Opposition threatens reforms pull-out
- as Metsing appeals to SADC over treason charges
SOME opposition parties have threatened to pull out of processes which should culminate in the implementation of the multi-sector reforms if the government does not stop the treason charges against Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) leader Mothetjoa Metsing and others.
On his part, Mr Metsing said he and his co-accused, Selibe Mochoboroane have approached the Southern African Development (SADC) as part of efforts to have their treason charges stayed at least until after the implementation of the multi-sector reforms.
Mr Metsing, former army commander, Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli, army officer Captain Litekanyo Nyakane and former Communications, Science and Technology Minister, Selibe Mochoboroane are facing treason charges.
The charges are in connection with the 30 August 2014 ‘attempted coup’ against the first government of Prime Minister Thomas Thabane. Mr Metsing was deputy prime minister at the time of the attempted coup while Movement for Economic Change (MEC) leader, Mr Mochoboroane, was Communications Minister and LCD secretary general at the time. Lt-Gen Kamoli had been fired by Dr Thabane from his post as army commander on 29 August 2014 before allegedly orchestrating the 30 August 2014 ‘attempted coup’ allegedly with the support of Messrs Metsing, Mochoboroane and Captain Nyakane. Dr Thabane and Mr Metsing had fallen out with the latter alleging he was not being consulted on key decisions.
Lt-Gen Kamoli and Captain Nyakane are already in prison charged with the murder of police Sub-Inspector Mokheseng Ramahloko which occurred on 30 August 2014 during the attempted coup. In the murder trial, they are charged along with other soldiers, Lance Corporal Motloheloa Ntsane and Lance Corporal Leutsoa Motsieloa.
Mr Metsing and his co-accused were supposed to stand trial for treason on Tuesday but the trial was postponed after he and Mr Mochoboroane applied to the Constitutional Court for an order to stop their trial at least until after the implementation of the Constitutional, security sector, media, judicial and governance reforms recommended by SADC in 2016.
Messrs Metsing and Mochoboroane argued that an October 2018 agreement between the governing coalition and the opposition offers them immunity from prosecution for any crime until after the completion of the multi-sector reforms.
Among other things, clause 10 of the agreement 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”.
The October 2018 agreement paved way for Mr Metsing and other opposition leaders, who had been in exile, to return to Lesotho to participate in the processes towards the implementation of the reforms recommended by SADC in 2016.
In addition to filing the Constitutional Court application, Mr Metsing says they have approached the SADC facilitator, Retired South African judge, Dikgang Moseneke, to stop the treason case.
“High treason is a political charge anywhere in the world and in this case, it is clear that this has been raised by some certain individuals who have an interest in this matter,” said Mr Metsing in an interview with the Sunday Express.
“I have approached some diplomats on this issue who have equally expressed their concern as to what is happening in the government now that no one seems to know exactly as to who is behind this matter (to proceed with the treason charges). “I have a feeling that there is an undeclared coup happening within the government’s administration because the prime minister (Thomas Thabane) and deputy prime minister (Monyane Moleleki) don’t seem to have an interest in it (treason case),” said Mr Metsing.
“We hope the international community will intervene as we have already notified them of the treason charges. We have already called in SADC to help us out in this matter as they have always done with similar cases in the past where they have even helped reach some political agreements.
“We are hopeful that SADC will intervene as we have already made them aware of the treason case that has been brought before the courts of law even though they agreed with the government that there shouldn’t be any political arrests during the national reforms process,” Mr Metsing said.
Meanwhile, the leader of the Democratic Party of Lesotho, (DPL), Limpho Tau said the treason charges against Mr Metsing and others should be stayed to allow the reforms process to proceed smoothly to finality.
“There is nothing wrong with people being prosecuted for whatever crime they are suspected to have committed. The same goes for the two leaders (Mochoboroane and Metsing). But it must be remembered that the government and the opposition under the SADC facilitation of Justice Moseneke agreed to stall all politically perceived prosecutions to create a conducive environment for the reforms process.
“The understanding was that the reforms were much more crucial than anything else (including the treason charges) and that the reforms should be full inclusive of all stakeholders. And we know at that time Ntate Metsing and Ntate Mochoboroane are political role players in Lesotho with a crucial part to play in the reforms.
“When the reforms exercise is over, we in the opposition do not have a problem with people being prosecuted. But the reforms have not been completed yet and when you prosecute Metsing and Mochoboroane,that will stop them from participating in the reforms. Prosecuting now violates the spirit of the agreement between government and the official opposition which was facilitated by SADC.”
Mr Tau said the government still had ample time before the end of its tenure (in 2022) to prosecute Mr Metsing and others after the reforms process because the reforms were expected to be implemented before year-end.
He said the timing of the treason charges to coincide with murder charges against Dr Thabane for the 2017 murder of his estranged wife, Lipolelo, was curious and suggested that the charges were probably a result of the infighting within Dr Thabane’s All Basotho Convention (ABC) party.
“One wonders why the rush now and why the coincidence with prime minister’s murder charges
“My opinion is that all this is as a result of power struggles within the ABC. This comes down from the (February 2019 ABC’s elective) conference which revealed the ambition of some people to dominate the ABC, hence the government.
“These are the results of the intra-party conflict within the ABC which have now spilled over into government. There could a faction in the ABC conniving with one of the coalition partners to dominate government,” said Mr Tau.
He said that the opposition would consider pulling out of the reforms process if the treason trial was not stopped. Although he did not specifically mention anyone in the ABC by name, he could have been referring to the Professor Nqosa Mahao faction which gained control of the ABC’s national executive committee (NEC) at the party’s February 2019 elective conference.
Mr Tau’s sentiments were shared by the leader of National Independent Party (NIP), Kimetso Mathaba, who said the clause 10 of the 2018 government-opposition agreement stayed criminal charges against Mr Metsing and others.
“We don’t have a problem with people being prosecuted when they have cases but the way some of these things are being done is quite disturbing as we can see that this is politically motivated.
“We would therefore want to see people respecting the SADC-brokered agreement (to stay the treason trial and other charges).
“Once the reforms are completed, people can still be taken to court. The courts should not be misdirected to target certain individuals. Failure to deal with this (treason) matter might see us recalling our representative from the National Reforms Authority (NRA) and the reforms process.”
MEC secretary general Napo Moshoeshoe said, “We are not against anyone being prosecuted if there is need but the timing (of the treason charges) is not right because we are still in the middle of the reforms process”.
“All these things have been done under the facilitation of SADC and we have always adhered to all its principles and interventions so it would be quite surprising if suddenly they (government) decided not to listen to SADC and (proceed with the treason charges).
“Should this (treason) matter continue we will withdraw our representation from the NRA and in parliamentary sessions on the reforms process,” said Mr Moshoeshoe.