Says “ex­treme po­lar­ity of views” be­tween govt and op­po­si­tion could scut­tle the im­ple­men­ta­tion of re­forms

Sunday Express - - Front Page - Pas­cali­nah kabi

THE South­ern African De­vel­op­ment Com­mu­nity (SADC) is gravely con­cerned that the “ex­treme po­lar­ity of views” be­tween the govern­ment and op­po­si­tion could scut­tle the im­ple­men­ta­tion of con­sti­tu­tional se­cu­rity sec­tors and gov­er­nance re­forms in Le­sotho that were rec­om­mended by the re­gional body.

SADC rec­om­mended the multi-sec­toral re­forms in 2016 as part of mea­sures to bring last­ing peace and sta­bil­ity which are cru­cial to cre­at­ing the nec­es­sary con­di­tions for sus­tain­able so­cio-eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment in the Moun­tain King­dom.

The re­gional body’s rec­om­men­da­tions were made in the af­ter­math of the Jus­tice Mpa­phi Phumaphi-led SADC Com­mis­sion of In­quiry that was es­tab­lished to es­tab­lish the cir­cum­stances sur­round­ing the fa­tal shoot­ing of for­mer army com­man­der, Maa­parankoe Ma­hao, by his army col­leagues in 2015.

Lt-Gen Ma­hao was fa­tally shot by his col­leagues on 25 June 2015 just out­side Maseru. The Le­sotho De­fence Force (LDF) sub­se­quently an­nounced Lt-Gen Ma­hao was re­sist­ing ar­rest when he was killed, which the fam­ily has dis­missed as un­true.

The Ma­hao fam­ily ac­cused the army of killing him in cold blood bas­ing on the ac­count of his neph­ews who were with him dur­ing the in­ci­dent.

After the killing, the-then Prime Min­is­ter, Pakalitha Mo­sisili, asked SADC to help es­tab­lish the cir­cum­stances sur­round­ing the in­ci­dent, re­sult­ing in a Com­mis­sion of In­quiry led by Jus­tice Mpa­phi Phumaphi of Botswana.

The 10-mem­ber com­mis­sion car­ried out its in­ves­ti­ga­tions be­tween 31 Au­gust and 23 Oc­to­ber 2015 and rec­om­mended, among other things, that govern­ment should in­ves­ti­gate the killing and pros­e­cute those found to be re­spon­si­ble.

The com­mis­sion also rec­om­mended a slew of con­sti­tu­tional, leg­isla­tive and se­cu­rity sec­tor re­forms among oth­ers to stem the peren­nial in­sta­bil­ity in the Moun­tain King­dom.

And in its re­cent re­port compiled ahead of the much an­tic­i­pated de­ploy­ment of the SADC con­tin­gent to help cre­ate a con­ducive at­mos­phere for the im­ple­men­ta­tion of its rec­om­men­da­tions, SADC notes that de­spite the gen­eral con­sen­sus on the need for multi-sec­toral re­forms in Le­sotho, the process con­tin­ues to be plagued by ex­treme po­lar­i­sa­tion be­tween the govern­ment and the op­po­si­tion.

“Stake­hold­ers con­tin­ued to ex­press com­mit­ment to the re­form agenda and to this end the govern­ment has en­listed ser­vices of the United Na­tions De­vel­op­ment Pro­gramme (UNDP) to as­sist in draft­ing the Roadmap (to re­forms),” SADC states in its as­sess­ment of the cur­rent po­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion in the coun­try.

“How­ever, it is re­ported that the ex­treme po­lar­ity of views be­tween the govern­ment and op­po­si­tion threat­ens to de­rail the process, but there is con­sen­sus across the board on the need to im­ple­ment the re­form pack­age as de­cided by the SADC sum­mits.”

Govern­ment spokesper­son and Min­is­ter of Com­mu­ni­ca­tions, Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy, Joang Mo­lapo’s phone was re­peat­edly un­reach­able when the Sun­day Ex­press at­tempted to con­tact him for com­ment.

For his part, the op­po­si­tion rep­re­sen­ta­tive in the re­forms process, Mot­la­len­toa Let­sosa, ac­cused govern­ment of “play­ing its cards close to its chest,” say­ing it had not even availed to the op­po­si­tion, a draft of the re­forms roadmap it ul­ti­mately in­tended to present to SADC.

