Mediator seeks AG’s input in PR seats row

MASERU — Bishop Philip Mokuku, the mediator appointed by the Christian Council of Lesotho (CCL) to help resolve Lesotho’s political dispute over proportional representation seats, has approached the Attorney General Ts’okolo Makhethe for legal advice, the Lesotho Times can reveal.
Sources told this paper this week that Mokuku tried to hire Makhethe together with one local lawyer and a South African law lecturer to give him legal advice on the interpretation of the judgment on Marematlou Freedom Party (MFP)’s case.
The government and the opposition parties are divided on the implications of the MFP ruling. The judgment delivered by Semapo Peete dealt with the MFP’s locus standi.
It also said there was nothing wrong with the formation of political alliances that had benefited from the seats.
The problem now is whether this ruling should be seen as the final answer to the dispute over the seats or not.
The opposition says the ruling did not say anything about what it perceives to be the heart of the issue which is the mode and method of the allocation of the seats.
They also say that this ruling should not stop the reallocation of seats which they say was not done properly.
But the government has remained adamant the ruling is final.
It says it cannot re-allocate the seats because “the courts have spoken”. 
At their last meeting the parties had agreed to give Mokuku two months to consult extensively about the implications of the MFP judgment.
He was given the mandate to hire experts to help him interpret the judgment.
Highly placed sources said apart from Makhethe, Mokuku had also approached local lawyer, Qhalehang Letsika, and one Pretorius who is understood to be a lecturer at Wits University.
This paper can however reveal that Mokuku’s experts of choice have not delivered.
The main reason, the source said, is that Makhethe has not responded to Mokuku’s offer.
Mokuku is understood to have approached the two in September.
The other problem according to the source is that the other experts have not yet decided on the fee that they will charge for their services.
This paper understands that the United Nations office in Lesotho and the Irish Consulate had agreed to assist with the payments for the experts. 
The source said the indecision by the two experts and the lack of a response from Makhethe was the main reason why the talks did not resume as planned last Wednesday. 
“The feeling is that we cannot meet until we understand what the court’s ruling implied on the disputed seats. Until legal experts’ have given us their opinion we cannot do much,” said the source.
Mokuku refused to comment on both the progress of the talks and information that he has approached the three experts.
He said he could not comment because the parties had agreed that only the CCL was the only one that was supposed to talk about the issue.
“I am just a mediator. I can’t talk,”Mokuku said.
It is also understood that the main reason that Mokuku had tried to include Makhethe on the panel was to counter the government’s usual complaints of bias.
A source said Mokuku anticipated that as soon as the government realised they did not have one of their own on the panel they would immediately cry foul and probably pull out.
The attorney general is the government’s legal’s adviser.
A lawyer who has been following the case said Mokuku’s attempt to lure the attorney general on the panel is likely to trigger hostile reception from the opposition.
The main problem, the lawyer said, is that the attorney general is a government appointee and by virtue of his position he had the role of advising government on how to deal with the MFP’s case when it was brought to court in 2007. 
“There will be a problem if Makhethe becomes part of the panel because it is common cause he is in favour of the government. He is the one who advised the government to handle this issue the way it is handling it now,” he said.
Makhethe could only be approached as one of the stakeholders protecting the interest of the government not as an independent panellist, he said.
Majara Molapo, the spokesperson of the Lesotho Political Parties Forum which represents opposition interests, said he had not been informed about Mokuku’s attempt to hire Makhethe.
“I have not heard about that so I cannot comment on the issue,” he said.

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