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Government happy with national reforms declaration

’Marafaele Mohloboli

THE government firmly stands behind the declaration it has signed with the alliance of opposition parties on the return of leader of the Lesotho Congress for Democracy, Mothetjoa Metsing to participate in the national reforms process.

This was said by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Relations Lesego Makgothi at a press conference held at the Government Complex on Friday. Mr Makgothi was flanked by his deputy Mr Halebonoe Setšabi and Attorney General Haae Phoofolo at the press briefing.

The statements come after a recent declaration by the government and the opposition committing to the reforms process that has been stalled by bickering between the two parties.

The troubled reforms process was thrown into jeopardy two weeks ago after the national dialogue event scheduled for the 9th to the 12th of this month was postponed indefinitely.

The postponement came in the wake of the opposition’s withdrawal from all multi-sector reforms processes in protest of the government’s decision to suspend Chief Justice Nthomeng Majara.

Opposition parties constitute a key segment to the national dialogue expected to culminate in the formulation and implementation of the multi-sectoral reforms recommended by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) in 2016.

The establishment of a truth and reconciliation commission and a stay on the prosecution of Mr Metsing are among a plethora of demands that the opposition issued to the government as preconditions for its participation in the multi-sector reforms.

The opposition’s demands kept increasing with the latest being that government reinstates the suspended Justice Majara.

And last week the government and the opposition set aside their differences and signed a pledge to continue with the reforms starting with another NLF scheduled for the first week of November under the supervision of the SADC facilitation team, headed by retired Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke at a local hotel.

The agreement was signed by Deputy Prime Minister Monyane Moleleki representing the government and leader of the opposition in parliament, Mathibeli Mokhothu, signed on behalf of the coalition of opposition parties.

And on Friday Mr Makgothi said the government stands resolutely behind its decision and also said a cabinet decision was also made that Mr Metsing was eligible to get his benefits as former Deputy Prime Minister of Lesotho.

“Mr Metsing is also eligible to get an around the clock security as part of his benefits,” Mr Makgothi said.

“In as much as we had initially said that he had a choice to choose his security between SADC, Lesotho Mounted Police Service and the Lesotho Defence Force, he is now left with only the two since the SADC forces will be leaving the country on November 20 2018.”

Mr Makgothi however, said that this does not apply to Tšeliso Mokhosi, who is deputy leader of LCD and leader of Socialist Revolution, Teboho Mojapela.

“In as much as there will not be any political arrests during the reforms, we shall not be giving any special security to all the other people who have their own criminal cases to answer to.

“Security shall not be given to all other fugitives who have some criminal cases to answer to but Mr Metsing shall have his full-time security as he qualifies for it. This means that he will also be eligible to get his benefits; and this does not apply to him only but even to those who ought to have qualified as thus before him, the decision shall work retrospectively.

“We shall not entertain the issue of leader of SR because he never raised his issue through proper channels unlike Mr Metsing whose party did things in writing.

“In as much as we know that Mr Mojapela is a politician and has held some rallies in the country we only got to know about his fleeing through the media and he never took up the matter with the government,” Mr Makgothi said.

Mr Makgothi said the government was fully committed to stick to its decision of giving Mr Metsing a stay of prosecution during the time of the reforms but said any prosecutions may resume after the reforms which are expected to take between six to nine months.

“Immediately when we are done with the reforms and when it’s time for technical implementation, we shall take the back seat as the government and then let legislature handle the rest. It is at this time that the prosecutions may resume,” said Mr Makgothi.

In the declaration signed last week, the government undertook to “investigate and report to the Coalition of Opposition Parties in due course” the circumstances of the deaths of a list of people alleged to have died in police custody.

And Adv Phoofolo said the government will soon institute inquests into the deaths of civilians as was raised by the opposition in the declaration.

“There will be inquests made into these deaths so as to find the cause of deaths,” Adv Phoofolo said.

The second National Leaders’ Forum (NLF) is scheduled to take place on 7 November, whereas the National Dialogue shall be on 20-23 November.

The national reforms were recommended by Southern African Development Community (SADC) in 2016 in the aftermath of the report by the Justice Mpaphi Phumaphi-led 10-member Commission of Inquiry that was appointed by SADC in July 2015 to investigate the killing of former army commander, Maaparankoe Mahao, by his army colleagues.

Apart from the first NLF held two months ago, so far there has not been any discernible progress towards kick starting the reforms due to the bickering between the government and the opposition over how the process should unfold.

The process is now expected to start with the second NLF scheduled for the first week of November.

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