. . . As opposition takes SADC rep to task

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MASERU — Lesotho’s opposition parties told SADC’s executive secretary, Tomaz Salamao that they have lost confidence in the ability of the regional body to mediate in the ongoing dispute over proportional representation seats.
Salamao jetted into the country on Sunday purportedly to check on the progress that the government and the opposition have made to resolve the two-year dispute over the compensatory seats.
His surprise visit did not impress the opposition leaders who say they see no reason for SADC’s involvement after their initial envoy Ketumile Masire failed to break the impasse three months ago.
Officials who attended the brief meeting with Salamao at Maseru Sun Hotel said they told him that they were disappointed with the way SADC had handled the Lesotho dispute.
The Monday morning meeting with Salamao was attended by Majara Molapo who is the spokesperson of the Basotho National Party (BNP), Sello Maphalla of the Lesotho Workers’ Party and Deborah Radithapole of the Basutoland African Congress.
Molapo said they were forthright with Salamao in that meeting.
“We were very frank with him,” Molapo said.
“We told him that we were not happy with the way SADC had handled the case. We told him that SADC was dragging its feet when it came to Lesotho.”
He said they also told Salamao that they were surprised that SADC had been “quick to intervene in recent disputes in countries like Madagascar”.
“They have been serious about Zimbabwe. They have also been reacting quickly on the Democratic Republic of Congo. But they have not said much on Lesotho. Where they have bothered to do so they have just mentioned the issue in passing as if it does not matter,” Molapo said.
He added that they told Salamao that they were disappointed that the SADC representatives have been listening to the government side only.
 “We told him that we believed that he was not fair to the opposition side. We said he should call on everyone to the table —  both government and opposition — to deal with this matter.”
“He was asked why he was shying away from the contents of the Masire report and not being forthright with the government side. We said SADC was siding with the government.”
Molapo said what really irritated them was that they had been called to the meeting without an agenda or ample notice.
“Besides that we were also not happy that they had sent an officer like him instead of the troika of ministers. We asked him why an officer like him had been sent instead of politicians.
“We told him that we want politicians because this is a matter between politicians,” Molapo said.
He said Salamao’s response was that he had been sent to assess progress on the talks and prepare for a stakeholder’s meeting set for October 26 in Maseru.
“He kept saying what we were saying was not the case,” said Molapo.
There is speculation that when the parties were informed about Salamao’s impending visit on Friday officials from  SADC were already in the country talking to the government.
A statement issued on Tuesday by opposition leaders hinted at this.
“Shortly after that we were informed that the ministerial trip was no longer coming but the SADC executive secretary. It later occurred that the said SADC official was already in the country and in discussions with LCD officials,” the statement said.
The statement said the government seemed not interested in the current mediation process that was initiated by the Christian Council of Lesotho after the SADC envoy had given up on the matter.
“It is clear to us that this SADC process is not linked to the churches mediation process and it may actually compromise that mediation,” the opposition parties said.
 “Shortly after that we were informed that the ministerial delegation was no longer coming but the SADC executive secretary instead, but it later occurred that the said SADC official was already in the country and in discussions with LCD officials,” the statement said. 
“We are concerned that a process seems to be taking place where one of the parties, LCD seems to be the interlocutor with SADC rather than the mediators,” they said.
 “Unless urgent action is taken, Lesotho is going to move in the direction of a failed state.
 “As leaders of our political parties representing a substantial number of people in this country, we have full confidence in the local mediators and will provide them with our support to reach a just solution to this long standing impasse.
“We accordingly implore the Church leaders to speed up the mediation process lest our followers begin to lose confidence in the peaceful and just means of resolving this crisis,” said the statement.
 The statement also attacked the proposed law which will make it illegal for people to have demonstrations or rallies without approval from the police or village chief.

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