‘Give in­com­ing govt a chance’

. . . as Moleleki vows to ad­dress AGOA el­i­gi­bil­ity con­cerns

Lesotho Times - - News - Billy Ntaote

DEMO­CRATIC Congress (DC) deputy leader Monyane Moleleki has im­plored the United States government to give the “in­com­ing Le­sotho ad­min­is­tra­tion” a chance to ad­dress the gov­er­nance con­cerns they had ex­pressed to en­sure el­i­gi­bil­ity for free trade ben­e­fits un­der the African Growth and Op­por­tu­nity Act (AGOA).

Mr Moleleki, who is locked in a nasty lead­er­ship tus­sle with DC leader Prime Min­is­ter Pakalitha Mo­sisili, also ac­cused the premier of “neg­li­gently” mis­han­dling the AGOA is­sue in his de­lib­er­a­tions with the Amer­i­cans, say­ing he “put the jobs of 40 000 Ba­sotho in jeop­ardy”.

Ad­dress­ing hun­dreds of pro­test­ers dur­ing Sun­day’s march to pe­ti­tion Dr Mo­sisili and government to ad­dress AGOA el­i­gi­bil­ity con­cerns in Maseru, Mr Moleleki urged the Amer­i­cans to give the new pact be­tween the op­po­si­tion and a fac­tion of the DC a chance since they in­tended to oust the cur­rent seven-party gov­ern­ing coali­tion and form a government of na­tional unity (GNU).

Or­gan­ised by a coali­tion of civic groups dubbed Al­liance of Non-state Actors (ANSA), the pro­ces­sion was meant to pres­surise government to ad­dress the US government’s gov­er­nance and rule of law con­cerns ahead of a de­ter­mi­na­tion on Le­sotho’s el­i­gi­bil­ity for AGOA on 1 Jan­uary 2017.

AGOA is a non­re­cip­ro­cal trade pref­er­ence pro­gramme that pro­vides duty-free treat­ment to US im­ports of cer­tain prod­ucts from el­i­gi­ble sub-sa­ha­ran African coun­tries.

The eco­nomic gi­ant has re­peat­edly warned Maseru it risked jeop­ar­dis­ing the jobs of 40 000 Ba­sotho work­ing in the tex­tile sec­tor by fail­ing to ad­dress con­cerns about “im­punity and the rule of law” as well as im­ple­men­ta­tion of South­ern African De­vel­op­ment Com­mu­nity (SADC) Com­mis­sion of In­quiry rec­om­men­da­tions.

Some of the rec­om­men­da­tions in­clude the dis­missal of Le­sotho De­fence Force (LDF) com­man­der Lieu­tenant-gen­eral Tlali Kamoli and the sus­pen­sion of LDF of­fi­cers im­pli­cated in cases of mur­der, at­tempted mur­der and trea­son.

The in­quiry also rec­om­mended an amnesty for the 23 soldiers fac­ing mutiny charges be­fore the Court Mar­tial. The soldiers were ar­rested be­tween May and June 2015 for al­legedly plot­ting to vi­o­lently re­move the LDF com­mand. Eight of the soldiers have since been re­leased from Maseru Max­i­mum Se­cu­rity Prison and placed un­der open ar­rest, which is a form of bail in the mil­i­tary. The other 15 re­main in de­ten­tion.

Lt-gen Kamoli was ex­pected to re­tire to­day, while government has un­der­taken to im­ple­ment con­sti­tu­tional and se­cu­rity sec­tor re­forms. How­ever, there has not been a dis­cernible move­ment on the other rec­om­men­da­tions.

Mr Moleleki was early this month ap­pointed act­ing DC leader by Na­tional Ex­ec­u­tive (NEC) mem­bers aligned to his Liru­rubele (but­ter­flies) fac­tion af­ter they sus­pended Dr Mo­sisili for al­leged mis­con­duct.

How­ever, the premier has in­sisted he re­mains DC leader and, in turn, sus­pended Mr Moleleki and nine other NEC mem­bers as well as call­ing for an emer­gency party conference slated for to­mor­row meant to take “harsh dis­ci­plinary mea­sures” on the “re- bels”. The hold­ing of the conference is still up in the air af­ter the NEC mem­bers aligned to Liru­rubele made a High Court chal­lenge which will be heard to­day.

