ALLIANCE of Democrats (AD) youth league president, Thuso Litjobo has been arraigned before the courts on murder charges in a case which has potentially far-reaching consequences for both the party and Mr Litjobo’s own future where he was seen as one of the rising young Turks on the political scene.
Mr Litjobo (34) yesterday appeared before the Magistrate’s Court along with his bodyguard, Thato Makara (38).
The duo are facing a murder charge for allegedly shooting to death AD member, Thabiso Moqolo early this month at a party gathering to elect a candidate to contest elections in the Koro-Koro constituency.
They stand accused of using a 7.65 pistol to shoot and kill Mr Moqolo at Ha-Tlebere in Mazenod on 2 April during a conflict that erupted while the AD was in the process of electing a party candidate for the 3 June elections in the Koro-Koro constituency.
The duo were remanded in custody after Senior Resident Magistrate Peter Murenzi told them they could only apply for bail before the High Court.
They are expected to appear again before the Magistrate’s Court on 4 May 2017.
Mr Moqolo was shot dead during a brawl that erupted over the authenticity of the delegates for the abortive primary election in which AD officials, Refiloe Litjobo and Khotso Makana were vying to represent the party in the 3 June general elections.
The elections were announced by His Majesty King Letsie III in the aftermath of last month’s successful parliamentary no confidence motion by the opposition bloc against the seven parties’ coalition government.
The fledgling AD party is one of the newest kids on the political bloc having been formed in December 2016 after the then deputy leader of the main ruling Democratic Congress (DC) party, Mr Monyane Moleleki jumped ship after an abortive bid to wrest control of the DC from leader and Prime Minister, Pakalitha Mosisili.
Mr Moleleki took with him a sizeable number of DC legislators, erstwhile members of the national executive committee, women and youth leagues including Mr Litjobo who was subsequently elected AD Youth League President as his political star appeared to rise.
The AD subsequently held several rallies where it cultivated the image of a party whose agenda was ending the culture of violence, instability and divisions bred by the age-old schisms in the country’s body politic where the populace was divided along congress and nationalist fault lines.
However, the campaign period in the aftermath of the announcement of the 3 June elections appear to have brought to the fore, tensions within the fledgling party and the infighting has centred on the election of candidates to represent the party in the high stakes polls.
And the tensions boiled over in the Koro-Koro constituency and Mr Moqolo was fatally shot during the brawl that erupted over the authenticity of the delegates for the primary election in which Mr Refiloe Litjobo, a former DC proportional representation legislator and Mr Khotso Makana were vying to represent the party in the June elections.
The vicious infighting continued in the aftermath of the incident, with some party members fingering the party’s youth league constituency chairperson, Advocate Mohau Tšilo as the prime suspect in the fatal shooting.
But Advocate Tšilo last week protested his innocence in an interview with this publication, adding he did not even own a gun.
Such was the magnitude and impact of the incident that Mr Moleleki felt compelled to speak and condemn the shooting in his address to thousands of the party supporters at Ha-Marakabei in the Butha-Buthe district last week.
“On behalf of the AD, I wish to condemn the incident which happened at our primary elections in Koro-Koro,” Mr Moleleki said, adding, “The AD was founded on the principles of peace, patience, national unity and good relations with other political parties”.
“But last Sunday’s incident has caused our party to be the first in Lesotho where the life of a person is ended over primary elections. This will remain a black spot that will taint our party’s image for a long time.”
And while rival party members traded accusations regarding who was behind the shooting, Mr Moleleki would not be drawn into taking sides, stating instead that the police should investigate and arrest whoever was found to be on the wrong side of the law.
He said “no one is above the law”.
And on Sunday, Mr Litjobo and his co-accused were subsequently arrested by police and detained at Mohale and Matela police posts respectively.
Mr Litjobo was released on Monday while Mr Makara was released on Tuesday after his wife had applied to the High Court that the police should produce him alive or dead.
If convicted, this would likely spell the end of Mr Litjobo’s political career which was widely seen in terms of the rising new generation of young politicians who would take over the mantle from career politicians including Mr Moleleki, Dr Mosisili and All Basotho Convention leader, Thomas Thabane among others.