Stay­away looms

Coali­tion of trade unions, taxi op­er­a­tors, NGOs and busi­ness to protest over SADC rec­om­men­da­tions.

Sunday Express - - FRONT PAGE - ’Marafaele Mohloboli

aCOaLITION of ‘Con­cerned Non-State ac­tors’ has urged work­ers to stay away from work on 12 May in an ef­fort to put pres­sure on the govern­ment to “speed­ily” im­ple­ment the SaDC Com­mis­sion of In­quiry rec­om­men­da­tions.

The al­liance com­prises Maseru re­gion Taxi Op­er­a­tors ( MrTO), Steer­ing Com­mit­tee (rep­re­sent­ing ‘ 4+1’ taxis), Le­sotho Coun­cil of Non-Gov­ern­men­tal Or­gan­i­sa­tions ( LCN), trade unions Lentsoe la Sech­aba, In­de­pen­dent Demo­cratic Union of Le­sotho, Na­tional Cloth­ing Tex­tile and al­lied Work­ers Union, and United Tex­tile Em­ploy­ees, as well as the Le­sotho Cham­ber of Com­merce and In­dus­try and says it would sub­mit a list of its grievances to Prime Min­is­ter Pakalitha Mo­sisili on the day in ques­tion.

The as­so­ci­a­tion’s spokesper­son, Makama Monese of the MrTO, yes­ter­day told the Sun­day Ex­press the stay-away was meant to make the govern­ment aware of the grav­ity of the mat­ter and why it needed to speed­ily im­ple­ment the rec­om­men­da­tions.

The rec­om­men­da­tions were made by a 10-mem­ber team com­mis­sioned by the South­ern african De­vel­op­ment Com­mis­sion (SaDC) to probe the fa­tal shoot­ing of for­mer army com­man­der Maa­parankoe Ma­hao. Lieu­tenant-Gen­eral Ma­hao was killed on 25 June 2015 out­side Maseru by his mil­i­tary col­leagues al­legedly while re­sist­ing ar­rest for sus­pected mutiny.

among the rec­om­men­da­tions was the dis­missal of army com­man­der Lt-Gen Tlali Kamoli “in the in­ter­est of restor­ing trust and ac­cep­tance of the Le­sotho De­fence Force (LDF) to the Ba­sotho na­tion”, and the sus­pen­sion of all LDF of­fi­cers im­pli­cated in cases of mur­der, at­tempted mur­der and trea­son while in­ves­ti­ga­tions into their cases pro­ceed “in line with in­ter­na­tional best prac­tice”.

The Com­mis­sion also rec­om­mended govern­ment should en­sure crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tions into the death of Lt-Gen Ma­hao are pur­sued “vig­or­ously” and that the po­lice are em­pow­ered and re­sourced ac­cord­ingly for the task. The in­ves­ti­ga­tions, the Com­mis­sion added, should be con­ducted “ex­pe­di­tiously and com­pre­hen­sively with­out any hin­drance and that all phys­i­cal ev­i­dence be sur­ren­dered and the fi­nal­ity of the in­ves­ti­ga­tions should lead to a trans­par­ent course of jus­tice”.

How­ever, Mr Monese said the al­liance had de­cided to call for a stay­away af­ter fail­ing to get a re­sponse from the govern­ment on when the rec­om­men­da­tions would be im­ple­mented.

“We ex­pect no one to go to work on 12 May 2016. There will be no pub­lic trans­port, and we ex­pect all shops to close on this day as this is a na­tional is­sue,” said Mr Monese.

“We need to warn the govern­ment of the con­se­quences of de­lay­ing to im­ple­ment the SaDC rec­om­men­da­tions. We are wor­ried be­cause the ef­fects would neg­a­tively af­fect the lives of our peo­ple and busi­nesses.”

Mr Monese also said the stay­away would also be in protest at “the ev­i­dent de­te­ri­o­ra­tion of the rule of law in Le­sotho”.

