By ’Marafaele Mohloboli
A PROTEST march organised by some parties in the coalition government over alleged interference by South Africa in Lesotho has been postponed after the police refused to authorize it.
The protest, which was scheduled for Friday, was spearheaded by Lesotho Congress for Democracy spokesperson Teboho Sekata and his Lesotho Progressive Congress counterpart Bokang Ramatšella. Had it been allowed, the protest would have culminated in a petition being submitted at the South African High Commission in Maseru.
According to Mr Sekata, authorization for the protest was denied because the police had other commitments on Friday.
“The police told us that due to the many funerals they are scheduled to attend on Friday, there won’t have enough manpower. So they postponed it to 2 February 2016,” he said.
However, police spokesperson Senior Inspector Clifford Molefe had a different narrative when contacted by the Lesotho Times.
“We asked the applicants to reapply and clarify the objective of the protest march as their application was quite vague,” Snr Insp Molefe said.
Mr Ramatšella said they intended to protest against South Africa’s “meddling” in Lesotho’s internal affairs.
“It is high time that South Africa stops meddling in Lesotho’s political issues. We have been quiet for way too long and have let them get away with murder,” he said, adding that the neighbouring country “had a hand” in the attacks on Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili in 2007 and 2009.
“We know that the assailants who attacked the PM were trained in South Africa before being deployed here. Even after they were found, they were harbored by South Africa.”
Mr Ramatšella also accused SA President Jacob Zuma and the South African Broadcasting Corporation of issuing “false” statements by announcing that SADC would suspended its activities in Lesotho if the Mountain Kingdom refused to accept Justice Mpaphi Phumaphi’s report on Lesotho’s instability.
“Zuma had no place at all in this matter. It was not for him to have said that. He simply had no business at all in this matter,” he said.
Mr Sekata chipped in saying: “Zuma should mind his own business. Lesotho is not Nkandla, and of course it is also not the 10th province of South Africa. We are a sovereign state.
“We don’t really have a problem with Zuma’s utterances, but we get deeply annoyed when he always mentions Lesotho.”
Mr Ramatšella said they would also petition National Assembly Speaker Ntlhoi Motsamai and leader of the House, Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing to “stop dithering” in punishing opposition parliamentarians who have been boycotting the august house since last June but still earning their salaries.
“In as much as we are the government, we still have an obligation to take our leaders to task on issues they are not handling well. We are not at war with ourselves by so doing,” he said.
“We feel that there is a need for the issue of opposition Members of Parliament to be addressed urgently. They should enforce the no work, no pay principle.”
Mr Ramatšella said the protests would be attended by members of the seven parties that make up the coalition government, and was also meant to show the parties’ “unshaken” support of the government.
“We want to show our support for our government despite all that has been happening lately. We are 100 percent behind our government,” he said.
However, Popular Front for Democracy leader Lekhetho Rakuoane was quick to disassociate himself from the protests.
“I don’t know what you are talking about. I know nothing at all. Maybe the protests are being organized by the parties’ public relations officers and at a lower level,” Mr Rakuoane said.
On his part, National Independent Party spokesperson Tumelo Lithebe confirmed his party’s participation in the protest march saying: “We are part of the coalition government and are not an exception on this issue.”
However, Basotho Congress Party leader Thulo Mahlakeng said he was unaware of the protest march.
“I always get informed if there is something noteworthy in my office. But there has not been any communication on that issue. Besides, I am not sure if Ntate Ramatšella has the powers to do that on our behalf, especially when we heard that he was suspended by his party. Until the matter is resolved, I don’t think it’s right (for him to represent us),” said Advocate Mahlakeng said.
Democratic Congress (DC) Secretary-General Ralechate ‘Mokose also professed ignorance on the issue, saying their party’s focus was on its elective conference during the weekend.
“We have our annual general meeting over the weekend and are too busy preparing for that. So it means we won’t be able to take part. However, I don’t see anything wrong with people exercising their democratic rights,” said Mr ’Mokose.
“We are preoccupied and not privy to that matter, maybe that’s why they didn’t even bother to communicate that issue to us as they knew that we are very busy.”
Contacted for comment, the Prime Minister’s spokesperson Motumi Ralejoe said his office was not in a position to comment on the matter.
Meanwhile, South Africa’s Acting High Commissioner Elion Von Wielligh, could not comment as a matter of principle but referred the Lesotho Times to Clayson Monyela who is the Deputy Director General of Public Diplomacy at the International Relations and Cooperation office in Pretoria. However, his phone was unreachable.