‘Let them go hang’…

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. . . livid Mokhothu’s rage at ABC and others opposing the National Peace and Unity Bill

‘Marafaele Mohloboli

RAGING Deputy Prime Minister and Democratic Congress (DC) leader, Mathibeli Mokhothu, has told his coalition partners, including the lead party, the All Basotho Convention (ABC), to either accept the National Peace and Unity Bill or “go hang”.

Tabled in parliament in May this year by Justice and Law Minister, Lekhetho Rakuoane, the Bill seeks to establish a National Peace and Unity Commission with powers to grant high-profile criminal suspects like politicians Mothetjoa Metsing and Selibe Mochoboroane 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 army commander Tlali Kamoli as well as serving and former members of the security agencies accused of various crimes ranging from treason to murder.

The Bill has sparked outrage with both the ABC and victims of human rights abuses outrightly rejecting it on the grounds that it is aimed at saving the DC’s members and allies who have been implicated in various crimes from facing justice for their actions.

The ABC has even claimed that it was not consulted in the drafting of the Bill.

On the other hand, Mr Mokhothu, DC deputy leader Motlalentoa Letsosa and fellow congress politicians have all defended the Bill, saying the establishment of the National Peace and Unity Commission is a sure way to achieve, peace, reconciliation, unity and stability in the country.

Over the past two weeks, Mr Mokhothu has been addressing party rallies around the country, telling his supporters that only “haters of peace” would oppose a Bill aimed at helping Basotho “heal and forgive each other for atrocities committed against each other since 1964”.

The deputy premier upped the scurrilous attacks on his coalition partners and others while addressing a DC rally early this week in Maliepetsane, Mafeteng.

In remarks directed at the ABC and its former deputy leader Nqosa Mahao, Mr Mokhothu accused them of hypocrisy for claiming they had not been consulted on the Bill. He said they in fact worked on it together as the governing parties.

“There is a bill that has been tabled in parliament and there are those who are now denying knowledge of it despite that we all worked on it as leaders,” Mr Mokhothu said.

“Now that there is progress, people deny any knowledge of it. Even the plenary sessions of the national reforms process speak to the issue of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). It has been made very clear and agreed that this country is sick and needs healing.

“Lesotho needs to heal and those who are against this reconciliation process should be chased away from their churches because they are no Christians.

“Lesotho’s peace is top of the list in the reforms and surprisingly there are people who are now denying knowledge of the Bill. In a Christian country they now decide to lie. This is absolutely dirty. Let them go hang,” Mr Mokhothu said.

The deputy premier and Advocate Rakuoane have both alleged that even though he is now rejecting the Bill, Professor Mahao was the one who actually crafted it when he was still ABC deputy leader and Justice and Law minister. Prof Mahao was fired in April this year by Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro after announcing that he had ditched the ABC to form his own Basotho Action Party (BAP). He said he had decided to jump ship to pre-empt moves by Dr Majoro, ABC leader Thomas Thabane and secretary general, Lebohang Hlaele, to oust him from the lead governing coalition party.

Prof Mahao has however, denied responsibility. He says even though he was aware of the Bill, he had not crafted anything so “patently unconstitutional” to the extent of abrogating the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and the courts’ powers to try criminal cases. He has also said, as a victim of gross human rights violations which resulted in the assassination of his younger brother, Maaparankoe, by fellow soldiers, he would never support a Bill that seeks to free his killers.

However, in his weekend rally, Mr Mokhothu insisted that Prof Mahao and others in his former ABC party were consulted and actively collaborated with the congress parties in drafting the Bill.

The deputy premier also accused the Bill’s detractors of seeking to consign the scope of the proposed Commission to the period from 2014 to the present day when serious human rights abuses were committed by the army under the command of Lt-Gen Kamoli.

The abuses were committed largely during the period when the country was governed by a seven parties’ coalition headed by then DC leader Pakalitha Mosisili.

In his address, Mr Mokhothu said the Commission would  seek to establish the truth of what happened beginning just before independence in 1964, through the lengthy rule of the late Basotho National Party (BNP) leader Leabua Jonathan, the military dictatorship of the 1980s and 1990s, the return of multi-party rule in 1993 and right up to the present day.

He said the human rights atrocities that were committed during these periods needed to be investigated to achieve closure and healing.

“The plenary report (of the national reforms dialogue) states that this country is sick and needs to heal. Therefore, there should be thorough investigations into atrocities that happened from 1964,1965, 1970, 1974, 1998, 2014 and even afterwards. But now, surprisingly, there are those who think that 2014 issues are the only ones worth probing. Let them go hang!

“Lesotho’s problems do not emanate from 2014 only. There a whole lot of other deaths which remain mysterious and need closure, why are these people (detractors of the Bill) trying to be discriminatory?

“The upheavals that have caused this country to be where it is today happened in different corners of this country, at different times and they have to be investigated in depth. It is not just the things that happened in 2014. There are a lot of mysterious deaths that have happened and need investigating, from that of (journalist) Mahlomola Motuba (who was murdered in 1981), we need to know what happened to him.

“We want to know what happened to (Former labour minister and ABC MP Sello) Machakela (who was shot dead by unknown gunmen in March 2012). We want to know why people’s houses were burnt down in 1970. We also want to know about the death of Lipolelo Thabane. Why are these people (detractors of the bill) being selective and discriminatory by wanting to address other issues while leaving some unattended?

“It is only through the Commission that we shall know the truth and not just through the courts of law. The courts only work on issues before them and the commission shall give every grieving person an opportunity to be heard. Now I see people making noise when I mention the Commission. This country has to heal and it is only when we talk about these issues that it shall heal.”

Mr Mokhothu also blasted the previous Thomas Thabane government for policy failures which had cost the country dearly.

Among others, he accused the former government of encouraging police brutality against ordinary citizens. He accused the previous administration of failing to adequately remunerate teachers and also shortchanging the country by signing the botched 2018 solar power deal with German company, Frazer Solar.

He said he and Dr Majoro had since set up a commission to establish how the then government entered into the botched deal which has seen Lesotho being ordered by a South African arbitrator to pay £50 million (M856 million) damages to Frazer Solar. This for allegedly breaching a 2018 contract the company claims to have entered into with Mr Thabane’s government for the supply of solar power.

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