Po­lice bar protest

Lesotho Times - - Front Page - ’Marafaele Mohloboli

THE po­lice have barred a coali­tion of civic groups from stag­ing a protest march next week aimed at pres­sur­ing the gov­ern­ment into “speed­ily” im­ple­ment­ing rec­om­men­da­tions of a South­ern African De­vel­op­ment Com­mu­nity (SADC) com­mis­sion of in­quiry into Le­sotho’s in­sta­bil­ity.

A num­ber of key civic groups fall­ing un­der the um­brella of the “Al­liance of Non-state Ac­tors” had planned to stage a stay away on 12 May, in­clud­ing a march to Prime Min­is­ter Pakalitha Mo­sisili’s of­fice to protest what the civic groups de­scribe as in­or­di­nate de­lays in im­ple­ment­ing the rec­om­men­da­tions of the Jus­tice Mpa­phi Phumaphi com­mis­sion of in­quiry which was prompted by the fa­tal shoot­ing of former army com­man­der Maa­parankoe Ma­hao, by his col­leagues, in June last year.

But the Le­sotho Mounted Po­lice Ser­vice (LMPS) this week re­jected the Al­liance’s ap­pli­ca­tion for the protest march to pro­ceed as planned, say­ing do­ing so would be un­law­ful.

The Al­liance of Non-state Ac­tors brings to­gether dif­fer­ent civic groups in­clud­ing pub­lic trans­port op­er­a­tors, trade unions and busi­ness or­gan­i­sa­tions. It com­prises the Maseru Re­gion Taxi Op­er­a­tors, Steer­ing Com­mit­tee (rep­re­sent­ing ‘4+1’ taxis), Le­sotho Coun­cil of Non-gov­ern­men­tal Or­gan­i­sa­tions, trade unions in­clud­ing Lentsoe la Sech­aba, In­de­pen­dent Demo­cratic Union of Le­sotho, Na­tional Cloth­ing Tex­tile and Al­lied Work­ers Union, United Tex­tile Em­ploy­ees, and busi­nesses rep­re­sented by the Le­sotho Cham­ber of Com­merce and In­dus­try.

It wanted to con­vene a march from the main Con­ven­tion Cen­tre to Dr Mo­sisili’s of­fice to sub­mit a list of griev­ances.

But ac­cord­ing to the Al­liance’s spokesper­son, Makama Monese, the po­lice re­jected their ap­pli­ca­tion, say­ing it had been filed late for the demo. Mr Monese said in light of the re­jec­tion of the per­mit for the protest ac­tion, the Al­liance would have to meet to de­cide whether to re­strict the protest ac­tion to a stay-away pro­gramme alone. A mass stay away from work would not re­quire po­lice per­mis­sion since work­ers will sim­ply be asked to stay at home and not come into town for a march.

“District Com­mis­sioner Se­nior Su­per­in­ten­dent Mot­latsi Map­ola told us that we were late for the march to be held on 12 May as they will not be count­ing As­cen­sion Day (5 May) be­cause it is a hol­i­day, as well as week­end days,” Mr Monese said yes­ter­day.

“So all the stake­hold­ers will be meet­ing ei­ther tomorrow (today) or Fri­day, to de­cide on our next move be­cause we are yet to read the Pub­lic Meet­ings and Pro­ces­sions Act and see ex­actly what it says re­gard­ing pub­lic hol­i­days and week­ends.

“But de­spite this set­back, we will ul­ti­mately find a way to pe­ti­tion the Prime Min­is­ter con­cern­ing those SADC rec­om­men­da­tions which we want im­ple­mented speed­ily be­cause if they are not, there will be con­se­quences for us as the busi­ness com­mu­nity and the na­tion at large,” said Mr Monese who him­self hails from the taxi in­dus­try.

On his part, Se­nior Su­per­in­ten­dent Map­ola con­firmed turn­ing down the ap­pli­ca­tion say­ing it did not con­form with the req­ui­site le­gal pre­scripts. He said he ex­pected to meet mem­bers of the Al­liance tomorrow “to de­ter­mine the way for­ward”.

Asked to elab­o­rate on the de­ci­sion to re­ject the per­mit ap­pli­ca­tion, LMPS spokesper­son Clif­ford Molefe said: “The Pub­lic Meet­ings and Pro­ces­sions Act No 14 of 2010 calls for an ap­pli­ca­tion for a per­mit seven days be­fore the date of the ac­tiv­ity. If it’s a stay away that they want, then they don’t need any per­mis­sion be­cause we won’t have con­trol on whether peo­ple stay away from their jobs or choose to go to work. How­ever, any­one who in­ter­feres with other peo­ple’s free­dom of move­ment (by want­ing to stage a protest march) com­mits an of­fence and shall be dealt with ac­cord­ingly (if the march is not sanc­tioned by the po­lice).”

The Al­liance says it fears that any de­lays in im­ple­ment­ing the rec­om­men­da­tions could see Le­sotho be­ing over­looked, if not be­ing com­pletely dropped, by de­vel­op­ment part­ners who have made it cat­e­gor­i­cally clear that they want the gov­ern­ment to im­ple­ment the rec­om­men­da­tions.

“The gov­ern­ment’s re­luc­tance to im­ple­ment the rec­om­men­da­tions is (as an ex­am­ple) threat­en­ing Le­sotho’s re­la­tion­ship with the United States and ul­ti­mately, the coun­try’s el­i­gi­bil­ity for AGOA (African Growth and Op­por­tu­nity Act which al­lows cer­tain goods pro­duced in el­i­gi­ble coun­tries duty-free en­try into the US). If we for­feit AGOA, at least 40 000 fac­tory jobs will be di­rectly lost and other re­lated busi­nesses will be af­fected. This is why we have de­cided to call for this stay away on 12 May to call upon the gov­ern­ment to avert such a dis­as­ter,” Mr Monese said.

