Prince urges leaders to respect reforms

BONGIWE ZIHLANGU

MASERU – Matsieng Principal Chief Seeiso Bereng Seeiso has appealed to all stakeholders to multi-sectoral reform process to guarantee its success despite an opposition decision this week to pull out of the process over Chief Justice Nthomeng Majara’s suspension.

Last week, the Coalition of Opposition Parties in Parliament announced it was temporarily withdrawing from the reforms and would pull out their representatives from the National Dialogue Planning Committee (NDPC) following Majara’s suspension. They demanded an audience with Justice Dikgang Moseneke, who is the Special Envoy to the Sadc Facilitator to Lesotho.

“On the basis of the foregoing, the opposition parties in parliament have taken the unanimous decision to suspend participation in all processes leading to the national dialogue and reforms, until a mutually agreed, conducive environment has been created. This also means immediate withdrawal of our representatives in the NDPC,” the opposition said.

“We would like to indicate that in no uncertain terms do we find the way to the national dialogue and reforms gloomy. We strongly believe that it is now up to SADC to rein in this rampant behaviour by government.” While Prince Seeiso, who is King Letsie III’s younger brother and third in-line to the throne, did not directly address the opposition pull-out during his Senate address, he warned Basotho leaders that failure to “heed the alarm bell I’m sounding” could result in “an implosion”.

“If as leaders across the board and Basotho from all walks of life we do not take reforms seriously, jealously guard and embrace the process . . . we’re destined to implode,” the Prince said. “Lesotho is on the verge of self-consuming itself. We need a leadership that is sound. We should not deal in a realm of fiction but that of honesty and integrity. We need to deal with national issues without favour or prejudice.”

The Prince said it was time Basotho and their leadership across the board approached national issues with zest while also ensuring that whatever decisions they made would be beneficial for future generations. “When we address the country’s issues in a sober state and with warm hearts, what we will leave is a legacy that will be beneficial to future generations, not something that we’ll do in just two minutes,” Seeiso said.

“We need an earnest reform process. And I emphasise on the fact that it is a process and not just an incident. It is a process that we have to embrace and work with each other for the greater good of this nation. “As I have said and am still saying, we are on the precipice, unless we deal with the conviction of our collective leadership and our nation collective, we will cross the river together or together we are going to sink in the river.

“If there’s anybody thinking that they will escape while we all sink, you are delusional because your conscience at the end of the day will tell you that you are part of the problem and not the solution.” The Prince added the reforms process was a reality that Basotho needed to face and that the process should begin with leaders confronting each other candidly.

“This does not mean we must run away from our reality. We need to admit that as Basotho we are too coy to confront each other with the truth. We are also too lazy to get to the bottom of things to establish the truth. And there’s no way that you can tell truth if you don’t know what it looks or sounds like,” Seeiso said.

“Basotho, we should not shy away from the challenge of big problems, of difficult questions. We need to confront each other with the truth in this very house so that when we go out our hearts are healed.” Prince Seeiso further warned that the reforms were a last chance for Lesotho and Basotho to redeem themselves because if the country failed to embrace the process, she risked being “thrown into the dustbin of history as a nation that once existed”.

“The reform process gives Basotho a last-chance opportunity. If we don’t get it right this time around, we are doomed to go into the dustbins of history, that there was a nation that failed to see the bigger picture because of the pettiness of their leadership who refused to see the national issues ahead of themselves and their interests,” Seeiso said.

King Letsie III in addressing the nation, always appeals to leaders “prioritise national issues over their personal interests”, the Prince said. “As leaders, as chiefs, we need to always walk with our heads held up high knowing that we stand for truth and justice for every Mosotho, irrespective of the political colours they’re wearing or religious inclination,” he said.

“Being a Mosotho has nothing to do with all that. It’s about loving your fellow men as much as you love yourself. I therefore urge my fellow senators that we should be brave enough to stand by what we say and do. Let’s refrain from humiliating each other or talking about each other. “Instead, let us sit around the table to thrash issues out, instead of calling each other out. We all make mistakes. If we can’t stand up for the truth, then it will be the end of us. One day we will have to answer for our sins. The question will be “what did you do when the walls fell down on the children and the waters swept them away?”

He further advised Basotho to be more open-minded. “We need to deal with this country’s issues without fear or favour. This country’s leaders need to address issues with their eyes wide open. They should speak up when the need arises, bravely but with humility so that they can draw the nation closer together,” he said. Meanwhile, while Matsieng Principal Chief Khoabane Theko did not delve into reasons leading to the opposition withdrawing from the reforms, during his address to the Senate on the same day, he said it was a shame that some opposition parties had “decided to pull out of the reforms”.

“We feel ashamed that when there are issues to be addressed, some of our people have decided to withdraw from the reforms. Opposition parties are saying that they are pulling out of the reforms because they are not happy with certain things,” Theko said. This is not the first time the opposition have threatened to withdraw from the anticipated multi-sectoral reform process of parliament, the constitution, the judiciary, as well as the security and public service sectors, which were identified as being at the core of Lesotho’s mounting political instability and insecurity.

Initially, the opposition were adamant that they would not participate in the reforms unless government withdrew its request for the extradition of self-exiled Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) leader Mothetjoa Metsing, who has been holed up in South Africa for a year now after fleeing Lesotho, following what he called threats to his life.

After a deal was struck between government and the opposition through Moseneke’s intervention, clearing the way for Metsing to return to Lesotho, the opposition participated in last month’s National Leaders Forum (NFL) which birthed the NDPC which is currently organising the Multi-stakeholders National Dialogue slated for October 18, a platform expected to pave the way for reforms and which sections should be protected by legislation.

Rights groups, Amnesty International and Commonwealth Magistrates and Judges Association (CMJA) have both condemned Majara’ssuspension, saying the move was politically motivated and undermined the independence of the judiciary. Majara faces charges of misconduct and incompetence in the execution of her duties, resulting in, among others, a backlog of court cases.

But Government Secretary Moahloli Mphaka on Wednesday issued a hard-hitting statement, in which he reiterated government’s position adding that “the decision is aimed at upholding the very same principles on the independence of the judiciary to which Amnesty International is making reference”. “The government of the Kingdom of Lesotho reiterates its unshakeable, and so far unfaulted position, stated in it June 19, 2018 statement in response to the mischievous overtures of this complexion, that the Chief Justice’s probe will be dealt with only in keeping with the constitutional provisions, rules of natural justice and principles that govern all international bodies to which Lesotho is a member,” Mphaka said.

“But they are hell-bent on not lending these processes even an iota of patience and tolerance. We reiterate that, pursuing the prescribed corrective action against a single member of any country’s judiciary, however elevated and exalted they might be, can never spell doom for the edifice of the justice system; contrary to what doomsayers would have some amongst us believe.”

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