/ 18 January 2008

Lesotho claims to uncover plot to kill ministers

The government of Lesotho believes it has uncovered a plot by opposition political parties to assassinate some government ministers and business people, government spokesperson Mothejoa Metsing said on Friday.

Speaking on state-owned Lesotho Television and Radio Lesotho, Metsing said the government had uncovered a plot that was allegedly to take place during a planned mass work boycott in February.

”I have a list of the names of government ministers and some business people who are going to be attacked by members of some opposition political parties during the planned stayaway from work beginning next month,” he said.

”I will not reveal the names of the targeted ministers and business people. The business people are targeted for assassination because they did not support the last stayaway from work called by some opposition political parties,” his statement continued.

The last stayaway from work was called by the five main opposition political parties in December last year. These parties are known as the ”big five” and are made up of the All Basotho Convention (ABC), the Alliance of Congress Parties, the Basotho National Party, the Marematlou Freedom Party and the National Independent Party.

The statement, seen by many as the possible start of further political tension, did not say on which date this was supposed to happen.

One of the leaders of the ABC and the Lesotho Workers’ Party (LWP) alliance, Macaefa Billy, denied any knowledge of the allegations.

”I have heard the statement on radio. We know nothing about those allegations. We are surprised,” he said.

Efforts to get the comment of the leader of the main opposition ABC, Tom Thabane, were not possible as he was attending his late brother’s funeral outside the capital, Maseru.

The last stayaway from work was called by the big five in early December last year as part of the ongoing protests over what they termed an ”unjustified” allocation of 40 proportional seats in the country’s 120-member Parliament following February 2007 snap elections.

The elections were won by the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD).

Since the February 2007 snap elections, the kingdom, totally surrounded by South Africa and with an estimated population of 1,8-million and the third highest HIV/Aids infection rate in the world, has experienced political instability.

The political instability was fuelled by the opposition parties’ protests over the allocation of the 40 proportional parliamentary seats by the Independent Electoral Commission, allegedly in collusion with the ruling LCD.

This led to incidents of kidnapping, torture and illegal detention of some members of opposition political parties, harassment of the media and threats to the members of the judiciary. — Sapa