THE European Union (EU) ambassador to Lesotho, Christian Manahl, says now that countrywide consultations have been completed, negotiations among political leaders “must take place now” to determine the next phase of the multi-sector reforms that are aimed at achieving lasting stability and fostering socio-economic development in the country.
Dr Manahl said this at the recent National Leaders Forum in Maseru. The meeting was also attended by the head of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) facilitation team, retired former South African Deputy Chief Justice, Dikgang Moseneke.
The leaders’ forum, which was attended by leaders of the governing and opposition parties, was aimed at preparing the agenda for the Multi-Stakeholder National Dialogue Plenary II.
The government and opposition have previously differed after the latter presented a list of demands as preconditions for their participation in the reforms process. Chief among these was the creation of a government of national unity (GNU), the establishment of truth and reconciliation commission (TRC) as well as the release of murder-accused former army commander, Tlali Kamoli and other members of the security agencies. However, the opposition eventually dropped these demands and the reforms process resumed, albeit at snail pace last December.
Speaking at the leaders’ forum in Maseru on Wednesday, Dr Manahl said it was this was the time for political leaders to put their differences aside and work together for the sake of Basotho.
“We are now moving from the technical phase of consultation and compilation into a phase of political negotiation, and in this phase, you, the political and social leaders, are in the driving seat,” Dr Manahl said.
“You have to come together and talk to each other and discuss the proposals, notably those where there are different options, and find compromises that you can submit to the second plenary of the multi-stakeholder dialogue for consideration.
“There can be no meaningful second plenary and there will be no successful reform if this political negotiation does not take place. And it has to take place now.”
He said the reforms were necessary to address the needs of Basotho which include jobs, investment and a thriving economy He said Basotho had enough of the politicians’ squabbles.
“Basotho do not want intricate court cases; they do not want semantics; they do not care what you call your meetings – the NLF, pre-NLF, quasi-NLF, pseudo-NLF – the people of Lesotho want solutions.
“The people of Lesotho want jobs; they want investments; they want a thriving economy. Basotho want peace and stability; they don’t want political bickering, posturing and manoeuvring, they want a constitution and a political system that allows coalition governments – because coalition governments there will be – to complete their full terms and to implement the policies you promise in your campaigns.
“Basotho want a public service that delivers and that is affordable. They don’t want a public service which is a reward scheme for political loyalty. The want teachers in schools not on the streets; they want hospitals and health services which have the capacity and the staff and the equipment to attend to their needs. (They) want infrastructure and utilities which are functional and affordable.
“Basotho want police and military which ensure security and which effectively combat crime while respecting civilian political authority and the human rights of all citizens. Basotho want a government which effectively deals with the plight they are facing now that the country is in a serious drought, where people are going hungry.
“And Basotho want political and social leaders they can look up to because they know that you put the common good, the interests of the nation, and the interests of the people before your own personal and party interests,” Dr Manahl said.
Meanwhile, a joint communique by the SADC facilitation team and the National Leaders Forum said “the (leaders’) forum agreed that dialogue on all aspects of reforms should be encouraged and promoted”.
“The National Leaders Forum resolved that in view that given the complexity of the issues related to the reforms, there is a need for Basotho leaders to convene as many consultation platforms as possible, even outside the SADC facilitation process in order to iron out their differences before the convening of Plenary II.
“The forum resolved that by the time the next National Leaders Forum scheduled for 6 to 7 November 2019, sufficient convergence and consensus on most critical issues would have emerged,” the communique said.