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No going back on reforms

…the government says the reforms will go ahead with or without the opposition

Pascalinah Kabi

GOVERNMENT Secretary, Moahloli Mphaka, says there is no going back on the implementation of the much-stalled multi-sectoral reforms that were recommended by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) in 2016.

Mr Mphaka’s remarks come against the background of the recent statements by the political opposition who vowed to boycott the reforms process until their exiled leaders are granted safe passage back into the country to lead them in the process.

Lesotho has until May 2019 to fully implement constitutional and security sector reforms after a SADC gave the government an ultimatum at the SADC Double Troika Summit that was held in April in Luanda, Angola.

The much-stalled reforms process finally got underway last month when Prime Minister Thomas Thabane officially launched the National Reforms Agenda in the National Assembly.

The official launch is the first step in a series of processes and activities that are expected to cultivate in the implementation of the constitutional, security sector, governance, media and judicial reforms that were recommended by the SADC in 2016.

And on Friday, the government moved to the next stage by convening the National Day of Prayer at Setsoto Stadium in Maseru and other venues around the country.

According to the government reforms roadmap, the National Day of Prayer was aimed at “seeking providence as we embark on our journey to the Lesotho we want”.

However, the opposition made good on their earlier threats to boycott the Friday event as their leaders were conspicuous by their absence from the proceedings at Setsoto Stadium and various venues around the country.

The opposition said they would boycott the entire reforms process until the opposition leaders who are in exile safely return home to lead their parties in the reforms process.

Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) leader, Mothetjoa Metsing and his deputy, Tšeliso Mokhosi fled the country last year alleging that their lives were in danger.

The government has however, denied the claims and insists that Mr Metsing fled the country to avoid prosecution for corruption.

The former deputy prime minister recently told our sister Lesotho Times publication that he was hopeful that SADC-mediated talks with the government over his safe return would succeed as he was eager to lead his party in the reforms process.

And in a recent press briefing, Mr Mphaka said government had resolved to go ahead with the implementation of the multi-sectoral reforms process despite the opposition’s threats to boycott the process.

“It is the decision of the government to go ahead and implement the reforms and at the same time government is not saying leaders of the opposition will be left behind or out of this process,” Mr Mphaka said, adding, “Government will continue to do all it can to ensure that opposition leaders come home to be part of the reforms”.

He said the government had demonstrated its commitment to ensuring the safe return of the exiled opposition leaders by holding talks with them last month in Bloemfontein, South Africa.

He said government was represented by Communications Minister Thesele Maseribane, Labour Minister Keketso Rantšo, Water Minister Samonyane Ntsekele and Law Minister Mokhele Moletsane.

“The government is engaging and will continue to engage with the opposition leaders to come home and be part of the reforms agenda because government does not want to leave anyone behind,” Mr Mphaka said.

Mr Metsing has however, questioned the government’s sincerity about facilitating his safe return, saying he did not understand how could be safe when the government had also applied for his extradition from South Africa.

The office of the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has requested the extradition of Mr Metsing so that he stands trial for alleged corruption.

Last week, the Attorney General Advocate Haae Phoofolo said despite SADC-mediated talks over Mr Metsing’s return, the extradition process would not be stopped.

Adv Phoofolo said this in the wake of recent media reports that the extradition process had been halted to allow the government and Mr Metsing to complete negotiations for the latter’s return to the country to lead his LCD party in the multi-sector reforms process.

However, Adv Phoofolo told the Lesotho Times that the extradition process had not been stopped. He said the extradition process and the talks Mr Metsing was holding with the government delegation led by Chief Maseribane were mutually exclusive and aimed at achieving different objectives.

He said the extradition process was initiated by the Director of Public Prosecutions who acted independently of the government and aimed to achieve justice by bringing back Mr Metsing to answer to corruption charges.

“The extradition has nothing to do with the ongoing negotiations,” Adv Phoofolo said.

“The talks and the extradition process are two different issues and they must be treated separately. The negotiations (with the government) are solely to bring Ntate Metsing home so that he can take part in the upcoming reforms process and nothing more.

“The extradition process continues. It has not been suspended or cancelled as it has nothing to do with the negotiations,” Adv Phoofolo added.

Meanwhile, Mr Mphaka said as part of efforts to ensure an all-inclusive reforms programme, the government was also working hard to reform the media and economic sectors.

“We will deal with the media and the economic reforms because the multi-sectoral reforms need to be backed up with a clear recovery economic plan,” he said.

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