and ABC were concerned “he is not genuine”.

“This whole mess revolves around Metsing’s corruption cases but he’s now hiding behind the issue of a prorogued parliament. Why can’t he just tell people the truth?

“Tell me; why is he not telling the public what we discuss behind closed doors? Why does he also not speak openly about his corruption cases, in a similar manner he does with the prorogation issue?”

Meanwhile, Chief ‘Maseribane also revealed during a meeting he, Mr Metsing, Dr Thabane, and South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma held in Pretoria on Sunday, the LCD leader was asked why soldiers who raided the three Maseru police stations demanded dockets relating to his corruption cases.

“After being asked that simple question, he looked at the floor, and could only stroke his eyebrows. The man could not even defend himself on this.

“He was also asked that in light of the current military takeover of police institutions, and the  subsequent escape of his coalition partners into South Africa, if he had expressed any concern for their security, but he could not say much on this one either.

“I, Thesele ‘Maseribane, told the meeting that since the PM and I fled the country on Saturday, Metsing had never called to check on us, an indication that he knew everything about what was happening,” Chief ‘Maseribane said.

“I also told the meeting that his silence was weird because under normal circumstances, he is such a humble, sweet and generous person, who cares about other people’s welfare. But not this time.”

Repeated efforts to get Mr Metsing’s side of the story were fruitless until the time of going to print late last night.

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