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Minister lashes out at First Lady

  • accuses of meddling in party and govt affairs
  • “I’m not scared of her”
  • “she will remember me from prison,” fire-spitting minister says

’Marafaele Mohloboli

DEFENCE and National Security Minister Tefo Mapesela is at it again.

Barely a week after his blistering attack on Water Minister Samonyane Ntsekele and the army, police and intelligence bosses, the fire-spitting Mr Mapesela has sensationally lashed out at the First Lady, ’Maesaiah Thabane, blasting her for allegedly meddling in the affairs of the government.

In a no-holds barred interview with the Sunday Express, the outspoken minister also demanded that Ms Thabane be called to order for her alleged actions. Mr Mapesela spoke to this publication in the aftermath of an interview he gave to a local radio station where he expressed his unhappiness over his sudden removal from the Ministry of Police and Public Security.

“Who does she think she is,” the tough-talking minister said of the First Lady’s alleged interference in government affairs. He added: “We also have wives and she is behaving as if she were the only woman in this country”.

Mr Mapesela’s latest outburst was prompted by a Friday phone call from Ms Thabane’s husband, Prime Minister Thomas Thabane who allegedly angrily ordered him to call off a meeting that he had just convened with the police authorities in his capacity as Acting Minister of Police and Public Security. Mr Mapesela, who had only been acting in that capacity for three weeks in the aftermath of the resignation of All Basotho Convention (ABC) stalwart ‘Mampho Mokhele, was told by Dr Thabane to call off the meeting as he was no longer the acting minister.

Mr Mapesela subsequently vented his anger on Ms Thabane who he believes was instrumental in his dismissal. Mr Mapesela’s dismissal comes hot on the heels of his acerbic attack on the three top security chiefs; Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) Commander Mojalefa Letsoela, Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli and National Security Service (NSS) boss Pheello Ralenkoane.

The outspoken minister accused the security chiefs of refusing to take lawful orders and engaging in actions that he said could collapse the current democratically elected government. He also accused them of “badmouthing” him to Prime Minister Thomas Thabane.

The minister further accused the trio of divulging sensitive security information to other ministers thereby “compromising the security of the whole nation”. Mr Ntsekele particularly incurred the wrath of Mr Mapesela for allegedly working in cahoots with the trio and meddling in the defence and police ministries while allegedly “failing to effectively run his own water ministry”.

Mr Ntsekele has, on his part, denied any wrongdoing saying he was not interfering in the work of other ministries.

Mr Mapesela spoke to the Sunday Express’ sister Lesotho Times publication in the aftermath of a leaked telephone conversation between him and Assistant Commissioner of Police, Beleme Lebajoa. The telephone conversation was leaked a fortnight ago.

In the audio, Mr Mapesela accuses Commissioner Molibeli, Lt-Gen Letsoela and spy boss Ralenkoane of refusing to take lawful orders from him. Mr Mapesela accused the trio of being “naughty”, ganging up against him and badmouthing him to Prime Minister Thabane.

The minister had no kind words for Assistant Commissioner Lebajoa who he accused of leaking the audio of their confidential telephone conversation.

And it was this animosity which prompted Mr Mapesela to demand the removal of Assistant Commissioner Lebajoa from Friday’s abortive meeting with the police bosses who included Police Commissioner, Holomo Molibeli.

It was at that meeting that Mr Mapesela said Commissioner Molibeli was handed a note from the First Lady, saying the meeting should stop without further ado. Shortly afterwards, Mr Mapesela alleges that he received a telephone call from an angry Dr Thabane who used the First Lady’s mobile phone to order him to cancel the meeting as he was no longer acting police minister.

“Mine was a courtesy call on the ministry since I was appointed acting Police minister in the aftermath of the departure of former minister Mampho Mokhele. Assistant Commissioner Lebajoa was present and I asked him to leave the meeting since we don’t see eye to eye and I wouldn’t have felt comfortable addressing police issues with him around since he is not trustworthy and records private conversations,” Mr Mapesela recently told the Sunday Express.

He said that during the meeting on Friday, Commissioner Molibeli was presented with a note from the First Lady saying the meeting should stop forthwith.

“I then got a call from the Prime Minister who was using the First Lady’s phone. And with an angry tone, he (Dr Thabane) told me that I should immediately call off the meeting and that I was no longer the acting minister of police with immediate effect. My removal was communicated over the phone and not formally written,” said the irate Mr Mapesela who then launched into a tirade against the First Lady.

