Setipa blasts exiled leaders
TRADE and Industry Minister Joshua Setipa says the opposition leaders’ continued “shifting of goal posts” by delaying their return from exile undermined the reforms initiative intended to bring lasting stability to the country.
Former premier and All Basotho Convention (ABC) leader Thomas Thabane, Basotho National Party leader Thesele ‘Maseribane, and Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL) leader Keketso Rantšo fled to South Africa in May last year.
The three leaders, and several members of their parties as well as army officers, fled to the neighbouring country claiming the military wanted to kill or arrest them to settle old scores.
They set conditions for their return which included among other things, that the then commander of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) Lieutenant-General Tlali Kamoli be removed from his position as well as round-the-clock security provided by members of the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) to ensure their safety.
Lt-Gen Kamoli subsequently retired on 1 December and handed over the reins to Lt-Gen Khoantle Motšomotšo.
However, the opposition leaders have still not returned to Maseru and they continue to insist on additional guarantees of their safety, something Mr Setipa has dismissed as a shifting of the goal posts.
Speaking on the side-lines of a recent press conference to announce the renewal of the country’s trade benefits under the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) for 2017, Mr Setipa said it was important for the opposition leaders to participate in the country’s reforms process and stop reneging on their undertaking to return from exile.
Mr Setipa’s comments followed a decision on Monday last week by members of the opposition to walk out of a stakeholders’ consultative forum on reforms that was hosted by Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing.
Mr Setipa said as key stakeholders, it was important for the ABC, BNP and RCL to participate in the reforms process, adding government had met all the conditions for the return of their exiled leaders.
“Last week, government called a meeting that included the opposition, and it came as an embarrassment for the opposition to refuse to enter into dialogue to prepare for the consultative conference and rather demand the return of their self-exiled leaders and not the reforms issues,” Mr Setipa said.
“So the question is, why are the exiled leaders not back in Lesotho when they were the ones who imposed conditions for their return and those conditions have been met?”
“Ntate Thabane said once Ntate Kamoli steps down he would return immediately. Where is here today? It has been two weeks now and we have not seen him. Can we say this is the government’s fault?
He said Dr Thabane had demanded close protection from the LMPS and “government approved that request despite the fact that it has been policy since independence that ministers are guarded by soldiers”.
“We made an exception and he was issued police officers to guard him,” Mr Setipa said, adding, “We surpassed all the security guarantees he had requested because we held the view that he is a former prime minister and we should give him all the respect he deserves.”
He said in addition, the government had been generous enough to offer Dr Thabane accommodation which was not even on the list of the benefits accruing to a former premier.
“We are still hopeful that he will be coming back so that he can take part in the reforms process,” Mr Setipa said.
He said it would be unfortunate if the reforms process would begin without the opposition and their absence undermined the rights of the electorate.