ABC honours fallen heroes

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ABCBy Bongiwe Zihlangu

MASERU — The ruling All Basotho Convention (ABC) leader, Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, has conferred on fallen party heroes, certificates of admiration for “their heroic efforts in pursuit of change in Lesotho”.

The certificates, awarded post-homously, were received by the widows of the departed.

While issuing the certificates at his ABC party rally in the Khubetsoana constituency on Sunday Thabane said the accolades were a recommendation of the party’s women’s league, in recognition of their outstanding contribution to “the ABC’s struggle for change in Lesotho”.

The certificates were received by ‘Malichaba Lekhoaba, the widow of Adam Lekhoaba, ‘Mamalebanye Lerotholi, the widow of former soldier Makotoko Lerotholi as well as a relative of Pakiso Semoli.

Lekhoaba owned Harvest FM, a private radio station made popular for its political programmes and unwavering support for the then opposition ABC after 2007 elections.

Lekhoaba became widely popular for openly criticising former Prime Minister Mosisili’s administration and was later deported to South Africa.

In February 2007, the government accused Harvest FM of inciting violence during that month’s general elections, and as the editor-in-chief of the station, Lekhoaba was deported to South Africa.

His final deportation order came after the Court of Appeal overturned the High Court’s decision and ruled in favour of the government, which had claimed Lekhoaba was a South African and not a Lesotho national.

Lekhoaba died in February 2009.

Lerotholi, on the other hand, was a member of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF), who later became Thabane’s bodyguard when he (Thabane) resigned from his ministerial post under former Prime Minister Phakalitha Mosisili’s government to form the ABC.

Lerotholi was among the people who were reportedly arbitrarily arrested and detained between June 18 and 25 2007, by the members of the LDF Special Forces Commando Unit.

Lerotholi and others were arrested following attacks on government ministers’ official residences.

On July 2, 2007, Lerotholi, whose wife won a case in the High Court petitioning for his release, resurfaced at the Makoanyane Military Hospital with severe injuries.

Lerotholi and others said they were interrogated about their connections to the ABC.

Lerotholi, who fled to South Africa after his release, was also labeled the mastermind behind the April 22, 2009 attacks of the Makoanyane Military Barracks and the State House, all linked to an assassination attempt on former premier Mosisili.

Lerotholi’s name came up in the media when High Court judge Justice Jan Hendricks Steyn’s Commission instituted after the Makoanyane military base and the State House attacks, released a report implicating him as having orchestrated them.

Lerotholi died in 2010 while in exile in Pretoria, South Africa.

Meanwhile, Semoli was an ABC activist who owned a butchery and a utility mini-truck hire service at Sea-Point in Maseru and was part of a group wanted on charges of armed robbery and illegal possession of firearms subsequent to the notorious June 2007 attacks on ministers’ houses.

The late Semoli made headlines as an ABC stalwart who was granted political asylum in South Africa in July 2007, together with others after fleeing the country.

Semoli was wanted in connection with similar charges faced by Lerotholi and the likes of Khotso Lebakeng and Mokherane Tsatsanyane.

Thabane, recalling past moments with some of the late ABC cadres, said during their election campaigns with the late Lephatsoe Selomo Lebajoa and Lekhoaba and others they called for unity amongst party members and pledged “to always unwaveringly support each other”.

“Our pledge is to always support one another unconditionally,” said Thabane.

Speaking about Lekhoaba, Thabane said the former radio presenter was a hero whose wife (‘Malichaba) should be consoled as he fought for the freedom of “all those who were treated unjustly”.

Thabane said both Lerotholi’s and Semoli’s life achievements were akin to “Lekhoaba’s fight for freedom and ending unjust governance”.

Lekhoaba’s widow ‘Malichaba told the Lesotho Times on Tuesday that she was emotional and humbled by the gesture of the ABCWL.

According to Lekhoaba, her husband had died at the height of the ABC’s struggle to succeed and would use Harvest FM as a platform to advance his noble cause “thus risking the station’s closure”.

“I was very emotional when receiving the award, recalling the risks he (Lekhoaba) took and how the station was shut down by government because of its unwavering support for the ABC,” Lekhoaba said.

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