WITH the return of exiled opposition leaders slated for next Sunday, police have warned supporters against converging at Maseru Border Post, saying they should gather at “no other place” than the welcome rally at the old race course site near Maseru Mall.
Former premier and All Basotho Convention (ABC) leader Thomas Thabane, his Basotho National Party (BNP) and Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL) counterparts Thesele ‘Maseribane and Keketso Rantšo respectively, are expected to return home after their almost two-year sojourn in South Africa.
The trio sought refuge in South Africa in May 2015 saying they had been alerted of a plot to kill them by the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF). However, the LDF has consistently denied the allegations.
Citing lingering concerns about their safety, the exiled leaders postponed their date of return from last Sunday to 12 February 2017 to enable a contingent of opposition “emissaries” to assess the security situation in the country.
The emissaries, who consisted of exiled members of opposition parties returned home last week, paving the way for their principals’ return.
Police have since issued a statement ordering opposition supporters wanting to welcome the trio home to only converge at the old race course site.
Issued by Maseru Urban District commander Senior Superintendent Api Letsie, the statement stipulates that ABC Secretary-General Samonyane Ntsekele was granted a permit to hold a welcome rally at the race course and “not at any other place”.
Dated 3 February 2017, part of the letter reads: “A permit for a rally to be held at the Race Course on 12 February has been issued in accordance with Section 3(1) of the Meetings and Processions Act of 2010 and no one is expected to be at any other place other than the one mentioned.”
SSP Letsie also stressed that stern measures would be taken on people who would come to the border post to welcome the exiled opposition leaders and not on other business.
He also appealed to the opposition supporters to abstain from breaking the law with their conduct during the course of the rally.
When contacted for comment, the spokespersons of the opposition parties gave different responses to the police order.
ABC spokesperson Tefo Mapesela said they would abide by the order to avoid inconveniencing people getting in and out of the country at the border post.
“Given the numbers that are expected to welcome our leader, we think it’s only right that supporters do as asked by the police because the preparations would have been made in accordance with the permit,” he said.
Echoing the sentiment, RCL spokesperson Moshe Kopanye advised supporters to go to the old race course site as requested by the police: “It is only right that people keep the peace by abiding with the law.”
However, BNP spokesperson Machesetsa Mofomobe said the police should be consistent in their directives and not be used as a “political tool to drive other politicians’ agenda”.
Mr Mofomobe gave the example of a time some members of the Democratic Congress (DC) gathered at the airport to welcome party leader and Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili upon his return from a Southern African Development Community summit last year “without having obtained a permit”.
He also cited the time when the then DC youth league members and six owners of a joint venture company called, Lebelonyane Fleet Services, returned home last August and were welcomed at the border without a permit.
“Nowhere in the Act cited by the police are there prohibitions in welcoming people. So we will go there in large numbers to welcome our leaders like anyone else would go to welcome their visitor. We certainly don’t need a permit for that.”
Mr Mofomobe also claimed a plot was afoot to arrest the exiled leaders once they cross into Lesotho.
“We can’t risk having them arrested in our absence, hence our insistence on going to the border,” he added.