Govt’s bid to extradite Metsing stalls talks


MASERU –Communications minister Thesele Maseribane has expressed disappointment with opposition’s fresh demand for government to shelve its bid to extradite LCD leader Mothetjoa Metsing as a pre-condition for reforms talks to continue. This was after opposition parties accused the coalition government of undermining state institutions claiming its request for the extradition of Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD)’s leader Mothetjoa Metsing from South Africa had led to the collapse of peace-building talks between the two factions.

Leader of opposition Mathibeli Mokhothu, told a media briefing on Wednesday that opposition parties had decided to abandon the talks following government’s relentless efforts to have Metsing extradited to Lesotho, despite the peacebuilding talks being underway. But Communication, Science and Technology Minister Thesele ’Maseribane, last night expressed disappointment at the opposition’s decision to pull out of the talks, saying that he was of the impression that “we had gone past politicking”. “I thought we wouldn’t threaten the reforms in any way. I thought we were being frank with each in those meetings. Reforms need the participation of both parties, it’s not something that some of us should be using as a bargaining chip. Let’s not hold each other to ransom using reforms,” ’Maseribane said.

On Wednesday, Mokhothu said: “We are shocked by government’s decision to pursue Ntate Metsing’s extradition despite the ongoing talks between government and the opposition,” Mokhothu said. “What are we expected to do? Sit back and watch as government pursues this extradition? That’s why we have resolved to pull out of the talks for as long as government continues to demonstrate disinterest and its abuse of state institutions. “If there’s no office coming out to call government to order for its stance on the extradition of the LCD leader, we won’t find it easy to participate in the talks.”

Mokhothu, who is deputy leader of the main opposition Democratic Congress (DC), was flanked by Popular Front for Democracy (PFD) leader Advocate Lekhetho Rakuoane, leader of the National Independent Party (NIP) Kimetso Mathaba, and Socialist Revolutionaries (SR) party’s secretary-general ’Mapali Molula. Lesotho People’s Congress (LPC)’s Bokang Ramatšella, the LCD’s Apesi Ratšele and officials representing the opposition coalition comprising parties both in and outside parliament also attended the briefing.

Mokhothu said Thabane’s government’s trend of undermining the courts, which he said was evidenced by the attack of Chief Justice Nthomeng Majara by the Law and Constitutional Affairs Minister Lebohang Hlaele and Government Secretary Moahloli Mphaka, had rendered Lesotho’s judiciary a laughing stock. Mokhothu said Thabane had further weakened the judiciary by the recent appointment of an “over-aged” King’s Counsel Haae Phoofolo to the position of attorney general. Mokhothu then referred to Hlaele’s attack of Justice Majara early this year, wherein the law minister accused the Chief Justice of corruption, charges which were later referred to the Directorate for Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO).

“Hence, we sat down as the opposition leadership, deliberated on the situation unfolding in the courts and asked ourselves questions to which we haven’t found answers now,” Mokhothu said. “We decided that it wouldn’t be in the best interest of justice if we just sat there and watched as the courts, which are supposed to be our refuge, are being stripped of their integrity and the purpose for which they were intended. “Under the circumstances, we have resolved to abandon the talks, with a view to rejoining them once government brings itself to order and SADC has also taken over the talks.”

So far, government and the opposition have had four meetings since February 12, 2018 guided by the Christian Counsel of Lesotho (CCL) and SADC under the theme ‘Political Parties’ Dialogue in Peace and Nation Building: For Shaping The Lesotho That We Want’, with government at the last meeting announcing that it was rejecting demands which the opposition had made, as prerequisites for their buy-in in the pending multisectoral reforms programme.The opposition’s demands included the classification of incarcerated former Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) commander Lt. Gen. Tlali Kamoli, who is charged for murder among others, as a political prisoner and subsequently his release from prison along with his co-accused.

The opposition had also demanded the establishment of a government of national unity (GNU), which would be the umbrella under which Lesotho’s political leadership and relevant stakeholders would venture into the reforms journey, which looks to overhaul sectors including security, the judiciary, the public sector, as well as parliament and the constitution Thabane’s government in December 2017 applied for Metsing’s extradition to Lesotho “through diplomatic channels”, which was communicated to the South African government by Lesotho’s Foreign Affairs and International Relations Minister Lesego Makgothi, for Law and Constitutional Affairs Minister Hlaele, to “stand trial on charges of corruption, fraud and tax evasion”.

The South African government on February 28 acknowledged receipt of the request via that country’s Minister of Justice and Correctional Services Tshilo Michael Masutha, who in turn issued a notice in line with that country’s section 5 (1) (a) of the Extradition Act, 1962 (Act 67 of 1962), which was communicated to relevant departments to kickstart the process of Lesotho’s former deputy-prime minister’s extradition.

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