All Basotho Convention (ABC) secretary general, Samonyane Ntsekele, has slammed the Southern African Development Community (SADC) for “tolerating government’s delaying tactics” in implementing recommendations made by the Phumaphi-led Commission of Inquiry.
Mr Ntsekele yesterday told the Lesotho Times that the opposition alliance had hoped to tell SADC Executive Secretary, Lawrence Stergomena Tax, about “this frustration” during her visit to Maseru this week.
However, Dr Tax did not meet the alliance comprising the ABC, Basotho National Party (BNP) and Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL), but engaged Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili, his deputy Mothetjoa Metsing and some cabinet members to discuss progress made in implementing the recommendations, as well as regional development issues.
Mr Ntsekele said failure by Dr Tax to meet with members of the opposition had denied them an opportunity to voice their concerns regarding government’s “delay” in implementing the recommendations made by Justice Mpaphi Phumaphi and his 10-member Commission of Inquiry established after the fatal shooting, by his colleagues, of former army commander Maaparankoe Mahao on 25 June 2015 in Mokema.
Among the Commission’s recommendations was a review of the country’s constitution, the removal of army commander Lieutenant-General Tlali Kamoli “in the interest of restoring trust and acceptance of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) to the Basotho nation”, and that government should ensure the safe return of opposition leaders who fled to South Africa in May last year saying they feared for their lives. The Commission also recommended that criminal investigations into the death of Lt-Gen Mahao should be pursued “vigorously”.
“As the opposition, our hopes had been very high that we were going to meet Dr Tax and tell her of our frustrations about government’s delaying tactics in implementing the Commission’s recommendations.
“It was even more frustrating to learn that she was leaving the country without meeting the opposition. What this basically means is she had not come to hold the government to account and make sure it follows the timeline set out by SADC regarding the recommendations.
“Engaging the government this way is unfair and allows them to buy time when justice should not be delayed for the family of General Mahao, and many others covered by these recommendations,” said Mr Ntsekele.
The opposition, he added, had not changed its stance that Lt-Gen Kamoli should be fired so that the exiled opposition leaders could return to Lesotho.
ABC leader Thomas Thabane, his BNP and RCL counterparts Thesele ‘Maseribane and Keketso Rantšo respectively have vowed not to return from South Africa until Lt-Gen Kamoli has been fired.
“The opposition has not changed its position concerning Kamoli, and his removal was one of the recommendations made by the Phumaphi commission.
“But SADC is not putting pressure on the government so that these recommendations can be implemented and this country move forward.
“This is tantamount to failing Basotho who had pinned their hopes on the regional body putting pressure on the government regarding the Phumaphi recommendations.
“Development partners, especially the United Nations, the United States of America and the European Union, have since appealed to the government to implement the Commission’s recommendations but we are surprised that SADC is allowing these delaying tactics to continue.
“Dr Tax came here, and met with government officials and the question is why didn’t she also meet members of the opposition?” asked Mr Ntsekele.
“We realise now that her visit was just a smokescreen meant to calm us down and make us think that SADC is doing something about this issue when there is nothing happening. This government wants to get to August when SADC holds its next summit and appoints a new leader, without having implemented anything meaningful. They want a new SADC chairperson to take over from President Ian Khama of Botswana, who has been tough on Lesotho. That’s why they are having these delaying tactics just to buy time and we get to August.”
Mr Ntsekele also said the recent shootings and killings in Maseru are an indication that there is no stability in Lesotho.
“These killings show that something needs to be done as a matter of urgency to restore stability to the country, and SADC is not helping us achieve this,” he said.
Meanwhile, Dr Tax yesterday said she had engaged government on the Phumaphi recommendations and that SADC expected a detailed report next month on progress made regarding their implementation.