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Arrest Mahao-police told

Ntsebeng Motsoeli

ALLIANCE of Democrats (AD) spokesperson Thuso Litjobo has called for the arrest of Law and Justice minister Professor Nqosa Mahao arrested for allegedly contravening the Covid-19 regulations by holding a political rally at Maseru High School last Sunday.

Prof Mahao is also the deputy leader of the All Basotho Convention (ABC) and he attended the meeting alongside some members of the party’s national executive committee (NEC). Mr Litjobo wants him arrested alongside other party members who attended the meeting.

The Covid-19 public health regulations prohibit gatherings of more than 50 people. But at Prof Mahao’s rally, more than 50 ABC supporters gathered at Maseru High School to welcome the AD’s 2017 election candidate for the Stadium Area constituency, Thabo Nkhahle.

Incidentally Mr Nkhahle lost to the ABC candidate Mokherane Tsatsanyane who defected to the AD three weeks ago.

At the meeting, Prof Mahao introduced Mr Nkhahle to ABC supporters and the two were seen holding hands in one of the pictures that have gone viral on social media.

ABC spokesperson Montoeli Masoetsa and Social Development minister ‘Matebatso Doti also attended the rally.

Mr Litjobo now wants the police to “redeem themselves” by arresting Prof Mahao and his colleagues for contravening Covid-19 regulations. This after the police on Saturday dispersed an AD rally in Bobatsi, Mokhotlong.

The AD had organised the event to distribute food parcels to Bobatsi villagers as part of the party’s Covid-19 relief programmes.

Mr Litjobo said that the police had no reasonable grounds to disperse the gathering in Mokhotlong because the AD had sourced a permit from the area chief to hold a gathering to distribute food.

Mr Litjobo alleged that unlike the AD, the ABC did not have a police permit to hold the rally and that the gathering did not fall within the confines of permissible events.

The Public Health (COVID-19) Regulations 2020 prohibit all gatherings, except funerals or religious services held and concluded before 5pm. No more than 50 people are allowed to attend. Gatherings to distribute food parcels are not listed in the regulations but they have been allowed to go on.

Since the introduction of the public health regulations in March this year, the police have arrested individuals who have allegedly contravened the law.

Former Police and Public Safety Minister Lehlohonolo Moramotse was arrested and charged for purchasing liquor in April this year in contravention of the same regulations.

The matter was held in chambers and Maseru Senior Resident Magistrate, Peter Murenzi, subsequently released Mr Moramotse on M500 bail. He is accused of illegally purchasing two boxes of assorted whiskeys at Borokhoaneng Urban Off Sales in Maseru.

The case is pending in the courts. If found guilty, Mr Moramotse could be fined M5 000 or jailed for two months or both. Mr Moramotse was criticised for his actions with then opposition demanding his sacking by former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane.

Similarly, Mr Litjobo wants Prof Mahao to face the music.

“We are appalled by the incompetence that the police have shown in handling these two matters (AD and ABC gatherings). Our gathering was nothing like the ABC’s rally. We sought permission from the area chief to distribute food parcels all for a good cause to save lives.

“Covid-19 protocols were well observed, social distancing was observed and all people were wearing face masks. People were encouraged to leave the premises as soon as they had received their parcels. The ABC held a rally and we are reliably informed that they did not have a permit for such.”

He blasted the police for being partisan in allowing an “illegal” ABC event while dispersing the AD’s event simply “because we are in the opposition”.

“If pressing charges against Ntate Moramotse was fair and not a witch-hunt, the same should be done to Prof Mahao and all those who were leading the rally with him. A few days have gone by now since the rally and there is nothing to show that the police are planning to take to task the leaders of those rally. If charges are not pressed against them, they will be further proving their incompetence and political bias,” Mr Litjobo said.

Prof Mahao declined to comment on the matter and directed all the questions to the party spokesperson, Montoeli Masoetsa.

Mr Masoetsa said the Sunday event was a church service to welcome a new party member, Mr Nkhahle.

He said that the NEC did not organise the event but was just invited to the Stadium Area by the ABC’s constituency committee. He added that the NEC was not aware if the committee had a permit for the event.

Mr Masoetsa said the AD was the last party to throw stones at them when they did the same two weeks ago to welcome ABC defectors Mr Tsatsanyane and Sello Mooki (Bobatsi constituency).

“ABC constituencies have the autonomy to organise rallies and invite the NEC, so I did not ask if there was a permit for that event. The purpose of that meeting was to pray for the ABC members to stop defecting to other parties, it was a prayer event,” Mr Masoetsa said.

“Didn’t they contravened them (regulations) when they welcomed Mokherane at their headquarters? Likewise, they did not observe social distancing protocols when they welcomed Mokherane at their offices,” he said.

Asked if that gave the ABC a free pass to violate the law, Mr Masoetsa said that would be determined by the police.

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