Opposition to boycott reforms
. . . demand return of exiled leaders
THE main opposition parties have vowed to boycott the upcoming multi-sectoral reforms process as long as their leaders remain in exile.
Addressing a media dialogue held this past week in Maseru, the opposition parties representative, Fako Likoti, also asserted that the reforms would be implemented “at gunpoint” because of the deployment of the SADC Preventative Mission in Lesotho (SAPMILES).
Democratic Congress (DC) Congress Secretary-General Semano Sekatle has since walked back Dr Likoti’s claim that the SAPMILES was coercing the opposition to implement the reforms. However, he held firm on the vow to boycott the reforms on account of their exiled leaders.
Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) leader and former deputy premier, Mothetjoa Metsing, his deputy, Tšeliso Mokhosi, and DC deputy leader, Mathibeli Mokhothu, fled to South Africa separately in August this year.
The trio skipped the country citing tip-offs from “trusted sources” about plots to assassinate them and alleged persecution by the government.
Mr Metsing, who is also the legislator for Mahobong, skipped the country after claiming he had received a tip-off that the police were on their way to his Ha Lobiane home-town to arrest and kill him.
The Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences is now mulling extraditing Mr Metsing from South Africa after the former deputy premier ignored a call to appear in court earlier this month to answer for a corruption charge.
Mr Mokhosi, a former Defence and National Security minister who is facing a murder charge, fled the country immediately after he was released from prison on bail, alleging that his life was in danger.
He was charged alongside four police officers for the murder of Police Constable Mokalekale Khetheng.
For his part, Mr Mokhothu claimed he was forced into exile after his name appeared on a hit-list.
In his remarks during a dialogue organised by the MNN Centre for Investigate Journalism on Friday, Dr Likoti said the opposition parties would not participate in the multi-sector reforms process.
Lesotho has embarked on multi-sectoral reforms with the objective of attaining lasting peace and stability at the instigation of SADC.
Among the areas earmarked for reform are the constitution and the security sector, with a view to nip in the bud the root causes of Lesotho’s instability.
The regional bloc deployed the 258-strong SAPMILES at the request of the government of Lesotho to monitor the reforms implementation process and to assist with expertise where needed.
The request was made after the 5 September 2017 assassination of Lesotho Defence Force commander, Lieutenant-General Khoantle Motšomotšo, at the Ratjomose Barracks, allegedly by Brigadier Bulane Sechele and Colonel Tefo Hashatsi.
Both Brigadier Sechele and Colonel Hashatsi were also killed by the general’s bodyguards soon after the latter was shot dead.
The force – made of 207 soldiers, 15 intelligence officers, 24 police officers and 12 civilian experts – arrived in the country last month, with its tour of duty in Lesotho expected to last for six months.
Dr Likoti, who was DC leader Pakalitha Mosisili’s advisor during his second stint as premier, said the opposition would not participate in the reforms while being “besieged” by the government.
“You cannot expect reforms to take place while our leaders are not in the country and are being consistently threatened with warrants (of arrest) and getting threats,” he said.
The opposition, he said, was “seriously concerned” by the presence of SAPMILES, adding that a force should, instead, have been deployed in Zimbabwe which recently had a military coup.
Dr Likoti said the ousting of former Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe by the country’s army last month was a “clear coup”.
“But, it was surprising to see SADC members attending the swearing-in of the country’s new President Emmerson Mnangagwa instead of taking measures against the coup plotters,” he said.
Lesotho, Dr Likoti surmised, was constantly threatened with military intervention by SADC every time it experienced problems because of its small size.
“The PM must also convene a commission of inquiry to establish who really murdered the commander and those two people, because I don’t know who killed Sechele, Hashatsi and Ntate Motšomotšo,” he said. “The only thing I know is that there should be a proper investigation that is done transparently so that people can know who committed those atrocities.”
The deployment of SAPMILES meant that the reforms would be implemented “at gunpoint”, he asserted.
“We cannot entertain implementing reforms at gunpoint. We have a legitimately constituted army in this country. From where we are sitting, we don’t see the need to have foreign forces in this country because we don’t see any uprising.
“The evidence is there for everyone to see; soldiers are being arrested every day. They are filling the prisons. Some of them are being arrested on trumped-up charges which SADC dealt with in 2014 through the Maseru Security Accord.”
Signed on 23 October 2014, the accord was aimed at promoting harmonious relations between the leadership, officers and members of both the LDF and the Lesotho Mounted Police Service.
Mr Sekatle told the Sunday Express yesterday that Dr Likoti represented the opposition parties at the dialogue. However, he did not concur with Dr Likoti’s stance on the deployment of SAPMILES.
“We requested him to state our case that we will not be part of the reforms as long as our leaders are in exile, but on the issue of boycotting the reforms because the SADC force is threatening us, that is his own opinion and not of the opposition,” Mr Sekatle said.
In his remarks at the same forum, SADC Contingency Force Deputy Commander, Colonel Hachanga, said there was need for more sensitisation to Basotho on the reasons for SAPMILES’s presence in Lesotho.
He said their mandate was mainly to ensure that Basotho work together to find a lasting solution to their problems.
“We are not here to take over the role of any institution but to assist, monitor and facilitate where we are required to do so,” Colonel Hachanga said, pleading with members of the media to help them change the perception of different stakeholders and Basotho towards the regional force.
He said they were not in Lesotho to impose anything on Basotho but to see to it that all solutions are home grown.