FORMER Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing has reiterated his demand for the establishment of a government of national unity (GNU) and an independent truth and reconciliation commission (TRC).
Mr Metsing, who leads the opposition Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD), said this early this week at the Setsoto Stadium in Maseru while addressing supporters of opposition parties.
The supporters had come to welcome him upon his arrival from more than a year of exile in South Africa. Mr Metsing fled Lesotho in August 2017 citing a government plot to assassinate him. The government has nevertheless refuted his claims, insisting that he fled to escape prosecution for corruption.
His return along with LCD deputy leader, Tšeliso Mokhosi and Socialist Revolutionaries leader, Teboho Mojapela, was brokered by SADC to enable them to attend the national dialogue on the multi-sector reforms which got underway on Monday and ended yesterday in Maseru.
The national dialogue, which was attended by leaders of political parties in government and in the opposition as well as other stakeholders, is expected to come up with an agenda for the constitutional, security sector, governance, judicial and media reforms that were recommended in 2016 by SADC.
Despite a SADC deadline for the implementation of constitutional and security sector reforms by May 2019, the reforms processes had stalled due to the bickering between the government and the opposition over the latter’s demands for a GNU and a TRC.
The opposition also demanded an end to the prosecutions of opposition politicians accused of various crimes, murder-accused former army commander Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli and other army officers accused of human rights violations.
And on Sunday, Mr Metsing reiterated the opposition’s demands for a GNU and TRC, saying they would not give up they would not give up on these demands as their implementation was the “only way the nation can open up and truly heal”.
“For the longest time our country has been sick; politics have divided us hence we requested that there be a truth and reconciliation commission to help us restore our love for one another and have mercy on one another,” Mr Metsing said.
“I don’t believe that there is any Mosotho who can be against that (the establishment of a GNU and TRC).
“Many countries have gone through a similar process soon after …political turbulence. We should also ask for a similar process which shall give us a platform to open up and take out all the hurt so that we may forgive one another and begin a new chapter.
“What the reforms demand of us is to look back and find a means to go forward, hence SADC requested that we return home and take part in the reforms process.
“Our country is troubled and we really need to have a GNU as this will help us look out for one another. We shall all work as a united front and none of us will want to topple the other for political gain. Even if this were just for three years it would pave way for the reforms as our country is in distress.”
Mr Metsing said out of the several demands the opposition had made as preconditions for their return and participation in the reforms process, the government had so far only acceded to the demand that he granted state security.
“None of the other demands have been met except the one on my security. It’s worth noting that these were not my personal demands but those of the opposition,” Mr Metsing said.
He added that they still wanted the government to release the past and serving members of the security forces “who were arrested just because they were suspected to be in support of the previous regime”.
“We are still adamant that in order for the reforms to take off the environment should be conducive for everyone and all those whose arrests were politically motivated like former army commander Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli should be released.
“We should not be deterred from telling the truth by being threatened. We have heard that people have died at the hands of the police and this is sad. I therefore plead that we stop using these poor (police) officers to do our dirty work.”
He said the TRC was urgently required because the police could not be expected to investigate themselves “especially when the cases are politically motivated”.
The LCD leader also repeated his claims that he was forced to flee the country after two assassination attempts on him.
“I have been saved by grace and I am indebted to God. If it had gone to other people’s wishes I would long be dead. They have sentenced me to death, they are baying for my blood but God’s mighty hand is protecting me.
“From the bottom of my heart, I forgive those who tried to kill me in 2017 but I am surprised that some of them are busy critiquing clause 10 of the agreement between the government and opposition, yet they are well known killers and thieves.”
Clause 10 of the 16 October 2018 SADC-brokered deal between the government and opposition provided that “Mr Metsing and similarly placed persons in exile will not be subjected to any pending criminal proceedings during the dialogue and reforms process”.
That specific clause was however, struck down as unconstitutional last Friday by the Constitutional Court. This followed an application by some families whose relatives were killed allegedly at the hands of security forces during the time that Mr Metsing and other opposition parties were at the helm of government.
Mr Metsing was deputy prime minister during the seven parties’ coalition that was headed by Democratic Congress (DC) leader, Pakalitha Mosisili.
During that time in 2015, Lieutenant General Maaparankoe Mahao was assassinated by fellow soldiers who claimed he had resisted arrest for allegedly being the ringleader of a mutiny against the command of the then army chief Lt-Gen Tlali Kamoli.
However, Lt-Gen Mahao’s nephews — who were with him during the incident — disputed the army’s version of the event and instead accused the soldiers of killing him in cold blood.
The clause 10 of the agreement was struck down last Friday after the Mahao and other families successfully argued that it should be declared unconstitutional as it sought to suspend any criminal proceedings against Mr Metsing and others who are implicated in the deaths of the applicants’ relatives.
Mr Metsing, his deputy, Tšeliso Mokhosi and the leader of the Socialist Revolution (SR) Teboho Mojapela were warmly welcomed upon their return by their supporters at Setsoto Stadium on Sunday.