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SADC cracks whip on govt, opposition

…we will take measures against those who delay the reforms process, regional body says

Pascalinah Kabi

REGIONAL leaders yesterday said they would not tolerate further delays to the reforms process and threatened to take “necessary measures against those with intentions to delay, or threaten to derail the reforms and the national dialogue processes”.

The SADC position was expressed at the 38th SADC summit of heads of state and government that was held in Windhoek, Namibia over two days from Friday to yesterday.

The SADC stance comes just barely three days after the exiled leader of the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD), Mothetjoa Metsing, said that the opposition would boycott the reforms process including the upcoming National Leaders’ Forum. Mr Metsing said this in a 15 August 2018 letter to the head of the SADC facilitation team to Lesotho, Justice Dikgang Moseneke.

In addition to the usual opposition demands which include the formation of a government of national unity, the release from remand prison of murder-accused former army commander, Lieutenant Tlali Kamoli and the dropping of criminal charges against him, Mr Metsing issued new conditions including guarantees for the safety of fraud-accused ’Makarabo Mojakhomo.

But the increasingly exasperated regional body would have none of it and instead, it warned yesterday that it would not tolerate further delays to the reforms process from any quarter.

“The summit noted with concern that, despite a number of SADC initiatives in the Kingdom of Lesotho, progress on the implementation of the reforms roadmap, and national dialogue remains very slow,” regional leaders said in a communique that was issued yesterday.

“The summit urged the Kingdom of Lesotho and all stakeholders to ensure that the National Leaders Forum, scheduled for 23 to 24 August 2018 takes place as planned, and called upon all stakeholders, including those who reside outside to participate.”

In a less diplomatic tone, the regional leaders said they had “resolved not to entertain any further delays in the implementation of reforms and national dialogue and called upon SADC member states to take necessary measures against those with intentions to delay, or threaten to derail the Reforms and the National dialogue processes”.

The leaders also called upon the government “to put in place a programme with clear milestones for the implementation of priority activities on the reforms roadmap and national dialogue”.

At the SADC summit in Luanda, Angola in April this year, SADC gave Lesotho until May 2019 to have fully implemented constitutional and security sector reforms by May 2019.

But since then, the reforms process has stalled largely as a result of the constant bickering between the government and the opposition over the latter’s preconditions for its participation in the reforms.

So far the only tangible developments with regards to the reforms process have been Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s speech in parliament to formally launch the reforms and the holding of the National Day of Prayer for the reforms in May this year.

A government roadmap that was presented to the SADC heads of state in Angola in April indicated that the National Leaders’ Forum and the National Dialogue Planning Committee (NDPC) would have been convened and launched three months ago.

According to the government’s roadmap for reforms, the “National Leaders’ Forum will involve leaders of the political parties to forge a political consensus on the reforms and national reconciliation”.

But even after the postponement of the National Leaders’ Forum to the 23rd and 24th of this month to accommodate the opposition including its exiled leaders, Mr Metsing has insisted that they will not attend until all their demands have been met. For its part, the government has vowed to press on with the reforms process “with or without the opposition”.

Just three days before the regional leaders’ meeting in Namibia, Mr Metsing wrote to Justice Moseneke to reiterate the opposition’s decisions to boycott the National Leaders Forum and the entire reforms processes until its demands had been met by the government.

Mr Metsing went as far as adding new demands which include safety guarantees for the fraud-accused ’Makarabo Mojakhomo-conditions which have since been rejected by Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s government.

It is not clear why Ms Mojakhomo was added to the list of people that Mr Metsing would want their safety guaranteed as a condition for his return and participation in the reforms.

Ms Mojakhomo recently came into the spotlight after she ‘disappeared’ from police custody under mysterious circumstances.

There have been conflicting reports about what actually happened to Ms Mojakhomo after she was arrested on 29 May this year for allegedly defrauding the First Lady ‘Maesaiah Thabane’s Trust Fund of at least M200 000.

She failed to appear in court on 31 May after the police claimed she had escaped from custody while they were preparing to take her to court.

But Ms Mojakhomo’s family disputed the police version of events and insisted that there was no way that she could have broken out of tightly guarded police cells. The family subsequently petitioned the High Court for an order for the police to produce her dead or alive.

However, in a recent turn of events a fortnight ago, her lawyer Advocate Letuka Molati wrote to the Police Commissioner, Holomo Molibeli, informing him that Ms Mojakhomo was alive and well. Adv Molati stated that contrary to the police allegations, Ms Mojakhomo did not escape but “she was abducted with the direct help of the police from the police custody”.

In another development, the regional leaders also thanked South African president Cyril Ramaphosa and his team of mediators for the role in facilitating the reforms process in Lesotho.

Mr Ramaphosa was first appointed to facilitate the restoration of peace and stability in Lesotho after the 30 August 2014 attempted coup against the first government of Dr Thabane.

During that event, the Lesotho Defence Force stormed various police stations and seized arms they claimed were to be used against civilians at a Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) rally that same weekend.

The raids claimed the life of Police Sub-inspector Mokheseng Ramahloko. Former LDF commander, Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli, is in court over the killing.

Mr Ramaphosa also facilitated the Maseru Security Accord in 2014 which led to external deployments of Lt-Gen Kamoli his then successor Maaparankoe Mahao and former Police Commissioner Khothatso T?oana pending the holding of the February 2015 snap elections. The move was aimed at fostering the restoration of cordial relations between the army and the police.

Lt-Gen Mahao was assassinated shortly after those elections. The All Basotho Convention (ABC) and Basotho National Party (BNP), who had been booted out of power, complained that the killing was a result of Mr Ramaphosa failing to address serious security concerns in the country. The leaders of the two parties had by then already fled into exile fearing for their lives.

A confidential SADC document prepared ahead of the December 2017 deployment of the SAPMIL to Lesotho revealed that Dr Thabane’s government was unhappy with Mr Ramaphosa continuing as the SADC facilitator to Lesotho and wanted him replaced.

The report also noted that the opposition were in favour of retaining him as facilitator.

“There have also been divergent views regarding the continued role of the facilitator in that the government expressed the need to find a replacement while the opposition is in favour of retaining the current facilitator but to be assisted by a mediator preferably a Basotho national,” reads part of the document titled ‘Draft Integrated Mission Plan for the Deployment of the Contingent Mission to the Kingdom of Lesotho’.

And while the SADC document does not elaborate on the reasons for the government’s position, sources have claimed that the governing parties believe Mr Ramaphosa has previously sided with the parties now in opposition by allegedly overlooking serious security threats posed by the army in the past.

His continued facilitation in Lesotho came under the spotlight given his elevation to the South African presidency in February this year following the decision by the ruling African National Congress (ANC) to recall former president, Jacob Zuma.

This year on 15 June, Mr Ramaphosa subsequently appointed a facilitation team led by former South African Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke to continue with the facilitation on his behalf.

The regional leaders who attended the weekend SADC summit in Namibia are Dr Thabane, host President Hage Geingob, João Manuel Gonçalves Lourenço (Angola), Mokgweetsi Masisi (Botswana), Joseph Kabila (Democratic Republic of Congo), Felipe Nyusi (Mozambique), Danny Faure (Seychelles), Cyril Ramaphosa (South Africa), Edgar Lungu (Zambia) and Emmerson Mnangagwa (Zimbabwe).

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