Metsing being used as bargaining chip: analysts

BONGIWE ZIHLANGU

MASERU - Self-exiled Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) Mothetjoa Metsing’s status should not be used as a bargaining chip by the opposition, to force government to drop its request for his extradition to Lesotho, in favour of an unconditional and safe return, if they are to participate in impending national reforms, analysts say.

The opposition’s demands that government drops the bid to extradite Metsing, the analysts add, is not enough reason for the serious consideration of “sacrifi cing justice in favour of peace”, because at the end of the day justice must prevail “to pave the way for reconciliation and peace-building”. If anything, Metsing and the opposition should not undermine a national reform project and reduce it to insignifi cance by “limiting it to just government and the opposition” at the expense of key role players on the ground, who are itching to kick-start the reform process in earnest.

This comes against the backdrop of an “ultimatum” issued by SADC last week, that Lesotho should have in a year’s time “completed the constitutional and security sector reforms”. In a communique issued on Tuesday last week following the Double Troika Summit of Heads and State and Government held in Angola, SADC “endorsed the Roadmap for Reforms and National Dialogue and urged the Government of Lesotho to prioritise the Constitutional and Security Reforms, which should be completed by May 2019, and a progress report to be presented to the summit in August.

“The summit called upon all political parties and stakeholders in the Kingdom of Lesotho to accord the needed seriousness to the National Dialogue and the reform processes and find lasting solutions to the political challenges facing the Kingdom,” read the communique. “Summit approved the extension of the SAPMIL for a further period of six months, from May 2018 to November 2018.”

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 Lebohang Hlaele “to stand trial of 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 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 1982).

This was further communicated to relevant departments to kick-start the process of extraditing Lesotho’s former deputy prime minister. The opposition a fortnight ago threatened to pull out of the built-up talks to the proposed national dialogue under the auspices of SADC and the Christian Council of Lesotho (CCL), themed ‘Political Parties’ Dialogue in Peace and Nation Building: For Shaping the Lesotho That We Want’, adding that they would only return to the table “if government drops its extradition bid against Ntate Metsing”.

Last week Wednesday official government spokesperson Nthakeng Selinyane refuted mounting speculation that government was contemplating dropping the extradition request and securing Metsing’s safe and unconditional return to Lesotho, under the auspices of transitional justice. According to Selinyane “it’s not true that government is contemplating that”.However, Selinyane was quick to add as paradigms shift, the world was also yielding towards making unconventional decisions when faced with the dilemma of whether to “to pursue peace or justice”.

Without making a specifi c mention of Metsing, Selinyane drew examples of retired former Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) Acting Commander Major- General Lineo Poopa and the current LDF Inspector-General, Major-General Ramanka Mokaloba, who were fi ngered by the Phumaphi Commission of Inquiry, as being among top army officials who committed atrocities but were spared prosecution by the current government “probably in the pursuit of peace”.

Poopa and Mokaloba, along with the late former LDF Commander Lt. General Khoantle Motšomotšo, the late Brigadier Bulane Sechele and the late Colonel Tefo Hashatsi, were named by the Phumaphi in several criminal acts committed by the army and were part of the inner circle of detained former commander Lt. Gen. Tlali Kamoli. Kamoli is languishing in the Maseru Maximum Prison,awaiting trial on several charges including murder and attempted murder.

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