‘MaIsiah Thabane this week rejected government accommodation offered to her exiled husband—former Prime Minister and All Basotho Convention (ABC) leader Thomas Thabane—due to the houses’ dilapidated state and “lack of neighbours”.
Ms Thabane, née Liabiloe Ramoholi, arrived at the Maseru Bridge Border Post on Tuesday at around 3pm, where she was received by Acting Government Secretary Emmanuel Lesoma, Senior Private Secretary in the Prime Minister’s Office Mamello Morrison, as well as several ABC leaders and supporters.
Three Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) vehicles then escorted the entourage to Maseru West to inspect one of the houses that government, through negotiations between Dr Thabane and Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili, offered the ABC leader should he agree to end his exile.
Dr Thabane fled the country on 12 May this year, claiming some members of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) were out to kill him for allegedly ill-treating them while he was premier between June 2012 and March 2015.
However, Dr Mosisili—who succeeded the ABC leader as premier when his Democratic Congress (DC) formed a coalition government with six other political parties after the 28 February 2015 snap elections had resulted in a hung parliament—has met with Dr Thabane in South Africa on at least three occasions over the past two months, to discuss his possible return.
It has since emerged two of the conditions Dr Thabane set for his homecoming were the provision of government accommodation and police protection, instead of LDF security he was entitled to by law, as former premier.
Sources privy to the “talks” told the Lesotho Times when the two leaders last met in Johannesburg on Friday last week, they agreed Ms Thabane would come to Maseru on Tuesday to look at the accommodation government was offering.
According to the sources, the two politicians had agreed that if Ms Thabane found any of the houses acceptable, the ABC leader would then return to Lesotho tomorrow.
However, after inspecting the Maseru West residence, Ms Thabane told Mr Lesoma and Ms Morrison that she was not happy with its state, and particularly took issues with its security features.
“I am not happy with the condition of this house; the burglar-bars and door-screen are not secure at all. They are worn-out, rusty and if Dr Thabane fled the country fearing for his life, then these windows and doors are a security concern. He has to feel secure in the house he is living in, and he certainly won’t be comfortable in this house,” Ms Thabane said.
Ms Morrison then informed Ms Thabane that there were two alternative houses in Old Europa, which they could also visit for inspection.
However, Ms Thabane was visibly upset when she arrived at the first of the two Old Europa homes and openly made her feelings known to Ms Morrison.
“You can’t be serious,” Ms Thabane exploded in fury. “Is this where the Prime Minister wants my husband to live? I don’t even want to see the third house the government is offering because even from here, I can see it resembles an abandoned hostel.
“Please tell the Right Honourable The Prime Minister that the two houses I have been to today are not satisfactory and we can’t accept any of them. None of them are going to address Ntate Thabane’s security issue.
“In addition to being worn-out and cracked, the houses are isolated and there are no neighbours nearby. Ntate Mosisili himself advised Basotho to open their windows, and call out to neighbours whenever they are attacked. Who will Ntate Thabane shout to and call when there are no neighbours close-by?” Ms Thabane asked.
“This house here (in Old Europa) is embarrassing, to say the least, because no one has stayed in it for years. Why is Ntate Thabane being given a house which has been abandoned for so many years? Is this a trap for the house to collapse on him? It is disrespectful for the Prime Minister to offer Ntate Thabane such houses.
“This visit has given me the impression that Ntate Mosisili simply wanted to embarrass my husband because these houses are not fit for human occupation. If the Prime Minister is serious about Ntate Thabane’s return to Lesotho, he must review his facilitation because what I have seen makes me conclude that he doesn’t want him back in Lesotho and safe.
“You know, I had thought Ntate Mosisili was indeed serious about Ntate Thabane’s safety. He was the one who proposed to give Ntate Thabane government residence to address his security concern; Ntate Thabane never asked for a house. What Ntate Thabane always asked for was a safe return back to Lesotho.”
In her response, Ms Morrison calmly told Ms Thabane: “I won’t say that to the Right Honourable The Prime Minister. I will only tell him that you did not approve any of the houses. The rest I will not tell him.”
On her part, ABC Women’s League President, ‘Mathato Phofoli, echoed Ms Thabane’s concerns about the “dilapidated” state of the houses government is offering the ex-premier.
“The leader of the ABC won’t come back to Lesotho to live in a collapsing house. As the ABC Women’s League, we urge Ntate Mosisili to offer Ntate Thabane the kind of house he would be comfortable and secure to live in himself,” Ms Phafoli said.
Meanwhile, Dr Thabane’s spokesperson, Thabo Thakalekoala, refused to comment on the progress of talks between the ex-premier and Dr Mosisili. Mr Thakalekoala could also not be drawn to discuss what would happen now that Dr Thabane’s wife had rejected government accommodation which was one of the conditions for the ABC leader’s return from exile.
“Dr Thabane and Dr Mosisili agreed to treat their meetings with confidentiality, so I am not at liberty to say anything about them,” Mr Thakalekoala said.
However, the Lesotho Times is reliably informed Dr Mosisili proposed last week’s meeting because he was under pressure from Southern African Development Community (SADC) leaders to facilitate Dr Thabane’s return home as soon as possible and guarantee his safety.