OPPOSITION Alliance of Democrats (AD) leader, Monyane Moleleki has appealed to the United States government to intervene at the “appropriate level” to ensure peace and democracy prevail in Lesotho.
Mr Moleleki’s appeal was contained in a recent letter to the US Ambassador, Mathew Harrington where he noted that among other things, the recent acts of “harassments, arrests, kidnappings, and torture and death threats” against prominent opposition members had the potential “to derail the existing fragile peace and stability as well as the consolidation of democracy in our country”.
In the letter dated 20 January 2017, which was seen by the Lesotho Times, Mr Moleleki listed a series of “serious concerns” that include the “unprocedural” closure of parliament by the seven parties’ coalition government led by Pakalitha Mosisili to avoid a looming vote of no confidence. The letter is also copied to Dr Mosisili.
“I write to share with Your Excellency our serious concerns regarding the latest development in Lesotho which have a potential to derail the existing fragile peace and stability as well as the consolidation of democracy in our country,” Mr Moleleki wrote in the letter.
“I bring these developments to the attention of Your Excellency for your information, but also with a request that you kindly inform the relevant authorities of the United States of America so that they may intervene at the appropriate level in defence of peace and democracy in our country,” Mr Moleleki stated.
Mr Moleleki said towards the end of 2016, the Lesotho government was rocked by allegations of widespread corruption in high places “which gave rise to the credible possibility of a change of government through a parliamentary vote of no confidence.”
He said internal differences arising particularly from the issue of corruption led to a split of the Democratic Congress (DC) which is the main partner in the coalition government.
The split resulted in the formation of the AD which was joined by 12 members of parliament who are constituency based as well as another nine proportional representation legislators.
He said this left the coalition government with only 42 seats which constitutes only 35percent of the total seats in parliament- a figure way below the threshold of 61 seats that are required to govern, “and the government is fully aware of it”.
This development, according to Mr Moleleki, has led the government to resort to “a frenzy of arbitrary and undemocratic measures and tricks designed to perpetuate itself in power for as long as possible”.
He said some of the measures included the disingenuous move of having the speaker of the National Assembly, Ntlhoi Motsamai indefinitely adjourn parliament on 22 November 2016, “contrary to the normal procedure”.
“The adjournment of the National Assembly…was highly undemocratic because it denied the representatives of the people the opportunity to deliberate on a constitutional matter of significant importance to the nation,” Mr Moleleki stated, adding, “We are now being informed belatedly that the date of 24 February 2017 has been set for the reopening of the National Assembly”.
He said in addition, the government had resorted to subjecting officials of opposition parties to constant arrests, kidnapping and torture.
“Officials of the AD in particular bear the brunt of these frequent arrests, harassment and death threats.
“The recent example is the incident involving the president of the AD youth league, Thuso Litjobo who was arrested and detained by the police in a manner that was far from consistent with his basic human rights. The case was so flimsy and baseless that even the government itself was not ready to defend it in the courts of law,” Mr Moleleki stated.
He also cited the “frequent” arrest of Basotho National Party (BNP) spokesperson, Machesetsa Mofomobe as well as the manhandling of officials of the opposition parties by the security agencies.
He said all this was clearly intended to create an environment of chaos and instability which could be used as an excuse by government to defer elections and to prolong itself in power against the will of the majority of the people.
“We are deeply concerned that the ploy by the coalition government to create a situation of instability in the country is also intended to deter the return of the three exiled opposition leaders.
“This is happening at a time when the security and political climate in Lesotho was improving considerably and preparations for the return of the political leaders in exile are at a very advanced stage.”
The three leaders, Thomas Thabane of the All Basotho Convention (ABC), Thesele ’Maseribane (BNP) and the Reformed Congress of Lesotho’s (RCL) Keketso Rantšo are expected to return anytime from exile in South Africa where they fled in 2015, citing plots to assassinate them by members of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF)- an accusation the latter has vehemently denied.
Mr Moleleki said the harassment of his party’s officials was also calculated at intimidating him, “with the hope that I will decide to leave Lesotho to take refuge in exile”.
Mr Moleleki said Dr Mosisili was aware that he no longer commanded the support of the majority of legislators in terms of section 87 of the constitution and was now threatening to dissolve parliament and call for general elections very soon.
“The holding of elections only two years after the last election is, however, totally unnecessary as the constitution allows for a new prime minister to be elected from within parliament by the majority of the members of the house without resorting to elections.
“Elections are a very expensive exercise. Lesotho, with its fragile economy, can ill-afford to hold elections every two years!
“The call by the incumbent prime minister for elections is merely an arrogant and egocentric move that has no bearing to the interests of Basotho and the capacity of our country to hold such elections at this moment in time,” Mr Moleleki stated.
He said Dr Mosisili’s strategy was however, “extremely dangerous in that it reverses the progress that had already been made in the consolidation of democracy, peace and stability in the country.”
The AD leader yesterday confirmed to the Lesotho Times that he wrote the letter.
The Prime Minister’s Press Attaché, Motumi Ralejoe referred all questions to the Prime Minister’s Senior Private Secretary, Mamello Morrison who was unreachable on her mobile phone last night.
For his part, the US Embassy Media Affairs officer, Seisa Tšiame said he was not in a position to respond to “private communication” involving the ambassador.