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ABC, DC fight escalates

  • as DC alleges ABC smear campaign against its leadership.
  • while ABC secretary-general Hlaele demands DC leader Mokhothu be probed. 

Pascalinah Kabi

BARELY seven months on, the coalition pact between the All Basotho Convention (ABC) and the Democratic Congress (DC) appears to be unravelling.

This after the DC accused the ABC of attempting to undermine the former to gain political advantage ahead of the 2022 national elections.

As a result, DC secretary general Tšitso Cheba, is breathing fire and has launched a broadside at the ABC.

Mr Cheba has been designated by the DC as the “sole authoritative voice” on all party issues.

He accuses unnamed members of the ABC’s national executive committee (NEC) of spearheading a smear campaign against DC leader and Deputy Prime Minister Mathibeli Mokhothu.

Mr Mokhothu and other senior DC officials have been accused of complicity in human trafficking activities alongside some foreign nationals.

The DC faces allegations of victimising an immigration officer, ’Mapeete Jonathan, for refusing to allow two Pakistanis to enter the country illegally.

According to court papers filed a fortnight ago by Ms Jonathan, she was reliably informed by a fellow immigration officer that a Pakistani national, Rana Qamar, was involved in trafficking activities.

Ms Jonathan alleges that Mr Qamar, who is married to a Mosotho woman, is close to Mr Mokhothu and other senior DC officials. Mr Qamar is alleged to have given the DC six campaign vehicles and gained leverage over the DC leadership to the extent of demanding her transfer after she refused the two Pakistanis, linked to Mr Qamar, entry into the country in March this year.

Ms Jonathan is challenging her transfer from the airport to the ministry’s headquarters in Maseru. She says the transfer is meant to punish her for refusing to allow the Pakistanis into the country.

Her allegations have however, been dismissed by Mr Letsosa who said his party and government were committed to ending the scourge of human trafficking which has seen the country being placed in tier three—the lowest tier in the US State Department’s Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report for 2020.

Mr Cheba now alleges that the allegations against the DC are part of the ABC’s vilification campaign against its leaders.

Although Mr Cheba refused to name the ABC NEC members, authoritative DC sources have named ABC secretary general Lebohang Hlaele as the leader of “behind the scenes plots” to soil Mr Mokhothu’s and the DC’s image. They allege that Mr Hlaele is pursuing a vendetta against the DC for scuttling his plans to have ABC member Nonkululeko Zaly appointed as principal secretary (PS) at the Home Affairs ministry in June this year.

Her appointment, the DC sources allege, would have given Mr Hlaele and the ABC control over the recruitment of civil servants and other staffers to the key ministry. Political parties in successive coalitions have been repeatedly accused of vote-buying by offering jobs to potential voters at their respective ministries.

Ms Zaly was initially appointed to the post by Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro in June this year but the latter had to move her to the Local Government and Chieftaincy portfolio after strong resistance by the DC.

The DC resisted Ms Zaly’s appointment on the grounds that the two parties’ coalition agreement clearly stipulates that each party can only appoint its members as PSs to ministries it controls.

The home affairs minister is the DC deputy leader, Mr Motlalentoa Letsosa. In terms of the two parties’ deal, his PS should come from his own DC party and not from the ABC.

As a result, Mr Letsosa refused to allow Ms Zaly into office when she reported for work on 1 July 2020.

Dr Majoro subsequently revoked Ms Zaly’s appointment on 29 July 2020 and appointed Tumelo Raboletsi as home affairs PS. Dr Majoro subsequently appointed Ms Zaly to her current local government post.

But according to the DC sources, Mr Hlaele is still unhappy with the DC and is therefore behind the smear campaign “to teach the DC a lesson”.

Mr Hlaele hotly denies the allegations. He has hit back by saying no one is above the law and if there is evidence, Mr Mokhothu must stand trial for human trafficking like anyone else.

However, the DC sources insist that Mr Hlaele is behind the smear campaign as revenge for his ultimately unsuccessful bid to have Ms Zaly appointed Home Affairs PS.

Although he refused to identify the ABC members, Mr Cheba said his party had received information that “some top officials and partners in the coalition government are behind a smear campaign against the DC and its leadership”.

“We have tried to deal with this matter in a very diplomatic way. We know who is behind the smear campaign that our leader is involved in human trafficking which of course is pure lies.

