Lesotho Times

The year 2017 in review

Pascalinah Kabi

JANUARY

Khasu unveils new party

FORMER All Basotho Convention (ABC) deputy leader, Tlali Khasu, announces the formation of his Truth Reconciliation Unity (TRU) party barely a month after resigning from the ABC over a suspension for denigrating party leader Thomas Thabane on a local radio station last year.

The now former Peka constituency legislator is deputised by now former ABC Motimposo constituency counterpart, Pitso Maisa.

Mr Khasu and Mr Maisa respectively lost their constituencies to ABC legislators Tebello Kibane and Thabang Mafojane after the 3 June 2017 snap elections which saw the ABC returning to power after forming an alliance with the Alliance of Democrats, Basotho National Party and Reformed Congress of Lesotho.

FEBRUARY

Mochoboroane’s MEC is formed

MOVEMENT of Economic Change (MEC) leader, Selibe Mochoboroane

FORMER Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) secretary-general Selibe Mochoboroane announces his leadership of the Movement for Economic Change (MEC), confirming local politics’ worst kept secret.

The Thabana-Morena legislator formed the party after his suspension from the LCD by its leader Mothetjoa Metsing for allegedly systematically sabotaging the party for his own ends.

While the suspension was subject to the confirmation or otherwise by the LCD’s National Executive Committee, the irreconcilable nature of the fallout between Mr Mochoboroane and the party hierarchy meant that it was no longer a case of if but when the firebrand politician would leave the LCD.

At 40, Mr Mochoboroane is among the youngest of the leaders of Lesotho’s political parties which are in excess of 25.

Exiled opposition leaders return 

Opposition bloc leaders comprising All Basotho Convention (ABC) Thomas Thabane, Alliance of Democrats (AD) Monyane Moleleki, Basotho National Party (BNP) Thesele ’Maseribane and Reformed Congress for Lesotho

ABC leader Thomas Thabane and his opposition colleagues – Basotho National Party (BNP) leader Thesele Maseribane and Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL) leader Keketso Rantso – return to Lesotho on 12 February 2017 from an almost two-year self-imposed exile in South Africa.

The trio fled to the neighbouring country in May 2015 saying they had been alerted of a plot to kill them by the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) masterminded by then army commander Lieutenant-General Tlali Kamoli. The LDF has, however, vehemently denied the allegations.

Talks between the government and opposition over the exiled leaders’ return collapsed last April after the parties deadlocked on Lt-Gen Kamoli.

The then opposition leaders, now in government after the 3 June 2017 snap parliamentary elections, had insisted they would only return if Lt-Gen Kamoli was removed from the helm of the LDF, while the government argued that he was a disciplined soldier who deserved to remain in post.

The Dr Mosisili government eventually relented and retired Lt-Gen Kamoli in December 2016, replacing him with Lt-Gen Khoantle Motšomotšo who in turn was fatally shot by his subordinates on 5 September.

MARCH

Mosisili toppled in parly

Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili

PRIME Minister Pakalitha Mosisili is toppled in a parliamentary no-confidence vote, ending the veteran politician’s nearly two-year second stint as premier.

Lawmakers from the ABC, AD, BNP and RCL – boot out the Dr Mosisili-led seven-party coalition with a rapturous yea which drowned out the opposition’s nay, with former National Assembly Speaker Ntlhoi Motsamai not needing to count the legislators for or against the no-confidence motion.

The four parties’ proposal to have Dr Mosisili replaced as premier by AD leader Monyane Moleleki suffers a huge blow when King Letsie III acquiesces to the Tsoelike legislator’s advice to dissolve parliament and call for fresh elections. His Majesty proclaims 3 June as election day.

Dr Mosisili had been Lesotho premier since 29 May 1998 in his first tenure and handed over the reins to the Dr Thabane-led alliance on 8 June 2012 after his Democratic Congress (DC) had failed to win the requisite outright majority seats to remain in power.

