- we have nothing to hide from TRC-style commission, Mokhosi says
OPPOSITION Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) deputy leader and former Defence and National Security Minister, Tšeliso Mokhosi, says he and fellow LCD officials have nothing to fear from the establishment of the National Peace and Unity Commission.
In fact, the Commission should be welcomed by everyone as it is necessary to reconcile Basotho and achieve lasting peace and stability in the country, Mr Mokhosi said.
He made the remarks in an interview with the Lesotho Times this week.
His comments come in the wake of a public fallout between the anchor parties in the governing coalition- the All Basotho Convention (ABC) and the Democratic Congress (DC)- over the National Peace and Unity Bill which seeks to establish the truth and reconciliation-style Commission.
The proposed commission will be empowered to grant high-profile criminal suspects like LCD leader and former Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing amnesty provided they testify truthfully, disclose their alleged crimes in full and show remorse. Others who could benefit from the enactment of the Bill include former LCD secretary general and current Movement for Economic Change (MEC) leader, Selibe Mochoboroane, former army commander, Tlali Kamoli, as well as serving and former members of the security agencies accused of various crimes ranging from treason to murder.
Messrs Metsing and Mochoboroane served under the first government of former premier and ABC leader Thomas Thabane who they now stand accused of seeking to topple in a 30 August 2014 attempted coup.
The duo subsequently served in the seven parties coalition that was led by former DC leader Pakalitha Mosisili from 2015 to 2017. That government has been accused of ignoring human rights violations perpetrated by the army under Lt-Gen Kamoli’s command from 2014 to 2017.
The DC has been accused of supporting the Bill and the proposed Commission to ensure that its military and congress movement allies including the LCD are not prosecuted for their alleged crimes.
However, Mr Mokhosi insists the criticism is unwarranted.
He says the Commission is necessary to achieving healing and reconciliation. He also says it would be “myopic and parochial” to limit its work to the 2014 period when Lt-Gen Kamoli and the congress politicians are said to have committed human rights violations.
Like DC leader and Deputy Prime Minister Mathibeli Mokhothu, he says the Commission should also examine past atrocities that were committed as far back as 1966.
He said as a victim of human rights violations, he was itching to appear before the Commission in the hope of finding answers as to what led to his September 2017 arrest for allegedly murdering Police Constable Mokalekale Khetheng in 2016.
Mr Mokhosi made headlines when he accused the police of torturing him until he soiled himself. He said he was tortured to force him to confess to the alleged murder. He later skipped the country that same year after being granted bail. He subsequently returned to the country after the previous Thabane government agreed with the opposition to allow all exiled leaders back into the country to participate in the multi-sector reforms process. The charges were subsequently dropped and he has been turned into a state witness against his former co-accused; Senior Superintendent Thabo Tšukulu, Senior Inspector Mabitle Matona, Sub-Inspector Haleokoe Taasoane and Inspector Mothibeli Mofolo.
“Peace is costly and it doesn’t come cheap at all,” Mr Mokhosi said.
“As the LCD, we have nothing to fear from the Commission. All political parties should admit that they erred at some point and wronged one another. In as much as there are many parties in the country, there are only two political ideologies, namely the nationalists and congress movements. All have been implicated in a lot of atrocities and thorough investigations have to be made.
“Sadly, the Bill is being depicted by some as though it’s meant to investigate the 2014 period but that’s not the case. The atrocities started way back in 1966 when His Majesty King Moshoeshoe II had called a public gathering in Thaba-Bosiu where nine men and a woman were killed. Since then human violations and killings have never stopped, so this is not about 2014 only.
“This Bill is necessary. It will help us unearth human rights violations that happened in the past and help the wronged parties find closure. No one can be exonerated from these happenings and the blame cannot be shifted on one side,” Mr Mokhosi said.
He said there was nothing wrong with the controversial proposals for victims’ compensation to be paid by the state and not the perpetrators.
“I have heard a lot of arguments about who has to pay compensation. There are those who feel that the perpetrators should pay and not the government. It is strange to hear this from members of parliament who are being paid from the people’s taxes.
“If they think it’s wrong for taxes to be used to pay compensation then it means they are also wrongly benefitting from the public’s taxes. We want everybody to be covered in this Commission.
“As the LCD, we have nothing to worry about as long as everything is done in good faith. We will not hinder the courts from trying cases where necessary. Let us all allow the Commission to decide who is forgiven and who is not. We want peace in Lesotho.
“As one of those people who have been victimised, I would also want to appear before the Commission. I have to appear because I am still trying to get answers as to what motivated my arrest and inhumane torture.
“If the Commission is set up, people will stop chasing one another. They will tell the truth without whining on technicalities as is often the case in court. We really need the Commission so we can start again on a fresh slate and put the past behind us,” Mr Mokhosi said.