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SADC issues reforms warning

…says “extreme polarity of views” between govt and opposition could scuttle the implementation of reforms

Pascalinah Kabi

THE Southern African Development Community (SADC) is gravely concerned that the “extreme polarity of views” between the government and opposition could scuttle the implementation of constitutional security sectors and governance reforms in Lesotho that were recommended by the regional body.

SADC recommended the multi-sectoral reforms in 2016 as part of measures to bring lasting peace and stability which are crucial to creating the necessary conditions for sustainable socio-economic development in the Mountain Kingdom.

The regional body’s recommendations were made in the aftermath of the Justice Mpaphi Phumaphi-led SADC Commission of Inquiry that was established to establish the circumstances surrounding the fatal shooting of former army commander, Maaparankoe Mahao, by his army colleagues in 2015.

Lt-Gen Mahao was fatally shot by his colleagues on 25 June 2015 just outside Maseru. The Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) subsequently announced Lt-Gen Mahao was resisting arrest when he was killed, which the family has dismissed as untrue.

The Mahao family accused the army of killing him in cold blood basing on the account of his nephews who were with him during the incident.

After the killing, the-then Prime Minister, Pakalitha Mosisili, asked SADC to help establish the circumstances surrounding the incident, resulting in a Commission of Inquiry led by Justice Mpaphi Phumaphi of Botswana.

The 10-member commission carried out its investigations between 31 August and 23 October 2015 and recommended, among other things, that government should investigate the killing and prosecute those found to be responsible.

The commission also recommended a slew of constitutional, legislative and security sector reforms among others to stem the perennial instability in the Mountain Kingdom.

And in its recent report compiled ahead of the much anticipated deployment of the SADC contingent to help create a conducive atmosphere for the implementation of its recommendations, SADC notes that despite the general consensus on the need for multi-sectoral reforms in Lesotho, the process continues to be plagued by extreme polarisation between the government and the opposition.

“Stakeholders continued to express commitment to the reform agenda and to this end the government has enlisted services of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to assist in drafting the Roadmap (to reforms),” SADC states in its assessment of the current political situation in the country.

“However, it is reported that the extreme polarity of views between the government and opposition threatens to derail the process, but there is consensus across the board on the need to implement the reform package as decided by the SADC summits.”

Government spokesperson and Minister of Communications, Science and Technology, Joang Molapo’s phone was repeatedly unreachable when the Sunday Express attempted to contact him for comment.

For his part, the opposition representative in the reforms process, Motlalentoa Letsosa, accused government of “playing its cards close to its chest,” saying it had not even availed to the opposition, a draft of the reforms roadmap it ultimately intended to present to SADC.

Mr Letsosa said government had maintained this stance despite repeated efforts by the opposition to access the draft so that they could make their input to ensure that it was an all-inclusive document.

He said due to the fact that they had not had sight of the draft roadmap document to get a clear understanding of the government views, it could therefore, not be said there were divergent views between them and government as suggested by SADC.

“So at the moment, in the absence of the document, there are no differing views between the government and the opposition on the roadmap,” Mr Letsosa said yesterday.

“But we must understand that since the SADC is mediating between the two sides – opposition and government – they are best placed to know that we have differing views because they met with us separately and they might have picked this matter you are referring to,” Mr Letsosa said, adding that it was important for government to avail the roadmap draft immediately to speed up the process.”

The divergence of views between the government and opposition has been manifested in disagreements over various issues, including whether or not SADC facilitator and South African Deputy President, Cyril Ramaphosa should be allowed to continue to continue in his role.

SADC notes that while government wants him replaced, the opposition is happy to have him continue, albeit with the assistance of a mediator, “preferably a Mosotho national”.

The disagreements have also extended to the fate of exiled opposition leaders who continue have so far refused to heed government’s call to return home to participate in stakeholder meetings which are part of the process of producing the roadmap for the reforms.

Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) leader and former Deputy Prime Minister, Mothetjoa Metsing, his deputy Tšeliso Mokhosi, and Democratic Congress (DC) deputy leader, Mathibeli Mokhothu, fled the country in the aftermath of the June elections which ushered in the four party coalition government led by All Basotho Convention leader, Thomas Thabane. The other parties in the coalition are the Alliance of Democrats, Basotho National Party and the Reformed Congress of Lesotho.

