‘Give incoming govt a chance’
. . . as Moleleki vows to address AGOA eligibility concerns
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.