Al­liance re­jects govt re­sponse

Lesotho Times - - Front Page - Billy Ntaote

CIVIC groups fall­ing un­der the ‘Al­liance of Non-state Ac­tors’ have re­jected “blan­ket state­ments” is­sued by the Prime Min­is­ter’s of­fice in re­sponse to sev­eral griev­ances they wanted the govern­ment to an­swer “com­pre­hen­sively”.

The Al­liance staged a protest march in Maseru on 12 May this year and sub­mit­ted a list of their griev­ances to Min­is­ter in the Prime Min­is­ter’s Of­fice Kimetso Mathaba, who was in the com­pany of Po­lice Min­is­ter Monyane Moleleki, and his Trade coun­ter­part, Joshua Setipa.

In the pe­ti­tion they had hoped to de­liver to Prime Min­is­ter Pakalitha Mo­sisili, the civic groups ex­pressed con­cern at the pos­si­bil­ity of the Amer­i­can govern­ment re­mov­ing Le­sotho from coun­tries el­i­gi­ble for pref­er­en­tial trade ben­e­fits be­cause of se­cu­rity con­cerns.

The Al­liance also said it was equally con­cerned by the govern­ment’s re­sponse to rec­om­men­da­tions made by the South­ern African De­vel­op­ment Com­mu­nity (SADC) Com­mis­sion of In­quiry into Le­sotho’s se­cu­rity and po­lit­i­cal chal­lenges.

The Al­liance, com­pris­ing the Maseru Re­gion Taxi Op­er­a­tors, Le­sotho Coun­cil of Non-gov­ern­men­tal Or­gan­i­sa­tions (LCN), 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, had given the govern­ment 14 days to re­spond to their griev­ances hence last week’s re­sponse from the Prime Min­is­ter’s Eco­nomic and Po­lit­i­cal Ad­vi­sor Dr Fako Likoti and the Prime Min­is­ter’s Se­nior Pri­vate Sec­re­tary Mamello Mor­ri­son.

Ms Mor­ri­son’s let­ter dated 26 May 2016 is ad­dressed to the Al­liance’s spokesper­son Makama Monese and Ad­vo­cate Li­neo Tsikoane of the LCN and reads: “We are in re­ceipt of a pe­ti­tion which the two of you handed to the Of­fice of the right Hon­ourable the Prime Min­is­ter on the morn­ing of 12th May 2016, ahead of the march you made to the same Of­fice later in the day.

“The of­fi­cial pe­ti­tion was pre­sented to the Min­is­ter to the Prime Min­is­ter Hon­ourable Kimetso Mathaba, MP, in the com­pany of the Min­is­ter of Po­lice and Pub­lic Safety, Hon­ourable Monyane Moleleki, MP, and Hon­or­able Min­is­ter of Trade and In­dus­try, Se­na­tor Joshua Setipa.

“As promised, the pe­ti­tion was promptly pre­sented to the Right Hon­ourable Prime Min­is­ter.

“I am in­structed to com­mu­ni­cate the Right Hon­ourable the Prime Min­is­ter’s deep grat­i­tude for the or­derly man­ner in which the march was con­ducted, to ac­knowl­edge the con­tents of the said pe­ti­tion, and to re­spond as below.”

The let­ter goes on to ad­dress the Al­liance’s con­cerns start­ing with the African Growth and Op­por­tu­nity Act (AGOA) — the Amer­i­can leg­is­la­tion en­acted in 2000 to al­low se­lect goods from el­i­gi­ble sub-sa­ha­ran African coun­tries ac­cess US mar­kets duty free. El­i­gi­bil­ity for AGOA is based on coun­tries’ re­spect for the rule of law.

How­ever, the Amer­i­can govern­ment has ex­pressed con­cern over Le­sotho’s se­cu­rity and po­lit­i­cal chal­lenges which, among oth­ers, saw three op­po­si­tion lead­ers — All Ba­sotho Con­ven­tion leader Thomas Tha­bane, and his Ba­sotho Na­tional Party and Re­formed Congress of Le­sotho coun­ter­parts Th­e­sele ‘Maserib­ane and Keketso Ran­tšo re­spec­tively — flee­ing the coun­try in May 2015 for South Africa, claim­ing they had been alerted of a plot to as­sas­si­nate them by some LDF mem­bers. The mil­i­tary has since dis­missed the claims.

