Lesotho: Ministers Accuse Mochoboroane of Treason

18 December 2019

SMALL Business Development, Cooperatives and Marketing Minister, Chalane Phori, and Home Affairs Deputy Minister, Machesetsa Mofomobe, have accused opposition Movement for Economic Change (MEC) leader, Selibe Mochoboroane, of treason against the first government of Prime Minister Thomas Thabane in 2014.

Mr Phori made the accusations in an interview with the Lesotho Times this week. Mr Mofomobe made similar accusations against Mr Mochoboroane early this week while addressing his first rally since his election last month as the Basotho National Party (BNP)'s deputy leader.

Messrs Phori and Mofomobe warned the nation not to vote for Mr Mochoboroane and Democratic Congress (DC) leader Mathibeli Mokhothu, saying the opposition could not be trusted to lead the country out of poverty and stimulate economic growth.

Addressing a BNP rally in Teyateyaneng on Sunday, Mr Mofomobe urged party supporters and the nation not to be fooled into believing that "congress idiots" like the "rebel Mochoboroane" and "Mokhothu the thief" could lead the country out of poverty and stimulate economic growth.

He accused Mr Mochoboroane of rebelling against Dr Thabane during the first coalition which comprised of the BNP, Dr Thabane's All Basotho Convention (ABC) and the Mothetjoa Metsing-led Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD).

Mr Mochoboroane, who was then LCD secretary general, served as Communications Minister in the first Thabane-led coalition from 2012 to 2015.

Addressing the BNP rally on Sunday, Mr Mofomobe urged the electorate to rally behind his party. He warned the nation against being misled into thinking that Messrs Mochoboroane and Mokhothu had the right credentials to lead the country out of the current socio-economic challenges.

"Dear nationalists, let us work towards growing the BNP and stop fooling yourselves because these congress idiots will take advantage you," said Mr Mofomobe, who polled 276 votes to beat former incumbent, Joang Molapo. Chief Molapo only managed 120 votes at last month's BNP elective conference and consequently lost the deputy leader's post to Mr Mofomobe.

"We cannot let the Mochoboroane the rebel and Mokhothu the thief set agendas for this country by claiming they can be better leaders. We all know that Mochoboroane rebelled against the Prime Minister (Thabane) during our previous government when he was fired from the Communications Minister's post and he (Mochoboroane) used soldiers to defy the premier's orders. Are we that naïve to have a rebel like Mochoboroane dictate to us?

"I asked him (Mochoboroane) recently in parliament that when (Sub-Inspector Mokheseng) Ramahloko was killed (on 30 August 2014) after he (Mochoboroane) had shut down the radio stations whether he had ever visited the Ramahloko family to apologise. He asked me to go outside so he could teach me a lesson. I did not go but the God that I serve taught him a lesson instead.

"During the recent fracas in parliament, he (Mochoboroane) was hit by a blunt object which caused him to crawl like a goat as he was trying to fight for his life," Mr Mofomobe said in reference to the recent nasty clashes in parliament where Mr Mochoboroane sustained a head injury for which he had to seek medical help.

A fierce brawl erupted during the 28 November 2019 parliamentary session after deputy speaker of parliament Teboho Lehloenya moved to suspend two MPs -- Likeleli Tampane and Serialong Qoo -- for rowdy behaviour in the House.

Opposition legislators had been angered by Mr Phori's failure to table proposed amendments to its restrictive wool and mohair regulations. They then resorted to disrupting proceedings.

Immense chaos followed and the various MPs started exchanging blows and trashing furniture. In the ensuing ruckus, Agriculture and Food Security minister Litšoane Litšoane was hit on the head and landed on the floor.

By the time the melee ended, Messrs Litšoane and Mochoboroane were bleeding from head injuries.

And Mr Phori, whose delay in tabling the amendments to the restrictive wool and mohair regulations sparked the chaos in parliament, had no kind words for Mr Mochoboroane and other opposition leaders, saying they should not be entrusted with the reins of power.

He went further than just labelling Mr Mochoboroane as "a rebel who had rebelled" against the first coalition. The outspoken Small Business Minister told this publication that "it is public knowledge that Mochoboroane is one of the people who were named in the treason case".

"This guy Mochoboroane, the leader of MEC, was sacked by the man with all the power to say 'you are no longer minister' (Dr Thabane) and he said no to that. He (Mochoboroane) went and joined forces with the army to destabilise the country. He was the Minister of Communications then. You know the radio stations went blank and one policeman was murdered. This is a man who is incriminated in such acts; do you think can lead this country?

