Government officials fail to turn up

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MASERU — The Lesotho government officials yesterday failed to attend a meeting with the opposition and Christian Council of Lesotho (CCL) to establish a roadmap in the search for a solution to the country’s bitter electoral dispute.
A troika of the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) that visited Lesotho last week called for the adoption of a roadmap to amend the constitution and the country’s electoral laws.
The amendments would help avoid electoral disputes similar to the one that erupted after the 2007 election when the opposition cried foul over proportional representation seats.
The Sadc troika, made up of Mozambican President Armando Guebuza, Swaziland’s King Mswati III and Zambia’s Defence Minister, Dr Kalombo Mwanza, visited Lesotho to revive the stalled dialogue between the government and opposition parties over the dispute.
Sadc executive secretary Tomaz Salomao was part of the Sadc team.
At the end of their consultative meetings with stakeholders Salomao said Lesotho must find a lasting solution to its electoral problems by “setting a timeframe to review the constitution and timeframe to review the electoral law”.        
The meeting which has since been postponed to next Wednesday was supposed to start at 10am but government representatives and church leaders failed to show up at the agreed time.
There were unconfirmed reports last night that the government’s chief representative to the talks Deputy Prime Minister Lesao Lehohla had failed to make it for the meeting because he was not feeling well.
Opposition leaders including Vincent Malebo of the Marematlou Freedom Party (MFP), Thomas Thabane (ABC), Metsing Lekhanya of the Basotho National Party (BNP) and others waited for almost two hours in the UN House boardroom.
The co-chairperson of the multi-party talks Bishop Phillip Mokuku only arrived two hours later and apologised to the irate political leaders “for keeping them waiting”.
He also announced that the government’s side could not make it to the meeting due to “unavoidable circumstances”.
Mokuku informed the opposition leaders that he would be meeting with the government side today at Qhobosheaneng (the prime minister’s offices at the Government Complex).
Molapo Majara, the Basotho National Party publicity secretary confronted Bishop Mokuku saying he had heard that the bishop had known by Tuesday that the government would not come to the meeting.
“We heard that you got the message informing you that the deputy-prime minister was ill and therefore the government side could not attend the meeting,” Molapo said.
“I have also learnt that you made a suggestion that somebody else be sent to represent the ruling party at the meeting.
“But the government ignored your suggestion citing that the issue to be discussed was of utmost sensitivity and therefore the government could not just delegate anyone.”
The Lesotho People’s Congress leader, Kelebone Maope, told Mokuku that as opposition leaders “we have lost faith in you”.
“We would be lying if we were to say we have not lost hope in the church leaders. This is a point where you have to show your true selves, address this matter with all honesty,” Maope said.
“We are dealing with a very sensitive issue here. There is nowhere to turn to except to you.”
Sello Maphalla of the Lesotho Workers Party said it was unfair for the meeting to be postponed on the account of one party.
“It is unfair that we keep postponing our meetings because of the arrogance of just one party. From now on we insist that our meetings continue even in the absence of the ruling party,” Maphalla said.
“This thing has dragged on long enough. This smells like a delaying tactic by the LCD. They want to push us to abandon the course we are taking.
“I get the feeling that they want us to butt heads with the church leaders to buy time for the timeframe of 30 March set by the troika to lapse.”
Maphalla said it was curious why the church leaders were going to meet the prime minister in their absence.
“I fail to understand why the LCD is meeting with the church leaders in our absence,” Maphalla said.
“I wonder what the ruling party would think if we were to meet with the church leaders behind closed doors, in their absence.”
The Basotho Democratic National Party deputy leader, Pelele Letsoela, appealed to Mokuku to speak out if the CCL felt it had failed in reconciling the two warring sides.
“It would not be displaying cowardice for the CCL to admit it has failed,” Letsoela said.
“You are keeping mum about these things, thus keeping us in the dark. We have no idea where we are and where we are headed.”
Mokuku tried to calm the leaders saying this was not the time to abandon the talks.
 “Abandoning a mission of this nature means we might as well give up the priesthood,” Mokuku said.
“But how could church leaders of our calibre succumb to defeat? There is no way that will happen.”
Mokuku said it was sad that Mosisili was making “vulgar public statements”.
“It is sad that the prime minister is making vulgar public statements. We will address the matter when we meet with the government because he is addressing the whole nation,” Mokuku said.
Mokuku added that the postponements of meetings were setting a bad example and that the matter “would be fiercely addressed”.
 “We promise that with the help of God, we will work towards ensuring that our meetings are not postponed anymore,” Mokuku said.
Government spokesperson, Mothetjoa Metsing, said “the government had not been invited to the meeting”.
“To my knowledge the government had not been invited to that meeting. There was no malice intended that we did not make an appearance,” Metsing said.
“All I know is the government is meeting with the CCL tomorrow at the Prime Minister’s office.
“Then next Wednesday all the three parties are meeting.”

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