Po­lice im­pose strict march rules

Sunday Express - - FRONT PAGE - ’Marafaele Mohloboli

PO­LICE have warned pro­test­ers par­tic­i­pat­ing in to­day’s march to pe­ti­tion Prime Min­is­ter Pakalitha Mo­sisili and gov­ern­ment to ad­dress Africa Growth Op­por­tu­nity Act (AGOA) el­i­gi­bil­ity con­cerns not to carry plac­ards crit­i­cis­ing the premier or to wear po­lit­i­cal party re­galia.

Maseru Ur­ban District Com­mis­sioner, Se­nior Su­per­in­ten­dent Mot­latsi Map­ola, yes­ter­day told the Sun­day Ex­press the time­frame of the march had also been changed from 9am to 3pm, in­stead of the ini­tial 9am to 5pm.

The pro­ces­sion has been or­gan­ised by a coali­tion of civic groups dubbed Al­liance of Non-State Ac­tors (ANSA) to pres­surise gov­ern­ment to ad­dress the United States gov­ern­ment’s gov­er­nance and rule of law con­cerns that could jeop­ar­dise Le­sotho’s el­i­gi­bil­ity for free trade ben­e­fits un­der AGOA.

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

Le­sotho’s tex­tile in­dus­try is a ma­jor ben­e­fi­ciary of AGOA and los­ing it would spell doom to the coun­try’s econ­omy as the sec­tor em­ploys an es­ti­mated 40 000 peo­ple. A de­ter­mi­na­tion on Le­sotho’s el­i­gi­bil­ity for AGOA will be made on 1 Jan­uary 2017.

The ANSA march is ex­pected to in­clude var­i­ous groups such as the Na­tional Cloth­ing and Tex­tile Work­ers Union, Lentsoe la Sech­aba and In­de­pen­dent Demo­cratic Union of Le­sotho, Maseru Re­gion Trans­port Op­er­a­tors as well as mem­bers of academia, busi­ness, civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tions and op­po­si­tion po­lit­i­cal party youth and women leagues.

Snr Supt Map­ola said the pro­ces­sion was only al­lowed to protest on the AGOA is­sue and not to call for Dr Mo­sisili’s ouster.

“I called (fac­tory work­ers union leader) Sam Mokhele to raise some of my con­cerns with him be­cause he is the one who had ap­plied for the protest march, and he came with other peo­ple,” he said.

“I told them that I did not ex­pect to see any plac­ards say­ing ‘Mo­sisli must go’ or ‘Cor­rup­tion must fall’ be­cause the per­mit was granted on the ba­sis of con­cerns over AGOA only. So no po­lit­i­cal party re­galia is ex­pected.

“Had the per­mit been given on the ba­sis of cor­rup­tion and the prime min­is­ter’s al­leged mal­ad­min­is­tra­tion, that would have been some­thing else. Any­one who wanted such a per­mit should have come for their own per­mit and not ride on the one al­ready is­sued on AGOA.”

Snr Supt Map­ola said the flout­ing of those con­di­tions would com­pro­mise the peace­ful hold­ing of the march and con­tra­vene Sec­tion 5 (1) (a) of the Pub­lic Meet­ings and Pro­ces­sions Act.

The Maseru Ur­ban District Com­mis­sioner said he had dis­cre­tionary powers to grant or deny a per­mit “but since all par­ties have agreed to obey the set rules there was no need to do so”.

The other con­di­tions Snr Supt Map­ola set are that there should be no sit-ins or vul­gar songs dur­ing the march.

“The march will start at 9am and end at 3pm and not at 5pm as was agreed ear­lier. How­ever should their busi­ness ex­tend be­yond the stip­u­lated time, they will li­aise with me,” he said.

How­ever, the Trans­for­ma­tion Re­source Cen­tre’s (TRC) Tsikoane Peshoane, whose civic group is par­tic­i­pat­ing in the march, told this pa­per the Pub­lic Meet­ing and Pro­ces­sion Act gave the po­lice wide dis­cre­tionary powers in the is­su­ing of per­mits to peo­ple wish­ing to ex­er­cise their demo­cratic right to demon­strate.

He said the fact that these dis­cre­tionary powers were not guided by any clear guide­lines or reg­u­la­tions made them sub­ject to the whims of the in­di­vid­ual po­lice of­fi­cer ex­er­cis­ing them.

“It all de­pends on who is in of­fice at the time. The de­ter­mi­na­tion of who can demon­strate and how such a demon­stra­tion can be car­ried out is up to that in­di­vid­ual,” said Mr Peshoane.

“Such a sce­nario is detri­men­tal to the ex­er­cis­ing of demo­cratic rights be­cause it can eas­ily be used to sti­fle dis­sent and democ­racy.”

MaseRU Ur­ban District Com­mis­sioner se­nior su­per­in­ten­dent Mot­latsi Map­ola.

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