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Thakalekoala fears for his life


Premier’s press secretary says he feels abandoned by the government as he remains in hiding ‘somewhere in South Africa in a tiny space resembling a chicken-coop’

Bongiwe Zihlangu

Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s Press Secretary, Thabo Thakalekoala, is still in hiding in South Africa and says he feels “abandoned” by the government.

Mr Thakalekoala was among dozens of Basotho who fled the country on Friday  last week, alongside Dr Thabane, just before and soon after members of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) took over three key police stations in Maseru in what

Thabane’s Press Secretary, Thabo Thakalekoala
Thabane’s Press Secretary, Thabo Thakalekoala

the premier has since described as a coup attempt.

However, Dr Thabane returned to Lesotho on Wednesday amid tight security from the South African police and army and remains under their protection until the country’s security situation returns to normal.

Police Commissioner Khothatso Tšooana, and other senior members of the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) who also fled to South Africa due to last Saturday’s army activities, which left one police officer dead and many others injured, also returned home on Wednesday.

Newly appointed LDF Commander , Lieutenant General Maaparankoe Mahao—whose home was attacked by unknown gunmen last Saturday morning in what is widely believed to have been an assassination attempt and part of the coup plot—also returned home on Wednesday after also fleeing to South Africa soon after the assault on his Koalabata residence, which left three vehicles on the premises damaged and one of his dogs dead.

Speaking from his hideout in South Africa, Mr Thakalekoala on Friday told the Sunday Express that he feared should he return to Lesotho without adequate security, soldiers loyal to ousted LDF Commander, Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli, who has been accused of being behind the coup attempt, would “kill me on the spot because I am their prime target”.

“I am still out of the country following Saturday’s military raid. I fled the country because I am one of the prime targets of Kamoli’s soldiers,” Mr Thakalekoala said.

According to Mr Thakalekoala, he fled the country alongside some members of the All Basotho Convention (ABC), Basotho National Party (BNP) and Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD), whom he said were all “targeted by the military”.

However, Mr Thakalekoala would not say how many remain in hiding in South Africa.

“We’re here frustrated and fearful that in our absence, our families might be attacked. I, for one, don’t have a wife and worry what will become of my children if I don’t make it home as a matter of urgency,” Mr Thakalekoala said.

“Life here is also very difficult because we’re not eating, sleeping and bathing well. Our movements here are limited because we’re confined to this tiny space resembling a chicken-coop.”

Mr Thakalekoala also urged the coalition government to work hard to restore stability in Lesotho “so that we can return home safely and with protection from the military.

“We strongly appeal to government to arrange our safe return home because as things stand now, we feel neglected and abandoned,” Mr Thakalekoala said.

The premier’s spokesperson also blasted Police Commissioner Tšooana for failing to follow up on their welfare.

“The Police Commissioner has not checked on us since he left although we were here together. Everybody else is now back home with their families and we want the same for ourselves,” Mr Thakalekoala said.

“Even when they were making arrangements for people to return home, my name was never given serious consideration. It hurts because all I did was in the name of doing my job.”

Last Saturday, Mr Thakalekoala read a statement over the various local radio stations that Dr Thabane had fired Lt Gen Kamoli, and replaced him with Lt General Mahao.

The change of the LDF command, Mr Thakalekoala said in his communiqué, was contained in a government gazette issued on 29 August 2014 and approved by His Majesty King Letsie III, with the advice of the premier.

Mr Thakalekoala also announced Lt Gen Kamoli had been removed from his post because he “mismanaged the LDF”.

“Lt General Tlali Kamoli exhibited unbecoming behaviour on various issues such as failing to observe the rule of law and disrespecting other security agencies,” Mr Thakalekoala had said in his statement.

“This includes his refusal to handover eight military suspects of the 27 January 2014 bombing of the homes of three families in Moshoeshoe II and Ha-Abia.”

Mr Thakalekoala also accused Lt Gen Kamoli of failing to maintain good relations with government in the same statement.

“Members of the LDF were also not content anymore with his leadership style. The public will also remember that on Army Day recently, the prime minister  was vocal in his delivery that the army did not belong to any one person, but the public,” Mr Thakalekoala had also added in the statement.

Mr Thakalekoala now believes as result of that statement, “I have become the main target of Kamoli’s soldiers.

“I am being targeted because of that announcement, but it doesn’t take away the fact that Kamoli’s removal was lawful and I was only executing my duties,” Mr Thakalekoala said.

Asked if Dr Thabane was aware of his plight and that of his fellow exiles, and also  if the premier had made any efforts to ensure they returned home safely, Mr Thakalekoala said: “The PM has been preoccupied by recent events, so I wouldn’t know if he is aware of it.”

Contacted for comment on Friday afternoon, Acting Government Secretary, Moahloli Mphaka, told the Sunday Express that “government is making arrangements for their return”.

Mr Mphaka added: “I really understand their situation. The last time I spoke with Ntate Thakalekoala, arrangements for their return were already being made.

“I will follow-up on the arrangements being made and remind the relevant authorities that there are some people in South Africa, who need to be brought back home.

“But protocol dictates that it cannot be my unilateral decision how they return home. I will have to follow instructions issued by government.”

Several attempts to get a comment from LDF spokesperson, Major Ntlele Ntoi, on Mr Thakalekoala’s statement that he was the “main target of the army” drew a blank as his mobile phone rang unanswered.

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