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Majoro’s ministers at war

…as newly appointed Mosito files a M3 million suit against Mapesela.

Pascalinah Kabi

A VICIOUS war has erupted between Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro’s two key ministers.

Newly appointed Defence and National Security Minister Lekhetho Mosito has filed an unprecedented M3 million defamation lawsuit against his cabinet colleague, Agriculture, Marketing and Food Security Minister, Tefo Mapesela.

This after Mr Mapesela’s scathing broadside against Mr Mosito. The agriculture minister last week viciously attacked Mr Mosito and even chastised Prime Minister Majoro for appointing him into cabinet.

Mr Mosito is the ruling All Basotho Convention (ABC)’s legislator for the Likhetlane constituency. He was on 3 February 2021 appointed defence minister by Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro. This was Dr Majoro’s first cabinet reshuffle since taking over from former incumbent Thomas Thabane who leads the ABC.

Mr Mosito replaced fellow ABC legislator Prince Maliehe (Teyateyaneng constituency) who was fired from cabinet alongside former Labour and Employment Minister Keketso Rantšo of the Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL).

Nut the appointment was not well received by Mr Mapesela.

In a no holds barred attack last week, Mr Mapesela described Mr Mosito as a “goat” who was fraternising with disgraced former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane.

Last Friday, the fire-spitting Mr Mapesela was recorded saying Mr Mosito should not have been appointed because he is allegedly loyal to Mr Thabane.

In the audio clip, Mr Mapesela is heard saying Mr Mosito was a rebel who had shown his loyalty to Mr Thabane by allegedly failing to vote for the constitutional amendment bill to clip  any prime minister’s powers to advise the King to dissolve parliament and call for fresh elections whenever he loses a no confidence vote in parliament. The bill was passed into law and could have been used to stop Mr Thabane clinging to power had he not agreed to step down in May 2020. This after his own ABC pushed for his resignation and withdrew the party from the then ruling coalition alongside the BNP, RCL and the Alliance of Democrats (AD).

“Many MPs are not happy with this decision (to appoint Mr Mosito) and it should not be forgotten that he (Mosito) is part of the State House (Thabane) faction.

“Those close to the PM must tell him to remove this goat of his before it runs our government. They have to start taking me seriously, I am not a clown. When I say something, you have to take it seriously or ignore at your own peril,” Mr Mapesela says in the leaked audio clip.

A day later, Mr Mapesela confirmed the authenticity of the audio clip to the Sunday Express. He added that he had even led a delegation of prominent ABC members including Deputy Water Minister Lepota Sekola to the State House last Friday to try and convince Dr Majoro to reverse Mr Mosito’s appointment. To date, he has not provided details of what transpired at the meeting with the premier.

That same Saturday, Mr Mapesela gave an interview to the People’s Choice (PC) FM where he allegedly accused Mr Mosito of being a thief who had stolen guns from the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) armoury during his time as a soldier in the 1990s.

The interview was conducted by the radio station’s presenter, Relebohile Moyeye. Mr Moyeye served as Mr Thabane’s press attaché when the latter was still prime minister last year.

Mr Mosito subsequently released a statement on Monday accusing Mr Mapesela of damaging his reputation through “unfounded and baseless allegations”.

He said Mr Mapesela’s attacks on him had shown that there was a “dire need” for cabinet ministers, politicians and legislators to be reined in and taught to rise above their differences and avoid making “unfounded allegations” against one another which could damage other people’s lives.

But it appears that his public rebuttal of Mr Mapesela’s claims was only the beginning of his quest to get back at the latter.

An irate Mr Mosito on Friday filed a M3 million defamation lawsuit against Mr Mapesela in the High Court.

PC FM radio and its presenter, Mr Moyeye are the second and third defendants respectively in the lawsuit.

Mr Mosito wants the court to order the three defendants to pay him “M3 million as compensatory damages for defamation of the character of the plaintiff”.

Alternatively, Mr Mosito wants Mr Mapesela to be ordered to pay him M1, 5 million “as damages for impairment of the plaintiff’s dignity”.

He wants the defendants to be ordered to pay the costs of the lawsuit in the event that they choose to oppose it. He also wants “further or alternative relief as the court may deem fit”.

In his founding affidavit, Mr Mosito alleges that Mr Mapesela defamed him on PC FM last Saturday by branding him a thief who stole guns from the army which were then used to massacre civilians in Maputsoe in the 1990s.

He says Mr Mapesela’s utterances, portraying him as an “undisciplined soldier, criminal and a person of low moral turpitude,” were calculated at getting him fired from his new post.

He argues that PC FM is vicariously liable for the actions of Mr Moyeye who conducted the offending interview with Mr Mapesela.

“The subject matter hereof is a of a delictful nature stemming from a transaction in which the 1st defendant (Mapesela) made a defamatory remark about the plaintiff in a radio station in a programme conducted by the 3rd defendant (PC FM) on 6 February 2021.

“The action is based on the wrongful and or unlawful acts carried out by the 1st defendant — Tefo Mapesela. It is specifically pleaded that there was a defamatory phone-in interview between 1st defendant and 3rd defendant which gave birth to a defamatory and or malicious broadcast of the remarks.

“The message disseminated by the 2nd defendant (Moyeye) and communicated directly by the 1st defendant in a malicious and injurious tone was to the effect that plaintiff actively engaged in a criminal activity while still serving as a soldier and stole soldiers’ guns from the armoury which were used to kill people in Maputsoe and he was subsequently fired from the military and got convicted and imprisoned.

“The message disseminated by the 2nd defendant (Moyeye) and communicated directly by the 1st defendant in a malicious and injurious tone was to the effect that plaintiff does not have the requisite capacity to lead the security forces because he himself is a rebel who had been discharged from the army on account of his errant and or criminal behaviour.

“He (plaintiff) is portrayed as a disloyal politician who is not driven by principle and is not supportive of the head of government (Majoro) who recommended him for appointment in the executive as Minister of Defence and National Security.

“He is a potential threat to the security of the country and his appointment as the Minister of Defence and National Security attracts and or emboldens his potential threat to the security of the country,” Mr Mosito argues in his court papers.

He states that his fellow cabinet minister and ABC legislator aggrieved him by making “humiliating, malicious and false” remarks broadcasted to all listeners in various parts of the country.

“The radio broadcast depicted the plaintiff as irresponsible and of low moral character. Such remarks achieved the objective of humiliating and or undermining the plaintiff’s   esteem and character and disseminated to the nation at large with potential of affecting him as a career politician.

“The plaintiff pleads that the wrongful and or unlawful broadcast of the defamatory remarks attracted grave prejudice to the reputation of the plaintiff both as a member of the National Assembly and as a member of the executive in the Kingdom of Lesotho.

“It is further specifically pleaded that this widely circulated broadcast further left a huge dent to his personal dignity as well. This broadcast also lowered the plaintiff in esteem among his peers in political circles both in his career as a politician of note and amongst the ordinary electorates some of whom hold him in esteem and family alike.”

Mr Mosito argues that apart from getting him fired from his post, Mr Mapesela’s malicious remarks were also aimed at diminishing his chances of being reelected to parliament in next year’s elections.

“The said attack was meant to achieve the end of having the plaintiff dismissed from cabinet as a Minister of Defence and National Security.

“The plaintiff specifically pleads that as an aspiring candidate for Likhetlane constituency in the national elections due in the year 2022, the impact of the acts and or broadcast bore a heavy potential of damaging his career prospects,” Mr Mosito argued.

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