.. ..... but Metsing, Mokhosi to benefit from mooted moratorium

Kamoli to stay behind bars during reforms

KANANELO BOLOETSE

MASERU – Former army chief Tlali Kamoli will not benefit from any stay on prosecutions of exiled opposition leaders government is contemplating as it seeks ways to break a political standoff that has stalled national reforms.Foreign Affairs and International Relations Minister Lesego Makgothi yesterday said government is wholeheartedly considering a moratorium on prosecutions of former deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing and former defence minister Tšeliso Mokhosi to induce them into participating in the national reforms but reserves the right to arrest them after the process.

Makgothi said government outright rejected the release from jail of Kamoli as requested by the opposition, on the basis that such release would potentially fly in the face of the principle of separation of powers. “Mr Metsing and Mr Mokhosi (Tšeliso) can only be arrested and prosecuted after we have implemented the reforms. We as government however still have some reservations about this moratorium as we still think it will undermine judicial independence. We can still find another workable solution with guarantees,” he added.

His sentiments follow Sadc Preventive Mission in Lesotho (SAPMIL) Chairperson Dr Matias Matondo’s recent appeal to government to allow Metsing back home for the reforms.“To be candid we have been asking the government to suspend it for the sake of peace and reconciliation in the country. And the government is willing to do that, to suspend it.

“We ourselves as SADC would not wish for Mr Metsing to return to Lesotho under an extradition process. So there’s an agreement or a pre-agreement that if we agree with Mr Metsing on a number of things, if he agrees to come back home, we will provide security for him. “Actually, he was given the privilege to define or to choose the security structure that he may be comfortable with. So, once that is agreed upon we don’t see why anybody should push for an extradition.

“But, we are working on his free passage as a politician and leader of a major political party. His presence is critical not only for his supporters but also for the peace process. That’s why SAPMIL and the Oversight Committee are engaging with government to have a common understanding and grant him free passage and security because we want him to be part of the process. And, we wish for Mr Metsing to come back home beyond and away from any extradition process,” said Dr Matondo.

Makgothi told Public Eye yesterday it may be necessary to consider a moratorium to prioritise implementation of a raft of political, constitutional and security sector reforms that have been on the agenda of government for the past few years without any headway being made. A stay on arrests of the exiled former deputy prime minister, release of Kamoli and formation on a government of national unity were among a plethora of preconditions for the opposition to participate in the reforms process.

“The moratorium will serve as a basis for a plan that will ensure that government and opposition find a common ground and prioritise the reforms. It means that we must be in agreement on prioritising implementation of reforms with a view to moving this country forward,” he said. “A government of national unity which is requested by the opposition is a non-starter; it is a selfish plan that has no chance of succeeding or being effective. We reject it,” he also said.

Metsing, leader of the former ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD), fled to South Africa last year claiming his life was in danger, a claim which was rubbished by Prime Minister Thomas Thabane who instead declared Metsing a fugitive from justice. Government’s intention to extradite Metsing was communicated to South Africa in writing by Makgothi in December 2017.

Metsing was later joined in exile by his deputy Mokhosi. This was after Mokhosi was arrested and charged with the murder of police constable Mokalekale Khetheng. Upon his release on bail, he skipped the country alleging he had been severely tortured in police custody. Opposition parties, irked by government’s plan to extradite Metsing, said they were boycotting the reforms process until government gives up on the extradition.

Their stay-away has effectively brought the whole process to a halt igniting international partners’ anxiety. Last week, one after the other, Lesotho’s three key international partners – the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the United States and the European Union (EU) – expressed disquiet over the pace at which the reforms were being carried out.

These partners have also asserted that the process must be inclusive and transparent. Government blames the opposition saying it is holding the reform process to ransom due to unreasonable demands but the opposition has also hit back, saying they are being used as scapegoats by the government which “clearly does not have any direction”.

Last week, opposition Popular Front for Democracy (PFD) leader Lekhetho Rakuoane insisted there was a need for formation of a government of national unity if the country is to be transformed. Rakuoane told Public Eye that due to the ruling four-party coalition government’s “ineptitude and lack of strong leadership”, they will need all the extra hands they can find outside the ruling parties if the reforms are to be successfully implemented.

He cited South Africa as an ideal example whose march to democracy was greatly helped by a Nelson Mandela-led multi-party government of national unity established after the 1994 elections. Rakuoane said because of its “excessive zeal”, the 4x4 government will end up throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Mandela’s government has largely been credited with fostering unity of purpose and relative confidence between the previously warring parties to build trust in a joint future.

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