‘We will wait’

Op­po­si­tion speaks out on govern­ment’s re­quest to de­lay re­leas­ing Phumaphi re­port

Lesotho Times - - News - Keiso Mohloboli

THE op­po­si­tion al­liance says it would wait for govern­ment to re­lease the SADC Com­mis­sion of In­quiry re­port in the Na­tional As­sem­bly next week.

The re­gional body had given Prime Min­is­ter Pakalitha Mo­sisili’s govern­ment un­til 1 Fe­bru­ary to pub­lish the re­port into the killing of for­mer army com­man­der Maa­parankoe Ma­hao and other se­cu­rity-re­lated is­sues on Le­sotho. The re­port was com­piled by a 10-mem­ber team of le­gal and se­cu­rity ex­perts led by Jus­tice Mpa­phi Phumaphi of Botswana, and is ex­pected to shed light on the cir­cum­stances sur­round­ing the fa­tal shoot­ing of Lieu­tenant-gen­eral Ma­hao by his col­leagues on 25 June last year. The Le­sotho De­fence Force (LDF) in­sists Lt-gen Ma­hao was re­sist­ing ar­rest when he was gunned down out­side his Mokema farm. Af­ter the killing, Dr Mo­sisili asked for SADC’S help in prob­ing the tragedy, cul­mi­nat­ing in the Phumaphi probe be­tween 31 Au­gust and 23 Oc­to­ber.

Jus­tice Phumaphi sub­mit­ted his team’s find­ings to SADC in De­cem­ber, but the re­port has not yet been re­leased to the pub­lic af­ter govern­ment had ini­tially said it would only re­ceive it when a case lodged be­fore the High Court by LDF’S Lt-col Hashatsi, had been fi­nalised. Lt-co Hashatsi has chal­lenged the le­git­i­macy of the probe and ar­gues it vi­o­lated terms of its es­tab­lish­ment by hear­ing ev­i­dence out­side Le­sotho, among oth­ers. The case con­tin­ues in the High Court to­mor­row.

But af­ter SADC threat­ened to sus­pend its ac­tiv­i­ties in Le­sotho un­less the govern­ment took the re­port, Dr Mo­sisili fi­nally re­ceived it on 18 Jan­uary in Gaborone. The premier was given a 14-day dead­line to pub­lish the re­port.

How­ever, the govern­ment has since asked SADC for per­mis­sion to de­lay the re­lease of the re­port un­til par­lia­ment re­con­venes on 8 Fe­bru­ary af­ter its fes­tive-sea­son break. The re­gional bloc agreed to the pro­posal and noted in a state­ment is­sued on the side­lines of the African Union (AU) sum­mit held at the week­end in Ethiopia: “The Chair­per­son of the Or­gan on Pol­i­tics, De­fence and Se­cu­rity Co­op­er­a­tion, Jac­into Filipe Nyusi, Pres­i­dent of the Re­pub­lic of Mozam­bique, con­vened a con­sul­ta­tive meet­ing on the mar­gins of the 26th AU Sum­mit on 29th Jan­uary 2016 in Ad­dis Ababa.

“The meet­ing was chaired by the Chair­per­son of the Or­gan, and at­tended by rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the SADC Chair­per­son (pres­i­dent Ian Khama of Botswana is the new SADC chair) and the Govern­ment of the King­dom of Le­sotho (Deputy Prime Min­is­ter Mo­thetjoa Mets­ing), and the SADC Ex­ec­u­tive Sec­re­tary (Dr Ster­gom­ena Lawrence Tax). In line with de­ci­sions of the Dou­ble Troika Sum­mit held on 18 Jan­uary 2016, the meet­ing was in­formed that steps are un­der­way to ta­ble the Re­port of the Com­mis­sion of In­quiry to par­lia­ment. The meet­ing was, ac­cord­ingly, in­formed that par­lia­ment will re­con­vene on 8th Fe­bru­ary 2016 to re­ceive the re­port.

“The Chair­per­son of the Or­gan wel­comed the steps taken by the Govern­ment of the King­dom of Le­sotho; em­pha­sised the need for trans­parency and in­for­ma­tion-shar­ing; and ex­pressed SADC’S con­tin­ued com­mit­ment to as­sist the King­dom of Le­sotho to over­come the chal­lenges and achieve a last­ing so­lu­tion in or­der to at­tain sus­tain­able peace and se­cu­rity.”

But ac­cord­ing to the op­po­si­tion, the govern­ment was only “buy­ing time” by re­quest­ing to de­lay the re­lease of the much-an­tic­i­pated doc­u­ment. The al­liance, com­pris­ing the All Ba­sotho Con­ven­tion (ABC), Ba­sotho Na­tional Party (BNP), and Re­formed Congress of Le­sotho (RCL), has also said its Mem­bers of Par­lia­ment (MPS) would not be in the leg­is­la­ture on the day in ques­tion due to its boy­cott of the House, which started in July last year. The MPS say they would con­tinue with the boy­cott un­til their lead­ers, who fled to South Africa in May last year fear­ing for their lives, are safely back home.

