Meet­ing to be held im­me­di­ately af­ter Easter in South Africa

Lesotho Times - - Front Page - ’Marafaele Mohloboli

AGOVERNMENT del­e­ga­tion will travel to South Africa soon af­ter this week­end’s Easter hol­i­days for crunch talks with self-ex­iled Le­sotho Congress for Democ­racy (LCD) leader, Mo­thetjoa Mets­ing, over his pos­si­ble re­turn to Le­sotho to par­tic­i­pate in the coun­try’s multi-sec­tor re­forms.

The leader of the gov­ern­ment del­e­ga­tion who is also gov­ern­ment spokesper­son and Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Min­is­ter, Th­e­sele Maserib­ane, this week told the Le­sotho Times that the talks had been re­quested by Mr Mets­ing who has been holed up in neigh­bour­ing South Africa af­ter flee­ing Le­sotho last Au­gust cit­ing an al­leged plot to as­sas­si­nate him.the gov­ern­ment has nev­er­the­less re­futed his claims, in­sist­ing that Mr Mets­ing fled to es­cape pros­e­cu­tion for cor­rup­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to Chief Maserib­ane, Mr Mets­ing, who faces ex­tra­di­tion from South Africa, com­mu­ni­cated his de­sire to ne­go­ti­ate with the gov­ern­ment through the South­ern African De­vel­op­ment Com­mu­nity (SADC) Over­sight Com­mit­tee which was es­tab­lished in July 2015 to serve as an early warn­ing mech­a­nism of in­sta­bil­ity in Le­sotho and to mon­i­tor the im­ple­men­ta­tion of SADC de­ci­sions aimed at achiev­ing peace in the coun­try.

The Over­sight Com­mit­tee is also tasked with pro­vid­ing as­sis­tance in the im­ple­men­ta­tion of con­sti­tu­tional, se­cu­rity and pub­lic sec­tor re­forms in Le­sotho.

Chief Maserib­ane, this week wel­comed Mr Mets­ing’s over­tures, say­ing the gov­ern­ment had over the past few months been go­ing out of its way to en­gage the op­po­si­tion lead­ers in ex­ile.

He said they had no qualms about meet­ing Mr Mets­ing and his deputy, Tšeliso Mokhosi, as the gov­ern­ment was keen to bring all stake­hold­ers on board to en­sure an all-in­clu­sive and par­tic­i­pa­tory ap­proach to yield re­forms that would be ac­cept­able to all sec­tions of the pop­u­la­tion.

“As the gov­ern­ment, we have not changed our po­si­tion to have all ac­tors on board with re­gards to par­tic­i­pat­ing in the steps we are tak­ing to­wards im­ple­ment­ing the re­forms,” Chief Maserib­ane said.

“In­clu­siv­ity is the ap­proach we are us­ing be­cause we would like this process to be as par­tic­i­pa­tory as pos­si­ble by in­cor­po­rat­ing in­puts from all stake­hold­ers, in­clud­ing the op­po­si­tion par­ties. We would like all con­tri­bu­tions re­flected in the fi­nal prod­uct.”

The an­nounce­ment of the talks comes barely a fort­night af­ter the South African Min­is­ter of Jus­tice, Tshililo Michael Ma­sutha, is­sued a no­ti­fi­ca­tion to the rel­e­vant gov­ern­ment de­part­ments in his coun­try to for­mally in­form them of Le­sotho’s re­quest for the ex­tra­di­tion of Mr Mets­ing so that he can “stand trial on charges of cor­rup­tion, fraud and tax eva­sion”.

Early this month, a com­bat­ive Mr Mets­ing used the oc­ca­sion of his 51st birth­day cel­e­bra­tions in Lady­brand to de­mand an end to what he said were po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated pros­e­cu­tions against him­self, for­mer army com­man­der, Tlali Kamoli, and other mem­bers of the op­po­si­tion.

He said he would only agree to an­swer to crim­i­nal charges against him in the af­ter­math of the re­forms yield­ing what he said would be an in­de­pen­dent na­tional pros­e­cut­ing au­thor­ity to guar­an­tee a fair trial.

And on Tues­day, Chief Maserib­ane con­ceded that the im­pend­ing talks brought a new di­men­sion to the cur­rent state of af­fairs wherein the ex­tra­di­tion process against Mr Mets­ing had started.

In his re­sponse af­ter be­ing asked whether or not the gov­ern­ment would halt the ex­tra­di­tion process, Chief Maserib­ane said the gov­ern­ment’s po­si­tion would be in­formed by “what will emerge from the dis­cus­sion we are go­ing to have with Mr Mets­ing”.

