EXILED LEADERS WANT INQUIRY IN SA
EXILED opposition leaders say they have asked the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Commission of inquiry into Lesotho’s instability to convene a sitting in South Africa to enable them to testify before it.
The leaders said it was very vital that the commission hears their points of view about the Lesotho crisis.
But they vowed that there was no way that they could travel to Lesotho, even for a few hours only, to appear before the Commission, as they still feared to be killed by members of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF).
The delayed commission of inquiry finally began its hearings on Monday with Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili appearing before it yesterday (see separate stories)
In an interview yesterday with the Lesotho Times from his base in South Africa, Basotho National Party (BNP) leader Thesele ‘Maseribane, who spoke on behalf of the other opposition leaders, said they would rather not testify in the hearings unless the commission came to convene sittings in the neighbouring coun- try.
But still he emphasized that the opposition leaders must testify to enable the commission to get a holistic view of the Lesotho situation from all and sundry.
Chief ‘Maseribane and his opposition colleagues, All Basotho Convention (ABC) leader Thomas Thabane and Reformed Congress of Lesotho leader Keketso Rantšo, fled the country in May allegedly after being alerted of a plot to kill them by renegade Lesotho Defence Force members, an accusation government has since denied.
The BNP leader said they were pleading with the commission to come to South Africa because their livers were “still in danger”.
“It is the nation’s expectation that we appear before the SADC Commission of Inquiry because the events that led to the death of the former LDF Commander Lt Gen Maaparankoe Mahao started while we were partners in the previous coalition government led by Dr Thabane,” Chief ‘Maseribane said.
“We are ready to give all the information we have to assist the commission with investigations but our lives come first.”
Asked what efforts they had made to raise the issue with the commission, Chief ‘ Maseribane said representatives from their political parties in Lesotho were lobbying on their behalf.
He said the exiles, who included LDF operatives, former police commissioner Khothatso Tšooana, journalists and members of the opposition who also sought refuge in South Africa fearing for their lives, would not come back while the “major threat”, LDF commander Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli, still had state resources at his disposal to harass the new coalition government’s opponents.
“The nation is well aware that the vehicles used to attack and abduct members of the LDF from their homes were government property. If Kamoli has access to all the military resources then his campaign won’t stop,” the BNP leader said.
“Security in Lesotho was never a problem until LDF commander, Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli became a polarising figure.
Tlali Kamoli is a military politician and the primary cause of most of the political and military problems in the country.”
He continued: “The current situation in Lesotho was not com- plicated but the current coalition and military politicians codenamed Kamoli Defence Force (KDF) began to fiddle with government institutions to politicise them in their favour.
“I firmly believe that the current seven-party coalition government led by Dr (Pakalitha) Mosisili used military politicians to ascend to power and destabilise the previous coalition government led by Dr Thabane.
“When he addressed the nation at his inauguration in March 2015, the Right Honourable the Prime Minister said ‘ we could not be where we are if it was not because of the soldiers’.
“Nowhere in his speech do I recall him thanking the Independent Electoral Commission for a job well done.”
Ms Rantšo also separately confirmed that they would not appear before the commission in Lesotho for fear of their lives since “nothing concrete had been said to us by the government over our security”.
She said it would be “senseless” for the exiled opposition leaders to come to Lesotho with no assurances over their safety.
“We are not going to appear before the commission because of the threats that we received.
“Through officials from our parties, we have inquired to the head of the commission, Justice Mpathi Phumaphi, on how we can appear before the commission,” Ms Rantšo said.
She then referred us to RCL Secretary General ‘Mamolula Ntabe, whom she said was part of efforts to get the Commission to convene sittings in South Africa to give exiles an opportunity to testify, for more details. On her part, Ms Ntabe said opposition party officials had met with Justice Phumaphi last Thursday who had indicated that he could not guarantee the security of the witnesses.
“Justice Mpathi Phumaphi, however, said he would discuss the issue of the exiles in South Africa with the country’s High Commissioner to Lesotho to consider organising a suitable place for them to appear before the commission,” Ms Ntabe said.
“We are currently waiting for feedback from Justice Phumaphi when all the arrangements have been made.”
Repeated attempts to contact the LDF for comment were not fruitful until the time of going to print.
BNP leader Thesele ‘Maseribane