MASERU – Professor Nqosa Mahao, the leader of the nascent Basotho Action Party (BAP), has condemned government’s plan to enact into law the National Peace and Unity Commission Bill of 2021.
The controversial Bill, which was tabled in parliament a fortnight ago, is set for approval as a law.
This is a result of mounting pressure from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Facilitation Team to Lesotho, which insists that “no political leader should face prosecution” during the ongoing national reforms.
The team’s leader, retired South Africa Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke, has repeatedly called on the Lesotho government to strike a deal that will result in politicians avoiding prosecution during the reforms.
His latest proposal was the establishment of a Transitional Justice Commission, maintaining that “politically motivated cases” be suspended to allow for a smooth progress of the reforms.
Justice Moseneke argues that prosecution of political party leaders will compromise the reforms and has therefore called on government to enact a law that will remedy the situation.
But the BAP is having none of it. In a press statement released this week, BAP said the Bill is in contravention of Section 19 of the constitution which guarantees equality before the law.
They argue that the commission which will be established per the Bill is an attempt by politicians to dispose of their criminal offences.
“It is clear that leaders implicated in the criminal offences are not ready to face the law like the rest of other ordinary citizens but are determined to enact a law to ensure their immunity at the expense of victims and the rest of Basotho,” the statement reads in part.
They also contend that the Bill removes the constitutional powers vested on the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), particularly Section 99 (2) of the constitution which states “the Director of Public Prosecutions shall have power in any case in which he considers it desirable so to institute and undertake criminal proceedings against any person before any court (other than a court-martial) in respect of any offence alleged to have been committed by that person.
“And to take over and continue any such criminal proceedings that have been instituted or undertaken by any other person or authority; and to discontinue at any stage before judgement is delivered any such criminal proceedings instituted or undertaken by himself or any other person or authority.”
According to the party, the Bill seeks to protect politicians by ensuring that they are immune from prosecution. The BAP also argues that the Bill was not certified by the Attorney General (AG) to attest to the its consistency with the constitution.
“The National Peace and Unity Bill is also an attack against Section 18 of the constitution which stipulates that no law shall make a provision that is discriminatory either of itself or its effect,” they added.
By coming up with the Bill, the BAP says government is infringing on the rights of the victims of human rights violations, and as such call on government to withdraw the proposed legislation.
The party is also calling on international partners to stand with ordinary citizens in this regard. Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) leader Mothetjoa Metsing and leader of the Movement for Economic Change (MEC), Selibe Mochoboroane, will be the ultimate beneficiaries if the Bill becomes law due to the treason charges they are facing.
DPP Hlalefang Motinyane has indicted the two politicians, and seeks to join them to a murder trial in which retired army boss, Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli and four other soldiers have been charged in relation to the murder of police Sub Inspector Mokheseng Ramahloko.
The two leaders have made numerous legal attempts to evade trial but their bids were dismissed by the courts. It remains to be seen whether the Bill will get parliament’s approval and save them.