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.
Speaking to City Press on Friday, 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.
Metsing said Mosito was impeached last year following a tribunal, and his return to the helm of the supreme court of the land could compromise the integrity and independence of the judiciary.
The opposition was also worried about:
. The death of Thelingoane Mota of the Koro Koro constituency. Police allegedly shot him for wearing opposition party regalia.
. The alleged assault of police superintendent Lerato Motseki following public briefings she gave about the investigations into the murder of Thabane’s wife Lipolelo. Metsing alleged he was on a hit list on which Lipolelo was number one.
. The appointment of a director of the National Security Service, who was an active member of the Basotho National Party. Metsing claimed this was a direct violation of the Constitution, which prohibits officers in the service from being actively involved in party politics.
During an interview with the SABC on Morning Live on Friday, Lesotho Public Service Minister Thesele Maseribane urged Metsing to return home. He said the government planned to send a delegation to meet him in SA and that he would not be harmed.
Metsing welcomed the development, but said he received no communication from Lesotho.
“He must say I guarantee that I will be safe and detail concrete steps they are taking to guarantee my safety,” Metsing said.