"The leader of opposition in parliament (Mr Mokhothu) has a record. He was accused and convicted. He was chowing the money for an HIV/AIDS project. So if you cannot be trusted with the money of patients, what about the money of people who are not patients," Mr Phori said.

He said even if the attempted coup happened five years ago, Mr Mochoboroane and others would still be charged with treason.

"If you are following what is happening in the country then you will know that after we (ABC, BNP and RCL leaders) returned from exile (in South Africa in 2017), there have been processes that we have had to go through. We have been advised by the international community to appoint foreign judges and we have done that. The soldiers who were involved (in the attempted coup) are behind bars and their cases are now being heard. That tells you that Mochoboroane will have his time in court. His time will come," Mr Phori said yesterday.

Mr Mochoboroane was not reachable on his mobile phone when the Lesotho Times called him for comment on Messrs Phori and Mofomobe's utterances. On his part, Mr Mokhothu said he was not bothered by the accusations against him as he said that he had not been found guilty of any crime despite the ministers' claims.

"I have never killed anyone. I have never been involved in any improper government tender or wool and mohair where Basotho were robbed of millions like some ministers. I do not play dirty politics of insulting other people to campaign for the DC. "Even if they (Messrs Phori and Mofomobe) talk trash they should brace themselves because I am going to rule them," Mr Mokhothu said yesterday.

Messrs Phori and Mofomobe's comments come barely a month after South African Advocate Shaun Abrahams, who has been hired as the lead prosecutor in the high profile criminal trials of former army commander, Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli, and others, asked Botswana judge, Justice Onkemetse Tshosa, for more time to prepare and prefer more charges in connection with the attempted coup of 30 August 2014.

Adv Abrahams also said the state wanted to add more suspects.

Justice Tshosa subsequently granted Adv Abrahams' request to prefer the additional charges and add more suspects after Adv Abrahams told him that he and the police were still busy compiling the charges which he said "revolved around 29 and 30 August 2014 which was an evening and morning of mayhem".

Although Adv Abrahams did not elaborate on the charges, judicial sources told the Lesotho Times that the state wants to press treason charges.

"The state wants to prefer treason charges against Lt-Gen Kamoli and others who were involved in the attempted coup of 2014. This has been a long time coming because the state wanted to ensure that it had a water-tight case before proceeding. The state even engaged a private law firm to study the events of 29 to 30 August 2014 and prepare its legal opinion on the issue," a source within the judiciary told this publication this week.

Another source told this publication that the government wanted to press the treason charges as per its undertaking to Southern African Development Community (SADC) heads of state at a Double Troika Summit in Luanda, Angola in April 2018

At that summit, the government presented its report on the political and security situation in Lesotho and indicated that treason charges would preferred on the suspects "who include some soldiers who are already in custody facing other charges".

"The investigation into the treason case where radio stations were closed and the State House invaded by the army, where the Right Honourable Prime Minister Dr Thabane narrowly escaped and skipped the country, is almost complete.

"It is pending the arrest of the suspects and joining others who are already in the Maseru Central Correctional Institution awaiting trial for various other charges who will also be formally charged before courts of law for treason," the government said in its report.

Lt-Gen Kamoli is currently in custody at the Maximum Security Prison and among other cases, he is awaiting a murder trial in connection with the 30 August 2014 killing of Police Sub-Inspector, Mokheseng Ramahloko.

Sub-Inspector Ramahloko was shot and killed by soldiers during the attempted coup of August 2014 at the Police Headquarters in Maseru. The soldiers who allegedly acted on the instructions of the then army commander, Lt-Gen Kamoli, also raided several other police stations in Maseru and seized an assortment of weapons.

Three other army officers namely, Captain Litekanyo Nyakane (38), Lance Corporal Motloheloa Ntsane (34) and Lance Corporal Leutsoa Motsieloa (31) are charged with Lt-Gen Kamoli in the murder of Sub-Inspector Ramahloko. The three are in detention with Lt-Gen Kamoli at the Maseru Maximum Prison.

Last year, the Lesotho Times obtained a confidential report prepared by a leading law firm commissioned by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to help in formulating the charges to be preferred against all the culprits involved in the 30 August 2014 attempted coup.

The report shows that at least three cabinet ministers in the first Thabane coalition, which ruled from 2012 to 2015, and 15 Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) officers will face a plethora of charges, including treason, for their part in the 30 August 2014 events. The Lesotho Times is nonetheless withholding publishing their names for professional reasons.

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