EVER since the Professor Nqosa Mahao-led faction of the ruling All Basotho Convention (ABC) joined forces with opposition parties to file a no confidence motion against ABC leader and Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, the country has experienced an upsurge of rallies as political parties position themselves for possible snap elections.
The opposition Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) has not been an exception in this regard and its leader, Mothejoa Metsing (MM), has taken every opportunity to advance his controversial quest for a government of national unity (GNU and a truth and reconciliation commission (TRC). Mr Metsing has also reiterated his demands for the release of murder-accused former army commander Tlali Kamoli and other detained soldiers.
The Lesotho Times (LT) Senior Reporter ’Marafaele Mohloboli recently engaged Mr Metsing to get a fuller appreciation on the issues that are so dear to the former deputy premier and caused so much controversy even with fellow opposition parties. Below are excerpts of the interview.
LT: Ever since you returned from exile, you have consistently used every platform to call for the establishment of a government of national unity (GNU) and a truth and reconciliation commission (TRC). Most politicians including your colleagues in the opposition say the GNU is a far-fetched idea that is impractical. How do you see this working out when much leaner coalition governments have failed? And how will the cabinet portfolios be allocated among the 30 plus parties in Lesotho?
MM: These are some of the major issues which my colleagues and I agreed were the fundamental conditions for my return to Lesotho as well as the return of other exiles.
There was also an issue of hedging and buttressing the reforms from political interference by creating a structure like the Interim Political Authority (IPA) of 1998. This will ensure the reforms are implemented without any interference from the government or politicians. We achieved some measure of success with some of these demands but on the issue of the GNU, we in the LCD still need to be convinced that we are wrong. We remain convinced that a GNU is the only logical avenue to pursue. We respect the position that other political parties have taken to hold different views on a GNU but we also expect them to similarly respect the LCD’s position on the issue.
As for a truth and reconciliation commission (TRC), it is common cause that this country is in pain and needs healing. Many people and families need closure but such closure will only come after the truth about their loss has been revealed openly. The revelation of the truth to achieve reconciliation can only be done through the creation of a TRU.
LT: What is the likely scenario in the event of a successful no confidence vote against Dr Thabane. Would snap national elections be the best course of action?
MM: Any talk of elections should not be confined to the financial considerations alone. We must also be thinking of prioritising the implementation of the multi-sector reforms. It has to be remembered that before we went for the 2017 elections all political parties committed themselves to prioritising the implementation of the reforms after the 2017 polls.
We have started the dialogues leading to the adoption of a comprehensive reforms agenda but even before we have finished that dialogue process, there is now talk of fresh elections. In my view the National Dialogue Planning Committee (NDPC) is doing a commendable job in moving forward the dialogue around the reforms. We recently agreed to the creation of the National Reforms Authority and this is a structure that seeks to ring-fence and buttress the reforms process against political interference. This structure is akin to the Interim Political authority that we have been suggesting to drive forward the reforms without interference from the political parties.
My hope and prayer is that we should live up to the pre-2017 election pledge and hasten the implementation of the reforms under a GNU. We should await the full implementation of the reforms before we even think of calling for elections. The elections must be held in a post reforms dispensation. The LCD is currently not preparing for snap elections as we are still busy persuading other political players to see the importance of a GNU. More importantly we do not even have the commissioners in place at the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) therefore elections are in the distant horizon in our view.
But if we are pushed into elections, the LCD shall participate. But the outcome of the polls will still not resolve the country’s challenges and it will still cause discomfort if the elections are held before certain key governance institutions are reformed.
LT: There has been talk of a coalition deal featuring Dr Thabane, Deputy Prime Minister Monyane Moleleki’s Alliance of Democrats and the LCD. It has been said that in terms of that three-party deal, Dr Thabane will remain as prime minister while you and Dr Moleleki will become the two deputy prime ministers. What is your comment on this? Which ministries would be allocated to each of the parties?
MM: We have not engaged with any of the governing parties about a power-sharing agreement. The talks we have had with all political players have been anchored on our belief in the GNU as the governance model that is most likely to give us stability and protect the reforms. The talk about a coalition deal and anything else is just a figment of the imagination spread by the rumour mill.
LT: What is your response to widely held perceptions that you are only interested in a power-sharing deal with Dr Thabane to save yourself from possible prosecution for the murder of Lieutenant General Maaparankoe Mahao and from possible corruption charges? The Mahao family is on record blaming you for Lt-Gen Mahao’s murder and they want you to be prosecuted for his murder. What is your comment on this?
MM: The allegation of my involvement in the killing of Mr Maaparankoe Mahao would be an issue of concern if we did not have the Phumaphi Report which is clear about the issue of who was involved in that unfortunate incident. Having said that, the Mahao family has a right to prosecute whoever they choose for the death of their son. But the only thing that matters before the law is providing the evidence.
LT: You have been very vocal about you consider to be the wrongful arrest of former army commander Lt-Gen Tlali Kamoli and you want him released. Is this something you have spoken to Dr Thabane about as part of a possible GNU deal?
MM: The release of Lt-Gen Kamoli is an independent matter divorced from our proposal for a GNU. But the issue of Lt-Gen Kamoli was discussed and ventilated before the SADC Facilitator South African President Cyril Ramaphosa.
All I can say is that he ought not to be in jail now. Even more significantly, if charges against him have taken so long to be consolidated, then surely, he must be released on bail. I still plead for justice for him and other similarly accused detainees to be released on bail.
LT: The LCD and Democratic Congress (DC) have had a long-term working relationship but lately the two parties have differed sharply on the issue of the GNU. The DC supports the no confidence motion against Dr Thabane while the LCD is prepared to support Dr Thabane to survive the motion as long as he agrees to a GNU. Have such divisions caused an irretrievable breakdown in the LCD-DC relations as suggested in many quarters?
MM: My honest view is that we retain cordial relations with all parties in the opposition including the DC but because we are different political formations, we may differ on several issues including their position on a GNU. We cannot tell them who to work in the same way that they cannot determine who the LCD can or cannot work with. The principle of mutual respect should subsist in all our interactions with all political parties.
LT: In the event of elections being called, are you confident that the LCD will win more than just the one constituency seat that it currently has?
MM: Every political party approaches the elections with great hope and we are no different in that regard. We are working hard to improve our membership and are encouraged by the increased grassroots support for the LCD.
LT: A senior LCD member and former cabinet minister Mr Lebohang Thotanyana recently left the LCD for the Professor Nqosa Mahao-led faction of the ruling ABC. He said he had jumped ship as a result of the LCD’s failure to live up to its founding principles of democracy by failing to hold its elective congress. What is your response to his allegations?
MM: Mr Thotanyana is at liberty to leave the LCD as this is a voluntary association. However, the reasons he gives for his departure are strange in that he did not lodge any complaint with the relevant party structures in keeping with the founding democratic principles he refers to.
We didn’t receive any complaint that he should have lodged with his constituency committee.
He ought to have remembered that such complaints have to be ventilated through the proper constituency channels before they reach the national executive committee. As for the party’s electoral conference, it will tentatively be held in September or October this year.