“Although we cannot mention names for now, we received an intelligence report at the end of October 2020 that there were some senior ABC officials who were planning to launch an attack against the DC and its leadership,” Mr Cheba said.

He added: “We initially doubted that our partners were capable of doing this against their partners in government”.

“But we were later shocked when we saw the plans being put in motion. They are pushing a similar project to the one they pushed against (former Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa) Metsing who they accused of swindling the state of M53 million in 2014.”

Mr Metsing’s Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) was in a governing coalition with the ABC and the Basotho National Party (BNP) from 2012 to 2015 when he fell out with ABC leader and then Prime Minister Thomas Thabane. Mr Metsing was accused of using his position as deputy premier to corruptly influence the awarding of a M120 million contract to Big Bravo (Pty) Ltd to refurbish roads in Matala Ha-Leqele, Maseru in 2013. He denies the allegations and is yet to be charged over the matter.

Mr Cheba alleged that it had always been the ABC’s modus operandi to drag the name of their partners in the mud. He however, said not all ABC NEC members were involved in the alleged plot against his party.

“I am not confirming any names to you but we know that there is a serious campaign against the DC and its leadership championed by some ABC NEC members. We have received information that some top officials of the ABC’s NEC are pursuing that agenda.

“It is a smear campaign because they said he (Mokhothu) has been given money by a human trafficker. This is simply a smear campaign because none of them has given tangible evidence to back their claims. The nation will be the judge of this at the end of the day,” Mr Cheba said.

He said despite the smear campaign, the DC would not pull out of the governing coalition and it would continue working with the ABC to deliver services to the nation.

He said they were confident that come the 2022 polls, the electorate would not fall for the “lies” against Mr Mokhothu.

Asked if the unnamed ABC top officials were angered by the DC’s rejection of Ms Zaly as Home Affairs PS, Mr Cheba said despite a clear agreement that each party would recommend its own people to the ministries it controlled, Ms Zaly was “miraculously appointed PS of Home Affairs”.

“It is clear that someone had a vested interest in the Ministry of Home Affairs,” Mr Cheba said.

Mr Hlaele has denied the allegations against him.

He said although the ABC had initially proposed to have Ms Zaly appointed home affairs PS, the party had to respect the ABC-DC coalition agreement and allow the post to be given to a DC member, hence her re-deployment to the local government ministry.

“The DC requested to have their own PSs in all their allocated ministries and we agreed. As the ABC secretary general, I was at the forefront of the talks. It would be shocking for me to now turn back on my word and fight Mokhothu and the DC because they rejected Zaly’s appointment at the ministry of home affairs.

“It would be wrong for me to demand Zaly’s posting to home affairs in the face of our agreement,” Mr Hlaele told this publication.

He denied ever preparing a list of people for recruitment as home affairs staffers. He also denied orchestrating a smear campaign against Mr Mokhothu and others over human trafficking allegations.

He, however, said Mr Mokhothu must clear his name in court like any other suspect if the allegations against him results in formal charges.

“Our party standpoint is very clear. If there is a serious allegation like this one of trafficking in persons, investigations must be conducted to get to the bottom of the matter. Whoever is implicated must defend themselves in court.

“The ABC abhors corruption, killing of people and crime in all its forms. Our standpoint is that, whatever allegations, they must be investigated. If these are baseless allegations or a political smear campaign, the court verdict will vindicate the suspects.

“All we want is for justice to be served. If an allegation is levelled against you, we will demand investigations into those allegations because we don’t want baseless allegations against anyone. We want thorough investigations so people can live freely without anyone holding an axe over their heads. We will be the first ones to make noise whenever a top official is accused of any bad thing, even if he is from the ABC.”

He said   when their leader, Mr Thabane, was accused of the 14 June 2017 murder of his ex-wife, Lipolelo, they still demanded an investigation.

“When our leader was accused of murder, we made noise but the DC never said this was a smear campaign to topple Ntate Thabane. They supported us and said whoever is suspected of crime must have their day in court.

“Therefore, the DC cannot claim smear campaign when its leader is suspected of this crime. This is not a smear campaign.

Ntate Mokhothu must go and defend his name in court, end of story. We don’t have any agenda against anybody,” Mr Hlaele said.

He said they had also demanded a probe into corruption allegations against Mr Metsing, adding they would always demand investigations whenever allegations are made against anybody.

“Whoever terms this a smear campaign, that is his own business,” Mr Hlaele said.

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