REFORMED Congress of Lesotho (RCL) leader Keketso Rantšo has fled the country for South Africa, with her party’s officials claiming that her life was in grave danger after unknown assailants attacked her home.
Ms Rantšo’s decision to flee comes hard on the heels of former premier Thomas Thabane and Basotho National Party (BNP) leader Thesele ‘Maseribane’s resolution to flee Lesotho last week, claiming they had uncovered a plot by Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) members to kill them.
According to ‘Mamolula Ntabe, the secretary general of the RCL, a splinter party from deputy prime minister Methotjoa Metsing’s Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD), Ms Rantso, who served as labour and employment minister in the last coalition government under the LCD banner, escaped from her home wearing her nightdress as she could not find time to dress properly. She then wiggled her way out of the borders.
A day before the attack on her home at Masowe 111 in Ha Thetsane on Tuesday evening, Ms Rantšo had launched a blistering attack on the government in parliament, insisting she was appalled by what she described as the lawlessness that had now gripped Lesotho since the seven-party alliance led by premier Pakalitha Mosisili came to power after the 28 February 2015 snap elections.
The Lesotho Times has since learnt that Ms Rantšo is now “in hiding” in South Africa alongside All Basotho Convention (ABC) leader Dr Thabane, and the BNP’s Chief ‘Maseribane. Ms Rantso herself and her party’s secretary-general, Ms Ntabe, refused to disclose the former minister’s whereabouts citing security reasons.
“I cannot tell you where she is..All I can say is she (Ms Rantso) is now out of the country…,” said Ms Ntabe.
Ms Rantso’s decision to flee means there is virtually no opposition leader left in Parliament. Ms Rantso served as secretary-general of Mr Metsing’s LCD until she was fired amid internal party squabbles. She nevertheless remained in cabinet as labour and employment minister before forming the RCL just before the 28 February 2014 snap elections. Her party won two proportional representation seats.
Dr Thabane and Chief ‘Maseribane fled the country last week, claiming that they had been alerted of a plot to waylay and assassinate them by members of the LDF.
Ms Rantšo would not comment on her plight when we contacted her last night, but promised to speak about to us in due course.
Ms Ntabe nonetheless said she could only confirm her party leader’s “escape” to a foreign country without divulging the actual destination “for her (Ms Rantso’s) own security.”
“I can’t give details of where she fled to but her house in Masowe III was attacked by unknown men on Tuesday and fortunate enough, she managed to escape unharmed.
“I am not in a position to tell you if the matter has been reported to the police or not, or where she is at the moment because of the sensitive nature of the case,” Ms Ntabe said.
According to Ms Ntabe, one of Ms Rantšo’s mobile phones was found in the yard outside her home by relatives who had rushed to her residence to find out what had happened during the attack.
“She even dropped one of her mobile phones outside the house, which was then found by relatives in the morning today. I think it is a clear indication that she ran for her life when she got a chance to come out of her home,” Ms Ntabe added.
Chief Maseribane said, in an sms message to the Lesotho Times last night, that Ms Rantso had joined them in exile. “Please be inform the Basotho nation that ‘M’e Rantšo also fled the country and is with us. She fled because of the statement that she made in parliament on Tuesday,” said Chief Maseribane. The BNP said, in latter communication to the Lesotho Times, that Ms Rantso had joined him and and Dr Thabane in a common place of hiding without disclosing where.
Meanwhile, BNP spokesperson, Machesetsa Mofomobe, says it is no surprise that Ms Rantšo’s home was attacked in an attempt to “abduct” her in light of the “lawlessness gripping Lesotho”.
“This clearly shows that these people who are now in government are going all out to crash the opposition and entrench their power…They want to completely torture and murder the opposition out of existence.
“This is just the beginning of more shocking things to happen under the leadership of Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili. This all explains why they brought back Lt Gen Kamoli and it also explains why Kamoli is loyal to them. He (Kamoli) never took instructions nor acknowledged the command of Dr Thabane when he was the Minister of Defence….. But just wait and see the enthusiasm he will show in doing their (the new coalition)’s bidding. They are hell bent on eliminating the opposition and the international community must intervene now.”
ABC Secretary General Samonyane Ntsekele described as shocking the alleged attempt on Ms Rantšo’s life.
“This is a complete disgrace and shame to this country…,” charged Mr Ntsekele. “It’s shameful to go as far as attacking a woman leader when we should all be proud of the fact that women like Mme Rantso have risen to the challenge of gender equality by putting themselves forward for leadership..”
“I urge the international community to come back to Lesotho and assist in resolving the security crisis in the country before the situation worsens even further…,” Mr Ntsekele said.
He said in addition to political leaders, he feared that ordinary voters would start being targeted.
“This whole situation is painful because economically Lesotho is going under. It won’t be easy to recover this country economically while we continue making headlines all for the wrong reasons,” said Mr Ntsekele.
Police Spokesperson Senior Inspector Clifford Molefe said the police had not received any reports on Ms Rantšo’s house attack.
“The police have not received any reports on Ms Rantšo’s house attack,” Mr Molefe said.
The government has thus far not commented on assassination plot claims by opposition leaders despite demands by opposition parliamentarians. Opposition MPs walked out of Parliament on Tuesday claiming that the government had failed to address their concerns, including its failure to explain the murder of staunch ABC supporter Thabiso Tsosane on the 9th and the security concerns of their leaders.
Deputy Prime Minister Methotjoa Metsing had promised the MPs that the government would issue a statement yesterday. Defence Minister Tseliso Mokhosi issued a statement saying the coalition government had uncovered a mutiny plot in the LDF, hence the current manoeuvres by the army which had seen the arrests of soldiers. He did not comment on Tsosane’s deaths or Thabane and Maseribane’s claims. (see story below). The Lesotho Times is reliably informed that Dr Thabane and Chief Maseribane were scrambling to meet President Jacob Zuma to table their concerns.
President Barack Obama’s government has slammed the reinstatement of Lt Gen Kamoli and the failure to arrest those behind several crimes, suggesting that the new coalition cannot ignore any atrocities without international censure.