Acting Government Secretary (AGS), Moahloli Mphaka, has accused Deputy Prime Minister, Mothetjoa Metsing, of being behind this week’s attack on members of the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) who guard his Khubetsoana residence.
The officers came under sustained gunfire from Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) personnel on Tuesday evening, leaving Khubetsoana residents terrified, and the settlement under lockdown for almost the entire morning yesterday.
The AGS, who looked composed as the LDF brass—among them Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli whom Prime Minister Thomas Thabane has however, insisted, he fired as LDF commander on 29 August this year—combed the scene of the crime, told the Lesotho Times he had reason to believe Mr Metsing was linked to the assault following a “strange” statement the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) leader had allegedly made to him last Sunday.
Mr Mphaka said while the shooting was not directed at his home, he strongly believed the attackers were out to get him for reasons he said he did not know.
“What happened was on Sunday, the Deputy Prime Minister called me saying I should reschedule a cabinet meeting that had been set for the following day, Monday. Mr Metsing told me that he had certain issues he needed to clear with his coalition partners (Prime Minister and All Basotho Convention leader Thomas Thabane and Basotho National Party leader Thesele ‘Maseribane) before the cabinet meeting, hence his request that I should move the meeting to Thursday (today).
“But what puzzled me from the conversation we had was that Mr Metsing suddenly said he was concerned over the way the political situation in the country was being handled by the different stakeholders who are trying the resolve it. He ended up saying he feared these efforts would lead to a bloodbath, and at the time, I didn’t think much about,” Mr Mphaka said.
“It is only now after this attack that I am clearly recalling the conversation, and wondering whether the bloodbath he was referring to is the one that was about to happen here at my house; to my family.
“I was really shocked by his statement on Sunday as it came as a surprise after we had talked about postponing the cabinet meeting.
“What I could also not understand was how my work as a civil servant is connected to the disagreements that he could be having with his coalition partners as he said the conflicts were not being handled well, which I did not have to know.”
Mr Mphaka also said he and his family were still in shock after the shooting, which he said started at around 9pm and ended around midnight just close to his home.
“I’m waiting for the relevant authorities to explain to us what happened, and why all this shooting in a residential neighbourhood. The attack was directed at the police officers who had been assigned to protect me and my family,
and I wonder how the shooting is going to be explained by those responsible, and in this case, the LDF.
“What has also shocked me are these reports that Mr Metsing’s bodyguard, who lives near my residence, was the one being attacked by the police, which cannot be true. The people being shot at were the police who guard my family.
“I still want the army to answer that question, and I don’t believe this story that the police are the ones who attacked the soldiers. The big question is why? What caused this attack? These police officers were about to reach my home and were ambushed by the soldiers near Mr Metsing’s bodyguard’s home, and I would want to ask why.”
Returning to his conversation with Metsing, the AGS said: “Like I said, we had prepared for the cabinet to sit on Monday; it has always been my wish for cabinet to hold its meetings as it is the executive arm of government.
“This is because the arm of government that had been prorogued was the parliament and not cabinet. So it needed to continue with government business. Cabinet work is mainly done by us, the public servants, and the ministers’ duty is to approve it.
“I agreed to postpone the meeting to Thursday, and I believe we will still sit after last having cabinet meetings two months ago.”
However, Mr Mphaka said he was now awaiting a report from the SADC mission comprising soldiers, intelligence officers, and the police from Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa, who were inspecting the scene of shooting and the vehicles damaged during Tuesday’s attack.
Meanwhile, narrating Tuesday’s shooting, Mr Mphaka’s brother, Sam, said family members who were inside the house during the attack, saw some soldiers trying to force their way into their home.
“Even though there are no visible marks to show the attacks could have been meant for my brother, the fact that his guards were attacked means he was the only who was being sought by these soldiers. Some of the people in the house when the shooting was taking place also said they saw some soldiers trying to get inside the yard through the gate, but failed.
“We would also want to believe maybe this shooting scene was staged so that when my brother runs for his life leaving his home, he gets shot in the crossfire. I suspect his death would then be attributed to a stray bullet, but why anybody would want him dead, is the big question,” Sam Mphaka said.
Contacted for comment on Mr Mphaka’s allegations, the LCD Acting Secretary General, Tšeliso Mokhosi refuted the claims.
Mr Mokhosi said Mr Mphaka was misleading people by claiming his home had been attacked when it was the police who had allegedly attacked the Deputy Prime Minister’s bodyguard’s house.
“How could we even believe someone who has been lying about such a clear issue that his home had been attacked ? How can we believe Ntate Mphaka about what he says about his conversation with Ntate Metsing after he openly lied to the people?” said Mr Mokhosi.
Mr Mokhosi, who is also the Minister of Energy, Meteorology and Water Affairs, further said Mr Mphaka was trying to deceive people “when it was even clear to the SADC observers that his home was never attacked.
“I was part of the people who went to his home and there were no bullet-shells or even bullet holes on the walls of his home. These SADC observers went into his home and they reported that there was no evidence to suggest there had been an attack at his home.
“Ntate Metsing’s bodyguard’s house is surrounded by bullets shells and the same is also true of other neighbouring houses and not Mphaka’s home,” Mokhosi said.
Mr Mokhosi also advised Mr Mphaka to be careful as his conduct could “taint” his image as a civil servant, who should be apolitical.
“The SADC police and soldiers went to the scene in the early morning hours upon receiving the tip off about the shootings under the impression that it was Mphaka’s home that was being fired at. They were surprised to find out the police were the ones attacking soldiers.
“It really seemed a well-planned police mission whereby the two soldiers (Mr Metsing’s bodyguard and his colleague) found themselves under heavy gunfire from the police even when they tried to escape as they were boxed in by the police.
“That’s why the soldiers ended calling for reinforcements when they realised they were being attacked by heavily armed police,” Mr Mokhosi said.
The SADC observers, he added, would be sending investigators to the crime scene to “really get to the bottom of this attack.”
Asked about the cabinet meeting the Deputy Prime Minister wanted postponed, Mr Mokhosi said his party was not comfortable discussing such confidential the issue since the agenda had issues that violated an agreement signed by the coalition government leaders in Pretoria last month.