LCN calls for ‘honest’ communication

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Executive Director of Lesotho Council of Non-Governmental Organisation (LCN) Seabata Motsamai
Executive Director of Lesotho Council of Non-Governmental Organisation (LCN) Seabata Motsamai

’Marafaele Mohloboli

Lesotho Council of Non-Governmental Organisations (LCN) Executive Director Seabata Motsamai has urged government to “open its doors for honest communication” with stakeholders and ensure the country continues to enjoy cordial relations with development partners.

Mr Motsamai made the appeal when addressing a Workers’ Day gathering at Pitso Ground in Maseru on Monday.

His call came a few days after the LCN was accused of driving a political agenda and fueling instability in the country. The accusation was made by the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD)—one of the parties in the coalition government—after the LCN supported a 12 May stay-away organised by the ‘Alliance of Non-State Actors’ to put pressure on the government to “speedily” implement the SADC Commission of Inquiry’s set of recommendations.

The recommendations were made by a team commissioned by the Southern African Development Commission (SADC) to investigate the fatal shooting of former army commander Maaparankoe Mahao in June last year. Lieutenant-General Mahao was killed outside Maseru by his colleagues allegedly while resisting arrest for suspected mutiny.

After the investigation, the probe team made several recommendations, among them 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 suspension of all LDF officers implicated in 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 Commission also recommended government should ensure the safe return of opposition leaders from exile.

All Basotho Convention (ABC) leader Thomas Thabane, and his Basotho National Party and Reformed Congress of Lesotho counterparts Thesele ‘Maseribane and Keketso Rantšo respectively, fled for South Africa in May last amid claims some LDF members were planning to kill them.

In its call for the looming stay-away, the alliance’s spokesperson, Makama Monese, said:  “The government’s reluctance to receive the Commission’s report and implement its recommendations is threatening Lesotho’s relationship with the United States and ultimately, the country’s eligibility for AGOA (African Growth and Opportunity Act which allows certain goods produced in eligible countries duty-free entry into the US). If we forfeit AGOA, at least 40 000 factory jobs will be directly lost and other related businesses will be affected. This is why we have decided to call for this stay-away on 12 May to avert such a disaster.

“We have issued statements about our concerns but they have never been responded to. We were simply asking the government to respond to the US concerns on the rule of law in order to avert the potential negative evaluation of the country for its qualification for AGOA and the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) grant.”

But LCD spokesperson, Teboho Sekata, hit back and accused the LCN, and its affiliates, Development for Peace Education (DPE) and Transformation Resource Centre (TRC), of using the ‘Alliance of Non-State Actors’ as a smokescreen to push their political agenda.

“The only thing these organisations want is to mobilise support from factory workers by lying to them that should AGOA not be renewed, they will lose their jobs. All they really want is support to have numbers so that they push for Kamoli’s removal.

“They are driving the opposition’s agenda. This is their political fight that they are pushing at the expense of other people,” Mr Sekata said.

However, Mr Motsamai told Monday’s gathering the LCN was not aligned to any political organisation.

“Our doors are open to everyone regardless of their political affiliation. We are open to the government, opposition political parties and all other private stakeholders. All we are calling for is communication and more communication,” Mr Motsamai said.

“Communication is the best remedy for any situation. The government should listen to what the people have to say.”

He also urged Labour and Employment Minister Advocate Thulo Mahlakeng, who graced the commemoration, to engage his colleagues in the government so they could meet development partners and iron out any issues that could “hamper progress in any democratic dispensation”.

“Please engage in talks with your colleagues in government and respond to the people’s grievances. Talk to development partners on issues of concern so that they don’t end up affecting these men and women standing before us here. Talk to the Americans lest we all go hungry,” Mr Motsamai said.

He also urged the government to respond honestly and “not just for the sake of it”.

“When someone is forever topical, it’s advisable that the person goes behind the scenes, cleans himself or herself up and puts his or her house in order. If this is the case with Lesotho, please go and get your house in order and together help save these few jobs that are still left.

“Engage in talks, help Lesotho’s exports access foreign markets so that we can all live. This issue (AGOA) is very fragile and has to be handled with absolute care. We, as LCN, are just watchdogs. Our ears and eyes are wide open and we are just waiting to be given a mandate and we’ll follow and support. We wouldn’t want to see this country perish,” said Mr Motsamai.

He also urged the government to adhere to the rule of law as it has always promised.

“You have promised to love and adhere to good governance and the rule of law, so let it be. Govern us properly. You are our leaders and we have none other than you, so please handle this AGOA issue with all the care it deserves,” he added.

 

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