Tha­bane re­jects army pro­tec­tion

Lesotho Times - - Front Page - Keiso Mohloboli

For­mer Prime Min­is­ter, Thomas Tha­bane, has re­jected Le­sotho De­fence Force (LDF) se­cu­rity, which was sup­posed to be part of his re­tire­ment benefits.

Among other benefits, Dr Tha­bane was— who re­lin­quished the premier­ship on Tues­day last week—was en­ti­tled to a gov­ern­ment ve­hi­cle, driver, diplo­matic pass­port, free med­i­cal aid and body­guards from the LDF.

How­ever, due to his frosty re­la­tion­ship with the LDF which he ac­cused of try­ing to over­throw his gov­ern­ment in Au­gust last year, prompt­ing his es­cape to South Africa, Dr Tha­bane yes­ter­day con­firmed that he would rather have the po­lice pro­tect­ing him than the army now that he was “an or­di­nary vil­lager”.

The Le­sotho Times has also been re­li­ably in­formed that Dr Tha­bane had since writ­ten a let­ter to gov­ern­ment sec­re­tary, Moahloli Mphaka, that he would pre­fer his se­cu­rity to be pro­vided by the Le­sotho Mounted Po­lice Ser­vice and not the LDF as has been the tra­di­tion with the coun­try’s for­mer heads of gov­ern­ment.

The let­ter, dated 22 March 2015, and head­lined ‘Prime Min­is­ter and Deputy Prime Min­is­ter Re­tire­ment and Spouses Ben­e­fit’, reads: “ref­er­ence is made to the afore­men­tioned Act, es­pe­cially Sec­tion 8 (1) (a) thereof. I wish to ad­vise your good of­fice of my pref­er­ence to have the LMPS to pro­vide se­cu­rity ser­vices to my­self as for­mer prime min­is­ter. I will ap­pre­ci­ate it if the mat­ter is ad­dressed ur­gently”.

Gov­ern­ment Sec­re­tary Mphaka, yes­ter­day con­firmed re­ceiv­ing the let­ter from Dr Tha­bane, and in­form­ing the Min­istry of De­fence Prin­ci­pal Sec­re­tary, Thato Mo­ha­soa and the Po­lice Min­istry Prin­ci­pal Sec­re­tary, Re­filoe Matekane, about the re­quest.

Mr Mphaka said: “Tra­di­tion­ally, VIPS (Very Im­por­tant Per­sons) are se­cured by the LDF VIP Depart­ment but if such a per­son re­quests oth­er­wise, then he or she would have the op­tion to choose the se­cu­rity of his or her choice.

“I am aware that the two prin­ci­pal sec­re­taries have since dis­cussed the is­sue and Dr Tha­bane is cur­rently be­ing guarded by the po­lice as per his re­quest.”

De­fence PS, Mr Mo­ha­soa also con­firmed re­ceiv­ing Dr Tha­bane’s re­quest.

“We can’t deny the fact that Dr Tha­bane had a dif­fi­cult re­la­tion­ship with the LDF dur­ing his ten­ure and prob­a­bly feels more com­fort­able with the po­lice guard­ing him than the army,” Mr Mo­ha­soa said.

Con­tacted yes­ter­day about his “un­usual” re­quest for this de­par­ture from the norm, Dr Tha­bane, who was be­ing guarded by South African se­cu­rity agents since re­turn­ing from South Africa on 3 Septem­ber last year fol­low­ing his “es­cape”, was diplo­matic in his re­sponse.

“I have de­cided to work with the po­lice and not the army. Sol­diers and the po­lice are just the same; they are all public ser­vants and not dif­fer­ent in any way.

“How­ever, I want to leave the army to guard the Prime Min­is­ter as head of gov­ern­ment; you know, I don’t want to ap­pear as though I am in com­pe­ti­tion with him in any way. The po­lice are also a bit com­pas­sion­ate com­pared to the army. I’m an or­di­nary vil­lager now , which is why I asked for a more civil­ian in­sti­tu­tion like the po­lice to guard me and not the army.

“The po­lice are a more peo­ple-ori­ented in­sti­tu­tion and in my new sta­tus as an or­di­nary vil­lager, I see no rea­son to have such tough se­cu­rity as the LDF around me.

“What I plead with you is that you should note that I love Le­sotho; I am a leader and prob­a­bly the long­est serv­ing public ser­vant in this coun­try. In ac­tual fact, there hasn’t been any longer-serv­ing prin­ci­pal sec­re­tary than me, so it should be known that I make th­ese choices to make things eas­ier for the prime min­is­ter; in the best in­ter­est of my coun­try.

“I’m say­ing this from the bot­tom of my heart and I’m not play­ing pol­i­tics here. I gen­uinely don’t need a tough army guard around me. It has noth­ing to do with what­ever dif­fer­ences we may have had in the past,” Dr Tha­bane said.

Dr Tha­bane was re­placed as pre­mier by Demo­cratic Congress ( DC) leader, Pakalitha Mo­sisili, whose in­au­gu­ra­tion was on 17 March 2015.

This was af­ter his All Ba­sotho Con­ven­tion (ABC) and its ally, the Ba­sotho Na­tional Party (BNP), had failed to win 61-plus seats of the 120 Na­tional As­sem­bly seats on of­fer dur­ing the 28 Fe­bru­ary 2015 snap elec­tions.

The elec­tions, which came two years ahead of sched­ule, were prompted by the col­lapse of the ABC, BNP and Le­sotho Congress for Democ­racy (LCD), which came to power af­ter the 26 May 2012 elec­tions had pro­duced a hung par­lia­ment.

How­ever, the al­liance failed to last its fiveyear term due to a power-strug­gle be­tween Dr Tha­bane and his deputy, Mo­thetjoa Mets­ing.

FOR­MER Prime Min­is­ter tom tha­bane (left) ar­rives at Maseru Bridge bor­der post un­der heavy se­cu­rity in this septem­ber 2014 pic.

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