…says no to a GNU and release of Kamoli
THE government has rejected a plethora of demands by opposition parties for their participation in the reforms process being overseen by the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
The rejection of the demands is most likely to torpedo the security, constitutional and legislative reforms agenda seen as crucial to restoring lasting peace and stability in Lesotho.
Among a plethora of demands submitted to the government by the opposition is the formation of a government of national unity (GNU), the establishment of a truth and reconciliation commission and the release from jail of former Lesotho Defence Force commander, Tlali Kamoli and many of his acolytes.
The opposition is now describing Lt-Gen Kamoli as a “political prisoner” despite the obvious nature of his atrocities which plunged Lesotho into turmoil in the first place, prompting the intervention of SADC.
Lt-Gen Kamoli is currently detained at the Maseru Maximum Prison awaiting trial for a plethora of murder and attempted murder charges. Several other associates of Lt-Gen Kamoli are also on remand awaiting trials for various charges.
The government’s chief spokesperson and Communications Minister, Chief Thesele Maseribane, told the Lesotho Times yesterday that the government had rejected many of the opposition’s outrageous demands. He said the government had since communicated its position to the opposition.
Chief Maseribane said a GNU was out of the question because a lawful government was already in place. Equally absurd was the opposition’s demands to release Lt-Gen Kamoli and his associates whose cases were now in courts of law.
He said the government had agreed to some of the opposition demands such as the suspension of the National Reforms Commission Bill (2018), holding a multi-stakeholders conference and facilitating the political leaders’ dialogue.
Chief Maseribane, however, said the government would not be held to ransom by unreasonable demands. The government would equally not backtrack on the reforms. If it becomes necessary, the government would work with a “coalition of willing parties” to ensure there was progress.
“We cannot discuss a government of national unity because we held elections in June last year to deal with a situation that had arisen after parliament passed a vote of no confidence in the-then government,” Mr Maseribane said.
“The elections were declared free and fair and no one is contesting the results. Our understanding is that the current situation requires certain sustainable actions that should not drag us back to lengthy discussions of forming a government of national unity which is not necessary because there is no problem with the sitting government.”
Chief Maseribane said while the government agreed with the opposition on the need to take all the necessary steps to ensure the successful implementation of the reforms, releasing criminal suspects and dropping charges against opposition leaders smacked of interference with an independent judiciary.
He said the government had no intention of interfering with criminal proceedings as doing so would also be contrary to the recommendations of the SADC Commission of Inquiry of 2016 which clearly stated that all suspects implicated in crimes, including the assassination of Lt-Gen Maaparankoe Mahao, should be prosecuted.
“It must be clear that in keeping with the separation of powers, the government will not dictate to the justice or law enforcement agents on how to discharge their duties.
“The government has never and will never interfere with the justice system. We will continue to implement the provisions of the constitution. The laws of Lesotho are still standing and no person is above the law. If suspects have appeared in court and were charged, then for us as the government it means the courts assessed the cases and saw there was need for a process that would ascertain the veracity of the allegations and the evidence that will be presented in court. Ours is to wait for them to do their work and ensure justice for the victims and their families,” Chief Maseribane said.
He said there was need for healing after the turmoil the country had gone through in its recent history, adding that ensuring justice was served would contribute significantly to the healing process.
He however, said a Truth and Reconciliation Commission was not necessarily related to the healing process and if necessary, it would be addressed at another stage.
“We would therefore like the justice to take its course and for the reforms to be successful as a critical step towards ensuring long-term peace and stability.
“A Truth and Reconciliation Commission is not related to the justice we are talking about and also not part of the reforms process. It is a different subject that demands different mechanisms which will be addressed separately at another stage if it becomes necessary.
“The country went through a bad patch with profound effects. Lives were lost, people were permanently injured and others still cannot sleep because of trauma and families were devastated. We need to allow time to be ripe for a truth and reconciliation process because the people who were directly affected have a lot of say in the process.”
He said the following the deaths of Lt-Gen Motšomotšo, Brigadier Bulane Sechele, Tefo Hashatsi, the government was horrified and saw the need to seek SADC intervention to support the reforms which also target the security sector.
Army commander, Lt-Gen Motšomotšo, was gunned down at his Ratjomose Barracks offices in Maseru on 5 September 2017 by Brigadier Sechele who was accompanied by Colonel Hashatsi and a third officer on that fateful day at Ratjomose Barracks.
The three are said to have confronted Lt-Gen Motšomotšo to challenge him over his decisions to handover soldiers to police for prosecution over their past crimes as demanded by SADC. Brig Sechele and Col Hashatsi were then shot dead by Lt-Gen Motšomotšo’s bodyguards in the fracas that ensued.
“We continue supporting the legal procedures so far taken and other efforts underway, such as the planned security reforms with the support from SADC,” said Chief Maseribane.
He said the government had taken the initiative to negotiate with the self-exiled opposition leaders to return home and even guaranteed them full security upon their return.
“The deputy leader of the Democratic Congress, Mr Mathibeli Mokhothu has since returned home while the LCD deputy leader, Mr Tšeliso Mokhosi is honouring his bail conditions and reporting to the police every month in Maseru.”
He said the government also wanted justice in the murder of Dr Thabane’s former wife, Lipolelo Thabane.
Ms Lipolelo was shot dead by an unknown assailant as she was about to drive into her Ha ‘Masana home on 14 June 2017. The incident occurred just two days before Dr Thabane’s inauguration as prime minister.
A female companion of Ms Thabane also sustained serious injuries in the shooting.
“We also want this murder case solved and we will support efforts that would ensure justice for Mrs Thabane and her family,” Chief Maseribane said.