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Desist from uninformed attacks: govt

’Marafaele Mohloboli

GOVERNMENT spokesperson, Thesele Maseribane, has called on the opposition to desist from uninformed attacks on government policies and instead identify real issues affecting the nation and come up with strategies to meaningfully participate in the reforms and overall development of the country.

Chief Maseribane said this in response to a recent attacks on the government by the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) over a wide range of issues including the appointment of Advocate Haae Phoofolo as the Attorney General.

The LCD said they were considering suing the government over the appointment of Adv Phoofolo, arguing that he has already passed the retirement age.

Adv Phoofolo is 70 years old and the retirement age for public officials is 60 years.

Speaking at a recent press conference in Maseru, the LCD deputy spokesperson, Apesi Ratšele, said they were shocked that the government retired former Attorney General, Tšokolo Makhethe, upon reaching his 60th birthday last year, only to appoint an even older person.

“On this (Phoofolo) issue we are holding discussions with the view of suing the government for appointing a person we expected to have retired from the civil service years ago,” Mr Ratšele said.

Turning to the issue of the government’s meetings with the opposition aimed at clearing the way for the latter’s participation in the multi-sector reforms, Mr Ratšele said there not been much progress towards reaching a consensus due to what he said was the erratic behaviour on the part of the government.

“Judging from the shoddy manner they have responded to concerns by the opposition, we are convinced that the government is not serious about the talks.” His comments come amid revelations that a government delegation will this week travel to South Africa for talks with exiled LCD leader, Mothetjoa Metsing, at the latter’s request.

The talks are aimed at facilitating Mr Metsing’s return to Lesotho to participate in the reforms process.

The talks also come at a time that South Africa and Lesotho have initiated a process that could lead to Mr Metsing’s extradition to face corruption charges.

Mr Ratšele said the party was also concerned about the government’s failure to pay Mr Metsing his benefits after he served as the Deputy Prime Minister from 2015 to 2017 when the Pakalitha Mosisili-led former seven parties’ coalition government gave way to the current Thomas Thabane-led four parties’ coalition.

“What we see now is a government that has embarked on a campaign of slander with the intention to convince the world that our leader is a fugitive from justice and therefore deserves to be extradited back to Lesotho,” Mr Ratšele said.

He also accused the government of interfering with the independence of the judiciary through a “continuous campaign of vitriolic attacks” on the Chief Justice, Nthomeng Majara.

“This has forced her (Justice Majara) to take the unprecedented step of resorting to the public space to defend her integrity.

“It is evident that the Prime Minister wants to reshuffle the whole judiciary and plant his cronies in strategic positions,” Mr Ratšele said.

However, Chief Maseribane, responded by saying the LCD allegations smacked of sour grapes  by people who were failing to accept that the political space had shifted, leading to such elements investing in manufacturing unnecessary conflicts.

He said Adv Phoofolo was appointed after the government decided it was best to have a highly seasoned lawyer during this period when the country was fragile.

“The government decided to appoint Advocate Phoofolo because the position of AG demanded a certain set of skills to ensure a balanced, highly professional and mature execution of duties.

The reasoning behind his appointment was based on his vast experience, deeper knowledge of the context and a proven track record of his capacity to advise His Majesty King Letsie III and the government on legal matters,” Chief Maseribane said.

In response to the on-going meetings between the government and the opposition parties, Chief Maseribane said the LCD had demonstrated half-heartedness in its participation in the discussions.

“If it’s not this problem, then it is another excuse for not cooperating with the government and trying to justify why they cannot support efforts to achieve the national goal on the reforms. The other day their representative walked out of a meeting with the hope that the Democratic Congress (DC) will join them but fortunately the DC did not leave the discussions and the LCD was isolated.”

“They also ought to represent people who voted them into parliament. As government, we have demonstrated commitment by listening and agreeing with some of the demands by the opposition as preconditions for their participation in the reforms. In compliance with the demands, we have, among other resolutions, suspended the Reforms Commission Bill to allow for contributions from other role players and ensure there is a consensus to support the formulation of a new Bill,” Chief Maseribane said.

He explained that the issue of Mr Metsing’s benefits was a constitutional matter that should be dealt with by the courts.

Chief Maseribane refuted allegations of government had no intentions of interfering with the judiciary but rather to ensure that executes its duties in accordance with the constitution.

“The government has no intentions of getting rid of or to target and harass certain members of the judiciary but it should also be clearly understood that the judiciary is not law unto itself. Our constitution stipulates what steps should be taken by the government whenever there is something which is not working well within the judiciary,” Chief Maseribane said.

Meanwhile, Adv Phoofolo said the LCD had taken too long to take the issue of his appointment to court.

“Why have they taken this long? They are just angry with me because I spoke about Metsing’s extradition which is one of my duties. They might have also been angered by the fact that the Prime Minister has asked police to investigate how their legal counsels obtained an unsigned legal gazette appointing Justice ’Maseshophe Hlajoane and they think he (Thabane) has done that because I advised him to do so.

“As for my age, it has nothing to do with it. There is no law that bars a political activist from being appointed Attorney General,” Adv Phoofolo said.


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