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Thabane speaks on guns seizure

by Lesotho Times

ABC Leader Thom Thabane

. . . accuses Mosisili of ordering army and police to frustrate his campaign 

Lekhetho Ntsukunyane

ALL Basotho Convention (ABC) leader Thomas Thabane has laid the blame for the dramatic confiscation of his security detail’s guns squarely on Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s door.

Dr Thabane says Dr Mosisili is on a determined mission to “abuse” state security agencies to frustrate the ABC’s “march” back to State

House but vowed to win back power despite any obstacles thrown his way.

The ABC leader told the Lesotho Times that the confiscation of the weapons meant to protect him, in light of the clear dangers to his security, arose from a directive he alleges Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili had given to state security agencies to do all they can to harass him and frustrate the ABC’s campaign ahead of the 3 June 2017 snap general elections.  The government has nevertheless vehemently denied the allegations saying there was no way Dr Mosisili would have issued such a directive.

Members of a joint armed forces platoon confiscated weapons from Dr

Thabane’s bodyguards at a roadblock last Saturday while the former premier was on his way to Qacha’s Nek for an ABC rally scheduled for the next day.

The ABC claimed the seized guns were all licensed and that Dr Thabane’s bodyguards had offered the police and army officers’ documentation to substantiate that but to no avail.

However, government spokesperson Serialong Qoo scoffed at Dr Thabane’s allegations, saying Dr Mosisili did not interfere in the security agencies’ operations.

Police spokesperson, Superintendent Clifford Molefe, has since issued a statement saying the weapons were impounded on suspicion they were used in violation of gun control laws.

He said the mandate of the joint army and police operation was to search vehicles and their occupants for weapons of any kind.

“The police authority…. wishes to notify the general public that among other primary functions of the police is the maintenance of stability, law and order,” read part of the statement.

“In line with section 147 (1) of the constitution of Lesotho, as amended in 1996, the LMPS has been bestowed with the authority and responsibility of controlling the use of weapons issued to citizens and private security companies.”

Supt Molefe said Dr Thabane’s guns had been impounded on suspicion that their existence violated several statutes, mainly section 8 of the Private Security Act No 11 of 2002 read together with Private

Security Guards (Code of Conduct) Notice 2003, Private Security Act Officers Regulations 2003 and section 29 and 38 of the Internal Security Act of 1966.

Supt Molefe further told this publication yesterday that similar operations were being carried out in various parts of the country.

Investigations into last Saturday’s incident involving Dr Thabane were still ongoing, he said.

However, Dr Thabane insisted that the seizure of his security detail’s guns was done at the instigation of Dr Mosisili, whom the ABC leader accused of possessing an insatiable appetite of abusing his powers.

He said Dr Mosisili, who is also the leader of the lead party, the

Democratic Congress (DC), in the outgoing seven-party governing coalition had specifically instructed the security agents to “harass” him.

But instead of being demoralised by the incident, Dr Thabane said he was actually energised and would campaign even harder.

“I feel more energetic and powerful because of the incident of last Saturday. When somebody does that to me, he actually ignites my full potential,” the ABC leader said.

“Ntate Mosisili, whom I have respected a lot in the past, should brace for what is coming to him after he did this to me. I will continue to hold election campaigns without any fear, but this time I will be even more energised.”

Dr Thabane also reiterated his call for his political arch-rival to retire from politics, particularly in light of Dr Mosisili’s loss of a parliamentary no-confidence motion on 1 March 2017.

The no-confidence motion was engineered by a four party opposition alliance which included the ABC, Alliance of Democrats (AD), Basotho

National Party (BNP) and the Reformed Congress of Lesotho.

The alliance had proposed AD leader Monyane Moleleki to replace Dr Mosisili upon the success of the no-confidence vote, but the premier went on to advise King Letsie III to dissolve parliament and call for snap polls.

King Letsie III dissolved parliament on 6 March 2017, and proclaimed 3 June 2017 as the day for snap elections, the third set of elections in the Kingdom in just under five years.  The first elections on 26 May 2012 ushered in Dr Thabane to power via his coalition with Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) leader Methotjoa Metsing and the Basotho National Party (BNP) of Thesele ‘Maseribane.

