11 November 2017

Lesotho: Thabane Warns Mosisili

PRIME Minister Thomas Thabane has declared Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) leader, Mothetjoa Metsing, a "fugitive from justice" while issuing a stern warning to his predecessor Pakalitha Mosisili to desist from "destabilizing" the current coalition government or risk severe consequences.

Dr Thabane said he would descend on Dr Mosisili like a "tonne of bricks" if the ex-premier does not change course and continues to pursue an agenda of derailing the current coalition which regained power in June 2017.

Dr Mosisili's Democratic Congress (DC) has vowed to wreck Dr Thabane's government through a series of measures including a no-confidence motion.

Dr Thabane also branded former deputy prime minister (DPM) Metsing a "fugitive from justice" who fled to avoid facing corruption charges.

The premier spoke in a wide-ranging interview with the Lesotho Times to mark his coalition government's nearly six months in office. The full text of the interview is published on Pages 8 and 9.

Responding to Dr Mosisili's repeated condemnation of the planned deployment of Southern African Development Community (SADC) troops to Maseru, Dr Thabane vowed never to take instructions from his predecessor.

"When he (Dr Mosisili) was prime minister, he did what he thought was best for the country. I am now the prime minister and he must respect my decisions... . and he must go to his home and enjoy his pension. If his pension is not enough and he is not enjoying himself, then he must say so and ask Parliament to review it... .

"I am now the prime minister and I am not taking orders from him. He must be grateful that I am not taking away his pension. If he provokes me, I can take away that pension and dig up his issues which I had decided to ignore."

Dr Thabane said his predecessor had committed a lot of "grave misdeeds" over his long prime ministerial career. He had nonetheless elected to ignore such misdeeds after he was sworn into office on 16 June 2017.

"For the sake of peace I had decided to ignore his misdeeds but if he pushes me, I will go for him. If he continues on his course, I will go for him like a tonne of bricks. Those who love Mr Mosisili should warn him that I will go for him like a tonne of bricks. He must stop destabilizing my government and (he must) behave as a dignified former prime minister so that if need arises, I can send him to represent the country at events abroad," said the premier emphatically.

Dr Thabane said he would also not dignify Dr Mosisili's recent call to his DC supporters to prepare for elections with a response. Suffice to warn the ex-premier that he would descend on him heavily if he does not change course.

"Mosisili's regime did many bad things. Basotho who went into exile were running away from him (Mosisili). He exiled people including me. My focus now is to get this country out of the hell-hole that Mosisili put us it into."

Dr Mosisili has spoken out against the impending deployment of SADC troops saying Basotho should resolve their own problems. He has also rallied his supporters to prepare for elections, suggesting that this current coalition would not last. The remarks seem to have incensed Dr Thabane.

The premier also had harsh words for Mr Metsing who fled to South Africa in August citing threats to his life.

Dr Thabane chided Mr Metsing for "lying" to the South African media that his life was in danger. He said the real reason Mr Metsing had fled was the corruption charges that the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) had been pursuing against him.

"Metsing is a fugitive from justice," declared Dr Thabane.

"He must go and talk to (Borotho) Matsoso (the head of the DCEO) because Matsoso has a file on him. All Matsoso will ask him is to go to court and prove his innocence... ..He (Metsing) must come back and answer corruption charges... .. We will not molest him. We will give him protection to go to court until the case is over... .

"He must come and have his day in court for corruption. His attempts to portray himself as a victim of my government is very unfortunate when he knows that he is running away from the corruption charges that he must answer to."

Dr Thabane insisted that there had been no threats against Metsing, asserting that the LCD leader had been lying in his statements to the South African media.

The premier said Mr Metsing had been attributing the alleged threats on his life to him, while also complaining that the premier was not affording him protection.

"How do you ask for protection from someone threatening you," he queried.

Dr Thabane said he was ready to let Mr Metsing identify his friends in the LDF to protect him upon his return. He said he would facilitate for those soldiers to protect Mr Metsing to guarantee his security comfort. But the prime minister insisted that Mr Metsing would then have to be taken to court to answer for his corruption charges.

Mr Metsing is being probed by the DCEO in light of allegations there had been suspicious deposits into his bank accounts between 2013 and 2014. Mr Metsing allegedly received M328 000 and M118 000 between April 2013 and June 2013. A deposit of M524 964 into his account was also not explained.

This was after the controversial allocation of a road tender to a company known as Big Bravo Construction Company for the construction of roads in the Ha-Matala and Ha-Leqele villages of Maseru.

The company is alleged to have won the tender at Mr Metsing's instigation - who was also Local Government, Chieftainship and Parliamentary Affairs minister at the time -- and the company left road works incomplete about two months before their contract ended in 2015.

Mr Metsing then tried to seek relief from the courts arguing that his constitutional rights had been violated but his case was dismissed by the constitutional court. While that judgment should have paved the way for Mr Metsing's prosecution, this did not happen because the DPM had walked out of his coalition with Dr Thabane and joined forces with Dr Mosisili after the February 2015 elections, around the same time Mr Metsing had lost his court case.

With Mr Metsing back in the driving seat as Dr Mosisili's deputy, prosecuting authorities did nothing against him. Then Director of Public Prosecutions Leaba Thetsane, whom Dr Thabane had unsuccessfully tried to oust from office, did not prosecute Mr Metsing.

Dr Thabane said Mr Metsing's corruption case could not simply die a natural death considering the kickbacks that were involved and in light of his determination to stamp out corruption. If Mr Metsing refused to return voluntarily to answer the corruption charges, his arrest and extradition from South Africa could become an option, the premier said.

But Dr Thabane urged Mr Metsing to return voluntarily and have his day in court instead of "misleading the world" that his life was in danger.

"He (Metsing) has never been threatened by anyone from me. I never asked anyone to threaten Metsing. I have never done that. He is lying... .," added Dr Thabane.

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