“If speculation that this country is run by the First Lady is true then that is very wrong and this should stop immediately. The problem was not at all about the Friday meeting but it was about (Assistant Commissioner) Lebajoa’s expulsion. He (Lebajoa) was very reluctant to leave when I told him to and I think he had already reported me to the First Lady.

“The First Lady and Lebajoa are the best of buddies. I know that most people only register their dissatisfaction with maladministration when they are in the opposition but I will speak from within the government as a member of the (ruling) All Basotho Convention.

“If at all it’s true that the First Lady runs the affairs of this country that should stop immediately. She shouldn’t be doing that and she should refrain from her ways.

“I have one straight forward message for her. If she is indeed running the affairs of this country, it is very wrong. She is not a politician and she was not voted to be in her position. She should be reprimanded so that this country may have peace and stability. Who does she think she is?

“I don’t know why she is meddling in the affairs of the government. We also have wives and she is behaving as if she were the only woman in this country.”

Mr Mapesela said he was not scared of the First Lady and Assistant Commissioner Lebajoa.

“She (First Lady) and Lebajoa don’t scare me at all. They have a lot to tell and their secret will soon be out. But I tell you one of them shall remember me from prison one of these good days. No one can hide the truth.”

Contacted for comment, Assistant Commissioner Lebajoa said he did not phone the First Lady and there is simply no way he could have done so as she was not his friend.

“It’s not true that I refused to leave the Friday meeting and it’s not true that I called the First Lady because she is not my friend. And I have no secrets with her. She is a civil servant like me and that’s the only attachment that the two of us have.

“I have served as a police officer for over 20 years and I have never been called to any disciplinary hearing over misconduct because I am disciplined and do everything by the book.

“So I will not go to prison and I don’t have any secrets with the First Lady or any dirt on my hands. The only time I might go to prison would be if there was some foul play. Of course that would be mysterious and beyond any one’s comprehension.”

The First Lady is however, not a civil servant as claimed by Assistant Commissioner Lebajoa.

Assistant Commissioner Lebajoa denied leaking the audio of his conversation with Mr Mapesela a fortnight ago. He said the Friday meeting had been called “to harass me because Minister Mapesela believes that I leaked the recording of our conversation”.

“But I can affirm that I never leaked that recording. It could even be him (who leaked the audio) because that was our conversation,” Assistant Commissioner Lebajoa said.

Meanwhile, Ms Thabane’s mobile phone rang unanswered and the Sunday Express undertakes to publish her response as soon she comments on the issue.

With his latest outburst, Mr Mapesela joined the growing list of ministers and ABC members who have accused the First Lady of meddling in party and government affairs. The best known such attack on Ms Thabane was by the then Tourism minister and ABC chairperson, Motlohi Maliehe.

In May 2018, the fiery legislator launched a blistering attack on Ms Thabane while addressing a rally in his Hololo constituency in Butha-Buthe.

Mr Maliehe accused Ms Thabane of fomenting chaos in the party and in the government through “constant meddling” in the work of ministers and officials. He demanded that the First Lady stops meddling in state affairs forthwith or risk derailing the government.

The former ABC chairperson accused the First Lady of derailing the government by seeking to control ministers and how they should perform their duties. He further accused Ms Thabane of violating the constitution and “abetting corruption” by instigating the removal of ministers who refused to comply with her demands.

He was subsequently suspended from the ABC chairship in August last year and also fired from his post as tourism minister.

More recently, Nat Molikeng, who now works as a bodyguard of Professor Nqosa Mahao, accused the First Lady of meddling in the affairs of the ABC and government.

The 38 year-old Mr Molikeng was previously part of Prime Minister Thabane’s informal security team and he was formally employed as a chauffeur for the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, Temeki Tsolo. Upon his dismissal in the aftermath of the ABC’s highly disputed February 2019 elective conference, Mr Molikeng blamed First Lady ’Maesaiah Thabane for getting him fired for allegedly supporting the Mahao faction which was elected into the ABC’s national executive committee against Dr Thabane’s wishes. Mr Molikeng also accused Ms Thabane of causing chaos in the party and government through her alleged meddling in the affairs of both.  The First Lady flatly denied the allegations and insisted that Mr Molikeng had been fired for misconduct.

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