MASERU – Two opposition Members of Parliament (MPs) exchanged blows at parliament last Friday.
Lithoteng MP Eliabe Mokhanoi and Molobeli Soulo who is a legislator through the proportional representation system had a brief brawl after a heated argument.
The Lesotho Times can reveal that the fracas happened at around 8:50 am as the two legislators were about to go into parliament for Friday’s session.
Mokhanoi won the Lithoteng seat on an All Basotho Convention (ABC) ticket but has since defected to Lehlohonolo T’sehlana’s Senkatana party.
Soulo is a strong member of the ABC but contested the Lithoteng seat in the 2007 general election as an independent under Mokhoro symbol after losing the primary election to Mokhanoi.
He lost the Lithoteng seat to Mokhanoi but got into the National Assembly under the proportional representation programme.
Since then there has been bad blood between the two MPs.
Angry words have been flying back and forth between the MPs.
Tempers reached boiling point on Friday.
Mokhanoi confirmed that there was a scuffle.
He said he was just about to enter parliament “when an angry” Soulo approached him.
He accused me of saying bad things about him in the media, said Mokhanoi in an interview with the Lesotho Times on Tuesday.
“He started shouting at me. He said I had said damaging things about his Mokhoro,” Mokhanoi said.
“He slapped me on the chest and started pushing me.”
The MP said he did not realise that Soulo wanted to fight until he slapped him on the chest.
“I was surprised when he slapped me. It was when I realised that he wanted to fight. I decided to fight back.
“I started advancing towards him because I wanted to fight back. He was pushing back. I tried to come nearer but he kept retreating.”
The two MPs were restrained by one of the bodyguards for ABC leader, Tom Thabane.
Mokhanoi said he was angry because he did not get a chance to really fight back.
After being restrained the two MPs continued to exchange harsh words. “I told him that I was not afraid of him. I told him that he was a small boy who could not do anything to me. He might have a big body but he can’t do anything to me,” said Mokhanoi.
Mokhanoi said Soulo insulted him with some unprintable words about his mother.
Soulo flatly denied that there was a scuffle.
“I don’t know Mokhanoi. I did not meet him at parliament or anywhere on Friday. It’s a lie,” Soulo said.
Asked whether he was sure that he did not have a scuffle with Mokhanoi or he simply did not recall the incident, Soulo said he was positive that the two had not met anywhere on Friday.
“I am telling you straight that I did not meet Mokhanoi. I did not beat Mr Mokhanoi. I didn’t do anything.”
When pressed further, Soulo said: “You are asking me and I am telling you that it’s a lie.”
Mokhanoi said he reported the matter to Thabane but did not get a positive reaction.
“I entered the House and told Thabane that Soulo was harassing me but he told me off. He said I should go and deal with my peers because I was not his age,” said Mokhanoi.
Thabane confirmed that he got the report from Mokhanoi but said he was not happy with his approach.
“I was sitting there in parliament and Mokhanoi came trying to force himself into my narrow seat saying something about being harassed by Soulo,” Thabane said.
“I was irritated and told him that I was not his age. I told him to go and sort out his problems with fellow boys. I am an old man and therefore cannot allow young boys to push me around.”
Thabane said he was particularly angered by Mokhanoi’s approach.
“The approach was wrong. Two boys have an altercation outside parliament and one of them comes to me and tries to report the matter but does so in an ill-mannered way.”
Thabane added: “I will not have boys behaving in a childish manner in my space. I will not have boys who don’t have any degree of respect for elders pushing into my space. That is why I told him to go and sort out his problems with fellow boys because I am not his age.”
Mokhanoi and Soulo have not been seeing eye to eye since 2007. Mokhanoi has accused the ABC leadership of undermining his authority in Lithoteng constituency by working with Soulo who has not been elected.
He said this was the other reason why he decided to defect to Senkatana.
Mokhanoi and his supporters were barred from attending the ABC’s general conference held in Mazenod on December 19.
“I have complained about this issue but nothing was done.”