THE return of exiled leaders of the opposition which had been slated for Sunday is hanging in the balance amid indications their parties are pinning their hopes on the mediation of Southern African Development Community (SADC) Facilitator to Lesotho, Cyril Ramaphosa, with the government.
Basotho National Party (BNP) spokesperson, Machesetsa Mofomobe had told our sister publication, Sunday Express that the three leaders, Thomas Thabane of the All Basotho Convention (ABC), Thesele ’Maseribane (BNP) and the Reformed Congress of Lesotho’s (RCL) Keketso Rantšo had set Sunday as the date of their return.
The trio fled the country in May 2015, citing plots to assassinate them by members of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) and accusation the latter has vehemently denied.
However, with Sunday fast approaching, the opposition told the Lesotho Times that following a series of consultations with the SADC Oversight Committee, they were waiting to hear from Mr Ramaphosa on a forward for their leaders’ safe return.
The Oversight Committee was established by an Extraordinary Summit of the SADC Double Troika held on 3 July 2015 in Pretoria, South Africa with a brief to “intervene as appropriate in consultation with Mr Ramaphosa, who is also South African vice-president.
BNP deputy leader, Joang Molapo this week told the Lesotho Times the opposition parties were told by the SADC Oversight Committee to confer with Mr Ramaphosa on the framework for the exiled leaders’ return.
“They (Oversight Committee) said the SADC facilitator had to know the conditions under which the leaders were supposed to return,” Chief Molapo said.
“Maybe he (Mr Ramaphosa) will come as he did when he brought back the security chiefs who were sent on a leave of absence ahead of the February 2015 polls.”
He said it was imperative that the leaders returned as soon as possible, adding, they would make a greater impact than they would when they were in exile.
He said massive rallies were planned for the day of their return, adding, “We are dealing with logistical issues and we need to have permits that will allow people to come and hear their leaders speak to them on that day”.
“We are happily looking forward to their return and our key expectation is that they will be safe.
“If on the death of (former army commander) Lieutenant General Maaparankoe Mahao we made noise, then we would amplify it 10 times more if our leaders were to be in harm’s way upon their return,” Mr Molapo said.
Lt-Gen Mahao was shot dead as he left his Mokema farm on 25 June 2015 by soldiers who had come to arrest him on allegations that he was part of a group of soldiers plotting to overthrow the army leadership of retired commander, Lieutenant-General Tlali Kamoli. The Mahao family disputes the army’s narrative, arguing he was killed in cold blood.
ABC spokesperson, Tefo Mapesela concurred with Chief Molapo, adding the opposition had continuously kept the SADC facilitator informed about developments surrounding the arrangements for the return of the exiled leaders.
Without elaborating, Mr Mapesela accused the government of paying lip service to safety guarantees for the exiled leaders.
“(Prime Minister Pakalitha) Mosisili’s government has no interest in the return of our leaders,” Mr Mapesela said.
Meanwhile Alliance of Democrats (AD) leader, Monyane Moleleki whose party has an agreement with the tripartite opposition leaders regarding the formation of a unity government to replace the current seven parties coalition government, said he had advised the exiled leaders to ensure that they communicated with Mr Ramaphosa, “so that the facilitator can even accompany them back to the country to ensure their safe return”.
“Even the government should be properly alerted about the return and we don’t need to take chances here.
“Even the police should know about this officially so that when we bring them (leaders) in our massive convoys the police won’t give us problems.
“I will be the one to collect them from their respective destinations to their respective homes in the country. I will be spearheading the process myself,” Mr Moleleki said in an interview with the Lesotho Times this week.
The AD leader said the date for the trio’s return would depend on their discussions with Mr Ramaphosa.
For his part, Mr Ramaphosa’s spokesperson, Ronnie Mamoepa did not give precise information regarding the matter, telling the Lesotho Times that: “SADC mandated the deputy president as facilitator to Lesotho to engage the three opposition leaders regarding their return home.
“In pursuance of the matter he (Mr Ramaphosa) met them in Pretoria (South Africa late last year,” Mr Mamoepa said.