However, infighting – especially in the DC – was the seven-party coalition’s undoing, with a faction led by then deputy leader, Mr Moleleki, eventually forming a splinter party AD which undercut the government’s numerical supremacy in the National Assembly.

A quarrel in the DC over a government vehicle fleet tender awarded to Bidvest Bank Limited intensified the ructions, with Mr Moleleki’s Lirurubele (butterflies) faction accusing some government ministers of impropriety in awarding it to the South African firm.

However, Dr Mosisili’s faction counter accused Mr Moleleki of having a stake in a company that unsuccessfully bid for the tender.

The internecine feud escalated after Mr Moleleki and DC National Executive Committee (NEC) members loyal to him announced on 10 November 2016 that the party had pulled out of the seven-party coalition and joined forces with the opposition bloc to oust the government last November.

However, Dr Mosisili did not take the challenge to his rule lying down, with the DC leader suspending Mr Moleleki and the nine NEC members whom he labelled as rebels.

After Mr Moleleki and the NEC members challenged the legality of their suspension, the High Court endorsed the premier’s decision. The court ruling gave Dr Mosisili carte blanche to finish off his vanquished political foes by extending their suspension in party activities for six years.

Thereafter, Mr Moleleki left the DC to form the AD, with the bulk of the party’s women’s and youth leagues following suit. The DC’s split’s deleterious effect on the Dr Mosisili government’s numerical supremacy became apparent when Mr Moleleki and 13 other AD legislators crossed the floor from the government’s side to the opposition.

Tšepong accused of forced sterilisation

A HA Mabote resident ‘Mamalapane Hlabanyane, sterilised by the Queen ‘Mamohato Memorial Hospital (QMMH) without her consent in October 2011, seeks the assistance of Women and Law in Southern African Research Trust (WILSA) after she was sterilised without her consent.

Ms Hlabanyane sought the assistance after the hospital’s Operations Director Dr Karen Prins allegedly informed her that physicians who attended to her during the baby delivery in 2011 were forced to sterilise her because she was in a critical condition and unable to make a decision for herself.

She further said Dr Prins also indicated that she was bleeding profusely during the surgery, adding that it was normal for HIV-positive women.

The non-governmental organisation advocates for the rights of women and, on 17 January 2013, WILSA National Coordinator Libakiso Matlho wrote a letter to then Health Minister Pinkie Manamolela requesting a meeting to discuss the “possible sterilisation of women without informed consent in Lesotho’s public hospitals”.

Ms Matlho says in the letter her organisation had received reports from women saying they had been sterilised without their consent at public hospitals.

“We have identified some cases which have given us some concern. One of those cases involves Mrs Hlabanyane . . .,” reads the letter.

The Lesotho Non-governmental Organisation (LCN) also came to Ms Hlabanyane’s aid in a letter to Dr Prins dated 21 October 2013.

In the letter, LCN Executive Director Seabata Motsamai points out to Dr Prins that Ms Hlabanyane’s human rights were at stake.

“Duly instructed, we hereby request a meeting with you within 14 days from the date hereof to discuss Mrs Hlabanyane’s health issue and how the matter can be amicably resolved, failing which we shall approach the courts of law for an immediate relief.”

Then Tšepong Acting Public Relations Officer ‘Manthako Rasupu refutes allegations that Ms Hlabanyane was never informed about the operation until the 2012 scan.

“The allegations are untrue and the patient was duly informed after the operation,” Ms Rasupu said.

APRIL

Deadly infighting rocks AD

THE AD is rocked by vicious infighting which leads to the fatal shooting of a party member during a primary election in the Koro-Koro constituency in Maseru district.

The man, identified as Thabiso Moqolo is shot dead during a brawl that erupted over the authenticity of the delegates for the primary election in which Refiloe Litjobo and Khotso Makana were vying to represent the party in the 3 June general elections.

AD Youth League President Thuso Litjobo, who broke down at Mr Moqolo’s funeral ceremony, has since been formally charged with the murder of Mr Moqolo.

SA ‘conman’ dupes local models

FIVE local models accuse a South African national, Mokena Nhlapo, of duping local models of thousands of maloti after promising them modelling contracts and prizes.