Ms Mor­ri­son’s let­ter con­tin­ues: “On AGOA, we have been in­formed by the Hon­ourable Min­is­ter of Trade and In­dus­try that the Min­istry is cur­rently seized of all mat­ters per­ti­nent to the con­cerns you raised in your pe­ti­tion.

“But more im­por­tantly, the Min­istry has al­ready de­vel­oped a strat­egy to ex­plore ex­pand­ing our mar­ket reach to mem­bers of the Euro­pean Union.

“The same strat­egy will be shared with all stake­hold­ers once it has suf­fi­ciently crys­tal­ized. On the ques­tion of ac­cess of Le­sotho prod­ucts to mar­kets in the United States, we re­main con­vinced that the 10-year ex­ten­sion to us and other coun­tries in Africa re­mains ap­pli­ca­ble.

“Should we sense any de­vel­op­ment to the con­trary, we shall ad­dress same and in­volve all stake­hold­ers in for­mu­lat­ing a pos­i­tive way for­ward.

“In the mean­time, we re­main en­gaged with the rel­e­vant US agen­cies for both AGOA and the MCC (Millennium Chal­lenge Cor­po­ra­tion).”

She fur­ther ad­dressed the Al­liance’s con­cerns about the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the SADC Com­mis­sion of In­quiry’s rec­om­men­da­tions.

The end of March visit by SADC Ex­ec­u­tive Sec­re­tary Dr Lawrence Ster­gom­ena Tax, she said, re­vealed progress made by the coali­tion govern­ment in the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the rec­om­men­da­tions.

Among the rec­om­men­da­tions was that the govern­ment should en­sure crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tions into the death of former army com­man­der Maa­parankoe Ma­hao are pur­sued “vig­or­ously” and lead to a “trans­par­ent course of jus­tice”.

The Com­mis­sion also rec­om­mended that army com­man­der Lt-gen Tlali Kamoli should be dis­missed “in the in­ter­est of restor­ing trust and ac­cep­tance of the LDF to the Ba­sotho na- tion”, and all LDF of­fi­cers im­pli­cated in mur­der, at­tempted mur­der and trea­son should be sus­pended while in­ves­ti­ga­tions into their cases pro­ceed “in line with in­ter­na­tional best prac­tice”.

The Com­mis­sion also urged the govern­ment to en­sure the safe re­turn of the ex­iled op­po­si­tion lead­ers.

The SADC Com­mis­sion of In­quiry, prompted by the fa­tal shoot­ing of Lt-gen­eral Ma­hao by mem­bers of the LDF on 25 June 2015 al­legedly while re­sist­ing ar­rest for sus­pected mutiny, was led by Jus­tice Mpa­phi Phumaphi of Botswana.

Ms Mor­ri­son adds: “You will no doubt agree that the re­cent visit to Le­sotho by the Ex­ec­u­tive Sec­re­tary of SADC, Dr Lawrence Tax, re­vealed, in no un­cer­tain terms, progress that govern­ment has made to­wards the im­ple­men­ta­tion of some of the rec­om­men­da­tions of that re­port.

“We are cur­rently fi­nal­is­ing our com­pre­hen­sive re­sponse to the Phumaphi Com­mis­sion’s re­port fol­low­ing our study of its con­tents as promised when we tabled the re­port in par­lia­ment, and in prepa­ra­tion for the (SADC) Au­gust Sum­mit in the King­dom of Swaziland.

“Once this re­sponse is fi­nalised, the na­tion will in­deed be ap­praised of its con­tents”.

She fur­ther high­lighted the govern­ment’s com­mit­ment to­wards cit­i­zens’ par­tic­i­pa­tion in gov­er­nance.

“Let me con­clude on a hum­ble re­minder that the cur­rent Coali­tion Govern­ment is fully com­mit­ted to in­ter­ac­tion with civil so­ci­ety as clearly stip­u­lated in Sec­tion A6 of the Coali­tion Agree­ment ‘To place greater fo­cus on con­sul­ta­tion and cit­i­zen par­tic­i­pa­tion’.