Mr Let­sosa said govern­ment had main­tained this stance de­spite re­peated ef­forts by the op­po­si­tion to ac­cess the draft so that they could make their in­put to en­sure that it was an all-in­clu­sive doc­u­ment.

He said due to the fact that they had not had sight of the draft roadmap doc­u­ment to get a clear un­der­stand­ing of the govern­ment views, it could there­fore, not be said there were di­ver­gent views be­tween them and govern­ment as sug­gested by SADC.

“So at the mo­ment, in the ab­sence of the doc­u­ment, there are no dif­fer­ing views be­tween the govern­ment and the op­po­si­tion on the roadmap,” Mr Let­sosa said yes­ter­day.

“But we must un­der­stand that since the SADC is me­di­at­ing be­tween the two sides — op­po­si­tion and govern­ment — they are best placed to know that we have dif­fer­ing views be­cause they met with us sep­a­rate- ly and they might have picked this mat­ter you are re­fer­ring to,” Mr Let­sosa said, adding that it was im­por­tant for govern­ment to avail the roadmap draft im­me­di­ately to speed up the process.”

The di­ver­gence of views be­tween the govern­ment and op­po­si­tion has been man­i­fested in dis­agree­ments over var­i­ous is­sues, in­clud­ing whether or not SADC fa­cil­i­ta­tor and South African Deputy Pres­i­dent, Cyril Ramaphosa should be al­lowed to con­tinue to con­tinue in his role.

SADC notes that while govern­ment wants him re­placed, the op­po­si­tion is happy to have him con­tinue, al­beit with the as­sis­tance of a me­di­a­tor, “prefer­ably a Mosotho na­tional”.

The dis­agree­ments have also ex­tended to the fate of ex­iled op­po­si­tion lead­ers who con­tinue have so far re­fused to heed govern­ment’s call to re­turn home to par­tic­i­pate in stake­holder meet­ings which are part of the process of pro­duc­ing the roadmap for the re­forms.

Le­sotho Congress for Democ­racy (LCD) leader and for­mer Deputy Prime Min­is­ter, Mo­thetjoa Mets­ing, his deputy Tšeliso Mokhosi, and Demo­cratic Congress (DC) deputy leader, Mathi­beli Mokhothu, fled the coun­try in the af­ter­math of the June elec­tions which ush­ered in the four party coali­tion govern­ment led by All Ba­sotho Con­ven­tion leader, Thomas Tha­bane.

The other par­ties in the coali­tion are the Al­liance of Democrats, Ba­sotho Na­tional Party and the Re­formed Congress of Le­sotho.

Mr Mets­ing, who is also the Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment for Ma­hobong, fled the coun­try in Au­gust this year, claim­ing that he had re­ceived a tip-off that the po­lice were on their way to his Ha Lo­biane home-town to ar­rest and kill him.

How­ever, Prime Min­is­ter Tha­bane re­jected Mo­sisili’s claims in an ex­clu­sive in­ter­view with the Le­sotho Times two weeks back. The premier de­scribed Mr Mets­ing as a “fugi­tive from jus­tice” who had run away to avoid be­ing ar­rested and jailed over al­le­ga­tions that he took bribes from a com­pany, Bravo Con­struc­tion, in ex­change of lu­cra­tive road con­struc­tion ten­ders.

The Direc­torate on Cor­rup­tion and Eco­nomic Of­fences (DCEO) had in­ves­ti­gated Mr Mets­ing’s ac­counts and un­earthed sub­stan­tial cash de­posits which the for­mer deputy prime min­is­ter was said to have failed to ex­plain.

Mr Mokhosi, a for­mer Min­is­ter of De­fence and Na­tional Se­cu­rity, who is fac­ing mur­der charges, fled the coun­try in Septem­ber im­me­di­ately after he was re­leased on bail, al­leg­ing that his life was in dan­ger. Mr Mokhosi also ac­cused po­lice of bru­tally as­sault­ing him, charges the LMPS ve­he­mently de­nied.

Mr Mokhothu fled in Septem­ber al­leg­ing that he had seen his name on an al­leged hit-list. But Dr Tha­bane’s coali­tion has since dis­missed all these claims as self­serv­ing rhetoric from op­po­si­tion lead­ers afraid to stand trial for an as­sort­ment of al­leged crimes.

