MASERU – The Movement for Economic Change (MEC) has threatened to pull out of the ruling coalition government if the state insists on charging its leader, Selibe Mochoboroane, with treason. The charges relate to an alleged plot to topple the then Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s government in August 2014, when Mochoboroane was the minister of communications, science and technology. His co-accused, Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) leader Mothetjoa Metsing was the deputy prime minister. The army attacked police stations and the State House, forcing the then Prime Minister Thabane to flee the country claiming the attacks were an attempted coup.
The trial failed to take off in February after Mochoboroane and Metsing filed a constitutional court application for an order barring the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Hlalefang Motinyane, from prosecuting them. MEC’s secretary general, Napo Moshoeshoe, told Public Eye yesterday that government’s defiant stance ran contrary to the spirit of the agreement signed by then government and opposition in October 2018, under the tutelage of Southern African Development (SADC) envoy Justice Dikgang Moseneke.
Signed by then then Deputy Prime Minister Monyane Moleleki, on behalf of government and then official opposition leader, Mathibeli Mokhothu, Clause 10 of the agreement enjoined government to ensure that Metsing and other opposition leaders would not be subjected to any court proceedings during the national reforms process. The agreement was first lambasted by the Attorney General, Haae Phoofolo, who branded the deal a “mere gentlemen’s agreement” that should be revisited to cure its constitutionality. Clause 10 of the agreement was subsequently outlawed by the Constitutional Court in November 2018.
Thabane’s government collapsed in May this year and the latter is now the official leader of opposition while Mokhothu is deputy prime minister. “Our intention to pull out of government is not a threat as such. Our expectation was that the new government, which we are part of, will remember the 2018 agreement. “We became part of the new government well aware that there was an agreement and expecting that it would be honoured,” Moshoeshoe said.
In February this year when Motinyane insisted that the treason trial should go ahead, Metsing and Mochoboroane petitioned the constitutional court to annul its November 2018 judgment that outlawed Clause 10. This prompted Moseneke to write to Thabane informing him that the trial should be stopped in line with the 2018 agreement to defer criminal trials until after the implementation of the multi-sectoral reforms. In his letter on March 29, 2020, Moseneke told Thabane that any action or process in contravention of the letter and the spirit of the 2018 government-opposition agreement would not be welcomed by the SADC.
“Prime Minister Thabane’s government collapsed and a new government which we are part of was formed. If this new government decides not to heed SADC’s latest call which is still fresh in our heads, MEC will be left with no option but to step aside,” Moshoeshoe said. “Our leader cannot continue to be a minister when he is in court facing a treason trial. He will step down as minister and focus on the trial. That means MEC will have to withdraw from government because we will not appoint a junior party member to be a minister when the leader quits. When our leader quits as a minister, the whole party will withdraw from government,” he added.
After the new government was formed, Mochoboroane filed for the postponement of the constitutional case arguing the new government needed to consult before making a final decision on whether or not the treason trial should proceed.He said Lesotho had an obligation to implement the 2018 SADC-brokered agreement to stop trials of politicians pending completion of the national reforms process. Lesotho could not revoke its own municipal law to avoid her international obligations, he added.
Under the agreement, the parties also committed to the spirit on inclusiveness to resolve the issues connected with the country’s political instability and security crisis and agreed to work hand in glove in implementing the national reforms in which all political leaders have a significant role to play. But in her replying affidavit, DPP Motinyane, insisted her office was independent of the executive.She said it was, therefore, unacceptable for Metsing and Mochoboroane or the executive to interfere with her decision to charge the duo with treason.
“I have satisfied myself that the applicants have a case of treason to answer. It would be unwise, in my view, to submit my decision to charge the applicants for reconsideration by the executive only because there is a new Minister of Law, Leuta Nqosa Mahao, and a new prime minister, Dr Moeketsi Majoro. For the record, my position on the charges faced by applicants has not changed,” she said. “For the record, I am not part of the executive branch if our regime of separated powers is put into proper perspective and context. “It is a component of the doctrine of separation of powers that the courts have a constitutional obligation to ensure that the exercise of powers by the branches of government occurs within constitutional bounds,” she added.