THE opposition Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) has accused the government of failing to meet the terms of their agreement regarding the security of its leader, Mothetjoa Metsing.
The party also says it is increasingly desperate for Mr Metsing to get his benefits as a former deputy prime minister.
The party’s deputy secretary general Mpiti Mosiuoa recently told the media that they have exhausted all possible avenues to ensure that Mr Metsing gets all his benefits as promised by the government on his return to the country after over a year in exile in South Africa.
Mr Metsing was holed up in South Africa until last November since fleeing Lesotho in August 2017 citing an alleged plot to assassinate him. The government has nevertheless refuted his claims, insisting that he fled to escape prosecution for corruption.
Mr Metsing’s stay in South Africa has been one of the major stumbling blocks for the national reforms process.
The reforms were recommended by SADC in 2016 as part of measures to bring lasting peace and stability to the country.
The regional body’s recommendations were made in the aftermath of the Justice Mpaphi Phumaphi-led SADC Commission of Inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the fatal shooting of former army commander, Maaparankoe Mahao, by his army colleagues in 2015.
The regional body gave Lesotho until May 2019 to have fully implemented constitutional and security sector reforms but the process has been stalled by bickering between the government and the opposition with the later making a plethora of demands before it participates.
Last year, the impasse between the two sides seemed to have finally been resolved after they signed a pledge committing to participating in the reforms process.
The homecoming was the result of the agreement that was signed by the coalition of opposition parties and the government on 16 October 2018. The deal was mediated by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) facilitator Justice Dikgang Moseneke and his team.
Clause 10 of the deal states that “Mr Metsing and similarly placed persons in exile will not be subjected to any pending criminal proceedings during the dialogue and reforms process”.
However, after his return in November, Mr Metsing has continued living in the neighbouring country and his party says this has been caused by the government’s lack of preparedness “to meet any of the issues agreed up pertaining his dues”.
“The main reason why Ntate Metsing is not living here in Lesotho is because the government doesn’t seem to be prepared to meet any of the issues agreed up pertaining his dues, especially his security,” Mr Mosiuoa said.
“It was agreed that our leader, as former deputy prime minister, qualifies for benefits which include a chauffeur driven government vehicle, free medical treatment, staff, utilities such as water, electricity, a diplomatic passport, self-contained sentry as well as 24-hour security.
“For security reasons, we thought it would not be wise for Ntate Metsing to stay in this country as he didn’t feel safe since he has not been given the security he asked for.
“He has only been given daytime security and none for the evening.”
The party’s deputy spokesperson Apesi Ratšele said all their efforts to ensure that Mr Metsing gets his benefits have come to naught.
“We took up the matter with the courts of law in December 2017 to seek interpretation of the law on pensions of ministers and Deputy Ministers and to date the judge assigned to the case has not given judgement for fear of being victimised.
“We filed an urgent application at the High Court but we have been waiting for the judgement for the past two year. The law says for a deputy prime minister to qualify for benefits, he or she should have served in that office for 36 months (three years) and therefore our leader qualifies because he has served for 54 months in that office,” Mr Ratšele said.
He said the law is silent on whether the years of service should be consecutive or not. Mr Ratšele said they have also tried to engage Justice Moseneke on the matter but he said he was not interested in Mr Metsing’s benefits.
“Justice Moseneke has also told us that he has no interest in the benefits in question, all that he is interested in is the success of the reforms process, which is also our main interest. However, we think that his response was quite cynical.
“We are not sure as yet of what steps to take next on going forward, we are yet to take a precise decision.
“What is even more painful is that because the government does as it pleases, it has only given him the car without a driver and one wonders whether he (Metsing) should drive himself and his bodyguards around.”
He said they are increasingly desperate for recourse and they have decided to engage the SADC secretariat.
“We have tried everything in our power to see that all issues raised in the agreement are honoured. We could pull out from the reforms process but we have decided to go to the SADC secretariat head office in Botswana and bring this matter to their attention.
“Ntate Metsing qualifies for his benefits. The law on pensions for PM and DPM subject to Sub Section 2 says; “A person who holds the office of the PM or DPM shall on ceasing to hold office in the circumstances prescribed in the constitution be granted 80 percent of the basic salary attached to their salary.
“In the case of the PM if he has held office for a period of 18 months and in the case of the DPM if he has held the office for a period of 36 months, be granted pension at a rate of 80 percent of the basic salary attached to the office of the PM or DPM on the last day to which he last held office,” Mr Ratšele said.
However, government secretary Moahloli Mphaka said the issue of Mr Metsing’s security became problematic when he decided to stay in South Africa. He said the government has provided Mr Metsing with three bodyguards; one to be around him during the day, another at night and another to relieve the day guard whenever he is unavailable.
He however, said the guards are unable to travel with Mr Metsing to South Africa.
“I was informed by the LDF commander that from day one the guards were given, Mr Metsing decided to sleep in South Africa and this proved to be a problem because those guards could not go with him to South Africa.
“His decision to stay in SA is complicating things and he should at least reach out when we extend the olive branch to him.
“We only allowed him to keep the car out of respect not because he is entitled to it.
“We just wanted to make peace hence we even communicated with his team that when parliament resumes there will be a review on the 36 months term as it will be cut down to 18 months for one who has served as DPM hence Metsing would also be catered for,” Mr Mphaka concluded.