And de­spite govern­ment guar­an­tees for their safety, the op­po­si­tion has dug in, in­sist­ing their lead­ers will not re­turn to par­tic­i­pate in the re­forms al­legedly be­cause the govern­ment is not sin­cere and is likely to ar­rest them on their re­turn.

As re­ported else­where in this edi­tion, the LCD Youth League has waded into the is­sue, in­sist­ing in its most re­cent press con­fer­ence that govern­ment should “for­get” about the in­clu­sion of the op­po­si­tion in the re­forms process if they do not “demon­strate sin­cer­ity” in their ac­tions.

“They should for­get about the re­forms if they don’t change the way they are do­ing things, the LCD Youth League’s spokesper­son, Pusetso Mon­tšo, said at a re­cent press brief­ing in Maseru.

“If the govern­ment gen­uinely wants them back, the is­sue of war­rants of ar­rests that we have seen on so­cial me­dia should be placed aside, and en­ergy should be fo­cused strictly and gen­uinely on the re­forms agenda.”

SADC Over­sight Com­mit­tee Chair­per­son, Ma­tias Ma­tondo, re­cently told the me­dia that they had urged govern­ment to come up with an allinclu­sive roadmap that cov­ered all the sec­tors that needed to be re­formed.

“Through­out our in­ter­ac­tions with the stake­hold­ers of the process here — both from the govern­ment, op­po­si­tion, civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tions, non-gov­ern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tions, faith­based or­gan­i­sa­tions and all the ac­tive forces from the King­dom — the sig­nals we are get­ting are very pos­i­tive and en­cour­ag­ing.

“We have also urged the govern­ment to come up with a con­crete roadmap that cov­ers all the sec­tors that need to be touched by the re­forms and ev­ery­body is agreed that there is a need to re­form the ju­di­ciary, LDF, Le­sotho Mounted Po­lice Ser­vice and oth­ers. Some­thing ought to be done on the is­sue of floor cross­ing and po­lit­i­cal party for­ma­tion thresh­old,” Dr Ma­tondo said.

He added that the roadmap was a doc­u­ment that would en­com­pass all the key sec­tors that need to be re­formed in the coun­try for the sake of peace and sta­bil­ity and that the pos­i­tive sig­nals re­ceived from stake­hold­ers put em­pha­sis on the need for the Ba­sotho to come to­gether for a last­ing peace and sta­bil­ity. He also said they were crit­i­cally look­ing at the pro­posed roadmap, pro­vid­ing inputs where nec­es­sary but it was im­por­tant for the doc­u­ment to be owned by all Ba­sotho.

Le­sotho has been plagued by re­cur­ring bouts of in­sta­bil­ity in re­cent years.

On 30 Au­gust 2014, the army raided the Po­lice Head­quar­ters and other sta­tions on the grounds that they wanted to fore­stall a plan by the po­lice to arm civil­ians.

The army raid on the Po­lice head­quar­ters claimed the life of Po­lice Sub-In­spec­tor Mokhe­seng Ramahloko.

Then and cur­rent Prime Min­is­ter, Dr Tha­bane, equated the raids to a coup d’état and fled to South to only re­turn un­der heavy South African po­lice guard.

He re­mained un­der SA pro­tec­tion un­til the Fe­bru­ary 2015 snap elec­tions which re­turned for­mer Premier Pakalitha Mo­sisili to power.

Dr Mo­sisili’s coali­tion was then ac­cused of un­leash­ing a reign of ter­ror on its op­po­nents re­sult­ing in the killing of Lt-Gen Ma­hao, whom Dr Tha­bane had ap­pointed to re­place Lt-Gen Kamoli, prompt­ing the lat­ter’s coup at­tempt. Lt-Gen Ma­hao’s killing re­sulted in the SADC’s com­mis­sion of in­quiry whose raft of rec­om­men­da­tions are yet to be fully im­ple­mented.

The lat­est case of in­sta­bil­ity was the 5 Septem­ber 2017 as­sas­si­na­tion of army com­man­der, Lieu­tenant Gen­eral Khoan­tle Motšo­motšo, by his sub­or­di­nates, Bri­gadier Bu­lane Sechele and Colonel Tefo Hashatsi.

Lt-Gen Motšo­motšo prompted the de­ci­sion to de­ploy the SADC standby force.

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