ATTORNEY General Advocate Haae Phoofolo says the government is forging ahead with the process to extradite exiled former Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing.
Adv Phoofolo said this in the wake of recent media reports that the extradition process had been halted to allow the government and Mr Metsing to complete negotiations for the latter’s return to the country to lead his Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) party in the multi-sector reforms process.
Mr Metsing has been holed up in neighbouring South Africa after fleeing Lesotho last August citing an alleged plot to assassinate him. The government has nevertheless refuted his claims, insisting that Mr Metsing fled to escape prosecution for corruption.
The government and the LCD began talks over Mr Metsing’s return early this month and the talks are being held under the mediation of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
Back in 2016, SADC recommended constitutional, security sector, media, governance and judicial reforms as part of efforts to achieve lasting peace and stability which is seen as crucial to kick-starting socio-economic development in Lesotho.
However, the reforms process has been stalled amid intense bickering between the government and the opposition which has predicated its participation on the return of its exiled leaders who include Mr Metsing and his deputy, Tšeliso Mokhosi.
There has been intense speculation and reports in some sections of the media that the extradition process would be stopped and the government would grant Mr Metsing safe passage back into the country to participate in the reforms process. The speculation intensified in the aftermath of last month’s decision by the SADC Double Troika Summit that Lesotho must have fully implemented the constitutional and security sector reforms by May 2019.
However, Adv Phoofolo this week told the Lesotho Times that the extradition process had not been stopped. He said the extradition process and the talks Mr Metsing was holding with the government delegation led by Communications minister, Thesele Maseribane, were mutually exclusive and aimed at achieving different objectives.
He said the extradition process was initiated by the Director of Public Prosecutions who acted independently of the government and aimed to achieve justice by bringing back Mr Metsing to answer to corruption charges.
“The extradition has nothing to do with the ongoing negotiations,” Adv Phoofolo said.
“The talks and the extradition process are two different issues and they must be treated separately. The negotiations (with the government) are solely to bring Ntate Metsing home so that he can take part in the upcoming reforms process and nothing more.
“The extradition process continues. It has not been suspended or cancelled as it has nothing to do with the negotiations,” Adv Phoofolo said.
Mr Metsing recently told the Lesotho Times that the LCD had not received any communication from the government over the alleged suspension or cancellation of the extradition process.
“I am very reluctant to say anything more on the extradition issue because it was part of the agenda at the talks that we held with the government on 2 May which were facilitated by the SADC Oversight Committee.
“The government promised that it would take the matter to cabinet for further deliberations and would then inform SADC. But there is still no update and we haven’t received any official communication from the government. We are still waiting patiently and it is good to wait on the (government’s) promise,” Mr Metsing said.
However, AG Phoofolo said the LCD had got it wrong by mixing up the talks and the extradition issue.
“The DPP is independent in his thinking and he is the one who decides who should be prosecuted. It would therefore be wrong for the LCD to mix their talks with the government and the whole extradition process,” Adv Phoofolo said.