THE Alliance of Democrats (AD) has been rocked by vicious infighting which led to the fatal shooting of a party member during a primary election in the Koro-Koro constituency in Maseru district on Sunday.
The man, identified as Thabiso Moqolo was shot dead during a brawl that erupted over the authenticity of the delegates for the primary election in which Refiloe Litjobo and Khotso Makana were vying to represent the party in the general elections scheduled for 3 June 2017.
While some party members have fingered the party’s youth league constituency chairperson, Advocate Mohau Tšilo, as a suspect in the fatal shooting, police spokesperson Superintendent Clifford Molefe told the Lesotho Times they were still investigating the matter.
Mr Tšilo gave his own version of events to this paper in which he denied shooting anyone, saying he did not even own a gun.
For his part, Mr Litjobo admitted to firing in the air twice following the initial shooting. He also confirmed owning the gun which he fired, saying it was licenced and was shown to the police at the incident.
Mr Tšilo said heated arguments erupted at the rally between Mr Litjobo and Mr Makana with the latter accusing the former Democratic Congress deputy secretary-general of bussing people from Abia constituency to boost his chances of winning the primaries.
Mr Tšilo said two supporters of Mr Litjobo, Makhetha Motsoari and Thabo Matamane were at the fore-front of ferrying people.
“We were shocked to discover the Mazenod branch had a following of 700 registered people. Then Makana’s followers complained that they were not genuine members from Mazenod and barred them from voting,” Mr Tšilo said.
“A fraudulent scheme of swapping membership to vote in the elections to boost numbers was engineered and we learned that Mr Matamane was taking people from Mazenod branch to boost numbers in the Abia constituency. So we suspected these people were in Koro-Koro to do the same.”
“The constituency chairperson tried to end the rally but AD Youth League President Thuso Litjobo, who was also present, protested that the primaries should go ahead,” Mr Tšilo said, adding as a result they lost confidence in the delegates who had been sent to observe and assist in the election process on behalf of the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC).
“We completely lost confidence in their neutrality as we felt they were now being influenced by Thuso Litjobo to make decisions in favour of his brother’s faction and ignoring our complaints that the election would be marred by the participation of people who are not members of the constituency.”
He said the primaries were disrupted because of the Litjobo faction and the NEC representatives’ insistence that they should proceed despite the “stark irregularities”.
“I assembled Makana’s supporters at his behest and we instructed them not to vote. But they refused to leave, arguing if they left then the primaries would go ahead in their absence to Litjobo’s advantage. They resorted to destroying the ballots and burning them,” Mr Tšilo said.
He said that Makhetha Motsoari, Nkoebe Maroele, Matiase Lenka and Thabo Litjobo retaliated by assaulting Mr Makana’s followers who were engaged in destroying ballot papers and the rally degenerated into a fight between the two groups.
Mr Tšilo said as the events unfolded, he kept a safe distance from the theatre of conflict and stood by his vehicle while consulting with Mr Makana about the best course of action to protect their followers.
“I then decided to remove my car from the scene upon realising they were now throwing stones. Then gunshots were heard while the fight was ongoing. So I left immediately after being advised by some people who suspected I may end up being the target of the shooting.
“I then learnt about the fatal shooting of Moqolo after which I was stopped by Makhetha Motsoari and Nkoebe Marole who said I was the one who shot someone and accused me of trying to flee the scene. They then threatened to shoot me.
“I drove away in fear and went to the Flight 1 police post to report that there were people accusing me of shooting someone and that those people had threatened to kill me,” Mr Tšilo said.
He said he subsequently heard Thuso Litjobo speaking on one local radio station where he described the person who fired the shots at the rally as wearing clothes similar to his.
“I took Mr Litjobo’s description as an intention to frame me but I do not have a gun like they do. It is known that the Litjobo brothers carry guns and one of them indeed fired his gun at the rally. I am just being framed over something I did not do.
“I trust our country’s police to make thorough investigations into who shot that man so that I can be cleared of the allegations being made against me.”
Refiloe Litjobo also narrated his version of events saying the violence was instigated by people de-campaigning him in the constituency and claiming his allegiance was still with the DC in which he was a proportional representation legislator. Mr Litjobo joined the AD upon the dissolution of parliament to avoid being fired by the DC.
“I was shocked to learn that even some members of the constituency and youth league constituency committees were working against me. They also campaigned for Makana,” Mr Litjobo said.
He said upon realising at the Sunday rally that he had more followers than Mr Makana, his detractors claimed that he had ferried people from Ha Abia to Koro-Koro to vote fraudulently.
Mr Litjobo asserted that the people had been transferred from Abia to Koro-Koro and were therefore within their rights to vote.
Mr Makana, he said, had in fact brought in people from the Maama and Thetsane constituencies to vote in the primaries.
“I tried to distance myself from the fight as it started and I also realised that the constituency youth leader, Mohau Tšilo was leading the fight against my supporters and was seen arguing with one Matiase Lenka.
“There is a person who took out a gun from a brown bag and that person said he was going to shoot Matiase Lenka. But he was stopped from using the gun. I cannot say or even allege who the person was.”
Mr Litjobo also said there was a member of the party’s NEC who tried to quell the pandemonium but his attempts were unsuccessful as Mr Makana continued to disrupt the elective conference.
He said Mr Tšilo and Mr Makana led people in calling him names, insulting him and calling him impoverished.
Mr Litjobo further alleged that Mr Tšilo assembled people under a tree, seemingly to give them instructions to assault his faction leading to complete chaos as people disrupted everything while others were beaten with batons and attacked with stones.
“Then someone fired a weapon and thereafter we realised there was someone who had been shot.
“I realised there was a risk of a stampede on the person lying on the ground and then as people scattered all over and I took two shots into the air from where I was.
“When I left the incident, I was under police escort. But later on, I was informed by those who witnessed the incident that the person who was shot was hit by a bullet that was meant for me,” Mr Litjobo said.
He confirmed owning a gun which he fired, saying it was licenced and was shown to the police at the incident after they collected shells.
AD Secretary-General Mokhele Moletsane has since released a statement condemning the incident saying it tarnished the reputation of the party which was founded on ideals of promoting peace, rule of law and unity.
He said the party was confident the police would make thorough investigations into the fatal shooting and the culprit would be apprehended.
Mr Moletsane also said the party’s NEC has resolved that all party members should desist from carrying weapons to all party activities.