Mr Metsing, who is also the Member of Parliament for Mahobong, fled the country in August this year, claiming that he had received a tip-off that the police were on their way to his Ha Lobiane home-town to arrest and kill him.

However, Prime Minister Thabane rejected Mosisili’s claims in an exclusive interview with the Lesotho Times two weeks back. The premier described Mr Metsing as a “fugitive from justice” who had run away to avoid being arrested and jailed over allegations that he took bribes from a company, Bravo Construction, in exchange of lucrative road construction tenders.

The Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) had investigated Mr Metsing’s accounts and unearthed substantial cash deposits which the former deputy prime minister was said to have failed to explain.

Mr Mokhosi, a former Minister of Defence and National Security, who is facing murder charges, fled the country in September immediately after he was released on bail, alleging that his life was in danger. Mr Mokhosi also accused police of brutally assaulting him, charges the LMPS vehemently denied.

Mr Mokhothu fled in September alleging that he had seen his name on an alleged hit-list. But Dr Thabane’s coalition has since dismissed all these claims as self-serving rhetoric from opposition leaders afraid to stand trial for an assortment of alleged crimes.

And despite government guarantees for their safety, the opposition has dug in, insisting their leaders will not return to participate in the reforms allegedly because the government is not sincere and is likely to arrest them on their return.

As reported elsewhere in this edition, the LCD Youth League has waded into the issue, insisting in its most recent press conference that government should “forget” about the inclusion of the opposition in the reforms process if they do not “demonstrate sincerity” in their actions.

“They should forget about the reforms if they don’t change the way they are doing things, the LCD Youth League’s spokesperson, Pusetso Montšo, said at a recent press briefing in Maseru.

“If the government genuinely wants them back, the issue of warrants of arrests that we have seen on social media should be placed aside, and energy should be focused strictly and genuinely on the reforms agenda.”

SADC Oversight Committee Chairperson, Matias Matondo, recently told the media that they had urged government to come up with an all-inclusive roadmap that covered all the sectors that needed to be reformed.

“Throughout our interactions with the stakeholders of the process here – both from the government, opposition, civil society organisations, non-governmental organisations, faith-based organisations and all the active forces from the Kingdom – the signals we are getting are very positive and encouraging.

“We have also urged the government to come up with a concrete roadmap that covers all the sectors that need to be touched by the reforms and everybody is agreed that there is a need to reform the judiciary, LDF, Lesotho Mounted Police Service and others. Something ought to be done on the issue of floor crossing and political party formation threshold,” Dr Matondo said.

He added that the roadmap was a document that would encompass all the key sectors that need to be reformed in the country for the sake of peace and stability and that the positive signals received from stakeholders put emphasis on the need for the Basotho to come together for a lasting peace and stability.

He also said they were critically looking at the proposed roadmap, providing inputs where necessary but it was important for the document to be owned by all Basotho.

Lesotho has been plagued by recurring bouts of instability in recent years.

On 30 August 2014, the army raided the Police Headquarters and other stations on the grounds that they wanted to forestall a plan by the police to arm civilians.

The army raid on the Police headquarters claimed the life of Police Sub-Inspector Mokheseng Ramahloko.

Then and current Prime Minister, Dr Thabane, equated the raids to a coup d’état and fled to South to only return under heavy South African police guard.

He remained under SA protection until the February 2015 snap elections which returned former Premier Pakalitha Mosisili to power.

Dr Mosisili’s coalition was then accused of unleashing a reign of terror on its opponents resulting in the killing of Lt-Gen Mahao, whom Dr Thabane had appointed to replace Lt-Gen Kamoli, prompting the latter’s coup attempt. Lt-Gen Mahao’s killing resulted in the SADC’s commission of inquiry whose raft of recommendations are yet to be fully implemented.

The latest case of instability was the 5 September 2017 assassination of army commander, Lieutenant General Khoantle Motšomotšo, by his subordinates, Brigadier Bulane Sechele and Colonel Tefo Hashatsi.

Lt-Gen Motšomotšo prompted the decision to deploy the SADC standby force.

 

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