“The govern­ment’s re­luc­tance to re­ceive Jus­tice Phumaphi’s re­port and im­ple­ment its rec­om­men­da­tions is threat­en­ing Le­sotho’s re­la­tion­ship with the United States and ul­ti­mately, the country’s el­i­gi­bil­ity for aGOa (african Growth and Op­por­tu­nity act which al­lows cer­tain goods pro­duced in el­i­gi­ble coun­tries duty-free en­try into the US). If we for­feit aGOa, at least 40 000 fac­tory jobs will be di­rectly lost and other re­lated busi­nesses will be af­fected. This is why we have de­cided to call for this stay­away on 12 May to avert such a dis­as­ter,” Mr Monese said.

Mr Monese also said ram­pant vi­o­lent crime pre­vail­ing in Le­sotho was an­other rea­son the al­liance had de­cided to call for the stay­away.

“We have is­sued state­ments about our con­cerns but they have never been re­sponded to. We were sim­ply ask­ing the govern­ment to re­spond to the US con­cerns on the rule of law in or­der to avert the po­ten­tial neg­a­tive eval­u­a­tion of the country for its qual­i­fi­ca­tion for AGOA and the Mil­len­nium Chal­lenge Cor­po­ra­tion (MCC) grant,” said Mr Monese.

The al­liance, he added, had de­cided to take the stay­away route af­ter re­al­is­ing their ef­forts were bear­ing no fruit.

“We have de­cided that it is time this govern­ment takes the peo­ple se­ri­ous. More than 40000 peo­ple are bound to lose their jobs and some are on the verge of los­ing them be­cause of ques­tion marks over the country’s se­cu­rity. If Le­sotho fails to qual­ify for aGOa next year, most sec­tors in­clud­ing fac­to­ries, small busi­nesses and taxis which ferry the work­ers on a daily ba­sis, will be af­fected. We all work as a chain and if it breaks and we just sit back and watch, we’ll all be doomed,” Mr Monese said.

LCN Co­or­di­na­tor of Democ­racy and Hu­man rights, ad­vo­cate Li­neo Tsikoane, said govern­ment’s “si­lence” on the SaDC re­port was wor­ri­some hence the de­ci­sion to call for the stay­away.

“We are very wor­ried about our govern­ment’s si­lence on is­sues of na­tional in­ter- est. We have made sev­eral at­tempts to meet the Prime Min­is­ter but all in vain,” ad­vo­cate Tsikoane said.

Tsikoane Peshoane, Democ­racy and Hu­man Rights Of­fi­cer at Trans­for­ma­tion Re­source Cen­tre, which is a mem­ber of the LCN, said the rights group was sup­port­ing the stay-away “a 100 per­cent be­cause we have ex­hausted all pos­si­ble av­enues to en­gage the govern­ment and get it to im­ple­ment the Com­mis­sion’s rec­om­men­da­tions but all in vain.”

“amer­ica has made it very clear that they want the rule of law to be ob­served for us to con­tinue en­joy­ing such ben­e­fits as aGOa and that is ex­actly what we want,” said Mr Peshoane.

In­de­pen­dent Demo­cratic Union of Le­sotho Deputy Gen­eral Sec­re­tary, Se­abata Likoti, also said the stay-away was meant to save Le­sotho.

“We are part of this ini­tia­tive as we want the govern­ment to start tak­ing Ba­sotho se­ri­ously. We need to make sure that we save as many jobs as pos­si­ble by en­sur­ing that we don’t lose the aGOa fa­cil­ity,” Mr Likoti said.

Le­sotho Cham­ber of Com­merce and In­dus­try Pres­i­dent, Ntaote Se­boka also con­firmed the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s sup­port for the stay-away.

“We are fully part and par­cel of this al­liance and stand firm on the con­cerns raised. We have al­ways been a part of all com­mu­ni­ca­tion meant to ad­dress the killing of Gen­eral Maa­parankoe Ma­hao,” he said.

Con­tacted for com­ment on the pro­posed stay-away, govern­ment spokesper­son Khotso Let­satsi said: “The govern­ment is al­ready work­ing on the rec­om­men­da­tions and has a clear roadmap. It’s un­for­tu­nate if they don’t rec­og­nize th­ese ef­forts be­cause they can’t be im­ple­mented overnight. We have to take them one step at a time. “How­ever we are not aware of the said stay­away.”

