A coalition 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 interest. 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.”
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.