Op­po­si­tion warns of blood­bath

Lesotho Times - - Front Page - Lekhetho Nt­sukun­yane

THE op­po­si­tion al­liance has called on the gov­ern­ment to “come to its senses” by speed­ily im­ple­ment­ing the SADC Com­mis­sion of In­quiry rec­om­men­da­tions and re­leas­ing the 16 “in­no­cent” sol­ders de­tained at Maseru Max­i­mum Se­cu­rity Prison for al­leged mutiny.

The al­liance, com­pris­ing the All Ba­sotho Con­ven­tion (ABC), Ba­sotho Na­tional Party (BNP) and Re­formed Congress of Le­sotho (RCL), also warned the pre­vail­ing po­lit­i­cal in­sta­bil­ity could de­gen­er­ate into a “blood­bath” if the “ar­ro­gant” gov­ern­ment did not heed their ad­vice.

Ad­dress­ing a press con­fer­ence in Maseru yes­ter­day, ABC deputy leader Tlali Khasu, spokesper­son Tefo Mape­sela and RCL sec­re­tary-gen­eral ’Mamolula Ntabe, ac­cused the gov­ern­ment of “drag­ging its feet” in im­ple­ment­ing rec­om­men­da­tions of the Jus­tice Mphaphi Phumaphi-led SADC Com­mis­sion of In­quiry.

The 10-mem­ber Com­mis­sion of le­gal and se­cu­rity ex­perts probed Le­sotho’s se­cu­rity and po­lit­i­cal chal­lenges fol­low­ing the fa­tal shoot­ing of for­mer army com­man­der Maa­parankoe Ma­hao on 25 June 2015. The probe was held be­tween 31 Au­gust and 23 Oc­to­ber 2015 and rec­om­mended the dis­missal of Le­sotho De­fence Force (LDF) com­man­der Lieu­tenant-gen­eral Tlali Kamoli and the re­turn of ex­iled op­po­si­tion lead­ers among oth­ers.

Ac­cord­ing to Mr Khasu, who said they were speak­ing on be­half of the three par­ties de­spite the ab­sence of BNP mem­bers from the con­fer­ence, the gov­ern­ment was pre­sid­ing over a grow­ing po­lit­i­cal cri­sis due to its “re­fusal” to im­ple­ment the in­quiry’s rec­om­men­da­tions.

“The na­tion is fac­ing a se­ri­ous cri­sis un­der the present ad­min­is­tra­tion of the seven po­lit­i­cal par­ties. Ntate (Pakalitha) Mo­sisili’s gov­ern­ment is ob­vi­ously re­fus­ing to ad­dress is­sues of grave con­cern to Ba­sotho,” he said.

“This gov­ern­ment has failed to im­ple­ment the SADC rec­om­men­da­tions into the po­lit­i­cal in­sta­bil­ity of this coun­try up to now.”

Mr Khasu said the seven-party coali­tion had failed to en­sure the safe re­turn of ABC leader Thomas Tha­bane, BNP leader Th­e­sele ‘Maserib­ane and RCL leader Keketso Ran­tšo, who fled to South Africa in May last year say­ing their lives were in dan­ger from mem­bers of the mil­i­tary.

“Our lead­ers and other cit­i­zens of this coun­try have been in ex­ile fol­low­ing se­ri­ous threats to their lives, but this gov­ern­ment has ig­nored that. Even af­ter the rec­om­men­da­tion by SADC that Ntate Mo­sisili’s gov­ern­ment should fa­cil­i­tate the safe re­turn of our peo­ple, this gov­ern­ment has per­sis­tently ig­nored it.”

The Peka Con­stituency MP also ac­cused the gov­ern­ment of “un­law­fully” de­tain­ing sol­diers ac­cused of mutiny and “tor­tur­ing” them. The LDF ar­rested 23 sol­diers last year for al­legedly plot­ting to over­throw the army com­mand. How­ever, seven of the sol­diers have since been re­leased from de­ten­tion and placed un­der open ar­rest, with the LDF mem­bers’ trial con­tin­u­ing be­fore the Court Mar­tial.

“It is quite un­for­tu­nate that the gov­ern­ment seems to be con­don­ing the tor­ture that those sol­diers are be­ing sub­jected to. We are re­li­ably in­formed that the de­tained sol­diers are some­times de­nied meals. Yet the De­fence Min­is­ter (Tšeliso Mokhosi) had the temer­ity to come to par­lia­ment this week and claim that it is not true. He is con­don­ing such cal­lous be­hav­iour.”

He added the gov­ern­ment should not act as if it would be in power for­ever, say­ing they may “soon” wind up in the op­po­si­tion and need­ing to form new al­liances.

“The cur­rent po­lit­i­cal spec­trum re­quires that par­ties treat each other well be­cause they need each other due to the elec­toral model we have adopted.

