THE South African government has pledged to rein in on the exiled opposition Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) leader, Mothetjoa Metsing, and stop him from using South Africa to incite violence against the government.
South African Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Lindiwe Sisulu, made the pledge in response to a request by the government after Mr Metsing’s threats in March this year to solicit help from unspecified sources “everywhere” to ensure LCD supporters defend themselves against perceived persecution by the Thomas Thabane-led government.
Ms Sisulu also assured the government that its request for Mr Metsing’s extradition to face corruption charges was also “receiving due consideration” from the South African government.
Mr Metsing has been holed up in the neighbouring country after fleeing Lesotho last August citing an alleged plot to assassinate him.
The government has nevertheless refuted his claims, insisting that Mr Metsing fled to escape prosecution for corruption.
Mr Metsing made his controversial remarks which the government viewed as an incitement to violence during his 51st birthday celebrations in Ladybrand, South Africa in March this year.
Mr Metsing said that his party’s patience with the government was fast running out as the police continued to “target defenseless LCD supporters” whom he said would now be forced to defend themselves.
He said he had already asked SADC to intervene to end the “persecution” and “prosecutions” of his supporters. He was also asking the current coalition of Dr Thabane for legitimate dialogue to achieve lasting peace and stability in Lesotho.
“I can go everywhere to ask for assistance if need arises for us to protect ourselves and that it why I am praying hard that we help ourselves by showing these people that it is in our collective interest to follow peaceful ways because any other path will ensure that Lesotho is reduced to nothing.
“We will not always cry. The LCD supporters will not continue to cry when I am still their leader or be expected to just keep quiet. Our request is that the other parties must work with us to normalise the situation and we have told SADC that a peaceful and stable path is the only one for Lesotho because the other one will reduce Lesotho to nothing.
Following Mr Metsing’s utterances, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Relations, Mr Lesego Makgothi, wrote to Ms Sisulu to express the government’s concern over the LCD leader’s conduct.
Ms Sisulu, who also chairs the Council of Ministers of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), replied by reassuring Mr Makgothi the her government would engage Mr Metsing and advise him against “using South Africa to incite agitation in the Kingdom (of Lesotho)”
“We have noted all the issues raised in your letter and would like to assure you that our government will engage Mr Metsing and advise him to refrain from using South Africa to incite agitation in the Kingdom.
“We wish to inform you that your government’s request for his (Mr Metsing) extradition is receiving due consideration by my government,” Ms Sisulu stated in her recent letter to Mr Makgothi.
This week, Mr Makgothi told the Lesotho Times that Mr Metsing was taken to task over his conduct during a meeting between the government and opposition in Ladybrand last month.
The meeting was facilitated by the SADC Oversight Committee as part of efforts to enable the two sides to find common ground over the opposition leader’s possible return to the country to lead his party in the multi-sector reforms process.
“We had asked Minister Sisulu to reprimand Mr Metsing on his utterances which amounted to incitement of violence.
“We asked her to make him aware that he was on foreign soil and if there was anything that he felt that he wanted to address in the country he should just come over because we don’t even know why he fled the country,” Mr Makgothi said.