Govt, LDF officials meet exiled Basotho
SENIOR government and Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) officials have held a meeting with soldiers and other Basotho exiled in South Africa to discuss the modalities of their return.
The meeting — which was held in Ladybrand, South Africa on Thursday – was also meant to map out a strategy for the exiles’ return that would be presented at the 37th Ordinary Summit of SADC Heads of State and Government scheduled for 19 – 20 August 2017 in Pretoria.
Defence and National Security Minister, Sentje Lebona, confirmed the development in an interview with the Sunday Express yesterday, saying he could not divulge too much detail given the sensitivity of the matter.
The exiled Basotho fled the country between 2014 and 2016 citing threats to their safety for their political affiliations and other reasons.
Among them was now Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, Basotho National Party leader Thesele ‘Maseribane and Reformed Congress of Lesotho leader Keketso Rantšo who sought refuge in South Africa in May 2015. The trio had said they were alerted of a plot to kill them by the LDF. However, the LDF has consistently denied the allegations.
The three leaders and other activists returned home on 12 February 2017, after their demand for LDF commander Lt-Gen Tlali Kamoli to be retired was met by the then Pakalitha Mosisili-led government last December.
Some members of the LDF also fled the country between May and June 2015 after 23 of their colleagues were arrested for allegedly being part of a plot to unseat the army command.
The 23 officers were all subsequently released from the Maseru Maximum Security Prison where they had been detained and placed under “open arrest”.
The government last month halted the court martial, although it is yet to decide on the next step.
The LDF has claimed the alleged mutiny plot was masterminded by former army commander, Lt-Gen Maaparankoe Mahao who was shot dead by his colleagues claiming they had come to arrest him for the suspected mutiny in Mokema on 25 June 2015.
However, a SADC Commission of Inquiry into the incidents surrounding the former army chief’s killing concluded that the LDF’s case against the alleged mutineers was “highly suspect” and recommended that they be granted amnesty by the government.
Impeccable sources told this publication the Thursday meeting was attended by Mr Lebona, Finance Minister Moeketsi Majoro, Water Affairs Minister Samonyane Ntsekele and senior LDF officials whose identity will not be revealed in light of the sensitivity of the matter.
For his part, Mr Lebona said: “The sole purpose of the meeting was to learn about the exiles’ grievances and other issues of concern.
“We also brainstormed ideas ahead of the SADC Summit which will be held in Pretoria next week as Lesotho will also be part of its agenda.”
Lesotho is expected to top the agenda of the SADC Double Troika Summit this week of which South Africa is scheduled to take the chairmanship.
Last Wednesday, SADC Facilitator to Lesotho and South African Vice-President Cyril Ramaphosa visited the Mountain Kingdom to hold meetings with members of the government, leaders of opposition parties, the college of chiefs and civil society stakeholders.
The meetings were meant to chart a way towards the full implementation of SADC decisions on constitutional and security sector reforms.