Lesotho PM accused of crackdown on opponents

Tom Thabane

Tom Thabane

Lesotho’s opposition has accused Prime Minister Tom Thabane of cracking down on political opponents.

This is despite calls for the South African Development Community (Sadc) to intervene in the renewed crisis in that country, barely three months after the June elections.

Neither the Sadc office in Swaziland nor the Lesotho government was prepared to shed light on Friday on the gravity of a situation that has led to several Basotho opposition leaders, including former deputy prime minister Mothetjoa Metsing, running to South Africa.

Metsing, leader of the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD), said he fled Lesotho because he feared for his life after he received tip-offs that he would be assassinated or arrested and killed in custody.

Metsing said prompt intervention by the Sadc and the rest of the international community would avert the destruction and chaos that Lesotho was, unfortunately, heading towards again.

“We pleaded with the Sadc to dispatch the Sadc facilitator, [deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa], to interrogate our concerns and halt the rampant misbehaviour by [Thabane’s] government.”

He said he drove from Maseru on Tuesday night and arrived in Johannesburg on Wednesday morning.

“On Tuesday, I received a call that police were heavily armed and were headed to my home village. I could see that I must now get out.

“The prime minister has turned the country into a police state. People are being beaten up. It’s really bad,” he said. He left his wife and three children behind because he did not think their lives were under threat.

He said his deputy at LCD and former defence minister Tseliso Mokhosi was arrested on Monday after he presented himself to police in connection with the death of a police officer last year.

Metsing denied he was running away from allegations of corruption in his country. He was prepared to answer to the charges. However, he was aware that Mokhosi was tortured in custody and showed City Press pictures of what he claimed were Mokhosi’s scarred hands. He had a WhatsApp message he claimed was a conversation between ministers allegedly discussing that he would have to die in custody once they had arrested him.

Metsing said that at times he was forced to use different cars to leave meetings, because Thabane terminated protection services for him soon after elections. He wrote to Thabane seeking an audience to discuss the matter. His response was that he would consider it.

Also of concern to the opposition coalition was the removal of South African Judge Robert Nugent as president of the Court of Appeals. Kananelo Everrit Mosito replaced him. — AFP

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