Metsing calls for talks break

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MASERU — Communications minister and government spokesperson Mothetjoa Metsing was yesterday under pressure to accept the SADC envoy Sir Ketumile Masire and legal experts’ reports which said the allocation of compensatory parliamentary seats was wrong, the Lesotho Times can reveal.

Sources said Metsing had to request the mediator, Bishop Phillip Mokuku, to adjourn the meeting so that he could consult the government and his party on whether he should accept the reports or not.

Metsing, who is the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) general secretary, led the government delegation to the talks held at the United Nations House.

He was standing in for Deputy Prime Minister Lesao Lehohla who has been leading the delegation since the Christian Council of Lesotho (CCL)-led talks which started last August.

Lehohla has in the past bluntly refused to discuss the issue of compensatory parliamentary seats arguing that the High Court had already decided the case in which the Marematlou Freedom Party (MFP) challenged political party alliances that formed the basis for allocation of seats.

Lehohla was in parliament during yesterday’s talks, leaving Metsing to grapple with seven opposition parties who are adamant that the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) had wrongly allocated seats to the LCD ally, the National Independent Party (NIP).

 

“We pressurised him to accept the contents of the Masire report and the report by the Christian Council of Lesotho’s legal experts,” an opposition party leader who attended the meeting said.

“He did not have any reason to refuse hence he requested an adjournment to consult the government and his party.

“He is unlike the deputy leader of his party, Lehohla, who could have jumped at the mention of the words wrong seat allocation saying he would not discuss the issue because it has been decided for by the High Court.”

Masire, who threw in the towel in the mediation early last year accusing the LCD government of being uncooperative, tabled the report at a SADC summit in Swaziland. In it he said some of the compensatory seats belonging to the opposition were wrongly allocated to the LCD/NIP alliance.

Masire’s report also says the High Court did not make any ruling on merits in the MFP case.

The CCL has also received a report by independent lawyers it contracted to give legal opinion on the MFP case judgment because the government and the opposition had different interpretations of the case.

That legal opinion also supports what Masire said in his damning report.

The opposition is adamant that Justice Semapo Peete decided not to make a ruling on the merits and as such the substantial issues raised by MFP remain unresolved.

The government insists Peete’s ruling brought the matter to finality.

The CCL’s legal experts’ report says Peete did not make a ruling on the merits of the case.

Political parties however have declined to comment on the talks saying they were not mandated to give interviews to the press.

Only the CCL can talk to the media.

All Basotho Convention leader Tom Thabane said he was happy that the CCL for the first time showed firmness when it dealt with tough matters  during the meeting.

He said in the past the CCL seemed “too respectful” of the government.

“It seemed the CCL was too respectful of the government side, forgetting that their role as mediators was to treat us equally whether we are in government or not,” Thabane said.

“I understand that everybody should show some respect to the government of the day but when you are a mediator where the government is part of the clashing parties you should treat the other parties equally.”

Thabane said he believed that the firmness in the way the CCL treated yesterday’s talks was due to the introduction of new blood in the talks, heads of the Roman Catholic Church Archbishop Tlali Lerotholi and the Lesotho Evangelical Church’s Tseliso Masemene.

This change came barely two days after the opposition resolved to tell the CCL that it was “too soft” when dealing with the government and the LCD.

The opposition’s ad hoc committee co-ordinator on the talks, leader of the Batho Bathong Democratic Party (BBDP) Jeremane Ramathebane, told the Lesotho Times in an interview that they were to tell the CCL that it was too soft when it dealt with the LCD.

“The government side often shuns the talks but to our surprise we see the CCL petting and gently rubbing them instead of telling them that what they were doing could not be tolerated,” he said.

Spokesperson for the CCL, Potjo Potjo, said he could not comment because he had not been briefed.

Efforts to contact Metsing last night were not successful.

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