Cyril wades into govt, exiled leaders talks
A MOOTED meeting between government, civil society and SADC Oversight Committee representatives with exiled opposition leaders in Pretoria, South Africa tomorrow has been cancelled indefinitely to enable the region’s facilitator to Lesotho, Cyril Ramaphosa, to also attend.
Deputy Prime Minister Monyane Moleleki yesterday told the Lesotho Times that Mr Ramaphosa, who is also South African vice-president, requested to attend the meeting, meant to discuss the modalities for their return.
“The reason for the postponement is very simple; South African Deputy President, Cyril Ramaphosa, has sent a request to the government of Lesotho for an opportunity to be personally available for the meeting,” he said.
“Mr Ramaphosa was not able to attend the meeting that had been scheduled for Friday.”
Mr Moleleki indicated that Mr Ramaphosa also wanted to discuss with exiled Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) leader, Mothetjoa Metsing, before the meeting with the other stakeholders.
“We don’t see anything wrong with that,” said the deputy premier.
Mr Metsing, his LCD deputy Tšeliso Mokhosi and Democratic Congress (DC) deputy leader, Mathibeli Mokhothu, fled to South Africa separately in August this year.
The trio skipped the country citing tip-offs from “trusted sources” about plots to assassinate them and alleged persecution by the government.
However, the Prime Minister Thomas Thabane-led four-party coalition has since rubbished the allegations, saying the government would not achieve anything in persecuting the opposition. Communications Minister Joang Molapo has since stressed that the prosecution of people implicated in various unresolved crimes should not be conflated with persecution.
Mr Mokhosi, who was a Defence and National Security minister in the previous government, was charged with Police Constable (PC) Mokalekale Khetheng’s murder along with four police officers.
He fled the country after being released on bail while awaiting trial.
Mr Metsing served as deputy prime minister in the previous Pakalitha Mosisili-led seven-party coalition government that governed from 17 March 2017 until the 3 June 2017 National Assembly elections whose outcome ushered in a Dr Thabane-led administration.
Mr Metsing has been at loggerheads with the new four-party government since its installation, after a long-drawn corruption investigation of the LCD leader regained momentum over the past two months.
In July, the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences quizzed Mr Metsing and Local Government Deputy Principal Secretary Ntai Makoetje amid indications the interrogations were in preparation for the instituting of fraud and corruption charges against the former deputy premier over the awarding of a M120 million road construction tender.
The investigation was launched in light of allegations there had been suspicious deposits into Mr Metsing’s bank accounts between 2013 and 2014. Mr Metsing allegedly received M328 000 and M118 000 between April 2013 and June 2013. A deposit of M524 964 into his account was also not explained.
This was after the controversial allocation of a road tender to a company known as Big Bravo Construction Company for the construction of roads in the Ha-Matala and Ha-Leqele villages of Maseru.
The company is alleged to have won the tender at Mr Metsing’s instigation and the company left road works incomplete about two months before their contract ended in 2015.
Last week, the government dispatched a delegation led by Basotho National Party (BNP) leader and Public Service Minister Thesele ‘Maseribane to hold talks with the exiled opposition leaders in the neighbouring country.
However, the exiled leaders did not pitch up at the stated venue in Pretoria claiming that they had not been invited for the talks.
DC and LCD officials in Lesotho also accused the government of not being sincere in convening the talks. The parties said they were being bypassed by the government in communications with the exiles, yet they were supposed to be the go-betweens.
“It defies all logic for the government to contact our leaders when they have not even engaged us on a facilitation level,” said DC spokesperson Serialong Qoo.
“You can’t run away from people in your own country for fear of your life and then suddenly trust them in a foreign land.”
He said the government’s vow to prosecute exiles implicated in various crimes would be a “stumbling block” to their return.
“After hearing that the government will not hold back in nabbing exiles suspected of various crimes, they are very wary of returning,” said Mr Qoo.
“They won’t come back under those conditions unless the government levels the playing field and makes us a part of the talks.”
This was echoed by LCD spokesperson, Teboho Sekata, who said their leaders were “not on a vacation” in exile.
“These people have fled the country due to some political disturbances, and that means we as their party committees would be the right people to facilitate any talks,” he said.
“But the fact that we were not contacted, simply says that they are not sincere.”
In response, Mr Moleleki said the failure to engage the opposition parties was more of “an oversight” than a deliberate action.
“I think it was more of an oversight than a conscious or deliberate sidestepping of the opposition,” he said.
“But we have since corrected that by writing to all stakeholders such as civil society organisations and political parties in parliament to invite them to the talks.”