Govt, opposition in fresh deadlock.
…as govt rejects fresh opposition demands safety guarantees for ‘Makarabo Mojakhomo
LESOTHO’S troubled reforms process was recently plunged into fresh crisis after the government rejected exiled Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) leader, Mothetjoa Metsing’s latest conditions for his return to the country.
The former Deputy Prime Minister recently wrote to the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and even issued new conditions for his return including guarantees for the safety of fraud-accused ’Makarabo Mojakhomo.
Mr Metsing’s stance is likely to spell further trouble for the stalled reforms process after the Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s press attaché Thabo Thakalekoala yesterday told the Sunday Express that the government “did not care who else he raked in” and included in his list of preconditions for his return to Lesotho. Speaking from Namibia where he had accompanied Dr Thabane and other government leaders to the SADC summit, Mr Thakalekoala said that “SADC has recommended that Metsing and Mokhosi should go back home and participate in the National Leader’s Forum scheduled for 23 to 24 August, so the government is not interested in all these other people that he is raking in”.
“We don’t care who he rakes in because that is not where the government’s interest lies. All that matters is that he should be there for the National Leader’s Forum and the whole of the reforms process.”
Mr Thakalekoala’s comments are in sync with those of Foreign Affairs minister Lesego Magkothi who recently told the Sunday Express’ sister Lesotho Times publication that it would not be making further concessions to Mr Metsing and if need be it would proceed with the reforms process without him.
Mr Metsing has been holed up in neighbouring South Africa after fleeing Lesotho last August citing an alleged plot to assassinate him. The government has nevertheless refuted his claims, insisting that Mr Metsing fled to escape prosecution for corruption.
The government and the LCD began talks over Mr Metsing’s return in May this year and the talks are being held under the mediation of SADC.
Back in 2016, SADC recommended constitutional, security sector, media, governance and judicial reforms as part of efforts to achieve lasting peace and stability which is seen as crucial to kick-starting socio-economic development in Lesotho.
However, the reforms process has been stalled amid intense bickering between the government and the opposition which has predicated its participation on the return of its exiled leaders who include Mr Metsing and his deputy, Tšeliso Mokhosi.
Other opposition demands include the formation of a government of national unity, the release from remand prison of murder-accused former army commander, Lieutenant Tlali Kamoli, the dropping of criminal charges against Mr Metsing, Mr Mokhosi and Socialist Revolutionaries leader, Teboho Mojapela.
And in 15 August 2018 letter to the head of the SADC facilitation team to Lesotho, Justice Dikgang Moseneke, Mr Metsing reiterates these demands and even issues new conditions including the demand for the safe return of fraud accused Ms Mojakhomo.
Ms Mojakhomo recently grabbed the headlines after she ‘disappeared’ from police custody under mysterious circumstances.
There have been conflicting reports about what actually happened to Ms Mojakhomo after she was arrested on 29 May this year for allegedly defrauding the First Lady ‘Maesaiah Thabane’s Trust Fund of at least M200 000.
She failed to appear in court on 31 May after the police claimed she had escaped from custody while they were preparing to take her to court.
But Ms Mojakhomo’s family disputed the police version of events and insisted that there was no way that she could have broken out of tightly guarded police cells. The family subsequently petitioned the High Court for an order for the police to produce her dead or alive.
However, in a recent turn of events a fortnight ago, her lawyer Advocate Letuka Molati wrote to the Police Commissioner, Holomo Molibeli, informing him that Ms Mojakhomo was alive and well. Adv Molati stated that contrary to the police allegations, Ms Mojakhomo did not escape but “she was abducted with the direct help of the police from the police custody”.
And the opposition has waded into the issue as shown by Mr Metsing’s letter to Justice Moseneke in which he states that the “minimum conditions for the return of exiled leaders” include “safety guarantees” for ‘Makarabo Mojakhomo as well as other individuals who include former police commissioner, Molahlehi Letsoepa and former National Security Service Director General, Tumo Lekhooa.
“I hereby state my minimum requirements for my return and where applicable other exiled leaders’ return to Lesotho. These are required as a minimum to enable our full unhindered participation in the reforms process. These conditions will be valid through the reforms process: safety guarantees and dropping of all charges and court cases against Hon Metsing, Hon Mokhosi and Mr Mojapela and similarly placed persons to enable fair and fully inclusive participation without fear or favour of all key role players.
“In particular government officials and their safety guaranteed, they include but not limited to the following- Commissioner of Police Letsoepa, Major General Tumo Lekhooa, Assistant Commissioner of Police Lebohang Setsomi, ‘Makarabo Mojakhomo. Zele Mpheshea and Potlako Nalane,” Mr Metsing states in his letter.
While Mr Nalane is Mr Mojapela’s security officer and Mr Mpheshea is Mr Mokhosi’s driver who claims to have been tortured by the police before fleeing, it is however, not clear why Ms Mojakhomo was added to the list of people that Mr Metsing would want their safety guaranteed as a condition for his return and participation in the reforms.
All that Mr Thakalekoala was prepared to comment on the issue was that it had already been agreed at the SADC summit that Mr Metsing and Mr Mokhosi should return to Lesotho to take part in the upcoming National Leaders’ Forum without any further preconditions.
According to the government’s roadmap for reforms, the “National Leaders’ Forum will involve leaders of the political parties to forge a political consensus on the reforms and national reconciliation”.
The forum comes against the background of SADC ultimatum that Lesotho must have fully implemented constitutional and security sector reforms by May 2019.
The reforms process has stalled largely as a result of the constant bickering between the government and the opposition over the latter’s preconditions for its participation in the reforms.
So far the only tangible developments with regards to the reforms process have been Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s speech in parliament to formally launch the reforms and the holding of the National Day of Prayer for the reforms in May this year.
A government roadmap that was presented to the SADC heads of state in Angola in April this year indicated that the National Leaders’ Forum and the National Dialogue Planning Committee (NDPC) would have been convened and launched three months ago.
And if Mr Metsing’s letter to Justice Moseneke on Wednesday is anything to go by, the reforms process faces a fresh crisis as he insists that the opposition will snub the National Leaders’ Forum and other processes aimed at kick-starting the reforms.
Mr Metsing said by failing to accept the opposition’s demands, the government had placed its interests above those of Lesotho.
“It appears that while the whole world wishes to move forward in the best interests of Lesotho and Lesotho’s future, the current government appears to not being opening the doors for true inclusivity and a fair playing field for all.
“It is as if they (the government) continue to blindly place their interests above those of Lesotho.”
Mr Metsing said that, “Any reform process must be fully inclusive in a genuine manner to enable and ensure common ownership of the process by all the people of Lesotho”.
He also said that the conditions under which all participants take part should not be “threatening or potentially threatening to any individual throughout the process”.
“I wish to restate that that everything that I think, say and attempt to do is focused on finding the best solution for the best future of Lesotho and ultimately, building a country that has a sustainably growing economy and which steadily improves the quality of life of its people.
“That is what we all need to be focusing on as a collective, not individual party interests,” wrote Mr Metsing.