ABC pledges support for stay-away

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Billy Ntaote

THE main opposition All Basotho Convention (ABC) has pledged support for next month’s stay-away organised by ‘Concerned Non-State Actors’ to pressure government into implementing the SADC Commission of Inquiry recommendations.

The stay-away is set for 12 May and among the organisers are Maseru Region Taxi Operators, Lesotho Council of Non-Governmental Organisations, trade unions Lentsoe la Sechaba, Independent Democratic Union of Lesotho, National Clothing Textile and Allied Workers Union, and United Textile Employees, as well as the Lesotho Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The organisers would also submit a list of their grievances to the government pertaining to the recommendations made by a 10-member team commissioned by the Southern African Development Commission (SADC) to probe the fatal shooting of former army commander Maaparankoe Mahao. Lieutenant-General Mahao was killed on 25 June 2015 outside Maseru by his military colleagues allegedly while resisting arrest for suspected mutiny.

Among the recommendations was the dismissal of army commander Lt-Gen Tlali Kamoli “in the interest of restoring trust and acceptance of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) to the Basotho nation”, and the suspension of all LDF officers implicated in cases of murder, attempted murder and treason while investigations into their cases proceed “in line with international best practice”.

The Commission also recommended government should ensure criminal investigations into the death of Lt-Gen Mahao are pursued “vigorously” and that the police are empowered and resourced accordingly for the task. The investigations, the Commission added, should be conducted “expeditiously and comprehensively without any hindrance and that all physical evidence be surrendered and the finality of the investigations should lead to a transparent course of justice”.

The Commission also recommended that government should ensure the safe return of opposition leaders who have been living in exile in South Africa since May 2015.

ABC secretary general Samonyane Ntsekele this week said his party welcomed the planned stay-away.

“We were approached by those organisations and we support their stance,” Mr Ntsekele said.

“These organisations are aggrieved by the same issues we have always raised as an opposition party. It’s unfortunate that government has always turned a blind eye to our grievances.

“We have now reached a point where all sections of society are standing with us on our grievances. Now that they are taking this step to pressure government, we totally support them,” said Mr Ntsekele.

He said despite government denials, the ABC and its opposition allies—the Basotho National Party and Reformed Congress of Lesotho—contend there is a security crisis in Lesotho.

“General Mahao who we regarded as the rightful army commander was assassinated. We also saw soldiers entering the High Court premises with their faces covered with balaclavas. And when soldiers arrested and tortured their colleagues, even the general population realised this was not a normal situation.

“Some soldiers continue to be in detention despite orders for their release from the highest courts in the country.

“Our leaders also complained about the situation and they were forced to flee the country. Their lives were in danger and this prompted the establishment of the SADC commission of inquiry,” he said.

“The recommendations are intended to achieve stability in the country. The international community has also pronounced itself and demanded that the recommendations be implemented. We have the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and the African Union all calling for the implementation. What’s the government’s problem when everybody is saying the same thing?”

Mr Ntsekele warned of job losses among other far-reaching consequences should the government refuse to implement the recommendations as investors might then decide to give Lesotho a wide berth.

“Many people will lose their jobs. Our capacity to generate wealth is restricted. Our government is failing to do anything that creates wealth and no one wants to invest in our country due to the uncertain political and security situation,” Mr Ntsekele said.

“Our economy has been anchored on the US markets we access through AGO (African Growth and Opportunity Act) as well as the Millennium Challenge Corporation funding for development projects.

“We have to comply with AGOA’s selection criteria to remain eligible or else there will be trouble. Already orders for our textile products from US companies are declining and many workers have been laid off or put on short-time,” he said.

He also said the multiplier-effects of the loss of the US markets through AGOA could result in further losses at the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) level.

“Losing those markets would mean that we have no capacity to even continue trading with regional countries. So there will be big problems if the government does not comply,” he said.

 

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