Former Prime Minister, Thomas Thabane, has rejected Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) security, which was supposed to be part of his retirement benefits.
Among other benefits, Dr Thabane was— who relinquished the premiership on Tuesday last week—was entitled to a government vehicle, driver, diplomatic passport, free medical aid and bodyguards from the LDF.
However, due to his frosty relationship with the LDF which he accused of trying to overthrow his government in August last year, prompting his escape to South Africa, Dr Thabane yesterday confirmed that he would rather have the police protecting him than the army now that he was “an ordinary villager”.
The Lesotho Times has also been reliably informed that Dr Thabane had since written a letter to government secretary, Moahloli Mphaka, that he would prefer his security to be provided by the Lesotho Mounted Police Service and not the LDF as has been the tradition with the country’s former heads of government.
The letter, dated 22 March 2015, and headlined ‘Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Retirement and Spouses Benefit’, reads: “Reference is made to the aforementioned Act, especially Section 8 (1) (a) thereof. I wish to advise your good office of my preference to have the LMPS to provide security services to myself as former prime minister. I will appreciate it if the matter is addressed urgently”.
Government Secretary Mphaka, yesterday confirmed receiving the letter from Dr Thabane, and informing the Ministry of Defence Principal Secretary, Thato Mohasoa and the Police Ministry Principal Secretary, Refiloe Matekane, about the request.
Mr Mphaka said: “Traditionally, VIPs (Very Important Persons) are secured by the LDF VIP Department but if such a person requests otherwise, then he or she would have the option to choose the security of his or her choice.
“I am aware that the two principal secretaries have since discussed the issue and Dr Thabane is currently being guarded by the police as per his request.”
Defence PS, Mr Mohasoa also confirmed receiving Dr Thabane’s request.
“We can’t deny the fact that Dr Thabane had a difficult relationship with the LDF during his tenure and probably feels more comfortable with the police guarding him than the army,” Mr Mohasoa said.
Contacted yesterday about his “unusual” request for this departure from the norm, Dr Thabane, who was being guarded by South African security agents since returning from South Africa on 3 September last year following his “escape”, was diplomatic in his response.
“I have decided to work with the police and not the army. Soldiers and the police are just the same; they are all public servants and not different in any way.
“However, I want to leave the army to guard the Prime Minister as head of government; you know, I don’t want to appear as though I am in competition with him in any way. The police are also a bit compassionate compared to the army. I’m an ordinary villager now , which is whyI asked for a more civilian institution like the police to guard me and not the army.
“The police are a more people-oriented institution and in my new status as an ordinary villager, I see no reason to have such tough security as the LDF around me.
“What I plead with you is that you should note that I love Lesotho; I am a leader and probably the longest serving public servant in this country. In actual fact, there hasn’t been any longer-serving principal secretary than me, so it should be known that I make these choices to make things easier for the prime minister; in the best interest of my country.
“I’m saying this from the bottom of my heart and I’m not playing politics here. I genuinely don’t need a tough army guard around me. It has nothing to do with whatever differences we may have had in the past,” Dr Thabane said.
Dr Thabane was replaced as premier by Democratic Congress ((DC) leader, Pakalitha Mosisili, whose inauguration was on 17 March 2015.
This was after his All Basotho Convention (ABC) and its ally, the Basotho National Party (BNP), had failed to win 61-plus seats of the 120 National Assembly seats on offer during the 28 February 2015 snap elections.
The elections, which came two years ahead of schedule, were prompted by the collapse of the ABC, BNP and Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD), which came to power after the 26 May 2012 elections had produced a hung parliament.
However, the alliance failed to last its five-year term due to a power-struggle between Dr Thabane and his deputy, Mothetjoa Metsing.