THE opposition Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) has ‘’with immediate effect’’ pulled out of the ongoing multi-sector reforms process.
Announcing the move at a press conference in Maseru this week, LCD deputy leader and former cabinet minister, Tšeliso Mokhosi, said they had pulled out to protest the state’s decision to press treason and murder charges against party leader, Mothetjoa Metsing.
Mr Metsing, who is at large, has been charged alongside Development Planning Minister Selibe Mochoboroane, former army commander Tlali Kamoli, Captain Litekanyo Nyakane, Lance Corporals Motloheloa Ntsane and Leutsoa Motsieloa.
Mr Mokhosi said they had only agreed to participate in the reforms process after the signing of the October 2018 SADC-brokered government-opposition agreement which provided that Mr Metsing and other opposition leaders would not be tried for any crimes at least until after the reforms had been implemented.
But now that the state had heeded the courts’ judgement striking down the agreement and ordering their leader to be tried, they would no longer take part in the reforms, he said.
“We had agreed to take part in the reforms because we thought everyone understood the importance of inclusivity in the process,” Mr Mokhosi said.
“But there is no way anyone can participate when they are not free and scared for their lives. A prisoner never comes to the table for negotiations.
“We have been caught with our backs to the wall (by the decision to try Metsing and others) and we have no choice but to pull out of the reforms. This is the only political tool that has worked before and we are pulling out because all other remedies have failed to knock sense into our government about the importance of everyone freely taking part in the reforms.
“We are baffled and overwhelmed because the government does not seem to understand the true spirit of the reforms. We have exhausted all remedies and we never thought that things would come to this point again,” said Mr Mokhosi.
He said they had taken the “difficult” decision because they were unhappy that the trial was proceeding before the reforms are completed. The LCD had hoped completing the reforms first would allow for an overhaul of the judiciary because the courts — in their current state — were incapable of conducting fair trials.
“One of our arguments had been that the very courts which we are being hauled to need a total overhaul and restructuring because we aren’t confident to be tried in them.
“We have therefore decided to pull out of the reforms. We have also lobbied other parties to support our petition on the issue to SADC and other stakeholders.”
Mr Mokhosi said they had tried in vain to enlist the help of Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro and the head of the SADC facilitation team to Lesotho, retired former South African Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke.
On his part, LCD secretary general, Teboho Sekata, said they had previously pulled out of the reforms process in November 2018 when the government allegedly sought to arrest Mr Metsing upon his return from exile in South Africa.
“When the government wanted to arrest our leader upon his return from exile in 2018, we pulled out and that worked for us. Because this tactic worked before, we are pulling out again as the only way for our grievances to be heard.
“We will not disclose the whereabouts of our leader but we can surely say that he is safe wherever he is. We are yet to find out from him what stopped him from showing face in court as expected.”
Meanwhile, National Reforms Authority Motlatsi Nkhasi said they had not received any formal communication from the LCD about their pull out from the reforms process.