FORMER Deputy Prime Minister Monyane Moleleki has attacked Law and Justice Minister Professor Nqosa Mahao and the government over their handling of the detention of two Lesotho Defence Force soldiers by South Africa.
Mr Moleleki, who is also leader of the opposition Alliance of Democrats (AD), accused Prof Mahao and the government of turning Basotho into “doormats” which could easily be trampled on by their South African counterparts.
His comments were in reference to the government’s apparent failure to secure the release of Privates Rorisang Moepi and Dumile Tsoanyane who were arrested in Matatiele, Eastern Cape on 19 July 2020 by their South African National Defence Force (SANDF) counterparts.
They were detained on charges of illegally entering the neighbouring country, stock theft, robbery and possession of unlicensed firearms and ammunition.
Two South African soldiers and two SA immigration officers were arrested last month after they allegedly illegally crossed into Lesotho, in what looked like retributive arrests.
The South African quartet was fuelling two private cars at Gateway filling station when they were arrested by LDF officers who were patrolling the Maseru border area. They did not have passports on them when they were arrested.
The South Africans were eventually released on bail and allowed to return to their country. It had been anticipated that South Africa would reciprocate by releasing the Lesotho soldiers but the duo remains in detention despite last month’s high-level government-government talks to secure their release.
Instead, the Matatiele Magistrates’ Court says it will only rule on their bail application next week. (See story on page 10).
Mr Moleleki has blamed their ordeal on what he considers to be the government’s failure to effectively fight for their release.
“They (Lesotho-SA governments) could have agreed on a fair exchange of detainees but the Law and Justice minister Nqosa Mahao is bootlicking the South Africans at the expense of Basotho,” Mr Moleleki said in an interview with the Lesotho Times yesterday.
“How is it that the government which is influenced by this small boy (Mahao) from Koro-koro allows LDF members to be arrested and kept there when they cross into South Africa to reclaim Basotho’s livestock stolen by Eastern Cape thieves? A few weeks later South African soldiers who crossed into Lesotho for cheaper fuel were immediately released because of Mahao.
“He (Mahao) expects that Basotho will vote for him (in the 2022 elections) but our people are kept in South African prisons while the South Africans are released from ours. That is disgusting.
“He has given Basotho an idea of what to expect of him if he was to be a prime minister. This government has turned us into doormats of South Africa. This is an insult to us as the nation.”
Turning to AD issues, Mr Moleleki who served as deputy prime minister in the previous Thomas Thabane-led coalition from June 2017 to May 2020, expressed confidence that his party would win the 2022 elections.
His party has been boosted by the defection of two ABC MPs, Mokherane Tsatsanyane (Stadium Area constituency) and Sello Mooki (Bobatsi constituency), who joined the AD in June this year.
Mr Moleleki, who is the party’s Machache legislator, said he would not seek re-election in the constituency in 2022. He said he would enter the National Assembly as a proportional representation (PR) legislator.
“Come 2022, I will not contest. My constituency is busy applying their minds on the subject of my successor,” he said.