Archbishop Tlali Lerotholi says his Roman Catholic Church (RCC) colleagues at home and abroad, including the Italy-based head of the church Pope Francis, are regularly checking on him following a message on social media warning he would be assassinated.
The Archbishop, who is also head of the Christian Council of Lesotho (CCL), has been under the spotlight since the ‘facebook’ message claiming he would be killed by 8 July 2015 appeared on the internet early this month. The message did not say why the cleric was going to be assassinated or by who, but still left the head of the Roman Catholic Church in Lesotho a worried man.
Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing—who had also been mentioned in the message as being part of a plot to bribe the on-going Southern African Development Community (SADC) Commission of Inquiry into Lesotho’s instability—subsequently called a press conference during which he threatened to hunt down the “rumourmongers”.
In an interview with the Lesotho Times this week, Archbishop Lerotholi said the support he was receiving from his peers and the general public, had given him strength although the ‘facebook’ warning remained a cause for concern “because I am not a politician”.
“Immediately I saw the message on social media, I told my RCC colleagues here in Lesotho and abroad, Pope Francis in Rome, government authorities specifically the Prime Minister, Dr Pakalitha Mosisili, the police and His Majesty King Letsie III.
“I am concerned about my safety and as soon as I saw the threat, I had no choice but to report the matter to the relevant authorities, family and friends.
“In Lesotho, such death threats spread through the internet of late have come to pass, which was why I couldn’t just keep quiet about it. Despite being an anointed man of God, I am also human and a Mosotho, and can’t expect any special treatment hence my worry.
“My colleagues from around the world are now always checking on me, including the Pope, calling to see if I am alright.”
Asked if he had requested bodyguards from the government following the “warning”, Archbishop Lerotholi said he had not.
“I don’t think I would be happy or free if I was to be provided with security. In fact, I don’t want the security. I just want to be safe and free in my own home country,” Archbishop Lerotholi said.
Asked about his reaction when he saw the ‘facebook’ message, the Archbishop said it was not easy to wait for one’s proclaimed day to die, adding what really made him uneasy was similar “warnings” had come to pass, among them the death of prominent Maseru businessman Thabiso Tšosane and former Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) commander Maaparankoe Mahao.
Mr Tšosane was shot dead by unknown assailants in Ha Thetsane on 9 May 2015, while Brigadier Mahao was killed by members of the LDF who had come to arrest him on the 25th of last month, for allegedly planning to topple the army command.
Archbishop Lerotholi said despite mediating in Lesotho’s political disputes under the CCL banner, he was not a member of any political party hence the alleged threats on his life had come as a surprise.