“Mr Mets­ing’s re­quest to talk with the gov­ern­ment brings a new di­men­sion to the cur­rent state of af­fairs. I can­not say what is go­ing to hap­pen be­cause there are new de­vel­op­ments to the whole mat­ter (of the ex­tra­di­tion).

“Go­ing for­ward, de­ci­sions will be in­formed by, among other fac­tors, what will emerge from the dis­cus­sion we are go­ing to have with Mr Mets­ing. It would be my wish to have all is­sues dis­cussed for us to have a clear line of ac­tions to be taken.”

Early this week, the Deputy Prime Min­is­ter, Monyane Moleleki, told a se­na­tors’ work­shop on re­forms in Maseru that the gov­ern­ment was will­ing to pro­vide Messrs Mets­ing and Mokhosi with se­cu­rity upon their re­turn to Le­sotho.

“All we want is for the re­forms’ process to be in­clu­sive and trans­par­ent. The gov­ern­ment had to sus­pend the Na­tional Re­forms Com­mis­sion Bill to en­sure ev­ery­thing is done through a par­tic­i­pa­tory ap­proach that is trans­par­ent and sat­is­fac­tory to all ac­tors in­volved,” Mr Moleleki said.

The gov­ern­ment had tabled the Re­forms Bill be­fore par­lia­ment on 17 Jan­uary, 2018.

The bill seeks to pro­vide for the es­tab­lish­ment of the Na­tional Re­forms Com­mis­sion whose man­date is to fa­cil­i­tate a na­tional di­a­logue on the con­sti­tu­tion and other re­lated is­sues with the purpose of en­sur­ing in­te­grated con­sti­tu­tional, par­lia­men­tary, ju­di­cial, se­cu­rity and pub­lic ser­vice re­forms.

The bill was how­ever, sus­pended last month fol­low­ing de­mands by the op­po­si­tion that a na­tional di­a­logue had to be held first to in­form the pro­vi­sions of the bill and other steps to­wards the re­form process.

Mean­while, the LCD spokesper­son, Te­boho Sekata, has crit­i­cised the ap­point­ment of Chief Maserib­ane to lead the gov­ern­ment del­e­ga­tion say­ing his party wanted the Prime Min­is­ter, Thomas Tha­bane, or Mr Moleleki to ne­go­ti­ate with Mr Mets­ing as Chief Maserib­ane was not se­nior enough.

While con­ced­ing that the talks were agreed upon af­ter the SADC Over­sight Com­mit­tee met with the ex­iled op­po­si­tion lead­ers last Wed­nes­day in South Africa, Mr Sekata said Chief Maserib­ane was not the right man for the job.

“Our leader (Mr Mets­ing) can only have talks if they are led by ei­ther the Prime Min­is­ter or his deputy and not Chief ’Maserib­ane. In as much as he is part of the coali­tion gov­ern­ment, he failed to garner sup­port in the past elec­tions and did not make it in his own con­stituency. He is just rid­ing on the back of those who per­formed well in the elec­tions.

“Mets­ing is the leader of the LCD and he won in his con­stituency. There­fore he can only hold dis­cus­sions with peo­ple on the same level. Send­ing some­one like Chief ’Maserib­ane is as good as look­ing down on him (Mr Mets­ing),” Mr Sekata said of Chief Maserib­ane who is also leader of the Ba­sotho Na­tional Party (BNP).

The BNP is part of the four party coali­tion gov­ern­ment along with Dr Tha­bane’s All Ba­sotho Con­ven­tion (ABC), Mr Moleleki’s Al­liance of Democrats (AD) and Keke Ran­tšo’s Re­formed Congress of Le­sotho (RCL) which came to power in the af­ter­math of last June’s snap na­tional elec­tions.

How­ever, Chief Maserib­ane said Mr Sekata’s com­ments were mis­placed as he was meet­ing the op­po­si­tion as rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the gov­ern­ment on a peace mis­sion and not as a party leader.

“It is high time we act and work be­yond ut­ter­ances that will ob­vi­ously take us nowhere as a coun­try. The gov­ern­ment did not re­quest to meet Mr Mets­ing but we are will­ing to hon­our his re­quest to dis­cuss is­sues with us.

“There is a lot be­ing said, in­for­ma­tion not prop­erly con­tex­tu­al­ized, mis­man­aged, poorly co­or­di­nated and reck­lessly dis­sem­i­nated, and we ought to be care­ful, lest we be­come dis­tracted from our goal. Im­por­tantly, if Mr Mets­ing de­cides he no longer wants to meet with the gov­ern­ment, there is not much we can do, but we would like the world to take note of our ef­forts and con­clude ob­jec­tively on this mat­ter,” Chief Maserib­ane said.

LCD leader Mo­thetjoa Mets­ing.

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