Discontented opposition leaders in the National Assembly have launched a scathing critique against the government led by Prime Minister Ntsokoane Matekane for allegedly entangling security agencies in the realm of politics.
This rebuke unfolded during a press conference convened on Wednesday at the Basotho Action Party (BAP) premises, where leaders from various political factions united in condemning the government’s inappropriate conduct.
The assembly comprised leaders such as Professor Nqosa Mahao of the Basotho Action Party (BAP), Machesetsa Mofomobe of the Basotho National Party (BNP), Mathibeli Mokhothu of the Democratic Congress (DC), Lekhetho Rakuoane of the Popular Front for Democracy (PFD), Thuso Lipholo of the Basotho Congress Movement (BCM), and Tefo Mapesela of the Basotho Patriotic Party (BPP).
The Socialist Revolutionaries (SR), was a represented by its deputy leader while All Basotho Convention (ABC) was represented by secretary general, Lebohang Hlaele.
Mokhothu, speaking on behalf of the opposition bloc collective, expressed their profound concern regarding the alleged government’s intertwining of security agencies – including the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF), Lesotho Mounted Police Services (LMPS), and National Security Services (NSS) – with political affairs.
He accused Commissioner of Police (COMPOL) Holomo Molibeli and LDF Commander Lieutenant General Mojalefa Letsoela of being awarded employment contracts designed to align with Matekane’s agenda, including the persecution of opposition members within parliament.
Mokhothu stated: “Granting employment contracts to security agency leaders as they approach retirement renders them susceptible to dancing to the Prime Minister’s tune. The Southern African Development Community (SADC) recommended that Lesotho embark on a journey of national reforms to extricate security agencies from the political sphere. Yet, there is clear evidence of government influence compromising these agencies’ ability to address matters within their purview – such as national stability and the upholding of the law.”
He cited past instances, such as the search of ABC leader Nkaku Kabi and Mapesela by the military at a roadblock, and similar stop-and-search campaigns targeting Mofomobe and his bodyguard’s firearm by LDF members.
Mofomobe’s phones were seized by NSS members, only to be returned after intervention by the Constitutional Court.
“Lesotho is not an animal farm where some animals are more equal than others,” Mokhothu asserted.
He continued, “On August 22, 2023, LDF members searched Honourable Nkaku Kabi and the Clerk of the National Assembly, Advocate Lebohang Maema within the premises of the National Assembly.
“Members of Parliament (MPs) Thuso Makhalanyane and Mohlominyana Tota were apprehended. Tota was taken from his home at night by armed LMPS members. Makhalanyane was forcefully taken to identify the whereabouts of one Puseletso.
Mokhothu condemned these actions, deeming them as attempts to sideline parliament members from executing their duties.
He also criticised statements made by Prime Minister Matekane during an RFP rally in Maputsoe last month, insinuating that security agencies might be persecuting MPs due to these remarks.
During the conference, Professor Mahao recounted his experience with threats from Commissioner of Police Molibe in 2020 during former Prime Minister Motsoahae Thomas Thabane’s tenure.
He described a planned abduction involving the military’s occupation of Maseru, thwarted by an individual directed to execute it.
“The RFP, led by Prime Minister Ntsokoane Matekane, is grappling with immense internal turmoil. Consequently, they are employing security agencies to wage their battles. In Lesotho, it is a common practice that when the ruling party faces internal strife that might lead to its removal, politicians turn to security agencies,” Mahao added.
He concluded by stating: “We recognize the Commissioner of Police’s awareness of a historical context where we were labeled treasonous. I am appalled by the police’s statement, which could not have been issued without his authorisation.”
Police released a statement on Tuesday indicating awareness of activities aimed at destabilising the nation. It warned that some National Assembly members intended to coerce fellow MPs into overthrowing the government, raising concerns of potential bloodshed.
“We are aware that those coercing others have alliances with armed individuals, which may disrupt the country and instill fear among those who do not align with them,” the police statement read.