Minister alleges death threats

Pascalinah Kabi

OUTGOING All Basotho Convention (ABC) spokesperson Tefo Mapesela has accused senior police officers of plotting to assassinate him. The outspoken Mapesela, who is also acting Minister of Police and the substantive Defence and National Security minister, also said it was time the ruling ABC accepted the outcome of the party’s 1-2 February 2019 elective conference which booted out them out of the national executive committee (NEC) and ushered in Professor Nqosa Mahao and others.

Mr Mapesela made these and other sensational claims in an explosive audio recording which the Sunday Express is in possession of. The fire-spitting minister also said he did not care if he was fired from cabinet for speaking out against the raging power struggle within the ABC as he was exhausted and had already packed his belongings.

Mr Mapesela has been one of the foremost critics of the election of Prof Mahao as the party’s deputy leader in February. He and fellow members of the old NEC refused to hand over power on the grounds that the former National University of Lesotho Vice Chancellor was an upstart who only recently joined the party they formed in 2006.

Three weeks ago, ABC leader and Prime Minister Thomas Thabane said he did not even consider Prof Mahao a member of the ABC and there was no way he should be parachuted to the second most powerful party post ahead of seasoned ABC stalwarts.

Prof Mahao and the rest of the new NEC subsequently won the right to assume office after a 12 June 2019 High Court judgement which dismissed the case that had been brought against their election by ABC legislators, Habofanoe Lehana (Khafung constituency), Keketso Sello (Hlotse) and Mohapi Mohapinyane (Rothe).

The trio filed the application seeking the nullification of the election of Prof Mahao and others on the grounds that the voting process was allegedly characterised by massive vote rigging. However, High Court judges, Justices Thamsanqa Nomngcongo (presiding judge), Moroke Mokhesi and Sakoane Sakoane dismissed the trio’s application, ruling that the alleged vote rigging would not have changed the outcome of the elections.

In the wake of Wednesday’s court ruling, Mr Mapesela has thrown in the towel and he is heard in the audio urging the party to accept Prof Mahao and the rest of the new NEC.

In the audio, Mr Mapesela begins by telling the ABC members that he was exhausted of playing mantloane – a game of houses played by little children in the villages. By this he implied that the ongoing bickering within the ABC was akin to the game played by children.

He said his family had pleaded with him to refrain from talking about party issues after he allegedly received death threats from Deputy Commissioner Paseka Mokete and Assistant Commissioner Beleme Lebajoa.

“The death threats have been made by the Deputy Commissioner Mokete (Mokete) and the Assistant Commissioner (Lebajoa) who have turned themselves into unruly politicians,” Mr Mapesela says in the audio.

He did not say why the two senior police officers wanted him dead over the internal politics of the ABC.

He joins a growing list of ABC politicians who have alleged receiving death threats in connection with internecine infighting which threatens to tear apart the party and even collapse the government.

Professor Nqosa Mahao, incoming ABC chairperson Samuel Rapapa and incoming secretary general Lebohang Hlaele have had to beef up their security after being tipped off of alleged plots to assassinate them.

Although Mr Mapesela still has a gripe with Prof Mahao allegedly because the latter “did not qualify” to contest the elections, he said it was time everyone accepted Prof Mahao because he was “dumped on us” by the courts and court decisions had to be respected.

The minister also revealed that he was among a group of ABC officials who met with Prof Mahao at a local hotel to persuade to contest the deputy leader’s post. He however, said that at the time they were not aware that Prof Mahao was not an ABC member.

“We were at Lesotho Sun (Avani Lesotho) poaching him (Prof Mahao) to contest the deputy leader position and therefore I plead with all of you (ABC members) to accept him even though he does not qualify.

“It is a fact that he does not qualify and deep down in his heart he knows that he does not qualify. He did not have ABC membership when we approached him thinking that he was an ABC member. However, for the good of Basotho, these issues surrounding the ABC’s NEC must come to an end and I plead with my fellow MPs that we should stick together.

“I have been a member of the ABC’s NEC and I wonder what benefits accrue from being a member of the executive that these (old NEC) people are fighting over instead of vacating office. If I end up being fired from my ministerial position because of openly talking about these issues, I have already packed and I am ready for that because I am exhausted.”

Mr Mapesela said instead of fighting each other, the ABC-led government should be focusing its energies on addressing critical national challenges including paying service providers and the wool and mohair saga which has seen farmers crying foul over late and inadequate payments for their produce.

“No one has a birthright to be a member of the NEC. I have accepted that I lost the elections and those who have been voted into office should be allowed to carry on with their mandate. I am one of the people who worked hard day and night when (former army commander Tlali) Kamoli and (Brigadier Bulane) Sechele were killing people at night. I would go on radio in defence of the ABC but when the ABC have voted in a new NEC just like they voted me into office in the past, I have to accept that I lost and allow others to take the baton.

“I am making this clarion call because I can tell how this is going to end. The High Court has pronounced itself (on the ABC’s NEC issue) and someone is going to appeal the decision, fire judges and do many other things but I am not going to be part of that process.

“Please advise others who think they can cause the collapse of ABC by forcefully staying in office should stop doing that for the sake of ABC. I accepted that I lost elections but my problem was Ntate Mahao because I know he is a PFD member but now that the courts have dumped him on us, we have to accept that,” Mr Mapesela said.

When contacted for comment yesterday, Mr Mapesela said, “I have an initiation school and will therefore not be threatened by people who were not initiated”.

“They think they are threatening me but I am not threatened, no uninitiated person will threaten me.”

Yesterday, Assistant Commissioner Lebajoa said he was surprised that Mr Mapesela found it so easy to make such accusations without even explaining how they had threatened him.

He said he had “very good, very good relations with Mr Mapesela” and was therefore “surprised that he finds it so easy to talk about me on radio”.

“There is really nothing that would warrant us to make death threats against Ntate Mapesela, why would we do that? It is not true.

“There isn’t anything that should make the honourable minister feel that we have stepped on his toes. Let me just make an example of that time where he accused me of recording our phone conversation (last month).

“I didn’t record him and what Ntate minister could have done was for us to sit down and find out what really happened. But he did not even give us an opportunity to talk about that and I was surprised that the honourable, whom I enjoy cordial relations with, suspected that I had recorded and leaked that clip. Why didn’t he give us a chance to find out what really happened?

“What was the whole purpose of leaking that audio? How did it help? I don’t see any reason to stoop that low,” Assistant Commissioner Lebajoa said.

Deputy Commissioner Mokete was not reachable on his mobile phone for comment.


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