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LCD lashes out at civil society


’Marafaele Mohloboli

Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) spokesperson, Teboho Sekata, yesterday accused the Lesotho Council of Non-Governmental Organizations (LCN) of being a political entity and not an umbrella of civil society.

Mr Sekata also said the LCN was the mastermind behind the looming stay-away which has been called by the ‘Alliance of Non-State Actors’ comprising taxi-operators, business, trade unions as well as civic groups.

The stay-away, set for 12 May, is meant to pressure the coalition government, of which the LCD is a part, into “speedily” implementing the SADC Commission of Inquiry’s recommendations, which among others, include the sacking of army commander Lieutenant-General Tlali Kamoli “in the interest of restoring trust and acceptance of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) to the Basotho nation”, and ensuring the safe return of opposition leaders from exile.

All Basotho Convention (ABC) leader Thomas Thabane, and his Basotho National Party and Reformed Congress of Lesotho counterparts Thesele ‘Maseribane and Keketso Rantšo respectively, fled for South Africa in May last amid claims some LDF members were plotting to kill them.

“The LCN is the one fueling all these actions against the government because it comprises opposition party card-carrying members. The LCN is pushing the opposition’s agenda by hiding behind the AGOA issue,” said Mr Sekata.

When calling for the stay-away, the alliance said it was worried that “delays” in implementing the SADC recommendations would cost the country dearly.

The group’s spokesperson, Makama Monese, told the Sunday Express last week:  “We expect no one to go to work on 12 May 2016. There will be no public transport, and we expect all shops to close on this day as this is a national issue.

“We need to warn the government of the consequences of delaying to implement the SADC recommendations. We are worried because the effects would negatively affect the lives of our people and businesses.

“The government’s reluctance to receive the Commission’s report and implement its recommendations is threatening Lesotho’s relationship with the United States and ultimately, the country’s eligibility for AGOA (African Growth and Opportunity Act which allows certain goods produced in eligible countries duty-free entry into the US). If we forfeit AGOA, at least 40 000 factory jobs will be directly lost and other related businesses will be affected. This is why we have decided to call for this stayaway on 12 May to avert such a disaster.

“We have issued statements about our concerns but they have never been responded to. We were simply asking the government to respond to the US concerns on the rule of law in order to avert the potential negative evaluation of the country for its qualification for AGOA and the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) grant.”

But according to Mr Sekata, the LCN, and its affiliates, Development for Peace Education (DPE) and Transformation Resource Centre (TRC), are using the ‘Alliance of Non-State Actors’ as a smokescreen to push their political agenda.

“All these organizations have been plotting against the government. They have been strategizing ways to arm-twist the government into implementing the SADC recommendations.

“The only thing these organizations want is to mobilize support from factory workers by lying to them that should AGOA not be renewed, they will lose their jobs. All they really want is support to have numbers so that they push for Kamoli’s removal,” said Mr Sekata.

“They are driving the opposition’s agenda. This is their political fight that they are pushing at the expense of other people.”

Asked to comment on Mr Sekata’s accusations, LCN Executive Director, Seabata Motsamai said: “I think Ntate Sekata is not handling this matter very well. He is not sensitive enough on the consequences that could be brought by failure to secure AGOA on our side. I’d advise him to try and be more sensitive.”

On his part, TRC Director, Tšoeu Petlane, said this was not the first time such allegations were levelled against the rights group.

“This is not the first time we are accused of being political and unfortunately, it also happened when today’s government was in opposition. This is no new issue at all. We once had a meeting with the government to urge them to have dialogue with the opposition and facilitate the return of opposition leaders, and we also had a meeting with the then opposition to facilitate the reopening of parliament while the now opposition was still in government,” said Mr Petlane.

“Let Sekata think what he wants. We have the same agenda with the government and the opposition as well.”

On the other hand, DPE Director, Sofonea Shale, said: “I don’t know who Sekata is trying to please and convince about our political affiliation. He is not a pioneer of politics and people have called us names long before he came. That is not a new thing to hear. What’s just funny is those who criticized us yesterday, love us more today,” said Mr Shale.

“There are people who think they have a bigger stake than others in this country’s politics so let them talk. But this nation shall be the judge and the people now know the mandate of civil society.”


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