SADC rec­om­men­da­tions

In the in­ter­est of find­ing peace for the King­dom of Le­sotho, and bring­ing clo­sure to the killing of Bri­gadier Ma­hao, the Com­mis­sion prof­fers here be­low, some rec­om­men­da­tions for con­sid­er­a­tion: • The Govern­ment of Le­sotho should en­sure that the crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tions on the death of Bri­gadier Ma­hao be pur­sued vig­or­ously and that the LMPS is em­pow­ered and re­sourced ac­cord­ingly. The in­ves­ti­ga­tion should be con­ducted ex­pe­di­tiously and com­pre­hen­sively with­out any hin­drances and that all phys­i­cal ev­i­dence be sur­ren­dered. The fi­nal­ity of the in­ves­ti­ga­tions should lead to a trans­par­ent course of jus­tice. • The gen­eral dis­con­tent of some Ba­sotho with the Com­man­der of LDF, Lieu­tenant Gen­eral Kamoli and the con­duct of the LDF un­der his com­mand is dis­con­cert­ing. In the in­ter­est of restor­ing trust and ac­cep­tance of the LDF to the Ba­sotho na­tion, it is strongly rec­om­mended that Lieu­tenant Gen­eral Kamoli be re­lieved of his du­ties as Com­man­der LDF, and all LDF of­fi­cers im­pli­cated in cases of mur­der, at­tempted mur­der and trea­son be sus­pended while in­ves­ti­ga­tions in their cases pro­ceed in line with in­ter­na­tional best prac­tice. • The Com­mis­sion has ob­served that some of the po­lit­i­cal and se­cu­rity prob­lems pe­cu­liar to the King­dom of Le­sotho em­anate from the Con­sti­tu­tion of the Le­sotho. The de­fi­cien­cies and over­laps in the con­sti­tu­tion with re­gard to man­dates of se­cu­rity in­sti­tu­tions, need to be looked into ur­gently with a com­pre­hen­sive strat­egy to re­form them. • The Com­mis­sion has noted that SOMILES re­port cov­ers ex­ten­sively the ar­eas of re­form (con­sti­tu­tion, se­cu­rity sec­tor, pub­lic ser­vice and in­for­ma­tion and me­dia) per­tain­ing to the King­dom. To avoid rep­e­ti­tion, the Com­mis­sion there­fore rec­om­mends an ac­cel­er­ated im­ple­men­ta­tion of the re­forms en­cap­su­lated in the SOMILES re­port. SaDC should come up with a di­rect strat­egy on how to as­sist Le­sotho in the im­ple­men­ta­tion of th­ese re­forms, and that the Le­sotho Over­sight Com­mit­tee, es­tab­lished by the 3rd July 2015 Dou­ble Troika is op­er­a­tionalised. • Ev­i­dence be­fore the Com­mis­sion in re­spect of the mutiny, is that the al­leged mu­ti­neers in­tended to kill 13 mem­bers of the LDF. Fur­ther, it shows that some of the com­plainants in the court mar­tial, par­tic­i­pated in the ar­rest of the sus­pects, which is a clear con­flict sit­u­a­tion, as they have per­sonal in­ter­est in the cases. When this ev­i­dence is taken into con­sid­er­a­tion with that of the sus­pects sub­jected to tor­ture, the ob­ject be­ing to ex­tract con­fes­sions from them, as well as the ev­i­dence that Lt Gen­eral Kamoli him­self, when he was reap­pointed as Com­man­der of the LDF, stated that he would deal with those who cel­e­brated this ter­mi­na­tion in 2014, it makes the whole case of mutiny highly sus­pect. In th­ese cir­cum­stances, we rec­om­mend a fa­cil­i­ta­tion of an amnesty that will cover the de­tained mutiny sus­pects and en­sure the safe re­turn of all mem­bers of the LDF who have fled Le­sotho in fear for their lives.

TAXI op­er­a­tors protest­ing in this file pic­ture.

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