Op­po­si­tion lead­ers seek as­sy­lum

Lesotho Times - - Front Page - Bongiwe Zih­langu

LE­SOTHO’S three op­po­si­tion lead­ers who fled to South Africa two months ago fear­ing for their lives have al­legedly ap­plied for po­lit­i­cal asy­lum in that coun­try.

For­mer prime min­is­ter and All Ba­sotho Con­ven­tion (ABC) leader Thomas Tha­bane, his Ba­sotho Na­tional Party (BNP) and Re­formed Congress of Le­sotho ( RCL) coun­ter­parts The­sele ‘ Maserib­ane and Keketso Rantšo sought refuge in South Africa on 11, 13 and 26 May re­spec­tively, al­leg­ing they had been alerted of a plot to kill them by Le­sotho De­fence Force (LDF) mem­bers — an ac­cu­sa­tion gov­ern­ment has since de­nied.

How­ever, im­pec­ca­ble sources told the Le­sotho Times this week that the ex­iled politi­cians had since sought of­fi­cial pro­tec­tion from the South African gov­ern­ment due to the de­te­ri­o­rat­ing se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion in the coun­try.

Ac­cord­ing to the sources, last week’s fa­tal shoot­ing of for­mer LDF com­man­der Maa­parankoe Ma­hao by sol­diers who had come to ar­rest him for al­legedly plan­ning to over­throw the army lead­er­ship, was the ma­jor rea­son be­hind the lead­ers’ de­ci­sion.

Chief ‘ Maserib­ane was cagey when asked about the is­sue this week, and told the Le­sotho Times he could not say whether or not they had ap­plied for po­lit­i­cal refugee sta­tus.

How­ever, the BNP leader was quick to ad­mit their stay in South Africa was “only but a ca­sual ar­range­ment”.

“I can­not get into whether or not we will be seek­ing of­fi­cial po­lit­i­cal asy­lum or if we have done so al­ready. But what I can tell you is that our stay in this coun­try is but a ca­sual ar­range­ment, of which the South African gov­ern­ment is aware,” Chief ‘Maserib­ane said.

“As things stand, we’re un­der se­ri­ous se­cu­rity threat af­ter learn­ing that there are plans to as­sas­si­nate us and that peo­ple have been paid to kill us be­fore se­ri­ous talks about the se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion in Le­sotho get un­der­way.”

The Le­sotho Times could not im­me­di­ately get com­ments from Ms Rantšo and Dr Tha­bane on the is­sue, while South Africa’s High Com­mis­sioner to Le­sotho Sello Jele said he was not aware if the lead­ers had de­cided to ap­ply for asy­lum.

“All I know is that they are li­ais­ing with South African gov­ern­ment author­i­ties while in the coun­try. I ac­tu­ally asked one of them if they were con­sid­er­ing of­fi­cial asy­lum but he was not forth­com­ing,” Mr Jele said.

“But I be­lieve con­sid­er­a­tion for of­fi­cial po­lit­i­cal asy­lum in South Africa for the three lead­ers will be part of Fri­day’s SADC sum­mit agenda.”

The South­ern African De­vel­op­ment Com­mu­nity (SADC) Dou­ble Troika is hold­ing an ex­tra­or­di­nary sum­mit in Pre­to­ria to­mor­row where Le­sotho’s se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion would top the agenda.

The Dou­ble Troika com­prises lead­ers of Botswana, Demo­cratic Re­pub­lic of the Congo, Le­sotho, Malawi, Namibia, Tan­za­nia, South Africa and Zim­babwe.

Ac­cord­ing to Mr Jele, to­mor­row’s meet­ing would, among oth­ers, dis­cuss Le­sotho’s cur­rent se­cu­rity and po­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion, as well as pathol­o­gists’ re­ports on the death of Bri­gadier Ma­hao.

The Le­sotho Times un­der­stands three pa-

thol­o­gists — two pro­vided by SADC and one by the Ma­hao fam­ily — would con­duct the au­topsy in Bloem­fontein, South Africa to­day, and their find­ings dis­cussed at Fri­day’s Sum­mit.

“The Sum­mit will be held in Pre­to­ria on Fri­day, with Le­sotho’s is­sues such as the pathol­o­gists’ re­ports on Ma­hao’s death and the state of the three ex­iled lead­ers dom­i­nat­ing the agenda,” Mr Jele said.

How­ever, Mr Jele also told the Le­sotho Times that although Bri­gadier Ma­hao’s death would form part of the agenda, it should be noted that to­mor­row’s Sum­mit was planned “long be­fore his death”.

“How­ever, now that it has hap­pened, the death will form part of the meet­ing’s agenda,” Mr Jele said.

“The Ex­tra­or­di­nary Sum­mit was called to dis­cuss Le­sotho’s is­sues. The cur­rent se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion has cul­mi­nated in Ma­hao’s death and now there are con­flict­ing state­ments on what tran­spired.

“There is the of­fi­cial line, that of stake­hold­ers and another from the Ma­hao fam­ily. So the sum­mit would be dis­cussing the is­sue.”

Mean­while, asked about to­mor­row’s SADC meet­ing, Chief ‘Maserib­ane said he was aware of it adding how­ever, that the op­po­si­tion had not been in­vited to at­tend.

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