EXCLUSIVE: I'm going back home but I fear for my life, says Lesotho's exiled ex-PM Tom Thabane

Cape Town – Lesotho's former prime minister Tom Thabane says he fears for his life as he prepares to return to the mountainous kingdom after two years of self-imposed exile in South Africa.

Thabane said this while confirming during an interview with News24 that he was set to head back home on Sunday.

He maintained that although the risk on his life was "still there", he wanted to find lasting solutions to the country's political instability.

"I am taking a huge risk by going back to Lesotho. The threat on my life is still there. However, politics is a risky business. You cannot try to take someone's position in leadership and expect them to sit down and do nothing," said Thabane.

Lesotho plunged into a political crisis following the 2014 failed coup attempt by an army general.

The then army commander, Tlali Kamoli, who mounted a brief coup against Thabane appeared to have launched a campaign to get rid of his [Thabane's] loyalists, reports said.

Renewed political and security crisis 

Thabane fired Kamoli as Lesotho Defence Force commander after the failed coup.

But following Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili's victory in the tightly contested elections in February 2015, Kamoli was reinstated.

Soon after Kamoli's reinstatement, a former army general  Maaparankoe Mahao who was close to Thabane was killed by the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) in his village home on the outskirts of Maseru. 

The troops were said to have been linked to Kamoli. This plunged the country into renewed political and security crisis. 

Thabane was then once again forced to flee the country, claiming he had been tipped off about a plot to kill him.

Thabane, who is the leader of all Basotho Convention, fled the country together with Basotho National Party leader Thesele Maseribane and Reformed Congress of Lesotho leader Keketso Rantso, in May 2015. They all said they feared for their lives.

The three, at the time, vowed not to return until Kamoli, who consequently retired in December, was removed.

"You see, we cannot [continue to] be scared. Great men like Nelson Mandela also faced such a risk in their life when he challenged the apartheid government. So I would be going back home this coming Sunday to speak to my people personally," said Thabane.

Grand coalition 

He, however, said that he was not yet in a position to confirm whether he was moving back to the country permanently. 

"I have transported some of my belongings to Lesotho. However, we can never be certain on how long we are going to stay, we have to be prudent," he said. 

The latest development came after the Deputy leader of prime minister Mosisili's Democratic Congress party - Monyane Moleleki and 10 out of the 16 members of the NEC - announced on November 10 that they were withdrawing from the governing coalition, and that they were set to invite other parties to a grand coalition of national unity.

"We have signed an agreement to work with Moleleki in getting our country back into order. We are going to table a motion of no confidence against the current prime minister and form our coalition.

"However, we have other options at our disposal. We  can call for early election, but, elections are going to be costly so we want to form a grand coalition for the next three years ," said Thabane. 

Thabane accused prime minister Mosisili of being unable to run the country, saying that he had failed to lead the military.

"The military is unstable, the current prime minister has failed to give the army directions, as a result it has gone AWOL. I am going back home to tell my people about what is happening in their country," said the ex-prime minister.

New thinking and necessary stability 

Meanwhile, the Lesotho Council of NGOs (LCN) expressed hope on the former prime minister's return to the mountainous kingdom.

LCN executive director Seabata Motsamai told News24 that the return of the exiled opposition leaders was going to be instrumental in bringing  the country back to stability.

"We believe that the coming back of all opposition leaders would bring in new thinking and the necessary stability. Their absence is one of the issues that have been aimed at antagonising the opposition parties. It had brought unnecessary tensions; therefore for them to come back it would strengthen the country's democracy," said Motsamai.

Motsamai, however, warned that the recent splits within the ruling coalition could further spread the political tensions in the country.

"As far as parliament is concerned they are a lot of tensions. There is high possibility that there would be early elections. But we do not want that, because elections can be [a] costly exercises." Motsamai said.

He said that Lesotho needed strong leadership which would rise above party politics.

"We need a kind of parliament that would work for our people, be effective in facing the challenges facing our country," Motsamai said. 

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