…opposition adamant of staying away if demands ignored

KAMOLI, METSING GHOSTS HAUNT REFORMS

BONGIWE ZIHLANGU

MASERU – Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s charm offensive aimed at wooing opposition parties to a leaders’ indaba as a precursor to key national reform talks could come unstuck as his rivals insist on the release of incarcerated former army boss Tlali Kamoli and the unconditional return of former deputy premier Mothetjoa Metsing. Thabane recently cranked up his campaign to break the impasse that has stalled Sadc recommended reforms when he met his predecessor Pakalitha Mosisili “to exchange views with you on how to work together in shaping a Lesotho that every Mosotho would be proud of”.

More pointedly, Thabane told Mosisili he had requested the meeting “to discuss issues relating to the long anticipated national reforms and brief you about the work government is doing in preparation for the comprehensive National reforms and hear your views on the same”. But if Thabane had expected a softening of the opposition’s publicly stated demands, he may have been taken aback when the seven-party alliance re-stated its wish for Metsing to be allowed safe passage home and for Kamoli to either be tried or freed.

Government’s hopes for opposition participation in the talks about talks were raised this week when Sadc emissary retired South African judge, Justice Dikgang Moseneke arrived in Maseru and met both sides separately. Moseneke and his entourage shuttled between government and opposition camps, to establish why government had announced positive feedback from the opposition regarding their attendance of the forum, despite strong signals from the opposition it would snub the anticipated forum provisionally slated for August 23 – 24.

The forum which was scheduled for this week and organised by the Lesotho government, was postponed due to logistical challenges, which saw the opposition announcing that they would snub the meeting if government did not facilitate the safe return to Lesotho of Metsing and his deputy Tšeliso Mokhosi. Although Moseneke did not disclose the contents of his discussions with the opposition during a media briefing at the Qhobosheaneng Government Complex, he reportedly relayed to government that the opposition had told him they planned to snub the forum.

“We had a long, cordial and fruitful discussion with government and other stakeholders. It will not be amiss to say that the opposition parties, the NGOs and churches have closed or narrowed differences that existed amongst them. “I am positive that within two to three weeks we will hold the national leaders’ forum. I am confident the dialogue will seek to address the issues that beset this country. I am impressed by the wonderful energy I saw in Lesotho,” he said.

Speaking to Public Eye yesterday Democratic Congress (DC) Chairman Motlalentoa Letsosa, confirmed that in their Wednesday meeting with Moseneke, opposition was adamant it would not attend the forum scheduled for August 23-24, unless Metsing returns to Lesotho “safely and unconditionally”. “We informed Justice Moseneke that we were not interested in attending a political leaders’ forum in which Metsing would be absent. We further told him that a well-organised forum would be one where Metsing was present, as a free man,” Letsosa said.

He added: “There are issues that need to be resolved and dealt with before we could even move an inch when it comes to the reforms. There are also those that we can drag along with us into the reforms, provided there are guarantees that they will be attended to.

“We made it clear to Moseneke that we would only show up for the August 23-24 Political Leaders’ Forum, provided Metsing was also there as a free man. This is only the beginning, it is yet to rain heavily. We are well prepared for the reforms but we won’t participate unless Metsing is back in Lesotho.”

Two hours before their meeting with Moseneke, opposition leader Mathibeli Mokhothu told the media they planned to snub the Leaders’ Forum and events related to reforms unless Metsing returns home a free man. Mokhothu who is also DC deputy-leader was flanked by the PFD’s Lekhetho Rakuoane, NIP’s Kimetso Mathaba and DPL’s Limpho Tau.

He said Mosisili warned Thabane that unless both Metsing and Mokhosi returned home safely and unconditionally, and Kamoli was released from prison where he is awaiting a murder trial, the opposition would rebuff the indaba. “We are worried that General Kamoli has been incarcerated for the past 10 months. Our position is that if there are no charges against him, he should be released. If there are charges, he should stand trial, he must see his day in court. In fact, anybody who has something to answer for, must see their day in court. It defies logic why Gen. Kamoli has been in detention for ten months without trial,” Mokhothu said.

Meanwhile, sources said government was over a week ago warned by Sadc officials in Lesotho, that despite being enthusiastic about the attendance of the opposition, there was need to be cautious as there were indications that the opposition would stay away from the National Leader’s Forum.

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