COALITION government leaders, Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, his deputy Mothetjoa Metsing and Sports Minister Thesele ‘Maseribane have committed to going ahead with the 28 February elections as planned despite renewed tension within the alliance.
The trio, who met South African President Jacob Zuma in Pretoria at Dr Thabane and Chief ‘Maseribane’s request, pledged to foster an enabling environment for the holding of the polls.
The meeting was held following the deterioration of relations between Dr Thabane and Chief ‘Maseribane and Southern African Development Community (SADC) Facilitator to Lesotho, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, whom they accused of being sympathetic to Mr Metsing.
The All Basotho Convention (ABC) and Basotho National Party (BNP) side of government had since written a damning report on Mr Ramaphosa’s facilitation to the African Union Summit held recently in Ethiopia.
The report, which was presented by BNP deputy leader Joang Molapo, whose party formed a coalition government with the ABC and Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) in June 2012, accused Mr Ramaphosa of “overlooking” security concerns and only focusing on political issues.
However, Mr Metsing’s LCD had disowned the report, expressing satisfaction with Mr Ramaphosa’s conduct as facilitator.
Sources say at Monday’s meeting, Dr Thabane and Chief ‘Maseribane highlighted the volatile security situation in the country following the recent shootout between members of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) just outside the Royal Palace.
The gun battle claimed the life of private security guard, Mohau Qobete (37), who was on duty at the nearby Ministry of Education and Training head-office, while two LDF members, Major Mojalefa Mosakeng and Corporal Ngoliso Majara, were seriously injured and taken to an unidentified hospital in Bloemfontein, South Africa.
Dr Thabane and Chief ‘Maseribane are also said to have highlighted Mr Ramaphosa’s failure to address the LDF’s refusal to surrender eight soldiers the police needed to interview in connection with the simultaneous bombing of three Maseru homes on the night of 27 January 2014. The houses belonged to Lesotho Mounted Police Service Commissioner Khothatso Tšooana, Dr Thabane’s wife Liabiloe Ramoholi and her neighbour ‘Mamoletsane Moletsane.
On his part, Mr Zuma, who is also SADC Organ on Politics Defence and Security chairman, said the security concerns would be given due attention, although he stressed preparations for the elections should continue.
In an interview with the Lesotho Times following Monday’s meeting, Government Secretary Moahloli Mphaka denied the government had ever expressed dissatisfaction with Mr Ramaphosa’s facilitation despite the report tabled at the AU Summit.
“It was not the government but some Lesotho citizens who called themselves ‘Concerned Basotho’ who demonstrated against what they described as lawlessness, saying they no longer wanted Mr Ramaphosa’s facilitation,” Mr Mphaka said, referring to a group of about 50 protesters who presented a petition to Dr Thabane, which among other issues, slated Mr Ramaphosa for allegedly failing to study the Lesotho constitution before assuming the role of SADC facilitator last year.
Added Mr Mphaka: “The government of Lesotho doesn’t have any problem with Mr Ramaphosa’s facilitation but needs him to address the core security issues that have brought Lesotho to where it is today. These issues have got to be addressed before the elections are held on 28 February.
“Mr Zuma also warned that it is high time that political party leaders in this country stop interfering in the operations of security institutions.
“Mr Ramaphosa was directed to come and address the issues of security and the country’s preparedness for the elections immediately after Mr Zuma’s State of the Nation Address in Parliament on Thursday (today).”
However, Mr Mphaka said Monday’s meeting did not discuss the alleged arrest by South African police, of four LDF officers at a Bloemfontein hospital last week. The four allegedly wanted to kill Dr Thabane’s wounded bodyguards, Major Mosakeng and Corporal Majara.
Acting Communications Minister Joang Molapo had claimed the would-be-assassins, one of them a woman, were arrested before they could reach the hospitalised bodyguards, adding the wounded bodyguards had since been relocated to a “secure” location.
However, South African police were yet to confirm the reports at the time of going to press.