MASERU – Pressure group Action for Peace and Solidarity (APS) has called for the widest, most exhaustive possible national consultations to be held ahead of the implementation of the proposed Transitional Justice Commission (TJC). Such consultations and dialogue process, APS said in a statement yesterday, could benefit from being led by the nationally accepted National Reforms Authority (NRA).
It suggested that NRA should preferably use dependable hands like the Lesotho Council of Non-Governmental Organisations (LCN) and its affiliates which delivered a similar mandate satisfactorily in the dialogue phase of the National Reforms.
“To lend this sensitive undertaking deserving integrity and credibility, external interventions as well as government initiatives flowing therefrom should be held in abeyance to allow citizens voices to shape it,” read the statement. APS is a justice and human rights association formed by the peers and comrades of the slain Lieutenant-General Maaparankoe Mahao to promote his legacy and seek justice for him and other victims of similar crimes.
Mahao was waylaid and killed by the members of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) on his way from Mokema in Roma to Maseru on June 25, 2015. The LDF claimed at the time that Mahao was shot while resisting arrest for allegedly leading a mutiny but that claim was dismissed by a Southern African Development Commission (SADC) inquiry into his death. His family accused the army of killing him in cold blood basing itself on the account of his nephews who were with him during the incident.
Eight soldiers were arrested in 2017 and charged with the murder of Mahao. The suspects: Captain Litekanyo Nyakane, Captain Haleo Makara, Sergeant Lekhooa Moepi, Sergeant Motsamai Fako, Corporal Marasi ’Moleli, Corporal Motšoane Machai, Corporal Mohlalefi Seitlheko and Corporal Tšitso Ramoholi; are still languishing in prison awaiting trial.
The establishment of a TJC was proposed last month by the head of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) facilitation team to Lesotho, retired South African Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke.
Moseneke said the commission will ascertain the truth of what happened during conflict and turmoil in the country as a basis for healing the wounds which will lead to national reconciliation. While the proposed establishment of the TJC was welcomed by the family of Brigadier Matjota Ramotšekhoane who died in military detention in March 1986, it was condemned by the Mahao family and APS.
The family accused Moseneke of working flat out to save politicians, as well as some serving and former members of the security agencies from being tried for murder and other serious crimes. It vowed to resist his alleged schemes and if need be, said it will even appeal to the Unites States of America (USA) and the European Union (EU) for justice.
APS released a damning statement on April 4, saying it had learned with shock about “feverish attempts” by Moseneke to cause the government to enact a law to enable the freeing of the incarcerated suspects in the name of finding alternative justice.
“This is couched in the terms of establishing an odd institution called the TJC, which is nevertheless given the customary functions of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) which the self-professed political handlers, clients and promoters and protectors of these suspects have been incessantly calling for as a way to avoid the due process of the law which in some cases involves their own indictment,” APS said in a statement on April 4.
“It is now common cause that this proposal was rejected by both the formative Plenary I and the resolution-making Plenary II of the National Reforms dialogue, and talks on matters thus concluded cannot be reopened – by resolution of that people’s convention,” it added.
APS said yesterday the call by Moseneke that Basotho should engage on the proposed TJC should be genuine and adhered to by all, including himself, without anyone second guessing what Basotho would say. This approach, the association said, will retain both the independence and home ownership of the process.
“The alternative framework that we are proposing, towards the conceptualisation of the proposed TJC, is that people who want to engage one another for restorative justice processes shall be assisted towards that end, and the conclusion of the interface to the satisfaction of all parties will obviate or render unnecessary criminal and civil legal proceedings where they might be pending or ongoing or would otherwise be initiated,” it said.
It indicated that this approach should not insulate the state from vicarious responsibility to compensate victims and their families.
“Indeed, the state should be compelled to compensate such parties even where restorative justice is not entered into, but where the state does not contest institutional responsibility as in the various Phumaphi-revealed cases which are now well known,” it said. It added that such compensation should not purchase such accused persons their freedom from trial, outside the considerations of restorative justice.