ABC, BNP and RCL sup­port­ers chant slo­gans dur­ing a joint protest in Maseru on Tues­day. –

. . . give govt seven days to ad­dress se­cu­rity con­cerns or face more protests

Lesotho Times - - Front Page - Billy Ntaote

OP­PO­SI­TION youths on Tues­day de­fied po­lice or­ders to re-sched­ule their protest march, with the stand­off threat­en­ing to de­gen­er­ate into open con­fronta­tion.

The march was sup­posed to start at ‘ Mathabiseng Con­ven­tion Cen­tre and end at King Moshoeshoe i Mon­u­ment Park in Maseru, where the youths hoped to sub­mit a pe­ti­tion to Prime Min­is­ter Pakalitha Mo­sisili.

The youths, who be­longed to the All Ba­sotho Con­ven­tion (ABC), Ba­sotho Na­tional Party (BNP) and Re­formed Congress of Le­sotho (RCL), wanted to protest the “de­te­ri­o­rat­ing” se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion in the coun­try and gov­ern­ment’s fail­ure to con­vince their lead­ers — who fled to South Africa last month fear­ing for their lives — to re­turn and that they would be safe.

How­ever, no sooner had the youths gath­ered out­side the in­sti­tute for Ex­tra Mu­ral Stud­ies (IEMS) at around 9am than they were told the pro­posed march was no longer go­ing to start at the nearby Con­ven­tion Cen­tre but Pope John Paul ii Mon­u­ment in Lower Thet­sane — about a kilo­me­tre away.

The change of plan at such short no­tice did not go down well with the chant­ing youths, who were clad in their dif­fer­ent party re­galia, and geared for the march.

With the youths con­tin­u­ing their chant­ing while the po­lice kept a close watch, Maseru Ur­ban Dis­trict Com­mis­sioner of Po­lice, Se­nior Su­per­in­ten­dent Tšeliso Tšita, came to the scene and warned them against hold­ing the march from Con­ven­tion Cen­tre.

“The BNP Youth League ap­plied for a per­mit to hold a protest march to­day, and in line with the laws of Le­sotho, my of­fice agreed to that re­quest, guided by the Public Meet­ings and Pro­ces­sions Act 2010. But on Fri­day, our of­fice was forced by cir­cum­stances to make changes re­gard­ing the march.

“The law gives me the power to change venues for your gath­er­ing and the routes to be used and the time for the march,” he said.

Snr Supt Tšita em­pha­sised the po­lice had de­cided to change the route and time of the march in the in­ter­est of the gen­eral public and the protesters them­selves.

“Be­cause of what i have just noted, my of­fice ended up is­su­ing a new per­mit, so you should be at Pope John Paul ii Mon­u­ment and not here and that march should have started at 9am, and now it’s way past that time.

“So based on the law, this gath­er­ing is illegal as you have not ob­served the per­mit reg­u­la­tions,” said Snr Supt Tšita as he or­dered the youths to dis­perse.

But in­stead of re­lo­cat­ing to Pope John Paul ii Mon­u­ment, the youths de­cided to march to the BNP Cen­tre in the Maseru Cen­tral Busi­ness Dis­trict, with the po­lice still keep­ing a close watch on their ac­tions.

in fact, at some point, it ap­peared the po­lice would block the marchers but even­tu­ally let them pro­ceed to the city cen­tre via the Main South Road, block­ing ve­hi­cles and caus­ing may­hem at the Main Traf­fic Cir­cle where some sat on the tar­mac as if dar­ing law-en­force­ment agents to at­tack them. And to their credit, the po­lice, some in an­tiriot gear, still kept their dis­tance un­til the youths even­tu­ally left the Traf­fic Cir­cle and went past the Cen­tral Park un­til they reached the BNP Cen­tre, where they were ad­dressed by BNP Youth League spokesper­son Manama Letsie. Letsie read the pe­ti­tion the youths were sup­posed to sub­mit to Dr Mo­sisili and De­fence min­is­ter Mr Tšeliso Mokhosi.

The pe­ti­tion read: “We ap­peal that the prime min­is­ter takes our con­cerns se­ri­ously and re­spond within seven days; your fail­ure to re­spond would re­sult in our re­sort­ing to other means of con­tin­u­ing our protest.

“We would want to see your gov­ern­ment, Mr Prime Min­is­ter, work for the re­turn of op­po­si­tion party lead­ers, (ABC leader and for­mer prime min­is­ter Thomas Tha­bane, BNP leader The­sele ‘Maserib­ane and RCL leader Keketso Rantšo) who fled the coun­try last month as they feared their lives were in dan­ger. We also want Lieu­tenant Gen­eral Tlali Kamoli re­moved from of­fice as com­man­der of the Le­sotho De­fence Force (LDF) and also want to see Khothatso Tšooana re­in­stated as Po­lice Com­mis­sioner.

“We would also like to see all those sus­pected of com­mit­ting crime brought be­fore the courts and again, we de­mand that mem­bers of the LDF re­spect the ju­di­ciary.

Letsie em­pha­sised se­cu­rity had be­come cause for anx­i­ety to Ba­sotho.

“The first is­sue is lack of se­cu­rity in the coun­try. We are deeply con­cerned by the cir­cum­stances that re­sulted in our lead­ers flee­ing the coun­try; they fled the coun­try as a re­sult of as­sas­si­na­tion threats by cer­tain se­cu­rity agents.

“We im­plore your gov­ern­ment to see to it that our lead­ers re­turn to Le­sotho and that they are is­sued the guards they need.”

