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Opposition mulls SADC offensive


Billy Ntaote

The opposition alliance is considering visiting regional leaders to seek their support in putting pressure on government to implement Justice Phumaphi’s recommendations.

The coalition, comprising the All Basotho Convention (ABC), Basotho National Party (BNP) and Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL), says it is frustrated with the way Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s government has responded to the Phumaphi report which among others, recommends the dismissal of army commander Lieutenant-General Tlali Kamoli and prosecution of Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) members implicated in acts of serious crime. The report also urges the government to ensure the safe return of opposition leaders living in exile in South Africa.

According to ABC secretary general Samonyane Ntsekele, a regional charm offensive is among several options the opposition is exploring to ensure the government is put under pressure to implement the Phumaphi recommendations.

“We are working on a strategy to pressure government into implementing the SADC Commission of Inquiry’s recommendations which were explicit in pronouncing the removal of Kamoli. The removal of Kamoli will pave the way for the safe return of our leaders from exile, which is also another recommendation made by the Commission of Inquiry. Our leaders have made it clear that they cannot return while Kamoli is still in office,” Mr Ntsekele.

“What the government needs to understand is we mean business on the issue of our leaders’ safe return. And our preconditions for their return should not be taken lightly but must be implemented as they cannot return with Kamoli still the LDF commander.

“Because the government appears not to be taking the issue seriously, we are considering lobbying regional leaders on the issue as one of several options to put pressure on the government. But like I said, discussions are still at a very early stage and the issue is not yet fully communicated to all the relevant parties.”

Mr Ntsekele said the ABC, and its opposition partners, were determined to see the  government implementing the SADC recommendations which he said were key to Lesotho returning to stability.

“It’s up to the government to implement the recommendations. We are taking note that the African Union, United Nations, European Union and United States clearly stand by SADC’s recommendations and have called for their implementation.

“So we are holding meetings, as the opposition, on this issue and the nation will be informed on the final route we will decide to take,” said Mr Ntsekele.

Justice Mpaphi Phumaphi was sanctioned by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to lead a 10-member Commission of security and legal experts in establishing the circumstances surrounding the killing of former army commander Maaparankoe Mahao.

Lt-Gen Mahao was shot dead on 25 June 2015 in Mokema by fellow soldiers who had come to arrest him for alleged mutiny.

After its investigation, the Commission made a number of recommendations which the opposition has since been calling for the government to implement.

Among the recommendations is the sacking of Lt-Gen Kamoli “to restore Basotho’s trust in the Lesotho Defence Force”, suspension of soldiers suspected of crime while investigations are taking place and the safe return of opposition  leaders who fled to South Africa in May last year claiming their lives were in danger from some LDF members.

Former prime minister and ABC leader Thomas Thabane, and his BNP and RCL counterparts Thesele ‘Maseribane and Keketso Rantšo respectively, have vowed to remain in the neighbouring country until Lt-Gen Kamoli has been fired. The three accuse Lt-Gen Kamoli of being behind the alleged plot to kill them, which the LDF has since denied.

The government and opposition had started discussing the possibility of the exiled leaders’ return, but the talks collapsed last week over Lt-Gen Kamoli.

After government’s representatives, Home Affairs Minister Advocate Lekhetho Rakuoane and Foreign Affairs and International Relations Minister Tlohang Sekhamane, indicated they could not talk about the issue until the exiled leaders are back home, the opposition decided to end the engagement and vowed never to meet on the issue again.

The main opposition ABC was represented by its deputy leader Tlali Khasu, Mr  Ntsekele and chairperson Motlohi Maliehe in the meeting held at Parliament Building, while the BNP had deputy leader Joang Molapo, and spokesperson Machesetsa Mofomobe in the talks. The RCL was represented by deputy leader Dr Motloheloa Phooko and secretary general ‘Mamolula Ntabe in the meeting.

But according to Mr Ntsekele, the opposition was now working on a strategy to put pressure on the government and this could include reaching out to SADC leaders.

Repeated attempts to speak to RCL and BNP officials on the issue were unsuccessful.

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