Mr Nhlapo, whom the models said used the alias Mokena Nhlapo among others and claimed to reside in Fouriesburg, also allegedly demanded sexual favours from the models he lured to South Africa to ensure they were awarded the contracts.

According to the models, Nhlapo used various scams to convince them to part with their money. To some, he claimed to be a representative of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) in South Africa looking for a model who would be the face of the political party’s campaigns.

However, to others, he claimed to be an agent for skin and body-care brand Nivea holding an advertising campaign in Bloemfontein.

The man also promised them a brand new car, R100 000 cash, a laptop and a smart phone if they clinched the contracts. They say Nhlapo would even send pictures of the car and show them its purported registration papers when they met to prove his claim.

After convincing his victims, he would then request money to clear the car with customs at the Maseru Border Post with the amounts ranging from R1 500 to R6 000.

The models deposited the money into the bank account of a Janfeke S Nhlapo.

Upon receiving the money, he would then threaten to shoot the models if they ever exposed or reported him to the police.

MAY

Khama threatens to withdraw support

BOTSWANA President Ian Khama threatens to withdraw his country’s representatives from the SADC Oversight Committee on Lesotho in light of Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s complaint the bloc’s decisions were “gnawing” at the Mountain Kingdom’s sovereignty.

The maverick Botswana leader also stresses that SADC member states’ “unwavering” support to Lesotho’s efforts to bring about lasting political stability had “come with huge financial and other costs”.

The threat is in response to a 5 April 2017 letter Dr Mosisili wrote to SADC chairperson, King Mswati III, complaining about the decisions made by an extra-ordinary summit for heads of state and government held on 18 March 2017 in Swaziland.

In a letter dated April 18, 2017, the Botswana president expressed his serious concern that Dr Mosisili interpreted SADC’s involvement in Lesotho as interference in Lesotho’s sovereignty.

He said Botswana would consider withdrawing her representatives currently serving in the oversight committee on Lesotho if the Mountain Kingdom felt that the collective and relentless efforts by the regional leaders in finding a lasting political and security solution was a direct violation of her sovereignty.

Govt fails to replace Bidvest fleet

THE government of Lesotho is still using cars hired from Bidvest Bank Limited despite saying it cancelled the controversial vehicle fleet services contract with the South African firm with effect from 1 April 2017.

The Lesotho Times establishes that Bidvest cars were still being used because the government had only managed to acquire 193 Basotho-owned vehicles of the 1 060 needed to service 26 government ministries as well as parastatals.

AD leader, Deputy Prime Minister Monyane Moleleki, claims the government paid M600 million in the last financial year to Bidvest Bank Limited and recently followed this up with another M73 million in penalties after prematurely terminating the controversial vehicle fleet service contract it signed last year.

Government initially awarded Bidvest a six-month contract to run the government fleet from 1 October 2015 to 31 March 2016 after the expiry of the government’s fleet management contract with Avis.

JUNE

Thabane returns to power

Dr Thabane is sworn in as prime minister at Setsoto Stadium after his ABC cobbled its then 48 parliamentary seats with those of AD, BNP and RCL to form government.

Dr Thabane, whose estranged wife Lipolelo Thabane was fatally shot on the eve of his inauguration, takes over power from Dr Mosisili who chose not to deliver his outgoing speech at the swearing-in ceremony.

Dr Mosisili had initially handed over the reins to Dr Thabane on 8 June 2012 after the latter joined forces with the BNP and Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) following the 26 May 2012 elections.

The ABC leader had also handed over power to Dr Mosisili March 2015 months ago, after the Democratic Congress (DC) leader cobbled together a governing alliance with six other parties following the 28 February 2015.

The ABC has since increased its parliamentary seats to 51 after the 30 September by-elections.

GNU call rejected

Dr Thabane’s four-party coalition dismisses out of hand former deputy prime minister Mothetjoa Metsing’s call for a government of unity (GNU), describing it as a ploy by the departing regime to claw back power after losing the 3 June 2017 National Assembly elections.

