Youths ‘insult’ minister

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MASERU — A Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) youth from Likhoele constituency in Mafeteng district has landed herself in hot water for allegedly insulting and threatening Sports Minister ’Mathabiso Lepono.

Puleng Mokhethi was arrested together with two other youths from Likhoele, Rorisang Ranchebe and Limpho Kabi for allegedly sending text messages insulting Lepono.

The three are alleged to have sent the messages to Lepono on December 14, six days before a primary election in Likhoele constituency.

They were arrested two days later but only Mokhethi was charged because it is her cellphone which was used to send the messages.

Mokhethi appeared in court on December 20 and was released on free bail.

The Lesotho Times understands that the trio sent the messages after allegations surfaced that Lepono was pushing for Khotso Letsatsi, the Water and Sewarage Authority (WASA)’s public  relations officer, to be the constituency’s candidate.

A source who spoke to the  Lesotho Times on condition of anonymity said Lepono, who has announced that she will not stand for election, had thrown her weight behind Letsatsi who is said to be a family friend.

The source said Lepono’s drivers were seen campaigning for Letsatsi using the minister’s official cars.

Letsatsi was eventually elected as Likhoele’s candidate on  December 20, beating the constituency chairman, Thabo Kheleli, by 116 to 55 votes. “The youths foresaw that Letsatsi would be nominated because of the massive campaign that was  supported by the minister,” the source said.

Mokhethi and her colleagues then wrote the text message to Lepono.

One of the text messages said Lepono should be aware that this is not the 1998 LCD primary elections when she “stole ballot papers and was declared the winner when they were returned”.

The youths also told Lepono that they wondered if she still subscribes to the LCD motto of ‘truth, justice and peace’.

They also claimed that some sewing machines donated to Basotho women by the Chinese government had gone missing in her custody.

“Have you started with your usual double-crossing?” read one of the text messages.

Mokhethi said she could not comment on her arrest because the matter is in court.

Kabi confirmed to the Lesotho Times that they wrote the messages to the minister but  said they had not “insulted her because we wrote the facts she knew with her whole heart”.

“We merely reminded her that in 1998 the ballots were stolen from where we were electing our nominee and were taken to her house where they were counted and upon being returned she was declared the winner,” Kabi said.

“We told her that this is 2012 elections and we were not going to allow what happened in 1998 to happen again,” he said.

“It was by no means an insult to remind the minister that the sewing machines went missing under her care and we were entitled to ask where she took them to.”

Kabi said he was arrested by policemen who were travelling in the sports ministry’s official car and instead of being taken to the Mafeteng police station he was brought to Maseru to join Ranchebe and Mokhethi who were already in police
holding cells.

“I asked the police to read the text messages and satisfy themselves that there were insults before they could lay any charge against us and the police agreed that there were no insults,” he said.

“We were surprised when later we learnt that Puleng Mokhethi was being charged despite that there were no insults or threats against the minister in our text messages.”

He told this paper that they got angry when they realised that because of Lepono’s influence Letsatsi was going to be nominated “despite that he was not qualified because he had not served for 36 months as an LCD member.”

“We were quite aware that he did not have 2009 records as a party member; he only had 24 months,” Mokhethi said.

“In 1998 when the ballots were stolen we allowed ourselves to be represented by someone we did not choose and now the very same person uses her influence to have an unqualified person to be nominated as our candidate.

“This should stop,” he said. Letsatsi however said he was qualified to be nominated as he had been a member of the party for at least 36 months.

“The constituency secretary has my record and I am not worried about baseless accusations from bitter people,” Letsatsi said.

Those opposing Letsatsi also complain that on nomination day he hired two kombis for his followers while others were brought in by Lepono’s official cars and the sports ministry’s vans.

“I played my part of helping them to reach the election place,” Letsatsi said, adding: “I should not be accused for doing what is right.”

Lepono told this paper yesterday that she was “very hurt” that the youths she helped to raise up were now turning against her.

The visibly sad Lepono said, with a shaking voice, that it was unfortunate that the three youngsters called her a wicked person and a thief.

“It is most painful that all allegations they levelled against me are lies,” Lepono said.

“It is a lie that in 1998 I stole constituency ballots and it is also a lie that the ballots were counted at my house,” she said.

“Concerning the missing sewing machines it is common knowledge that I invited the police to investigate a case of theft because I really did not know who stole them,” she said.

Lepono said even her daughter who is in the business of sewing in Mafeteng was investigated and the police found that her machines were not like the missing ones.

“I want these children to prove beyond reasonable doubt in court that I am treacherous and a thief.”

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