“We have de­cided that it is time this gov­ern­ment takes the peo­ple se­ri­ously. More than 40 000 peo­ple are bound to lose their jobs (if AGOA is lost) and ques­tion marks re­main over the coun­try’s se­cu­rity thereby threat­en­ing in­vest­ment and more job cre­ation. If Le­sotho fails to qual­ify for AGOA next year, most sec­tors in­clud­ing fac­to­ries, small busi­nesses and taxis which ferry the work­ers on a daily ba­sis, will be af­fected. We all work in this in­ter­con­nected eco­nomic value chain and if we al­low it to be bro­ken, while we just sit back and watch, we will all be doomed.”

The Al­liance wants the gov­ern­ment to im­ple­ment all the rec­om­men­da­tions and set up a spe­cific time­line by when it aims to achieve that.

In an in­ter­view with the Le­sotho Times’ sis­ter pa­per Sun­day Ex­press last week, Commu- nica­tions Min­is­ter Khotso Let­satsi said the gov­ern­ment was al­ready work­ing on the rec­om­men­da­tions and had a clear roadmap. “It’s un­for­tu­nate if they (or­gan­is­ers of stay away) don’t rec­og­nize these ef­forts be­cause they can’t be im­ple­mented overnight. We have to take them one step at a time,” he said.

Re­cap of the sadc rec­om­men­da­tions In the in­ter­est of find­ing peace for the King­dom of Le­sotho, and bring­ing clo­sure to the killing of Bri­gadier Ma­hao, the Com­mis­sion prof­fers here be­low, some rec­om­men­da­tions for con­sid­er­a­tion: The Gov­ern­ment of Le­sotho should en­sure that the crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tions on the death of Bri­gadier Ma­hao be pur­sued vig­or­ously and that the LMPS is em­pow­ered and re­sourced ac­cord­ingly. The in­ves­ti­ga­tion should be con­ducted ex­pe­di­tiously and com­pre­hen­sively with­out any hin­drances and that all phys­i­cal ev­i­dence be sur­ren­dered. The fi­nal­ity of the in­ves­ti­ga­tions should lead to a trans­par­ent course of jus­tice. The gen­eral dis­con­tent of some Ba­sotho with the Com­man­der of LDF, Lieu­tenant-gen­eral Tlali Kamoli and the con­duct of the LDF un­der his com­mand is dis­con­cert­ing. In the in­ter­est of restor­ing trust and ac­cep­tance of the LDF to the Ba­sotho na­tion, it is strongly rec­om­mended that Lieu­tenant Gen­eral Kamoli be re­lieved of his du­ties as Com­man­der of LDF, and all LDF of­fi­cers im­pli­cated in cases of mur­der, at­tempted mur­der and trea­son be sus­pended while in­ves­ti­ga­tions in their cases pro­ceed in line with in­ter­na­tional best prac­tice. The Com­mis­sion has ob­served that some of the po­lit­i­cal and se­cu­rity prob­lems pe­cu­liar to the King­dom of Le­sotho em­anate from the Con­sti­tu­tion of the Le­sotho. The de­fi­cien­cies and over­laps in the con­sti­tu­tion with re­gard to man­dates of se­cu­rity in­sti­tu­tions, need to be looked into ur­gently with a com­pre­hen­sive strat­egy to re­form them. The Com­mis­sion has noted that SOMILES ( SADC Ob­server Mis­sion in Le­sotho) re­port cov­ers ex­ten­sively the ar­eas of re­form (con­sti­tu­tion, se­cu­rity sec­tor, pub­lic ser­vice and in­for­ma­tion and me­dia) per­tain­ing to the King­dom. To avoid rep­e­ti­tion, the Com­mis­sion there­fore rec­om­mends an ac­cel­er­ated im­ple­men­ta­tion of the re­forms en­cap­su­lated in the SOMILES re­port. SADC should come up with a di­rect strat­egy on how to as­sist Le­sotho in the im­ple­men­ta­tion of these re­forms, and that the Le­sotho Over­sight Com­mit­tee, es­tab­lished by the 3rd July 2015 Dou­ble Troika is op­er­a­tionalised. Ev­i­dence be­fore the Com­mis­sion in re­spect of the mutiny, is that the al­leged mu­ti­neers in­tended to kill 13 mem­bers of the LDF. Fur­ther, it shows that some of the com­plainants in the court mar­tial, par­tic­i­pated in the ar­rest of the sus­pects, which is a clear con­flict sit­u­a­tion, as they have per­sonal in­ter­est in the cases. When this ev­i­dence is taken into con­sid­er­a­tion with that of the sus­pects sub­jected to tor­ture, the ob­ject be­ing to ex­tract con­fes­sions from them, as well as the ev­i­dence that Lt Gen­eral Kamoli him­self, when he was reap­pointed as Com­man­der of the LDF, stated that he would deal with those who cel­e­brated this ter­mi­na­tion in 2014, it makes the whole case of mutiny highly sus­pect. In these cir­cum­stances, we rec­om­mend a fa­cil­i­ta­tion of an amnesty that will cover the de­tained mutiny sus­pects and en­sure the safe re­turn of all mem­bers of the LDF who have fled Le­sotho in fear for their lives.

LMPS spokesper­son Su­per­in­ten­dent Clif­ford Molefe.

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