The governing parties also scoff at the former seven-party government’s allegations of voting irregularities, saying they should accept defeat and not “come up with antics to sow seeds of distrust” in the country’s electoral system.

The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) also expresses surprise at the outgoing government’s claims of voting irregularities, stating that the parties had initially conceded defeat and there was no official complaint lodged raising such concerns.

This was after the outgoing seven-party coalition government called for a GNU during a press conference held in Maseru, in light of their electoral defeat.

The outgoing governing coalition consists of Dr Mosisili’s DC, Mr Metsing’s LCD, Marematlou Freedom Party, Basotho Congress Party, National Independent Party, Lesotho People’s Congress and Popular Front for Democracy.

JULY

Thabane’s office bugged

HIDDEN electronic surveillance equipment is discovered in Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s office, with some of the devices having been planted under his desk and near his landline telephone.

Sources close the matter say tracking devices were also found on the official vehicles for Dr Thabane’s wife – ‘MaIsiah Thabane – of which the premier’s security detail were not aware.

The sources also say staff at the prime minister’s Qhobosheaneng Complex-based office in Maseru discovered that the biometric scanner, which is located at the entrance to check people wanting to meet Dr Thabane as a security measure, was also not functioning.

Mosisili’s son fired from water body

FORMER Prime Minister’s son Rethabile Mosisili

FORMER premier Pakalitha Mosisili’s son, Rethabile, is fired from the influential and plum post of chief delegate for the Lesotho Highlands Water Commission (LHWC), as the Prime Minister Thomas Thabane-led government steps up its purge of vestiges of the previous regime.

Mr Mosisili, who had been controversially appointed to the post in April this year, is sent back to his previous position as deputy principal secretary (PS) in the Water Affairs ministry.

Then acting Government Secretary, Emmanuel Lesoma, tells this publication Mr Mosisili’s appointment to the influential post had not been approved by the Public Service Commission and thus null and void.

The LHWC is the largest infrastructure partnership between the Lesotho and South African governments, and consists of three delegates from each of the two nations. The commission is tasked with implementing the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP) — a multiphase initiative comprising several dams and tunnels in Lesotho and South Africa.

The appointment, which was made after the 1 March 2017 parliamentary no-confidence vote on the Dr Mosisili-led seven-party coalition government, ignited an outcry from opposition parties and other stakeholders.

They accused Dr Mosisili of deliberately placing relatives in strategic areas of the government to retain control even if he were to lose power in the 3 June 2017 National Assembly elections. Mr Mosisili has since unsuccessfully challenged his dismissal in the High Court.

AUGUST

DCEO summons Metsing over graft probe

Former Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing

THE Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) summons former deputy premier Mothetjoa Metsing as part of its ongoing investigation into suspicious deposits that were made into his bank accounts three years ago.

The investigation was launched in light of allegations there had been suspicious deposits into Mr Metsing’s bank accounts between 2013 and 2014. Mr Metsing allegedly received M328 000 and M118 000 between April 2013 and June 2013. A deposit of M524 964 into his account was also not explained.

This was after the controversial allocation of a road tender to a company known as Big Bravo Construction Company for the construction of roads in some parts of Maseru.

Mr Metsing fled the country in September, claiming that he had received a tip-off that his life was in danger.

Khetheng’s body found

POLICE Constable Mokakale Khetheng’s body is exhumed at the Lepereng Cemetery, with the family saying the change of government brought about speedy discovery of the body of their slain son.

PC Khetheng’s body was exhumed after the police were granted a court order by the Magistrate’s Court. Four police officers and former Defence and National Security Minister Tšeliso Mokhosi are charged with his murder.

PC Khetheng had not been seen or heard from since his 25 March 2016 arrest by Hlotse police during a feast in Sebothoane, Leribe.

Mr Mokhosi flees the country immediately after he was released on bail after alleging torture by the police.

