Govt makes overtures to exiled politicians
…dispatches high-powered delegation to discuss their return
…offers them security guarantees
GOVERNMENT says it is prepared to engage South African authorities on the possibility of offering security to exiled political leaders among other measures to facilitate their safe return to Lesotho.
Government dispatched a high-powered ministerial delegation to South Africa last Tuesday to meet with exiled leaders and other Lesotho nationals as it stepped up efforts to get them to return to the country where their presence is crucial to kick-start the reforms process.
Lesotho will hold a National Multi-stakeholder Dialogue on 16 and 17 November 2017 as the country embarks on reforming the judiciary, constitutional, security, legislature, public service and media sectors in line with the recommendations of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC).
Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) leader and former Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Mothetjoa Metsing, LCD deputy leader, Tšeliso Mokhosi, and Democratic Congress (DC) deputy leader, Mathibeli Mokhothu, fled the country in the aftermath of the 3 June 2017 snap elections.
Mr Metsing, who is also the Member of Parliament for Mahobong, fled the country in August this year, claiming that he had received a tip-off that the police were on their way to his Ha Lobiane home-town to arrest and kill him.
Mr Mokhosi, a former Minister of Defence and National Security who is facing murder charges, fled the country in September immediately after he was released from prison on bail, alleging that his life was in danger. Mr Mokhosi also accused police of brutally assaulting him.
He was charged, alongside four police officers, for the murder of Police Constable, Mokalekale Khetheng who was last seen in March 2016 at a traditional feast in Sebothoane, Leribe while being arrested by his colleagues.
Furthermore, Mr Mokhothu who also fled in September, said he was forced into exile after his name appeared on an alleged hit-list.
It was against this background that government dispatched a delegation made of senior officials of the four parties that formed the coalition government in the aftermath of the snap elections.
Basotho National Party leader and Public Service Minister, Thesele Maseribane headed the delegation comprising All Basotho Convention Chairperson and Forestry and Land Reclamation Minister, Motlohi Maliehe, Reformed Congress of Lesotho leader and Labour and Employment Minister, Keketso Rantšo, Alliance of Democrats (AD) deputy leader and Gender Minister, Kabelo Mafura.
The Lesotho High Commissioner to South Africa, who is also an AD member, Ralechate ‘Mokose, also joined the delegation.
Speaking at a news conference in Maseru after their return on Friday, Chief Maseribane said government was prepared to engage South Africa to see if the neighbouring country could provide security for the exiled leaders.
“Government is prepared to go an extra mile in ensuring that the self-exiled leaders are safe by ensuring that they are guarded by either the police, the army or any other security personnel they would feel safe under, if that is what it will take for them to return to Lesotho.
“We are even prepared to request the Government of South Africa to provide them with security as a demonstration of our good faith,” Chief Maseribane said.
He said their trip to South Africa for talks with exiled leaders was successful even though they only communicated telephonically with Messrs Metsing and Mokhothu.
Chief Maseribane added they also managed to meet Senior Superintendent Lebohang Setsomi who fled the country after allegedly being warned of his imminent arrest and interrogation over alleged irregularities in the awarding of tenders.
He said there would soon be a meeting between government and exiled leaders to discuss the latter’s return.
Chief Maseribane emphasised the importance of the leaders’ return before the opening of parliament from its winter break. Parliament reopens on October 27.
For her part, Ms Rantšo refuted allegations that the exiled politicians had demanded a change of government delegation to the talks.
There were claims that that the exiled leaders demanded that Deputy Prime Minister, Monyane Moleleki, be part of the government delegation as there was bad blood between Chief Maseribane and Ms Rantšo on one side and Mr Metsing on the other.
“They (the opposition) made their proposals, which will be discussed by the government. They are requesting other people to be added onto the delegation for further engagements. They would like to select the additional delegates and also suggest a venue for meetings. What I can say for now is that it is the prerogative of government to change its delegation and as it stands, the delegation has not changed,” Ms Rantšo said.
She however, said considerations will be made by the government to see if the Mr Moleleki can be added to the delegation.
“This is a delicate matter involving Lesotho leaders and therefore it must be handled with caution and in consultation with other stakeholders in government.”
Ms Rantšo said it was important that all leaders are resident in the country to participate fully in the development of Lesotho.
“Lesotho needs peace not people fleeing the country and in order to have that peace, we need each other as government and opposition leaders,” she said.
Meanwhile, DC Member of Parliament for Qalabane Motlalentoa Letsosa said it would take honesty and sincerity on the part of government for the exiled leaders to return to Lesotho.
Mr Letsosa said government was disingenuous and was only “playing games” with the opposition.
“The opposition leaders fled the country saying their lives were in danger and government must ensure that they provide adequate security for them and that they don’t embarrass them as they have done before,” Mr Letsosa said during the opposition’s press briefing on Friday.
LCD spokesperson, Teboho Sekata, said government’s first step towards showing its sincerity in the safe return of opposition leaders must start with tangible actions.
“They must start by paying Ntate Metsing’s salary; we are not talking about his benefits (as former DPM) but his monthly salary which has not been paid for months now. They should also give Ntate Mokhothu his benefits as opposition leader in parliament and after that we will know that they are sincere and honest,” Mr Sekata said.
He also criticised the government for failing to inform the three leaders’ parties before going to South Africa to engage the exiled politicians.