Let’s nourish this spirit of peace: Metsing
DEPUTY Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing says government is committed to ensuring “a peaceful Lesotho”.
Mr Metsing made the remark during a press conference held in Maseru on Friday where he was giving feedback on his visit to Botswana and Mozambique from 21-26 February.
The deputy prime minister was accompanied by Foreign Affairs and International Relations Minister Tlohang Sekhamane, Defence and National Security Minister Tšeliso Mokhosi, Police Minister Monyane Moleleki and Foreign Affairs and International Relations Principal Secretary ’Mathoriso Monaheng on the visit to Maputo and Gaborone.
During the press briefing, Mr Metsing also touched on Wednesday’s talks between government and opposition leaders held in Modderpoort, South Africa. The meeting was called by the government to discuss the return from exile, of former Prime Minister and All Basotho Convention leader Thomas Thabane, Basotho National Party leader Thesele ’Maseribane and Reformed Congress of Lesotho leader Keketso Rantšo. The three leaders fled to South Africa in May last year saying they feared for their lives.
Mr Metsing, who was flanked by Mr Sekhamane and Home Affairs Minister Advocate Lekhetho Rakuoane during Friday’s media briefing, said: “As you may all be well aware, Deputy President of South Africa, Honourable Cyril Ramaphosa, was appointed a facilitator in Lesotho by the Southern Africa Development Community-SADC. He compiled a report, with recommendations, and that report was made public.”
Mr Metsing further said the government requested SADC to convene a Commission of Inquiry into the death of former army commander Maaparankoe Mahao. Lt-Gen Mahao was killed by the military in Mokema on 25 June last year, allegedly while resisting arrest.
The SADC Inquiry was led by Justice Mpaphi Phumaphi of Botswana.
“In a similar manner, the Phumaphi Commission also issued its report that had some recommendations,” said Mr Metsing.
“You are all aware that I am a bit reluctant to say how far we have gone with the implementation of the recommendations. The truth of the matter is these were made under the umbrella of SADC, an organisation we respect so much. We therefore, won’t make this a joking matter; we will deal with these recommendations to the full, with all our might.
“There is so much being said about the Phumaphi Commission’s report. People are so angry with this report, but they should note that the recommendations must be treated in a way that will take the country forward and enhance peace, stability, economic growth and the betterment of lives.”
Mr Metsing further said Mr Ramaphosa’s recommendations called for a roadmap regarding constitutional, public service and security reforms.
“The prime issue here is for us to state the timeframe in which all these would be implemented,” said Mr Metsing.
However, implementing such recommendations was not going to be easy, he added.
“We have had our constitution since 1993, and we’d like to see one that will last much longer. This is every Mosotho’s wish that we might have one that will go beyond 50 years. We know our problems and have been down this road before,” Mr Metsing said.
“The constitutional reforms will need time because they are a process. I think for us to give the reform process enough time, we won’t take less than a year. It should be noted that we might even need to have referendums, but no matter how long we will take, we are fully committed and our devotion is unshakeable.
“We have already had several consultative meetings with some high-profile consultants on these issues of reforms and that, on its own, is enough to show that the government is committed.”
Mr Metsing, however, said it was worth noting that these issues needed careful handling as they are of national importance.
“We need to handle them very carefully so that by the time we finish, we get a Lesotho that we need, a peaceful Lesotho,” he said.
The deputy premier added he was very hopeful that this constitution would have all the pillars of good governance and embrace peace.
According to Mr Metsing, it was not about how long the reform process was going to take, but the commitment.
“Government’s commitment is very clear and solid. The leadership is fully committed and that commitment says a lot about where we are headed and this calls for concerted efforts from all of us,” he said.
On his part, Mr Sekhamane said the absence of opposition leaders was placing the government in a difficult position. Mr Sekhamane and Advocate Rakuoane represented government in the Modderpoort talks but Dr Thabane and Chief ’Maseribane did not attend the meeting.
“This issue of absent leaders of the opposition should not be taken lightly. It is placing the government in a difficult position because it does not allow the implementation of substantial decisions,” he said.
Mr Sekhamane added if it was entirely up to the government, the opposition leaders would be back in Lesotho by now.
“You should all remember that these leaders claimed that they ran away because their lives were at risk, so we need to have consultations with them and convince them that they are safe to return and not just impose things on them,” he said.
He continued: “This roadmap issue is painful on the government’s side when opposition leaders are absent because we have to deal with issues that will effect change in the constitution.
“These reforms need all the leaders to be present. That means we shouldn’t have the reforms only to have the opposition complain at a later stage. We very much want to speed-up the implementation of all the recommendations as SADC and all other Lesotho-loving countries may wish, but on the other hand, we are trying to make the opposition leaders see the importance of their presence when all these happen.”
Mr Sekhamane said the presence of opposition leaders would help in looking at issues carefully and together agree on steps to take towards the implementation of all the recommendations.
“It’s a wish by government that they be here so that we can work together and engage in debate in parliament,” Mr Sekhamane said.
On what was discussed during the Mooderport meeting, Mr Metsing said both parties had agreed not to discuss the talks in public.
“I was told that some leaders did not show up but I think the issue here is to appreciate that they were warm talks. Their representatives wouldn’t have attended if there were some differences on this matter,” Mr Metsing said.
“We wouldn’t want to think that their absence means anything. Let’s appreciate the manner in which the talks took off and wish for peace. These are signs of peace and therefore, let’s nourish this spirit of peace and not tarnish it. At the end of the day, we have to sort out our own issues. Others are just here to help us out.”