Crime & CourtsLocalNews

Ex-minister Doti survives horrific “assassination” attempt

  • says bloody knife attack linked to ABC infighting

Pascalinah Kabi/Ntsebeng Motsoeli

FORMER Social Development minister ‘Matebatso Doti is lucky to be alive after being stabbed five times by eight unknown assailants in what she said was an assassination attempt at her Lithabaneng home in the early hours of Friday.

The assailants, who told Ms Doti that they had been sent to kill her for siding with Professor Nqosa Mahao in the All Basotho Convention (ABC) power struggle, also robbed her of M4000 that was deposited in her bank account.

Two separate statements released on Friday by the government and the police suggested that the attack on Ms Doti was purely a criminal act of assault, theft and robbery by criminals who made off with her valuables.

“The government is relieved that attackers spared Honourable Doti’s life even though she was injured and the suspects ran away with some valuables and money.

“Unfortunately, this incident is one of the many attacks that have become common where perpetrators murder and forcibly steal people’s property and deprive them of their freedom. These barbaric acts are done by groups of people who have declared war against the rule of law.

“The government will capacitate all the security agencies to protect citizens against these law breakers who seem hell-bent to humiliate, destabilise and destroy Basotho’s lives by attacking their leaders,” the government said in its statement. It noted that Deputy Prime Minister Monyane Moleleki had visited Ms Doti’s family upon receiving a report about the attack.

On its part, the Lesotho Mounted Police Service said, “Honourable Doti was stabbed several times with a seemingly sharp object”.

“These men (assailants) stole two firearms, Automated Teller Machine (ATM) cards, a wallet that had about M400 and car keys. “They sped off with one of her vehicles but they later abandoned it on the roadside,” the police statement said.   The police also appealed to the public to report any information that may lead to the arrest of the suspects.

While the government and police statements suggest that Ms Doti was the victim of a robbery, the legislator and her All Basotho Convention (ABC) allies are not in doubt that the attack, which left her in a pool of blood, was a politically motivated bid to eliminate her for siding with Prof Mahao in his struggle for control of the ruling party with former members of the party’s national executive committee (NEC). The former NEC’s mandate expired ahead of the ABC’s February 2019 elective conference where Prof Mahao, Ms Doti and others were elected into the NEC. Prof Mahao was elected deputy leader and Ms Doti deputy spokesperson. Three other Mahao allies, Samuel Rapapa (chairperson), Lebohang Hlaele (secretary general) and Montoeli Masoetsa (spokesperson) also clinched the powerful posts in the new NEC.

But the ABC has not known peace and stability after Prof Mahao’s election was rejected by the old NEC and by party leader and Prime Minister, Thomas Thabane.

The alleged assassination attempt comes against the background of warnings of the ABC conflict spiraling into bloodshed. The warnings were delivered in February this year by senior politicians such as Habofanoe Lehana (Trade and Industry minister), Keketso Sello (Mining minister) and the party’s Rothe constituency legislator, Mohapi Mohapinyane. Prof Mahao, Mr Rapapa and Mr Hlaele subsequently beefed up their security after alleging that they had received reports of plots by their party rivals to assassinate them.

It was against the background of the ABC strife that Ms Doti was attacked at her Lithabaneng home in the early hours of Friday morning. She is currently recovering from her injuries at the Makoanyane Military Hospital in Maseru. ABC spokesperson Montoeli Masoetsa said the attack had all the hallmarks of an assassination attempt by their ABC rivals. Mr Masoetsa said Ms Doti was lucky to be alive and that was only because there were divisions among her would-be-killers as to whether to carry out their mission or spare her. In the interests of ensuring her security, Mr Masoetsa said only Ms Doti’s family members and her four ABC’s NEC allies would be allowed to visit her in hospital. He said even Dr Thabane and cabinet ministers would not be allowed to see her unless they were accompanied by the family members or her four ABC allies (Prof Mahao, Messrs Rapapa, Hlaele and himself).

The Sunday Express visited her home on Friday morning and was only able to get her account of the horrific events of that morning from her daughter, Ms Tebatso Rabaholo.

Narrating her mother’s ordeal to this publication on Friday, Ms Rabaholo said she first received a phone call from her desperate mother informing her that she had been attacked and urgently needed medical attention.

“At about 00:45 hours just after midnight, I received a phone call from ‘M’e Doti. Her voice was more like a whisper as she told me that she had been attacked and she asked me to call the police,” Ms Rabaholo said, adding she immediately roused her sleeping husband Mr Rabaholo and they called the police.

“We called the Thamae Police Station and they told us that they were unable to attend to the crime report because they did not have a vehicle.”

Desperate, Ms Rabaholo said they then called Ms Doti’s neighbours who immediately undertook to rush to the distressed legislator’s help.

Meanwhile, Ms Rabaholo and her husband also rushed to Ms Doti’s residence where they had agreed to meet up with her neighbours who are soldiers by profession.

Upon arrival, Ms Rabaholo said they discovered that Ms Doti’s car had been abandoned by the roadside.

“She (Ms Doti) called for the second time asking how far we were from her place and we told her that we were almost there. Upon arrival, her soldier neighbour told me to park by the gate as he alighted from the car and entered the yard.

“He used the window to enter the house and found ‘M’e Doti sitting on her bed, in a pool of blood. We noticed that she was wounded on her left arm and there was lot of blood coming out of the wounds. She said the eight assailants had taken her ATM cards and guns. They withdrew M4000 from her FNB account. I then called all the banks to block her cards.”