Ac­cord­ing to Letsie, the is­sue of Lt Gen Kamoli, who was fired by Dr Tha­bane in Au­gust 2014 for al­leged in­sub­or­di­na­tion but re­in­stated by Dr Mo­sisili last month, still needed to be ad­dressed.

“The de­ci­sion by the gov­ern­ment, through Tšeliso Mokhosi as the Min­is­ter of De­fence and Na­tional Se­cu­rity, to re­in­state Lt Gen Tlali Kamoli, the shock­ing killing of Thabiso Tšosane, a prom­i­nent busi­ness­man who was also a mem­ber of the ABC, the de­mo­tion of Maa­parankoe Ma­hao as LDF com­man­der and im­mi­nent forced re­tire­ment of Po­lice Com­mis­sioner Khothatso Tšooana, are also wor­ri­some.

“Again, we con­tinue to wit­ness sol­diers be­ing ab­ducted by their col­leagues, and we be­lieve that Lt Gen Tlali Kamoli wants to have his own per­sonal army in­side the LDF. This is go­ing to re­sult in the LDF be­ing turned into a party mili­tia by the rul­ing par­ties.

“We sus­pect those fin­gered in the bomb­ings of three Maseru homes in Jan­uary 2014 and the at­tempted coup of 30 Au­gust 2014 are the ones spear­head­ing these ab­duc­tions of the sol­diers.

“We are also con­cerned that there is no more rule of law in the coun­try as a re­sult of crim­i­nal cases against sol­diers that are not be­ing pros­e­cuted. There is also a with­drawal of cor­rup­tion cases against min­is­ters, with­out clear ex­pla­na­tion.

“We are also shocked that sol­diers have been re­cently des­e­crat­ing the deco­rum of the courts by en­ter­ing these in­sti­tu­tions hid­ing their faced with bal­a­clavas and in­sult­ing on­look­ers. What wors­ened the sce­nario was an in­ci­dent whereby the wife of one de­tained soldier was slapped by a com­mando at the High Court and noth­ing was done about it,” said Letsie.

Mean­while, BNP deputy leader, Joang Mo­lapo, who at­tended Tues­day’s gath­er­ing was equally scathing of the prime min­is­ter.

“it’s noth­ing short of be­ing a fuss. The prime min­is­ter has, once again, ab­di­cated the re­spon­si­bil­ity that the peo­ple of this coun­try have put upon him by re­fus­ing to re­spond to the very se­ri­ous is­sues that are con­fronting this coun­try,” Chief Mo­lapo told the Le­sotho Times.

“Ev­ery sin­gle day, fam­i­lies are mak­ing ap­pli­ca­tions in the High Court for the re­lease of their rel­a­tives who would have been ar­rested by the army.

“The peo­ple im­pli­cated in this so­called mutiny are run­ning into 100, and the prime min­is­ter is re­fus­ing to ac­cept the re­al­ity that the army is now out of con­trol.

“Prior to the 28 Fe­bru­ary 2015 elec­tions, there was an across-the­board agree­ment that this coun­try needs se­cu­rity re­forms but in­stead of un­der­tak­ing that process, the prime min­is­ter is now on a witch­hunt.

“He also reap­pointed Lt Gen Kamoli and al­lowed him to ex­er­cise this witch-hunt and purge sol­diers ac­cused of sup­port­ing the for­mer gov­ern­ment. What we are say­ing is that the prime min­is­ter needs to ac­knowl­edge that he does not have a pol­icy and needs to re­think how he is go­ing to ad­dress these is­sues and do so quickly in the in­ter­est of Le­sotho,” said Chief Mo­lapo.

“The first thing he has to do is re­move Lt Gen Kamoli from the LDF and put some­body with cred­i­bil­ity and in­tegrity so that all of us can be­gin to have re­spect and sup­port for the in­sti­tu­tion of the army.

“The sec­ond step is how we re­form the LDF and all other in­sti­tu­tions such as the Public Ser­vice.”

Ac­cord­ing to Chief Mo­lapo, Le­sotho was pre­vi­ously happy to have the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity com­ment on its state, which he said was no longer the case.

“The mo­ment a per­son feels that he or she can no longer have peo­ple com­ment­ing on their record means they have some­thing to hide, and that is what is hap­pen­ing in Le­sotho right now be­cause the gov­ern­ment has sud­denly be­come un­com­fort­able to have its af­fairs com­mented upon by NGOS or for­eign em­bassies.

“And if our friends in the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity have asked us to step-up to the plate and live-up to stan­dards that we, our­selves, signed up to, there is noth­ing wrong with that.

“We are sad­dened by de­vel­op­ments that we see tak­ing place in our coun­try now. Swaziland used to be a ben­e­fi­ciary of the African Growth and Op­por­tu­nity Act (AGOA) but has since been taken off by the US gov­ern­ment be­cause of its hu­man rights record.

“Many textile com­pa­nies have since left Swaziland and moved to Le­sotho be­cause of the US de­ci­sion to re­move the coun­try from the ben­e­fi­cia­ries of AGOA (an Amer­i­can leg­is­la­tion that al­lows duty-free en­try of cer­tain goods from coun­tries that meet cri­te­ria such as good gov­er­nance).

“We are wor­ried for the 45 000 peo­ple in our own textile in­dus­try and other in­dus­tries in this coun­try. We want to see this coun­try dwell on good gov­er­nance as it is the ba­sis on which we can con­tinue to ben­e­fit from AGOA,” said Chief Mo­lapo.

ABC, BNP and RCL sup­port­ers chant slo­gans in a joint march in Maseru on on Tues­day .

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