Chiefs booted out of meeting
…NGO reps also barred from Friday’s meeting between government, exiled opposition leaders and church-leaders in Ficksburg
Two members of the Senate, Chief Khoabane Theko and Chief Lerotholi Seeiso, were booted out of Friday’s meeting between government, the Christian Council of Lesotho (CCL) and exiled leaders of the tripartite opposition because some church-leaders and government representatives were “not happy with their presence”, the Sunday Express can reveal.
The meeting, held in Ficksburg in neighbouring South Africa, sought to lay the “groundwork” and decide on who should take part in talks aimed at resolving Lesotho’s current political impasse.
The Sunday Express is reliably informed that the gathering—chaired by the CCL and attended by, among others, leaders of the All Basotho Convention (ABC), Basotho National Party (BNP) and Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL), as well as Foreign Affairs Minister Tlohang Sekhamane and his Home Affairs counterpart Advocate Lekhetho Rakuoane—was merely “the preparatory stage” for another meeting to be held “soon” to discuss the opposition leaders’ plight and secure their safe return to Lesotho.
Former Prime Minister and ABC leader Thomas Thabane, his BNP and RCL counterparts Thesele ‘Maseribane and Keketso Rantšo, sought refuge in South Africa on 11, 13 and 26 May 2015 respectively, allegedly after being alerted of a plot to kill them by renegade Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) members. Government has since dismissed these claims.
However, according to Chief Theko, who is Chairman of the College of Chiefs, he and Chief Seeiso were asked to leave Friday’s meeting after church-leaders said they were not happy with their presence.
“The church expressed discontent that we were there. We were asked to leave because they said they had not been expecting us,” Chief Theko told the Sunday Express yesterday.
“We also learnt that there was a part of the government that did not want us to be there.”
Chief Theko added they did not invite themselves to the meeting but were asked to attend by some opposition parties and did so reluctantly.
“We were reluctant to go there but eventually went because some opposition members wanted us to be there,” Chief Theko said.
In addition, Chief Theko said they had been informed by the meeting’s conveners that it was just a preparatory stage for the actual meeting and that they were yet to decide on the stakeholders to attend.
“They said they’re yet to decide on who should participate in the talks,” he said.
Chief Theko, a controversial figure who has butted heads with government over his alleged partisan attitude, suggested they might have been sent away from the meeting because “we are perceived to be political”.
“Maybe chiefs will be allowed into future meetings, as long as it’s not us because we’re perceived to have adopted certain political positions,” Chief Theko said.
“Maybe the College of Chiefs will be asked to assign chiefs to attend future meetings, just as long as it’s not us,” Chief Theko said.
“The thing is, it seems the church perceives us as being political. So there is that tension between chiefs and the church.”
Meanwhile, the Sunday Express also learnt that two representatives of non-governmental organisations, Lesotho Council of Non-Governmental Organisations (LCN) Director Seabata Motsamai and Transformation Resource Centre (TRC) Director Tšoeu Petlane, were also turned away from the meeting because “it had not been communicated that they would be there”.
Contacted for comment, Motsamai confirmed they were not allowed into the meeting but would not reveal more save to say “other conveners of the meeting were not aware that we’d be there”.
“We were told to wait outside until some decisions had been made. But we left early because we had other business to attend to,” Mr Motsamai said.
Speaking to the Sunday Express from South Africa on Friday, Chief ‘Maseribane said: “We met with the heads of churches and the government’s representatives today to lay down the groundwork for the actual first meeting and decide on who the stakeholders should be.
“”In short, we can describe today’s meeting as a preparatory meeting for a meeting whose date is yet to be announced.”
He added: “We will meet on a date yet to be announced but it will be very soon.”
Quizzed on the expulsion of the chiefs from the meeting, Chief ‘Maseribane played it down as a precaution by the meeting’s conveners to allow themselves some privacy to discuss and agree on certain aspects “before engaging other parties”.
“The chiefs were not necessarily expelled from the meeting. We were not all aware that chiefs and civic society representatives would want to attend,” Chief ‘Maseribane said.
“They were asked to excuse themselves while the opposition, government and the CCL agreed on who should form part of the facilitation process.”
On his part, Mr Sekhamane said he was yet to report back to his superiors on the outcome of the meeting and was therefore, not yet in a position to comment.
“I can only comment once I’ve reported back to my superiors,” Mr Sekhamane said.