The second elections were held on 28 February 2015 after the collapse of Dr Thabane’s tripartite coalition.

They brought back Dr Mosisili to power in a seven party coalition government which has in turn collapsed after the implosion of the DC leading to the latest snap polls.

However, prominent lawyer and former Law minister Advocate Haae Phoofolo King’s Counsel and BNP deputy leader Joang Molapo have since challenged the dissolution of parliament in the constitutional court.

Dr Thabane said for the sake of stability in the Kingdom, Dr Mosisili should now just quit active politics after his long reign.

“Ntate Mosisili should just retire from active politics. We want him out of government and we proved that through parliament by passing a vote of no confidence against him and his government,” he said.

“The majority of legislators voted him out. He should peacefully leave us. He has worked for this country long enough to now retire.”

The ABC leader said he was not angry, but merely “disappointed” with Dr Mosisili.

“I am just concerned about how Ntate Mosisili treats me. I have worked with him for a long time from way back. I was once a minister in the government he led until we eventually parted ways peacefully.

“I left him when I realised we no longer shared the same vision. I was not happy with the direction our erstwhile political party Lesotho

Congress for Democracy (LCD) had begun to take. Our party seemed to be stuck in the past. It dwelled too much on the struggles we had but lacked a vision for the future. In other words, there was no plan beyond our struggle.”

Dr Thabane also chided the premier for failing to focus more on developmental issues.

“There are so many challenges faced by our youth, the elderly people and people living with disabilities. These people need care and measures set in place to assist them. If there is lack of proper structures and programmes set out to assist these people, then our country is not governed well.

“Any head of government who fails to deliver as per the demands of the nation should vacate the office of prime minister and make way for other people determined to do the job. Ntate Mosisili should go.

“Young people in this country deserve to have clear programmes set out for them by the government of the day. Such programmes can then capacitate them to be self-sufficient leaders of tomorrow.”

Dr Thabane also indicated he had an eye on posterity in his political career, urging the premier to do the same.

“Me and Ntate Mosisili are leaders today. Tomorrow we will die. What legacy are we leaving behind?

“Have we prepared young men and women of this country to take over from us in a manner that we can be proud of? If this is my concern, why can’t it also be a concern for Ntate Mosisili who has been at the helm of power for many years?

“To me, it seems like some people just seek a public vote to be in parliament and then do nothing for the people. They have a burning desire to find themselves in the comfort of being in parliament. But the only reason why the people elect us into parliament is to address their demands.”

He added: “This country belongs to Basotho. This country is not the property of any political leader, myself included. Lesotho, unlike many other countries, is fortunate to have as head of state somebody who is apolitical in the King. The office of the King is supposed to bring us all together irrespective of our political inclinations, clans, tribes and other groups of the society.”

Asked what measures he would take to ensure that if elected back to power his government would not collapse midterm, he said: “I did not wish for the government I lead to collapse. My detractors decided to mislead Basotho hence the fall of the government I led. I am now bouncing back because of the same Basotho who put their trust in me. I am not intending to disappoint them. But when the time comes for them to say I must go, I will go. I respect the will of the people; after all, they are the ones who put me in power last time. If

I don’t meet their demands, I should go.”

For his part, Mr Qoo said “there was no way” Dr Mosisili could have instructed the security agencies to harass Dr Thabane.

“That’s entirely not true. Ntate Mosisili is a very disciplined leader. He cannot interfere in the operations and administration of the army and police, especially by way of instructing them to harass Ntate Thabane or anybody else,” said the Communications minister.

“Ntate Thabane should not presume that because he used to instruct the police to arrest some politicians during his tenure as prime minister, Ntate Mosisili will do the same.

“We know a lot about how Ntate Thabane issued instructions to the police to arrest Ntate Mothetjoa Metsing and Ntate Monyane Moleleki during political rallies.”

Mr Qoo added: “To show that Ntate Thabane is not as disciplined as Ntate Mosisili, he recently said bad things about King Letsie III; something which Ntate Mosisili cannot do.

“……., I wish to tell you that the police and the army have their own commanders to authorise their operations. Not even the police minister or defence minister can authorise their day-to-day operations like that of a roadblock.”

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