Op­po­si­tion protests tar­get First Lady

Lesotho Times - - News - Lim­pho Sello

OP­PO­SI­TION fe­male politi­cians this week chose the Man­thabiseng Con­ven­tion Cen­tre — the venue of the 12th Stop Cer­vi­cal, Breast and Prostate Can­cers in Africa Con­fer­ence and Ex­hi­bi­tion (SCCA) con­fer­ence — to stage protests against the Thomas Tha­bane-led ad­min­is­tra­tion.

The pro­tes­tors car­ried plac­ards out­side the venue of the con­fer­ence which brought to­gether first ladies and other del­e­gates from dif­fer­ent African coun­tries.

They said they were un­happy with the Tha­bane regime’s fail­ure to ad­dress sev­eral is­sues which in­clude the re­cent ‘dis­ap­pear­ance’ of the fraud-ac­cused ‘Makarabo Mo­jakhomo and the June 2017 mur­der of the for­mer First Lady, Lipolelo Tha­bane.

The First Lady, ‘Mae­sa­iah Tha­bane, hosted the SCCA con­fer­ence which be­gan on Sun­day and ended yes­ter­day.

Ms Tha­bane was made chair­per­son of the Fo­rum of African First Ladies against Cer­vi­cal, Breast and Prostate Can­cers at the of­fi­cial open­ing cer­e­mony of the chair of the SCCA in Maseru on Mon­day.

And even as the First Lady and the del­e­gates dis­cussed strate­gies to com­bat the deadly scourge of can­cer which kills at least eight mil­lion peo­ple an­nu­ally across the world, the op­po­si­tion was protest­ing out­side the venue of the de­lib­er­a­tions.

The Le­sotho Times wit­nessed the protests of the fe­male politi­cians who car­ried plac­ards list­ing sev­eral griev­ances which the gov­ern­ment had al­legedly failed to ad­dress.

The pro­tes­tors, who num­bered eight, were drawn from the Demo­cratic Congress (DC) and the Le­sotho Congress of Democ­racy (LCD).

Among the griev­ances was the is­sue of Ms Mo­jakhomo who al­legedly dis­ap­peared from po­lice cus­tody in May this year and Ms Lipolelo Tha­bane who was shot dead by un­known gun­men in June 2017.

Senqu Con­stituency leg­is­la­tor who is also the sec­re­tary of the DC Women’s League, Likeleli Tam­pane, told the Le

sotho Times that they thought it best to picket out­side the venue of the can­cer con­fer­ence af­ter the gov­ern­ment ig­nored their re­peated ef­forts to ad­dress their griev­ances.

Ms Tam­pane said they chose the venue in the hope that they would at­tract the at­ten­tion of Dr Tha­bane and Ms Tha­bane.

She said while the op­po­si­tion re­garded the SCCA con­fer­ence as a good ini­tia­tive which they fully sup­ported, they how­ever, wanted Ms Tha­bane to know that they were un­happy with her be­hav­iour which they said was not in keep­ing with what was ex­pected of a first lady.

“We held sev­eral press con­fer­ences and even wrote let­ters to the au­thor­i­ties where we raised our con­cerns about the dis­ap­pear­ance of Makarabo Mo­jakhomo, the death of Lipolelo Tha­bane, the re­view of teacher’s and fac­tory work­ers’ salar­ies as well as the lack of free­dom of speech for op­po­si­tion MPS,” Ms Tam­pane said.

“I for one, am be­ing threat­ened for be­ing vo­cal and speak­ing for our free­dom and rights in this coun­try. We are very wor­ried.

“Our pleas have been taken for granted for far too long and we had to find al­ter­na­tive ways of get­ting the an­swers we de­serve and the free­dom we need as cit­i­zens of Le­sotho.

“We also thought that (bring­ing the protest to the venue of the con­fer­ence) was right as we would help the First Lady to find her­self and know what she should stand for as the First Lady.”

Ms Tha­bane has al­ready been sub­poe­naed by the Mo­jakhomo fam­ily to tes­tify in the case they lodged be­fore the High Court in which they want the court to order the po­lice pro­duce Ms Mo­jakhomo dead or alive.

Ms Mo­jakhomo was last seen by her rel­a­tives at the Po­lice Head­quar­ters in Maseru on 30 May 2018 where she was de­tained for al­legedly de­fraud­ing the ‘Mae­sa­iah Tha­bane Trust Fund of at least M200 000.