SEPTEMBER

Army commander killed

LDF Deputy Commander Major General Khoantle Mots’ots’o

LDF commander Lieutenant-General Khoantle Motšomotšo is fatally shot at his Ratjomose Barracks office on 5 September.

The general is shot dead by Brigadier Bulane Sechele and Colonel Tefo Hashatsi, who were also gunned down by Lt-Gen Motsomotso’s bodyguards.

Lt-Gen Motsomotso’s assassination prompts the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to deploy a standby force from South Africa, Angola and Mozambique into Lesotho, as the regional bloc moves to avert another bout of instability.

The standby force is also been brought into Lesotho to quell any possible coup attempt by disgruntled soldiers and to provide security during the implementation of SADC-mandated multi-sectoral reforms which encompass the military.

The regional bloc also deployed into Lesotho four ministers from the SADC Ministerial Double Troika and a fact-finding mission consisting of defence and security chiefs.

The regional bloc’s one-day summit held in Pretoria, South Africa acquiesced to Lesotho’s request for a standby force comprising military, security, intelligence and civilian experts to assist the LDF in managing the security crisis in the country.

Opposition calls for Motšomotšo inquiry

OPPOSITION parties urge the government to set up a commission of inquiry to investigate the assassination of army commander, Lieutenant-General Khoantle Motšomotšo.

Major Pitso Ramoepane, who has since been revealed as the third LDF officer, has been charged with Lt-Gen Motšomotšo’s murder in the Magistrate’s Court.

OCTOBER

Exiled soldiers return

OVER 23 LDF members and a Lesotho Correctional Service (LCS) officer return home from exile, as the government implements a SADC Commission of Inquiry decision to ensure their safe return.

The 23 soldiers, along with 22 others detained and charged with mutiny, were later granted an indefinite leave of absence to allow them time to decide whether or not they want to continue as members of the security agency.

The 45 were slapped with mutiny charges in 2015 by the LDF which was then under the command of Lt-Gen Kamoli who retired on 1 December 2016.

Kamoli detained

Lesotho Defence Force Commander, Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli

RETIRED army commander Lt-Gen Kamoli, who was arrested and detained earlier in October, pleads with the High Court to grant him bail, saying failure to do so would result in his lengthy stay in custody as it was unlikely that his murder trial would kick off before 2019 due to the shortage of judges.

He promises not to skip the country if granted bail.

He faces charges of murdering Sub-Inspector Ramahloko on 30 August, 2014 and further charges for the attempted murder of 14 people who were present in the houses of former police commissioner, Khothatso Tšooana, First Lady, ‘Maesaiah Thabane and ‘Mamoletsane Moletsane when their houses were bombed on 27 January, 2014.

In his bail application, Lt-Gen Tlali also accuses Ministry of Police and Public Safety Principal Secretary Khothatso Tšooana of sabotaging a joint investigation into the bombings by all security agencies to unearth what actually transpired.

Moleleki speaks on political future

DEPUTY Prime Minister Monyane Moleleki speaks out on his political future amid fevered speculation his decision to stop contesting in future parliamentary elections was predicated on ill health.

The AD leader says his decision was not prompted by illness, but on the belief that leaders should not cling to positions for life but pass on the baton to others.

Mr Moleleki, who is the legislator for Machache, says his remarks at an event to thank the people of the constituency for electing him six times were misconstrued to mean he was retiring from politics.

Instead, Mr Moleleki said, he meant that he would no longer contest for a parliamentary seat, but enter the National Assembly as a proportional representation (PR) legislator in the event of elections.

NOVEMBER

SADC warns of rogue soldiers

A CONFIDENTIAL report by SADC warns that missing arms of war could be used by rogue soldiers to launch reprisal attacks as efforts to hold them accountable for past transgressions intensify, raising the specter of heightened instability in Lesotho.

The regional body has recommended the compilation of an inventory of all existing and missing arms from the State armory to address the missing gaps.

The confidential report was compiled ahead of the much anticipated deployment of SADC troops to foster a conducive atmosphere for the implementation of the regional body’s recommendations to secure the country’s long term stability.

