Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL) leader Keketso Rantšo is “desperate” to return home and says she is living under “horrible” conditions in South Africa where she sought refuge on Tuesday last week.
The former Labour and Employment minister fled the country on 26 May allegedly after being tipped-off that she would be abducted from her home that night by unknown assailants.
Ms Rantšo further alleged she had been told the abduction was to “punish” her for attacking government in parliament for the deteriorating security situation in the country.
With the Opposition Leader in Parliament—former Prime Minister and All Basotho Convention (ABC) leader Thomas Thabane and Basotho National Party (BNP) leader Thesele ‘Maseribane having fled the country for South Africa a week before Ms Rantšo also saying they feared for their lives—Lesotho has once again become the centre of regional attention for the wrong reasons after the Southern African Development Community (SADC) had to broker a peace deal among feuding government leaders late last year. The deal, which to the 28 February 2015 snap elections, resulted in a change of government, with Democratic Congress (DC) leader Pakalitha Mosisili taking over the premiership from Dr Thabane.
However, in an exclusive interview with the Lesotho Times yesterday, Ms Rantšo said she was not with Dr Thabane and Chief ‘Maseribane in South Africa, but on her own “in a place a woman should never be.”
According to Ms Rantšo, she had left Lesotho in such a hurry all she had thought of was crossing the border “where at least I knew I would be safe from those who wanted to attack me.”
Ms Rantšo continued: “I have my own comfortable home there in Maseru and don’t deserve to stay in the conditions I am living under right now here in South Africa. I made sure that I reported to the relevant authorities before fleeing the country in the middle of the night. I expected that at least by now, I would have been told by the government about progress regarding investigations into the plot, but there has been deafening silence, and I continue to live in a place no woman should be staying.
“I had not budgeted for such an emergency in my life, which is why I have to live in this horrible place because I can’t afford to pay for comfortable hotels or guesthouses.
“I desperately want to come home and enjoy my freedom and spend time with my children and continue to work for the electorate who reliably chose me to represent them in the National Assembly.”
Narrating how she managed to evade her attackers, Ms Rantšo told the Lesotho Times she had been alerted by a “Good Samaritan” of the pending assault.
“Immediately after being told of the plot to abduct and kill me, I drove away from my house in Masowe III and went to the South African High Commission. Unfortunately, I could not get into the embassy and because I feared that I might have been followed, I decided to escape to South Africa.
“When I arrived in South Africa, I went to Lesotho’s High Commission and explained why I had fled my own country, where a letter was issued to Ntate Mosisili in my presence telling him that I had fled the country. This was in Pretoria, and there was no response at all from government to this day. RCL Secretary General, ‘Mamolula Ntabe, then wrote a letter to the Speaker of the National Assembly, Ntloi Motsamai, the following morning to make her aware that I had fled the country. I did not end there; I also phoned the then Acting Foreign Affairs Minister Tsukutlane Au and told him that I had fled the country and that I needed help from the government of Lesotho to help me come back home safely.
“Mr Au told me he would report the issue to the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Mothetjoa Metsing) and Minister of Defence and National Security (Mr Tšeliso Mokhosi). But I want you to understand my shock when Ntate Au called back and told me that Mr Mokhosi had said I should just come back home because nothing was going to happen to me, yet I had left the country genuinely fearing for my life.
“I don’t have a problem coming back home but what really shocked me was how this government is dismissing the whole incident as a non-event.
“How can I flee my own country and then simply be told to come back as if nothing happened? I felt betrayed by Ntate Mokhosi’s response, and I believe he is only going to believe that some of us are really in danger when he sees us lying in a pool of blood, dead, and riddled with bullets.
“I was also hurt by a statement made by the Minister of Communications, Science and Technology Khotso Letsatsi last week after I left the country, in which he said the government was not aware of the escape of opposition party leaders to South Africa. I am deeply hurt with the way serious issues concerning the lives of other people are taken so lightly by those in authority. How would they feel if they were given the same treatment? That is the question I would want to hear answered by those who believe we are over-reacting and just seeking attention by claiming that our lives are in danger,” Ms Rantšo said.
Meanwhile, the RCL leader also told the Lesotho Times that she had not met anybody from the seven-party government since her departure for South Africa last week.
“I am ready to meet government officials for talks over my safe return. Here, I have met with officials from the Ministry of Home Affairs and state security. They came to check if I was safe and provide me with counselling because they could really see that I was traumatised,” Ms Rantšo said.
Ms Rantšo could however, not comment on whether or not she had met South African president Jacob Zuma or SADC representatives over her plight.
“Unfortunately, I can’t disclose that information because of its sensitive nature,” she said.
Meanwhile, Mr Metsing on Tuesday announced in parliament that government was making efforts to engage the exiled opposition leaders.
However, the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) leader told the House that it was still “premature” to go into details regarding the engagement.
“I don’t think it will be appropriate for the House to discuss the matter while government has appointed officials to work on it,” Mr Metsing said.
Repeated efforts to get comments from Mr Au and Foreign Affairs Minister Tlohang Sekhamane were fruitless yesterday, while Communications Minister Mr Letsatsi yesterday told the Lesotho Times that government officials “recently” met church leaders to discuss the opposition leaders’ issue.
“It was agreed that the government should ensure a meeting with the leaders and convince them to return.
“We need them to come and tell us exactly what is happening because right now, we only understand that they are in South Africa but not why,” Mr Letsatsi said.