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Metsing lists security demands ahead of Sunday return

…24-hour close protection bodyguards, arms and weapons top Metsing’s list

’Marafaele Mohloboli

EXILED former Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing has issued a list security demands including two round-the-clock close protection bodyguards, a further four back-up security details guards as well as arms and ammunition ahead his return to the country on Sunday.

Mr Metsing, who leads the opposition Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD), says it is his “wish that the security team be closely monitored by the Lesotho Defence Force Commander and the SADC security element in Lesotho”.

The security demands are contained in a letter that Mr Metsing penned to the Head of the SADC facilitation team to Lesotho, Justice Dikgang Moseneke on 14 November this year.

Mr Metsing has been holed up in South Africa since fleeing Lesotho in August 2017 citing an alleged plot to assassinate him. The government has nevertheless refuted his claims, insisting that he fled to escape prosecution for corruption.

The opposition set Mr Metsing’s return as one of the preconditions for its participation in the process to implement multi-sector reforms that are aimed at achieving lasting peace and stability in the country.

Mr Metsing will return along with other exiled opposition leaders who include the deputy leader of the LCD, Tšeliso Mokhosi and the leader of the Socialist Revolution (SR) Teboho Mojapela.

Also expected to return are former police commissioner Molahlehi Letsoepa, former Director of the National Security Services (NSS), Tumo Lekhooa; Assistant Superintendent Bereng Ramahetlane who is an officer with the Lesotho Correctional Service and Mr Lebohang Setsomi who was head of procurement at the Lesotho Mounted Police Service.

The homecoming is the result of the agreement that was signed by the coalition of opposition parties and the government on 16 October 2018. The deal was mediated by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) facilitator Justice Dikgang Moseneke and his team.

Clause 10 of the deal states that “Mr Metsing and similarly placed persons in exile will not be subjected to any pending criminal proceedings during the dialogue and reforms process”.

Ahead of his impending return, Mr Metsing wrote to Justice Moseneke informing him that following “recent discussions and agreements”, he had “applied my mind to the matter of my personal security, a key element of my return conditions”.

“(In terms of) minimum security requirements, I would prefer to be protected by the LDF as per the current practice with regard to VIP protection as follows: two 24-hour close protection bodyguards, four 24-hour mobile protection crew for back-up to bodyguards, four detailed guards for residence, appropriate arms and ammunition, an appropriate vehicle for my transport and an appropriate vehicle for my guard,” Mr Metsing wrote.

He also submitted a list of names for his proposed guards and drivers who were only identified by their surnames.

“My wish is that the team be closely monitored by the LDF and the SADC security element in Lesotho. All my personal security arrangements should be in place when I enter Lesotho.

“My bodyguards and the mobile protection team should be in place and with me at the South Africa/Lesotho border post on the day that I return- the 25th of November 2018.

“All my security arrangements should be in place for the full duration of the national reforms process and until such time as Lesotho has adopted a revised constitution and a democratic election has taken place. Your assistance and support in this very personal and critical area is greatly appreciated.”

Two days after Mr Metsing wrote to Justice Moseneke, the latter appears to have written to Prime Minister Thomas Thabane to inform him of Mr Metsing’s demands.

In a letter dated 16 November which appears to have been signed by Justice Moseneke, the latter urges Dr Thabane to accept Mr Metsing’s demands.

“I write to you, Your Excellency, to inform you of the personal security requirements of Mr Metsing…who intends to return to Lesotho to participate in the long-awaited…reform processes.

“As Your Excellency will recall, the issue of the return of the leader and others in exile has been a big challenge and also one of the preconditions put forward by the opposition political parties for their participation in the reforms processes.

“It has also been SADC’s call for a multi-stakeholder national dialogue that will bring together all stakeholders in Lesotho enabling an inclusive and transparent dialogue and reforms process led and owned by all Basotho.

“I therefore formally transmit the letter from Mr Metsing for your attention and consideration. I humbly request your good office to consider the request positively in keeping with your government’s stated commitment to provide support and cooperation of the government and your office in particular,” the latter states.

At the time of going to print the Sunday Express had not succeeded in obtaining comment from the SADC facilitation and commits to publishing the response should it be availed.

For his part, Mr Metsing yesterday refused to be drawn into the contents of ‘his’ letter, saying, “I cannot discuss any communication between me and Ntate Moseneke with the media”.

However, the Prime Minister’s Press Attaché, Thabo Thakalekoala, appeared to confirm that Mr Metsing had indeed penned the letter when told the Sunday Express that the opposition leader had no right to dictate to the government the security arrangements that it should make for him.

“Mr Metsing has absolutely no right to dictate terms as to what kind of security he wants nor the right to dictate the duration of such security.

“The government is the one which shall determine the kind of security and its duration after reviewing everything. It is not for him to say. This country has a government and he is just a leader of opposition,” Mr Thakalekoala said.

He however, conceded that the government promised to provide adequate security for Mr Metsing.

“When the Honorable Prime Minister promised Mr Metsing security, he was just extending an olive branch to allay his (Metsing’s) fears but not for him to dictate as he is now doing,” Mr Thakalekoala said.

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