The report speaks of arms of war and ammunition missing from the armory of the LDF as well as heavy AK47 rifles that had disappeared from the LCS.  Also missing are the arms confiscated by the LDF from the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) during a coup attempt on 30 August 2014 when the army raided and seized arms from police stations around Maseru.

It is suspected that all these arms are in the possession of rogue elements of the LDF who might want to use them to launch reprisal attacks, heightening instability in the Kingdom.

Soldiers arrested for Mahao’s murder, editor’s shooting

Late Brigadier Maaparankoe Mahao

EIGHT soldiers appeared in court over the June 2015 killing of former army commander, Lt-Gen Maaparankoe Mahao, in a major breakthrough over a case that plunged Lesotho into a crisis and prompted a spirited regional intervention effort.

Lt-Gen Mahao was ambushed and shot by his peers from the LDF near his farm in Mokema on 25 June 2015.

His widely condemned killing kick-started a chain of events that resulted in SADC establishing a commission of inquiry to probe the murder and the instability in Lesotho.

The LDF claimed that Lt-Gen Mahao had been shot while resisting arrest over an alleged mutiny plot.  However, the army’s version was dismissed as a hoax by both the soldier’s family and the SADC commission of inquiry headed by retired judge Mphaphi Phumaphi.   Lt-Gen Mahao’s family accused the army of killing him in cold blood, based on the account of his nephews who were with him during the incident.

Meanwhile, four soldiers were in the same month arrested in connection with the near fatal shooting of former Lesotho Times editor Lloyd Mutungamiri in July last year in an operation the police say was authorized by the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF).

Mr Mutungamiri was shot and critically wounded as he arrived at his Upper Thamae home from work in the late hours of 9 July 2016 in what appeared to be a carefully orchestrated assassination attempt.

His shooting followed a rough week for the Lesotho Times during which its staff, including Publisher Basildon Peta and current Editor Ngoni Muzofa were summoned for heavy-handed interrogation by police and military officials over reports the newspaper had published about the LDF.

DECEMBER

SADC standby force formally unveiled

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) military standby force. File pic

THE SADC standby force to Lesotho is unveiled in a colourful ceremony at the Vodacom Park grounds in Maseru, amid calls by the regional body for Lesotho to expedite the implementation of the multi-sectoral reforms aimed at achieving lasting peace and stability in the country.

The formal unveiling of the standby force, also known as the SADC Preventive Mission in the Kingdom of Lesotho (SAPMIL), marked the end of a long and anxious wait which was characterised by several postponements of the arrival of the troops.

The deployment of the standby force – made of 217 soldiers, 15 intelligence personnel, 24 police officers and 13 civilian experts- was endorsed by SADC leaders to assist the LDF in managing the security crisis in the country in the aftermath of the 5 September 2017 assassination of army commander, Lt-Gen Khoantle Motšomotšo by his subordinates, Brigadier Bulane Sechele and Colonel Tefo Hashatsi.

Acquittal at last for ‘mutiny’ soldiers                                          

TWENTY-TWO army officers who have been facing mutiny charges since 2015 were finally truly free men after they were acquitted by a court martial trying them.

The acquittal came after the soldiers had been in suspense, unaware of their fate for over two years.

Initially, 23 army officers were charged, before the High Court gave an order for a permanent stay of prosecution – referring to a right to have trial begin and conclude without unreasonable delay for Brigadier Thoriso Mareka, on 18 November 2017.

The army officers acquitted are Brigadier Poqa Motoa, Colonel Stemere, Colonel Kolisang, Major Makhetha, Captain Chaka, Sergeant Mokhobo, Sergeant Semakale, Sergeant Lekhabunyane, Corporal Mokhoro, Corporal Letsilane, Corporal Lipoto, Corporal Manaka, Corporal Chele, Lance Corporal Molefi, Lance-Corporal Makhooane, Private Pama, Private Bolofo and Private Ralitlemo.

 

Lesotho Times

Lesotho's widely read newspaper, published every Thursday and distributed throughout the country and in some parts of South Africa.

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