…says it could defer Metsing trial and agree to a truth commission
THE government says that it is considering a moratorium that would defer the corruption trial of the Lesotho Congress for Democracy’s (LCD) leader, Mothetjoa Metsing’s until after the full implementation of the multi-sector reforms.
The government also says it is prepared to consider the opposition’s demand for the establishment of a truth and reconciliation commission to examine the recent instability in the country from 2014 to 2017.
This was said by the Foreign Affairs and International Relations minister, Lesego Makgothi, in a recent interview with the Lesotho Times.
The establishment of a truth and reconciliation commission and a stay on the prosecution of Mr Metsing are among a plethora of demands that the opposition issued to the government as preconditions for its participation in the multi-sector reforms.
Mr Makgothi said although the government was doing all it could to meet some of the opposition demands, the reforms would however, proceed without the opposition if it continued to play hardball.
Mr Metsing has been holed up in neighbouring South Africa 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.
The government and the LCD began talks over Mr Metsing’s return in May this year and the talks are being held under the mediation of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
Back in 2016, SADC recommended constitutional, security sector, media, governance and judicial reforms as part of efforts to achieve lasting peace and stability which is seen as crucial to kick-starting socio-economic development in Lesotho.
However, the reforms process has stalled amid intense bickering between the government and the opposition which has predicated its participation on the return of its exiled leaders who include Mr Metsing and his deputy, Tšeliso Mokhosi.
There has been intense speculation and reports in some sections of the media that the extradition process would be stopped and the government would grant Mr Metsing safe passage back into the country to participate in the reforms process.
The speculation intensified in the aftermath of the April 2018 decision by the SADC Double Troika Summit that Lesotho must have fully implemented the constitutional and security sector reforms by May 2019.
However, Attorney General Advocate Haae Adv Phoofolo recently told the Lesotho Times that the extradition process had not been stopped.
Adv Phoofolo said the extradition process and the talks Mr Metsing was holding with the government delegation led by Communications minister, Thesele Maseribane, were mutually exclusive and aimed at achieving different objectives.
He said the extradition process was initiated by the Director of Public Prosecutions who acted independently of the government and aimed to achieve justice by bringing back Mr Metsing to answer to corruption charges.
But in an interview with this publication this week, Mr Makgothi said the government was prepared to have Mr Metsing’s trial deferred until after the reforms have been implemented.
“What the Prime Minister (Thomas Thabane) would want is for Metsing to come and report to the Directorate of Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) and for the DCEO to take him to the courts of law and set his date of hearing after the reforms,” Mr Makgothi said.
“However this is a matter that is still to be decided by the Prime Minister and his coalition partners. And even after that, there is still the question of whether or not Metsing will accept the proposal when it is presented to him.”
Mr Makgothi also said that the government is prepared to consider the opposition’s demand for the establishment of a truth and reconciliation commission to examine the recent instability in the country from 2014 to 2017.
The Metsing issue and the establishment of a truth and reconciliation commission are among a plethora of demands by opposition parties for their participation in the reforms process.
Other demands submitted to the government by the opposition include the formation of a government of national unity (GNU), the removal of SADC troops from Lesotho 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.
Back in April, the government told the SADC heads of state in Luanda, Angola that although the TRC was not a priority, they were prepared to “engage with the opposition on the issue a later stage”.
This week, Mr Makgothi told this publication that the issue would be discussed at the national multi-stakeholders dialogue.
“We all agree that there should be a truth and reconciliation commission but this is also not a sure thing as it would have to be looked into and agreed on at the national multi-stakeholders dialogue.
The national multi-stakeholders dialogue is one of the processes which is expected to follow the convening of the National Leaders Forum on 16 and 17 August this year.
According to the government’s roadmap for reforms, the “National Leaders’ Forum will involve leaders of the political parties to forge a political consensus on the reforms and national reconciliation”.
Mr Makgothi conceded that there has been little progress in the reforms process despite the May 2019 ultimatum that SADC gave Lesotho to have fully implemented constitutional and security sector reforms.
He said although the government was doing all it could to meet some of the opposition’s demands, the reforms would however, proceed without the opposition if the latter continued to play hardball.
“This (reforms) process is taking a long time and the world is looking at us and maybe even thinking that the government is dodgy on the reforms.
“The gist of the matter is that the train has already taken off and those on board will make decisions for those who decided not to embark,” Mr Makgothi said.