Narrating the attack which appeared to have been taken straight out of a Stephen King horror movie, Ms Rabaholo, said her mother told them that she was suddenly jolted from her sleep by an excruciating pain in her arm. She woke up to eight men surrounding her bed and that one of the assailants told her that they had express orders from senior people to kill her. Ms Doti is said to have begged them to spare her life.

“They (assailants) insisted they would kill her because they had been sent by senior people to kill her. They also asked her where (ABC spokesperson and fellow Mahao ally Montoeli) Masoetsa resided. One of the assailants cocked her gun and she (Ms Doti) cried and pleaded for her life to be spared.

“At that point, one of the assailants asked his accomplices if it was really necessary to kill her and suggested that they should spare her on condition she paid them. They (assailants) argued among themselves and they eventually agreed to spare her life. She immediately reached for her wallet and gave them the M400 that she had and she also gave them all her ATM cards and pin numbers so that they could withdraw more money.”

Ms Rabaholo said some of the assailants left to withdraw the money while the others remained guarding Ms Doti. The assailants who remained with her demanded to be shown where she kept her late soldier husband’s guns. Ms Doti’s husband had retired from the army at the time of his death in 2017.

Ms Rabaholo said Ms Doti told them that one of the guns was in the bedroom and that the other gun was kept by one of her house keepers who did not stay with her.

“They ransacked the wardrobes in the different bedrooms in search of the guns. They found and took the two guns. They also took her cellphone but one of the assailants was gracious enough to give her back the phone and told her to hide it so that his accomplices would not know that she had it back. She hid it under the pillow and subsequently used it to call for help after the departure of the gang.”

Ms Rabaholo said the attack had traumatised her mother. She said she (Ms Rabaholo) was also traumatised by the savage attack on an old and defenceless woman.

“She (Ms Doti) is much traumatised and has deep wounds on her left arm. She was stabbed five times. The assailants entered through a bathroom window. One of them told ‘M’e Doti that he had been in her yard for several hours during which time he observed her helpers knock off at about 7: 30pm on Thursday. My mother only had a guard who was fast asleep in the servants’ quarters at the time of the attack.

“I thought of an old woman, vulnerable and helpless in her house and begging for her life. That is traumatising. It is a blessing that she is alive. I don’t know what made one of the assailants give her back her phone because she would have struggled to get to the guard and ask for help in that condition.”

On his part, Mr Masoetsa said the attack on Ms Doti was not an isolated crime and it had the ABC internal squabbles written all over it.

“She pleaded for her life and one of them told her that they had been sent by a senior government official to kill her. They didn’t even cover their faces to conceal their identities and one of them said, ‘let us spare this woman’. The same light skinned man told Ms Doti to immediately seek medical attention because she had lost a lot of blood.

“They even told her to never set foot at the Likatana (Mahao) rallies or else they would kill her. They told her that they were going to kill us all.

“At the moment she is in stable condition. She was immediately attended to when she arrived at the hospital and was taken to the operating theatre where her wounds were stitched. She is in a stable condition. She is able to talk even though she regularly gets tired,” Mr Masoetsa told this publication.

He said only Ms Doti’s family members and her four ABC’s NEC allies would be allowed to visit her in hospital.

“We have restricted movement in her ward. Only visitors in the company of myself, her daughter, Rapapa or the Professor (Mahao) will be allowed to visit her. Not even the Prime Minister and ministers are allowed to see her if they are not in our company. Even parliamentarians in our camp are not allowed to visit her because we want to limit threats to her life. We want her to rest.

“The attack was influenced by the ABC power struggle. The other faction is responsible for this attack. Mere criminals would not have told Doti not to go to the ABC rallies. These people said they were sent by a senior person to kill her. They just didn’t kill her because they differed on whether or not to carry out the killing. Just last week I noticed a suspicious black tinted golf (VW) driving past my house,” Mr Masoetsa said.

The alleged assassination attempt comes against the background of warnings by ABC members and the opposition that if not resolved amicably, the ABC conflict would end in bloodshed.

In May this year, opposition Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) leader, Mothetjoa Metsing, also warned of bloodshed if Dr Thabane and Prof Mahao failed to amicably resolve the infighting in the ABC.

Speaking at a rally in Mt Moorosi constituency in Quthing, Mr Metsing said the tension in the ABC could no longer be treated as a laughing matter where the warring national executive committee (NEC) factions could be given derisive labels like Likatana (loosely translated to mean ‘dirty rags’). The term was used by Dr Thabane to describe Prof Mahao when the latter announced his candidature for the ABC’s deputy leadership in January.

Mr Metsing said the ABC crisis had assumed the proportions of a national security threat that could even scare away potential investors and the time had come for Dr Thabane and Prof Mahao to sit at the table and peacefully resolve their differences.

“We can all see the tension in the ruling party (ABC). Every Mosotho is going to be in trouble if they (Dr Thabane and Prof Mahao) do not find an amicable solution to their differences.

“The tension has reached a point where it can no longer be made fun of with the use of labels such as Likatana and others. It is now a national matter and we call on Ntate Thabane and Ntate Mahao to work out their issues for the sake of peace.

“We don’t want bloodshed for any Mosotho regardless of political affiliation. The tension affects us all and we all have to find a solution. It scares the international community, the investors and compromises the country’ security. The courts of law are being used to fight the ABC battles and there are already allegations that the courts have been compromised by politicians.  We also appeal to non-governmental organisations to intervene,” Mr Metsing said.

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