Lesotho opposition leaders who were exiled in South Africa for more than a year and a half have finally arrived home.

Former Prime Minister and ABC Leader Tom Thabane, BNP Leader Thesele Maseribane, and RCL Leader Keketso Rantso entered the Maseru border between the two countries amid tight security and a heavy police presence.

They were welcomed by SADC Facilitator for Lesotho Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and then by tens of thousands of their supporters.

Motorbike convoys are signature pomp for former Prime Minister Tom Thabane’s All Basotho Convention.

He, BNP Leader Thesele Maseribane and RCL Leader Keketso Rantso touched home soil for the first time in nearly two years.

SADC Facilitator for Lesotho, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa travelled to Lesotho to meet them.

“We are here as SADC to welcome the leaders back – Ntate (Sesotho word for Mr) Thabane, Ntate Maseribane le Mme (Sesotho word for Ms) Keke. We welcome them back and this is in fulfilment of a decision that was taken by SADC Troika in June last year that said it would be desirable for the three leaders to come back to Lesotho,” says Ramaphosa.

I’m scared, what is happening in Lesotho is scary

However, it is supporters who came in their tens of thousands, who made them decide to come back, despite their doubts about security. “ Contrary to what was our expectation we have come back by ourselves, we don’t have regional protection and yet the people who want to kill us are still here, we have decided that if we live we will live in our country if we die we will die in our country,” says ABC leader Tom Thabane.

This is a promise he also made to his supporters

“Go and tell them that, that short man from Makhoakhoeng is back. I’ll never run away from another man again, ever.”

BNP leader Thesele Maseribane thanked South Africa for allowing them to stay in the country.

“We have survived in the last two years; I have just listened to your statement that SADC will be on the ground with the reforms. We thank you for letting us stay in South Africa, I know that some people said we were kicked out it is not true. We are home because we wanted to come home.”

Rantso says she fears for her safety.

“I’m happy, I’m excited but I’m scared, what is happening in Lesotho is scary, you have to look back and see that if the government has promised us security they are doing that.”

Their absence was not only felt in politics, and their supporters and families are equally jubilant. The returning leaders vow to fast track processes including a motion of no confidence to unseat Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili when parliament reconvenes on 24 February. This could trigger another election, and the SADC Oversight Committee will continue to keep an eye on Lesotho. The issue of possible fresh elections is a matter that will have to be decided by the people of Lesotho, by government and his majesty the king. SADC can only deal with a given situation once it arises. We can only deal with that to see whether it poses any form of instability in a country that we have been assisting to return to stability,” says Ramaphosa.
For now the return of the opposition leaders is cause for jubilation but they are expected to weigh in on the constitutional and security reforms that the country is currently undertaking, closely monitored by SADC.

– By Nthakoana Ngatane