Agree­ment must not leave out other ex­iles

Lesotho Times - - Leader -

FOR­MER Prime Min­is­ter Thomas Tha­bane’s im­mi­nent re­turn from ex­ile should mark the be­gin­ning of a new era for Le­sotho.

The All Ba­sotho Con­ven­tion (ABC) leader has been liv­ing in South Africa since he fled the coun­try on 11 May 2015 claim­ing some rogue mem­bers of the mil­i­tary were out to as­sas­si­nate him.

This was the sec­ond time in nine months that Dr Tha­bane had de­cided to seek refuge across the bor­der for fear of the Le­sotho De­fence Force (LDF).

It was that ini­tial flight in Au­gust 2014, which was to prove the cat­a­lyst of his tri­par­tite gov­ern­ment’s demise when SADC bro­kered an early elec­tion in Fe­bru­ary this year, which ush­ered-in a seven-party gov­ern­ment headed by Demo­cratic Congress (DC) leader Dr Pakalitha Mo­sisili.

Af­ter spend­ing al­most all the two-and-a-half years that he was in power fight­ing his deputy, Mo­thetjoa Mets­ing, over gov­er­nance is­sues and at the ex­pense of ser­vice-de­liv­ery, it was no sur­prise that Dr Tha­bane and his part­ners — The­sele ‘ Maserib­ane and Keketso Rantšo of the Ba­sotho Na­tional Party (BNP) and Re­formed Congress of Le­sotho (RCL) — could not garner enough seats dur­ing Fe­bru­ary’s snap elec­tions to re­tain power.

How­ever, Dr Mo­sisili’s ad­min­is­tra­tion is fac­ing its own chal­lenges which have made it dif­fi­cult for ef­fec­tive im­ple­men­ta­tion of de­vel­op­ment poli­cies. And top among the chal­lenges has been the coun­try’s se­cu­rity, with the LDF the com­mon de­nom­i­na­tor of these prob­lems.

Af­ter Dr Tha­bane’s flight, Chief ‘ Maserib­ane joined him in ex­ile on 13 May, with Ms Rantšo fol­low­ing suit on 26 May, with both al­leg­ing the army was out to kill them for speak­ing out against its com­mand.

These claims are yet to be tested in any prop­erly con­sti­tuted tri­bunal hence this week’s an­nounce­ment by Dr Mo­sisili that Dr Tha­bane would soon come home, could not have come at a bet­ter time.

A Sadc-es­tab­lished Com­mis­sion of In­quiry has just started prob­ing Le­sotho’s in­sta­bil­ity and it is only proper that those at the heart of these po­lit­i­cal and se­cu­rity chal­lenges are avail­able to give ev­i­dence.

Yet what is wor­ri­some is the ‘ Mem­o­ran­dum of Dis­cus­sions’ signed by Dr Tha­bane and Dr Mo­sisili puts more em­pha­sis on the ABC leader’s re­turn and wel­fare while men­tion­ing in pass­ing “the two other lead­ers of the op­po­si­tion who left the coun­try for rea­sons of per­sonal se­cu­rity”.

The mem­o­ran­dum con­cedes the ab­sence of the lead­ers “af­fects the proper func­tion of demo­cratic in­sti­tu­tions, in par­tic­u­lar Par­lia­ment”.

The memo also ad­mits “it is in the best in­ter­est of the coun­try that the po­lit­i­cal lead­ers re­turn to the coun­try for them to ful­fil their po­lit­i­cal re­spon­si­bil­i­ties”.

But un­like the pro­posed re­turn of Dr Tha­bane, the memo is silent on how the se­cu­rity of Chief ‘Maserib­ane and Ms Rantšo would be han­dled upon their re­turn.

Even more wor­ri­some is the mem­o­ran­dum’s com­plete si­lence on the plight of mem­bers of the LDF and op­po­si­tion po­lit­i­cal par­ties, who also fled the coun­try for South Africa at al­most the same time as their lead­ers, and oth­ers even ear­lier.

These ex­iles say they had to leave the coun­try af­ter re­ceiv­ing death threats for al­legedly sup­port­ing Dr Tha­bane’s gov­ern­ment.

While Dr Mo­sisili should be com­mended for reach­ing out to Dr Tha­bane and sit­ting down to dis­cuss the modal­i­ties of his re­turn, to leave out Chief ‘ Maserib­ane, Ms Rantšo and the other ex­iles whose lives could be equally in dan­ger, is but to un­der­mine the very noble in­ten­tion of this ges­ture.

The SADC probe team is meant to es­tab­lish the root cause of Le­sotho’s se­cu­rity and po­lit­i­cal chal­lenges. What hap­pens there­after is yet to be pro­nounced by the re­gional bloc.

How­ever, it would be a be­trayal of those men and women who risked their lives for their lead­ers and gov­ern­ment, if the agree­ment be­ing thrashed out by Dr Tha­bane and Dr Mo­sisili also fails to cater for their safe and un­con­di­tional re­turn.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Lesotho

© PressReader. All rights reserved.