Lat­est on protest march

Lesotho Times - - Front Page - ’Marafaele Mohloboli

OR­GAN­IS­ERS of a protest march aimed at pres­sur­ing the govern­ment into “speed­ily” im­ple­ment­ing SADC com­mis­sion of in­quiry rec­om­men­da­tions, say they are go­ing ahead with the demon­stra­tion to­day de­spite the “strin­gent” con­di­tions.

The protest march is be­ing or­gan­ised by key civic groups fall­ing un­der the “Al­liance of Non-state Ac­tors” um­brella. It com­prises of 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.

The Al­liance has also called for a stay away in protest for what they 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 last June.

How­ever, af­ter the po­lice turned down the Al­liance’s ap­pli­ca­tion to hold the march last Fri­day, ar­gu­ing the re­quest did not meet re­quire- ments of the law, the civic groups filed an ur­gent High Court ap­pli­ca­tion on the same day seek­ing to over­turn the de­ci­sion.

While grant­ing the Al­liance’s ap­pli­ca­tion, the High Court on Tues­day set con­di­tions stip­u­lat­ing that the protest-march would only start at 9.30am and end at 11am.

The court ruled that the protest would start at the Maseru Race Course and end at the Moshoeshoe Statue Park, with the pro­tes­tors sup­posed to qui­etly dis­perse in groups of three peo­ple at most af­ter the set time.

The con­di­tions also barred the pro­tes­tors from us­ing tree branches and sticks, singing mock­ing or abu­sive lyrics, in­ter­fer­ence with by-standers or passers-by and en­gag­ing in sit-ins.

Ac­cord­ing to the Al­liance’s spokesper­son and mem­ber of the Maseru Re­gion Taxi Op­er­a­tors, Makama Monese, they had con­sid­ered post­pon­ing the protest march in light of the “strin­gent” con­di­tions.

“Af­ter the strin­gent con­di­tions were laid out to us, we could tell they were just an in­di­rect way by the po­lice to deny us the per­mit,” he said.

“But all the same, our re­solve to urge the prime min­is­ter to im­ple­ment the SADC com­mis­sion of in­quiry’s rec­om­men­da­tions and ad­dress the AGOA (African Growth and Op­por­tu­nity Act) is­sue have not been damp­ened.”

Mr Monese said the “hur­dles” put in their way had em­bold­ened them to prac­tise their con­sti­tu­tional right to protest peace­fully.

“Af­ter con­sult­ing with our le­gal rep­re­sen­ta­tive, we were urged by our sup­port­ers to con­tinue with the protest march; whether it’s hot or cold, con­di­tions per­mit­ting or not per­mit­ting,” he said.

The Al­liance, Mr Monese said, had cho­sen to­day “strate­gi­cally” since it

co­in­cided with the visit of a del­e­ga­tion from the United States govern­ment to as­sess Le­sotho’s el­i­gi­bil­ity for AGOA. The fa­cil­ity gives du­tyfree and quota-free ac­cess to the US mar­ket to el­i­gi­ble Sub-sa­ha­ran African coun­tries in­clud­ing Le­sotho.

While the US govern­ment has re­newed Le­sotho’s el­i­gi­bil­ity for trade pref­er­ences un­der AGOA for 2016, the eco­nomic pow­er­house also ex­pressed “se­ri­ous con­cerns” about the govern­ment’s al­leged fail­ure to ad­here to gov­er­nance cri­te­ria, say­ing they would mon­i­tor the im­ple­men­ta­tion of re­forms ahead of the next el­i­gi­bil­ity re­view process.

Mr Monese said they in­tended to hold a peace­ful protest.

“We are not go­ing to chal­lenge the route we have been given, even though we are fully aware that the time given to us is very con­stricted. “How­ever, we are ready for what­ever con­se­quences that may come our way should the po­lice re­sort to vi­o­lence.”

Mean­while, po­lice Se­nior Su­per­in­ten­dent Mot­latsi Map­ola urged the pro­tes­tors to abide by the con­di­tions set by the court.

“Now that they (Al­liance) have de­cided to con­tinue with the protest march, they should ad­here to the set con­di­tions. In the likely event that one of the con­di­tions is bro­ken, the pro­ces­sion will be stopped forth­with,” Sen Sup Map­ola said, adding that the given route and con­di­tions were meant to en­sure pub­lic safety.

TAXI op­er­a­tors protest in this file pic­ture.

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