“You may be in power to­day but soon you will need me to form gov­ern­ment. Gone are the days when a sin­gle party could form gov­ern­ment by it­self,” the ABC deputy leader said.

Ms Ntabe echoed the sen­ti­ments, say­ing the gov­ern­ment’s stance was putting the sup­port Le­sotho re­ceived from de­vel­op­ment part­ners such as Amer­ica’s Mil­len­nium Chal­lenge Cor­po­ra­tion and African Growth and Op­por­tu­nity Act (AGOA) in jeop­ardy.

The Amer­i­cans ex­pressed “se­ri­ous con­cerns” about the gov­ern­ment’s al­leged fail­ure to ad­here to AGOA’S gov­er­nance cri­te­ria in April this year, say­ing they would mon­i­tor the im­ple­men­ta­tion of re­forms ahead of the next el­i­gi­bil­ity re­view process.

“By now, Ntate Mo­sisili should at least be in a po­si­tion to give us a clear roadmap or plan of ac­tion re­gard­ing how the gov­ern­ment will im­ple­ment the SADC in­quiry rec­om­men­da­tions. The prime min­is­ter is tak­ing us for granted,” she said.

“As we speak, some in­ter­na­tional de­vel­op­ment part­ners have threat­ened to with­hold their sup­port to Le­sotho pend­ing a res­o­lu­tion to the cur­rent po­lit­i­cal im­passe.

“They want us to re­solve our is­sues, but it doesn’t look like the gov­ern­ment is lis­ten­ing. It is a pity that Ba­sotho at grass­roots level are the ones suf­fer­ing. All the gov­ern­ment does is side­line the op­po­si­tion on crit­i­cal is­sues that re­quire our in­put. When­ever for­eign dig­ni­taries are here, we are barred from meet­ing them as the op­po­si­tion. What is this gov­ern­ment hid­ing?”

Mr Mape­sela chipped in by also slam­ming the gov­ern­ment for al­legedly fail­ing to en­sure the safety of op­po­si­tion mem­bers, which he said had forced some of them to join their col- leagues in ex­ile.

“Our peo­ple are re­ceiv­ing death threats from all corners for ex­pos­ing some au­thor­i­ties on ra­dio for their wrong­do­ings. They have now been forced to flee to South Africa,” he said.

“The sit­u­a­tion is just so volatile it could lead to a blood­bath if it is not quickly ad­dressed. The anger of Ba­sotho whose rel­a­tives are be­ing sub­jected to grue­some treat­ment by those in power is grow­ing.”

The ABC spokesper­son also ac­cused the gov­ern­ment of vest­ing Dr Mo­sisili with “ex­ces­sive” pow­ers through the Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Elec­tions Amend­ment Bill of 2016. The Bill seeks to trans­fer the right to de­ter­mine the elec­tion date from the In­de­pen­dent Elec­toral Com­mis­sion (IEC) to the pre­mier.

Con­tacted for com­ment yes­ter­day, Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Min­is­ter Khotso Let­satsi scoffed at the al­le­ga­tions say­ing they were “un­founded lies” meant to mis­lead Ba­sotho.

Mr Let­satsi, who is also the gov­ern­ment spokesper­son, said: “Those peo­ple have noth­ing to do ex­cept to come up with un­founded lies against the gov­ern­ment.

“It is not true that the gov­ern­ment is do­ing noth­ing about the SADC in­quiry rec­om­men­da­tions. The gov­ern­ment has made a lot of ef­fort to deal with those rec­om­men­da­tions. Soon they will re­alise that.

“The al­le­ga­tions of ex­ces­sive pow­ers be­ing given to the Prime Min­is­ter are also un­true be­cause we are sim­ply do­ing what other coun­tries have done by leav­ing the IEC with its main man­date of ad­min­is­ter­ing elec­tions.

“The IEC is not sup­posed to be bur­dened with is­sues of call­ing the date of elec­tions. Their role is to ad­min­is­ter the elec­tions at the time they have been called by the Prime Min­is­ter or the King. That is also stan­dard prac­tice in other coun­tries.”

Mr Let­satsi would not be drawn to com­ment on the is­sue of the de­tained sol­diers, say­ing Mr Mokhosi had al­ready de­nied al­le­ga­tions they had been abused.

“He (Mr Mokhosi) is­sued a state­ment dis­miss­ing those un­founded al­le­ga­tions about the sol­diers be­ing de­nied food. The op­po­si­tion is just spread­ing lies to con­fuse Ba­sotho,” he said.

MPS from ABC, BNP and RCL are ap­peal­ing to the seven-mem­ber coali­tion gov­ern­ment speed­ily im­ple­ment­ing the SADC Com­mis­sion of In­quiry rec­om­men­da­tions.

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