Exiled All Basotho Convention (ABC) leader Thomas Thabane has lashed out at his former spokesperson Thabo Thakalekoala.
The former premier on Friday told the Sunday Express in an exclusive interview Mr Thakalekoala had compromised exiled Basotho’s stay in South Africa through an “unauthorised” press conference he addressed the previous day.
Mr Thakalekoala held the media briefing on the South African side of the Maseru Bridge Border Post and said he was doing it on behalf of exiled members of the ABC, Basotho National Party (BNP) and Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL).
Dr Thabane, BNP leader Thesele ‘Maseribane and RCL leader Keketso Rantšo fled to South Africa in May this year after claiming some members of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) were plotting to kill them. Several members of their parties also sought refuge in South Africa for the same reason, including Mr Thakalekoala. Mr Thakalekoala was Dr Thabane’s spokesperson when the ABC leader was premier between June 2012 and March 2015.
During Thursday’s midday press briefing, Mr Thakalekoala made very serious allegations against Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing. Among some of the utterances, Mr Thakalekoala alleged Mr Metsing has been reaching out to regional leaders and asking for amnesty in the event the Southern African Development Community (SADC) inquiry recently conducted by a 10-member team led by Justice Justice Mpaphi Phumaphi, implicates him in the killing of former army commander Maaparankoe Mahao. Lieutenant-General Mahao was shot dead by his military colleagues on 25 June this year, allegedly while resisting arrest for suspected mutiny. The assassination resulted in the Phumaphi Commission whose report was expected to be officially released during a SADC Summit which had been scheduled for yesterday in Mozambique. The meeting was postponed and the Sunday Express could not immediately establish why.
During Thursday’s press conference, Mr Thakalekoala also said “time had come for all Basotho to turn their backs on politicians like Metsing who are only interested in filling their pockets with our meagre state resources”.
However, although Mr Thakalekoala said he was speaking on behalf of all the exiles, he was only in the company of one man at the press conference. The Sunday Express could not establish if the man was also an exiled member of one the three opposition parties.
Speaking to the Sunday Express at his Ficksburg base on Friday morning, Dr Thabane said the opposition alliance had nothing to do with Mr Thakalekoala’s presser. Dr Thabane also said he wanted to “set the record straight” regarding his relationship with Mr Thakalekoala.
Dr Thabane said: “Thakalekoala held a press conference yesterday at Maseru Bridge Border Post; I did not know about it, and neither did my two fellow exiled leaders, and our respective parties’ National Executive Committees.
“So what this basically means is he held the media briefing in his own capacity and not under the umbrella of the ABC, BNP and RCL.
“I was surprised to receive a call from the leader of the RCL, (Keketso Rantšo) earlier yesterday, asking me about the press conference. She said she was surprised because she did not know anything about it, and wanted to know if I did. I told her I did not know about the press conference.
“What Thabo did was extremely dangerous because it compromises all the exiles’ stay in South Africa. According to South Africa’s asylum laws, we are not allowed to fight Lesotho’s political battles or any other battles while in their country.
“I am the leader of the opposition in parliament and have an office there at the National Assembly. But since I am out of the country and can’t run the office, I haven’t appointed anybody to be in charge of that office.
“I hear people saying Thabo is my spokesperson and think that he speaks on my behalf on everything. But let me set the record straight here and now: Thabo is not my spokesperson.
“He will only speak on my behalf when I have given him the mandate to do so. Yesterday he was not sent by me to address that press conference.”
Dr Thabane also told the Sunday Express he had heard allegations that Mr Thakalekoala organised the press conference with Chief ‘Maseribane, but had since found otherwise.
“There were rumours that Thesele worked with Thakalekoala in preparing for the press conference. But Thesele has said he did not have anything to do with it. I asked our National Executive Committee but they also didn’t know anything about it. You can even call (ABC Secretary General) Samonyane Ntsekele to confirm what I am telling you now—that the press conference was Thabo’s idea, and his alone,” Dr Thabane said.
On his part, Chief ‘Maseribane also said he had nothing to do with the press conference.
“I don’t know anything about Thakalekoala’s press conference, which is why I didn’t attend it. Thakalekoala only told me that Ntate Thabane gave him the go-ahead to hold it, but he did not involve me in anything. I still don’t know what he said at the press conference.
“Then again, I don’t want it to appear as if I am arguing with Ntate Thabane in the media, but if he suspects that I have been working with Thakalekoala, I will use the appropriate platform to defend myself,” Chief ‘Maseribane said.
“I don’t take my mandate from Thakalekoala; I am the leader of the BNP and not a member of the ABC which Thakalekoala belongs to. He did the press conference on his own and I was not involved at all.”
ABC Secretary General Samonyane Ntsekele also professed ignorance about Mr Thakalekoala’s press conference.
“I don’t know anything about that press conference. If it was indeed for the ABC or opposition parties as a group, I would have known about it as the SG of the main opposition party,” Mr Ntsekele said.
According to Mr Ntsekele , a press conference cannot be hosted by a member or supporter of the ABC without the knowledge of the leader or NEC.
“Thakalekoala didn’t involve me or the other ABC NEC members in preparing that press conference. We only heard his address on one local radio station.”
Ms Rantšo also said the press conference had caught her by surprise. The former Labour Minister further said it was “disappointing” that Mr Thakalekoala made such serious allegations against Mr Metsing “without proof”.
“It is disturbing and disappointing for Thakalekoala to make such serious accusations against Metsing, especially when he claimed that he was in South Africa seeking amnesty,” Ms Rantšo said.
“I was fuming when I asked Ntate Thabane about the press conference, but he told me that he knew nothing about it.
“We are leaders and must be exemplary in what we do. We can’t listen to rumours and pass them to our supporters as fact; that is why I was furious when I heard that Thakalekoala said he was addressing the media on our behalf. I was not engaged and I know nothing about the statement he made at that press conference.
“As leaders of the opposition, we could not have allowed Thakalekoala to address a press conference on our behalf with such serious allegations that don’t have any proof.
“As a leader, I know I must account for everything I do or say and what Thakalekoala did was unacceptable because it will compromise our relationship with the government of South Africa.”
However, Mr Thakalekoala yesterday told the Sunday Express the press conference was hosted “by ordinary Basotho exiles in a struggle to go back home.”
He continued: “I wanted to engage my leader, Ntate Thabane but he made it clear he didn’t want to be involved. And then again, I don’t want to respond to what you say the other opposition leaders said about the press conference through the media because it would look like we are not on good terms. The press conference was just an initiative done by exiles in an effort to come back home; nothing else.”
Asked if he could prove his allegations against Mr Metsing, Mr Thakalekoala said: “We did not commit any crime and I will not to answer to that because I made it clear before that I will not answer to what my leaders say.
“The press conference was not meant to cause fights between leaders of the opposition, the NECs and supporters in exile. We just want to come back home to be with our families.”
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