For­mer prime min­is­ter and ABC leader Thomas Tha­bane, BNP leader Th­e­sele ‘Maserib­ane and RCL leader Keketso Ran­tšo have been liv­ing in ex­ile in the Free State since their flight and have vowed never to re­turn to Le­sotho un­til their safety is guar­an­teed.

Ac­cord­ing to BNP spokesper­son Mach­esetsa Mo­fo­mobe, the op­po­si­tion was skep­ti­cal about govern­ment’s com­mit­ment to re­leas­ing the re­port but would wait for 8 Fe­bru­ary.

“The op­po­si­tion will wait for Ntate Mo­sisili and the govern­ment he is lead­ing, to pub­lish Phumaphi’s re­port as it is. If he de­cides to edit it, we will im­me­di­ately hold a press con­fer­ence and make sure we re­lease the re­port in its orig­i­nal form,” Mr Mo­fo­mobe said.

“We have been fol­low­ing the is­sue of se­cu­rity and Lieu­tenant-gen­eral Ma­hao’s death very care­fully. We are aware, as the op­po­si­tion, that SADC agreed with Ntate Mo­sisili to re­move 14 of the 78 pages of the re­port to re­spect Ma­hao’s fam­ily.

“The pages mostly talk about the post­mortem of Lt-gen Ma­hao.

“So be­cause of this, the op­po­si­tion will be ex­pect­ing Ntate Mo­sisili to pub­lish a 68-page re­port with­out fail. If the govern­ment de­cide to edit it fur­ther, then we will pub­lish the orig­i­nal doc­u­ment.”

Ac­cord­ing to Mr Mo­fo­mobe, pub­lish­ing the unedited re­port would be to en­sure the na­tion knows ex­actly what hap­pened to Lt-gen Ma­hao, and why Le­sotho is fac­ing its cur­rent political and se­cu­rity chal­lenges.

“What we are sim­ply say­ing is Ba­sotho should have a clear pic­ture of what led Le­sotho to its cur­rent political and se­cu­rity prob­lems. The op­po­si­tion also wants Ba­sotho to make in­formed de­ci­sions when elect­ing govern­ment lead­ers in fu­ture, as the re­port would show them the kind of peo­ple in power now,” Mr Mo­fo­mobe said.

He also warned SADC against “fall­ing for govern­ment’s de­lay­ing tac­tics”.

“SADC has done a lot to help Le­sotho re­gain peace and sta­bil­ity but it must also be very care­ful and not fall into govern­ment’s

trap to de­lay the re­lease of the re­port be­cause this re­quest to ta­ble it in par­lia­ment is just a de­lay­ing tac­tic. Ntate Mo­sisili is just buy­ing time so that the High Court can rule on LtCol Hashatsi’s case.

“If the court rules in his favour, then we will hear the prime min­is­ter brag­ging that if our courts of law don’t mean any­thing to SADC, then they mean ev­ery­thing to Ba­sotho,” Mr Mo­fo­mobe said.

ABC deputy leader Tlali Khasu echoed Mr Mo­fo­mobe’s sen­ti­ments and said the op­po­si­tion would wait and see what hap­pens on 8 Fe­bru­ary.

“SADC heard about our in­ten­tion to pub­lish the re­port if the govern­ment failed to do so by 1 Fe­bru­ary and im­me­di­ately ap­proached us not to do it and give the govern­ment a chance to deal with the mat­ter,” Mr Khasu said.

“We said there is no prob­lem; we will wait so we are not go­ing to do any­thing stupid while wait­ing for this to hap­pen.”

How­ever, Mr Khasu said the op­po­si­tion did not un­der­stand why the govern­ment is in­sist­ing on re­leas­ing the re­port in par­lia­ment.

“SADC did not say the re­port must be re­leased to Mem­bers of Par­lia­ment but the na­tion. And we also un­der­stand that the re­port’s re­lease is not de­pen­dent on the open­ing of the Na­tional As­sem­bly, but still, we agreed to wait,” Mr Khasu said.

RCL deputy leader Dr Mot­lo­h­eloa Phooko also said it was un­nec­es­sary for the govern­ment to ta­ble the re­port in the Na­tional As­sem­bly.

“I re­ally don’t un­der­stand why Ntate Mo­sisili both­ers him­self about re­leas­ing the re­port in the au­gust house. What will the MPS do about the re­port?” Dr Phooko asked.

Ac­cord­ing to Dr Phooko, the govern­ment must con­cern it­self with the re­turn of ex­iled op­po­si­tion lead­ers if it is se­ri­ous about sta­bil­ity in Le­sotho.

“In­stead of buy­ing time re­gard­ing this re­port, Ntate Mo­sisili was sup­posed to speed­ily work on the re­turn of our lead­ers who con­tinue to live in ex­ile be­cause if they are not back here, and their se­cu­rity guar­an­teed, op­po­si­tion MPS won’t go back to the Na­tional As­sem­bly,” Dr Phooko said.

THE late Lieu­tenant-gen­eral Maa­parankoe Ma­hao.

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