Last week, Mr Moleleki signed a coali­tion agree­ment with the All Ba­sotho Con­ven­tion and its op­po­si­tion part­ners, Ba­sotho Na­tional Party and Re­formed Congress of Le­sotho, meant to oust the seven-party coali­tion government led by Dr Mo­sisili.

The par­ties signed an agree­ment ti­tled “The Coali­tion Agree­ment for Na­tional Unity and Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion” and said they would in­vite all po­lit­i­cal par­ties to join them to form a GNU. Un­der the agree­ment, Mr Moleleki would head the coali­tion for the first 18 months upon form­ing government and han­dover to ABC leader and for­mer premier Thomas Tha­bane there­after.

Mr Moleleki told the gath­er­ing they were wait­ing for Dr Mo­sisili to “do the hon­ourable thing” and re­sign so the GNU can ad­dress the AGOA el­i­gi­bil­ity con­cerns.

He said ANSA’S 48-hour ul­ti­ma­tum to government to re­spond to their de­mands was too long since the jobs of 40 000 Ba­sotho were hang­ing in the bal­ance. ANSA had given Dr Mo­sisili un­til Tues­day to ei­ther re­spond or “step down to make way for those who would be equal to the task”.

“The ul­ti­ma­tum you gave to the gov­ern- ment of Le­sotho is very long be­cause the jobs of more than 40 000 work­ers hang in the bal­ance as a re­sult of the government’s fail­ure to take ac­tion,” said Mr Moleleki who is also the Machache con­stituency leg­is­la­tor.

“As po­lit­i­cal par­ties, we are wait­ing for a peace­ful han­dover of power from Ntate Mo­sisili’s government to us. We are go­ing to be stand­ing by you all the way through thick and thin.”

He urged the US government to give his coali­tion a chance to prove their com­mit­ment to safe­guard­ing the coun­try’s AGOA el­i­gi­bil­ity upon as­sum­ing power.

“I be­lieve that when I make my state­ment in English it will get to President Barack Obama and President-elect Don­ald Trump. I would like to seize this op­por­tu­nity to ap­peal to the Amer­i­can au­thor­i­ties to re­mem­ber that since our in­de­pen­dence, the United States of Amer­ica has been the only coun­try, the only su­per power which stood by Le­sotho; they never left our sight.

“They never for­saken Le­sotho, and I would like to ap­peal to the Amer­i­can au­thor­i­ties and the peo­ple of the United States of Amer­ica, through both President Obama and President-elect Trump to give the in­com­ing government an op­por­tu­nity.”

Mr Moleleki said un­like Dr Mo­sisili’s government, he would pri­ori­tise the AGOA en­gage­ment by send­ing a “high level del­e­ga­tion” to Wash­ing­ton.

“Our in­com­ing government will send a high level del­e­ga­tion to the Amer­i­can cap­i­tal to not only con­vince them of our de­ter­mi­na­tion to qual­ify for AGOA, but also to ex­pand the ben­e­fits of the fa­cil­ity which we never took ad­van­tage of over the years,” he said.

“We in­tend to be a government that cares about the well­be­ing of fac­tory work­ers by not just send­ing min­is­ters to Amer­ica but a high pow­ered del­e­ga­tion. Ntate Mo­sisili re­fused to go to Amer­ica. He even an­grily dis­missed the Amer­i­cans when they raised con­cerns over AGOA.”

Con­tacted for com­ment, Dr Mo­sisili’s Press At­taché Mo­tumi Rale­joe said the premier had pub­licly stated his government’s con­tin­ued en­gage­ments with the US government over AGOA el­i­gi­bil­ity.

“The ne­go­ti­a­tions have been on­go­ing and the prime min­is­ter has del­e­gated his Trade and In­dus­try Min­is­ter Joshua Setipa in that re­gard,” he said.

“The min­is­ter has made var­i­ous trips to the United States to deal with con­cerns on AGOA el­i­gi­bil­ity and the ne­go­ti­a­tions are still on­go­ing. I don’t know any­thing about the al­le­ga­tions be­ing made against the prime min­is­ter.”

DC leader Prime Min­is­ter Pakalitha Mo­sisili (right) and his deputy Monyane Moleleki. DC deputy leader Monyane Moleleki.

THE ansa protest was meant to pres­surise government to ad­dress the Us government’s gov­er­nance and rule of law con­cerns ahead of a de­ter­mi­na­tion on Le­sotho’s el­i­gi­bil­ity for agoa on 1 Jan­uary 2017.

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