Ms Mo­jakhomo was ar­rested on 29 May this year and she was due in court on 31 May in con­nec­tion with the fraud and theft of at least M200 000 from First Lady Mae­sa­iah Tha­bane’s Trust Fund.

She could not ap­pear in court af­ter the po­lice claimed she had es­caped from cus­tody while they were pre­par­ing to take her to court.

But Ms Mo­jakhomo’s fam­ily have come out guns blaz­ing in­sist­ing there is no way that she could have bro­ken out of tightly guarded po­lice cells. The fam­ily has since pe­ti­tioned the High Court for an order for the po­lice to pro­duce her dead or alive.

The fam­ily has cited so­cial me­dia re­ports that she could have been mur­dered by the po­lice as one of the rea­sons for its bid to have her pro­duced be­fore the court.

The gov­ern­ment has said that it is still in­ves­ti­gat­ing the mur­der of Ms Lipolelo Tha­bane.

Ms Lipolelo Tha­bane was shot dead by an un­known as­sailant as she was about to drive into her Ha ‘Masana home on 14 June 2017. The in­ci­dent oc­curred just two days be­fore Dr Tha­bane’s in­au­gu­ra­tion as prime min­is­ter.

Thato Si­bolla, a com­pan­ion of Ms Tha­bane, also sus­tained se­ri­ous in­juries in the shoot­ing.

Ac­cord­ing to the gov­ern­ment re­port to the SADC heads of state, a spe­cial team was set up on 16 June 2017 to in­ves­ti­gate the mur­der of Ms Tha­bane and the at­tempted mur­der of Ms Si­bolla.

“The team (of in­ves­ti­ga­tors) has con­ducted in­ter­views with in­di­vid­u­als, friends, rel­a­tives and pos­si­ble wit­nesses. A post-mortem was also car­ried out and a ‘lead’ was dis­cov­ered from the de­ceased body (of Ms Tha­bane) and was also sub­mit­ted to the bal­lis­tics. Another ‘lead’ was dis­cov­ered from the lady (Ms Si­bolla) while she was hos­pi­talised and was also sub­mit­ted to the bal­lis­tics. In­ves­ti­ga­tions are on-go­ing,” the gov­ern­ment said in its re­port.

And this week, Ms Tam­pane said they sus­pect “Ms Mae­sa­iah Tha­bane knows about Mo­jakhomo’s dis­ap­pear­ance and Mme Lipolelo’s death”.

“We also sus­pect that teach­ers’ nurs- es and fac­tory work­ers salar­ies are not be­ing re­viewed be­cause the funds have been di­verted to the Mae­sa­iah Tha­bane Trust Fund. We also see her (Ms Tha­bane) hold­ing par­ties ev­ery week­end at the State House.”

Ms Tam­pane fur­ther said they were wor­ried about Ms Tha­bane’s be­hav­iour of “in­sult­ing and as­sault­ing women”. Ms Tam­pane also al­leged that Ms Tha­bane also in­sulted doc­tors and nurses.

This was in ref­er­ence to last week’s in­ci­dent in which Ms Tha­bane was in­volved in a phys­i­cal al­ter­ca­tion with a Ha Tšolo (Maseru) woman at Maseru Pri­vate Hospi­tal.

Ms Tha­bane al­legedly beat up the woman, ’Man­thatisi Mabuthile, af­ter a mis­un­der­stand­ing over the woman’s sis­ter who was hit by one of the First Lady’s of­fice cars which was trans­port­ing her staff from a can­cer aware­ness road show that was held in prepa­ra­tion for the SCCA.

The First Lady’s of­fice has nonethe­less de­nied that she started the fight. Her al­leged vic­tim, ‘Man­thatisi Mabuthile, nonethe­less in­sists that she did.

On his part, the Of­fice of the First Lady’s Public Re­la­tions Man­ager, Si­las Mony­atsi, said the pro­tes­tors were sim­ply ex­er­cis­ing their right of free­dom of speech.

“Those women were pick­et­ing in the street and they didn’t pe­ti­tion the of­fice of the First Lady so it is dif­fi­cult for me to com­ment on their con­cerns.

“I think they were very se­ri­ous about what they were do­ing but I will not as­so­ciate their is­sues with the Of­fice of the First Lady be­cause they did not ap­proach the of­fice.

“Again, they did not in­ter­rupt the con­fer­ence as they were just out there on the street show­ing of their con­cerns,” Mr Mony­atsi said.

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