“Our only hope is that we shall be ac­corded mu­tual re­spect and earnest com­mit­ment on the part of all stake­hold­ers as we en­gage on mat­ters of pub­lic dis­course. Please ac­cept sin­cere and best wishes in all your well-mean­ing en­deav­ours.

“We fur­ther hope that in fu­ture, it will be pos­si­ble to en­gage at board­room level for pur­poses of smooth and di­rect in­ter­ac­tion, in- stead of through stay-aways and demon­stra­tions as the lat­ter tend to be con­fronta­tional and leave a bad taste.”

On his part, Dr Likoti said he had been di­rected by the Prime Min­is­ter “to thank you for your pe­ti­tion and the dig­ni­fied man­ner in which you sub­mit­ted it to his of­fice.

“This was not only a clear demon­stra­tion of the pre­vail­ing peace and sta­bil­ity in the King­dom, but a ma­ture man­ner of deal­ing with is­sues in a sta­ble and demo­cratic coun­try such as ours.

“Your pe­ti­tion deals with two most per­ti­nent is­sues, namely AGOA and the per­ceived SADC sus­pen­sion. Please al­low me to pro­vide a con­cre­ate re­sponse to each of these im­por­tant is­sues raised.”

Dr Likoti then notes the govern­ment, through the Min­istry of Trade and In­dus­try, had al­ready re­sponded to most con­cerns raised re­gard­ing AGOA.

“In fact, an ex­ten­sive re­port has been sub­mit­ted. The re­port tabled among oth­ers, the peace­ful en­vi­ron­ment that we have al­luded to above, and many other re­quire­ments among other var­i­ous steps that Le­sotho has taken to guard against any sit­u­a­tion that may have a bear­ing on the coun­try’s el­i­gi­bil­ity for AGOA it­self.

“We are de­ter­mined to do what is right, and to make and im­ple­ment de­ci­sions that are in the best in­ter­est of peace, sta­bil­ity and de­vel­op­ment of Le­sotho.

“Our re­solve is to pur­sue our re­forms pro­gramme with rigor, while ex­er­cis­ing great cau­tion to avoid ac­tions that may re­verse the gains that we have made since we be­came el­i­gi­ble to AGOA”.

Re­spond­ing to the Al­liance’s “per­ceived” SADC sus­pen­sion of Le­sotho, Dr Likoti said the Prime Min­is­ter would soon pro­vide a progress re­port about the Phumaphi rec­om­men­da­tions.

“In re­la­tion to the SADC re­port, you may re­call that the Prime Min­is­ter made a na­tional state­ment on the 08th Fe­bru­ary 2016 be­fore the Na­tional Par­lia­ment about the re­port it­self.

“How­ever, the Prime Min­is­ter will pro­vide a progress re­port about the re­port be­fore the Na­tional Assem­bly very soon. Please be as­sured you will soon re­alise that your govern­ment has made enor­mous ad­vances in this en­deav­our,” noted Dr Likoti.

But Mr Monese yes­ter­day told the Le­sotho Times that the Al­liance was not in­ter­ested in new mar­kets in Europe but wants the govern­ment to re­as­sure the na­tion on AGOA.

“We want to know what the govern­ment is do­ing to cer­tify our el­i­gi­bil­ity for AGOA; how far the govern­ment has gone to­wards de­liv­er­ing on de­mands by the US which have a bear­ing on our el­i­gi­bil­ity for AGOA. We don’t want to hear about new mar­kets else­where when we al­ready have a mar­ket,” said Mr Monese.

He fur­ther re­vealed the Al­liance is set to meet next week to de­cide on the way for­ward “tak­ing into ac­count the mock­ery that our de­mands have been re­duced to”.

Mr Monese added: “We were also shocked to get re­sponses from peo­ple we never pe­ti­tioned.”

For her part, Ad­vo­cate Tsikoane said the let­ters from both Dr Likoti and Mrs Mor­ri­son fell short of the an­swers they ex­pected.

“We didn’t want blan­ket state­ments say­ing a re­port has been sub­mit­ted.

“That means noth­ing to us. Again there are con­tra­dic­tions be­tween what Dr Likoti says and what ‘Me’ Mamello is say­ing and also what Min­is­ter Setipa said about go­ing to meet with the Amer­i­cans on AGOA,” she said.

Mem­bers of the Al­liance of Non-state Ac­tors march in Maseru last month.

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