. . . accuses SADC facilitator of seeking to protect Metsing and Mochoboroane from prosecution,
. . . says reforms should proceed with or without the two politicians’ parties.
CABINET minister and Basotho National Party (BNP) leader, Machesetsa Mofomobe, has slammed the head of the SADC facilitation team to Lesotho, Dikgang Moseneke, for allegedly attempting to shield politicians, Mothetjoa Metsing and Selibe Mochoboroane, from prosecution.
Messrs Metsing and Mochoboroane face treason and murder charges alongside former army commander, Tlali Kamoli, Captain Litekanyo Nyakane and Lance Corporals Motloheloa Ntsane and Leutsoa Motsieloa.
Their trial has been set for 10 to 20 January 2022. They will be tried by Chief Justice Sakoane Sakoane. Whereas Mr Mochoboroane eventually joined Lieutenant General Kamoli and others in the dock earlier this month, Mr Metsing decided to abscond. His whereabouts remain unknown. Justice Sakoane subsequently issued a warrant for his arrest.
Messrs Metsing and Mochoboroane waged an unsuccessful battle to avoid prosecution on the grounds that an October 2018 SADC-brokered government-opposition agreement shielded them from standing trial until after the implementation of the multi-sector reforms.
The agreement, which was brokered by Justice Moseneke, was thrown out by the Constitutional Court in two separate judgements in 2018 and 2020. The court ruled that Lesotho was not bound by directives of foreign organisations like SADC as long as they had not been domesticated into its municipal laws through acts of parliament. In the wake of the decision to charge Messrs Metsing and Mochoboroane, the former deputy prime minister’s Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) announced last month it was withdrawing from the reforms process.
The party’s withdrawal has been slammed by Mr Mofomobe who this week accused the two politicians of attempting to hold the nation to ransom in their quest to avoid prosecution.
“We can’t allow the country to be held hostage by these two political leaders just because they don’t want to stand trial,” Mr Mofomobe said in an interview.
“We cannot compromise and say they should not be tried lest their parties boycott the reforms. The reforms should go on with or without their parties.”
The outspoken minister also accused Justice Moseneke of seeking to shield the duo from prosecution. He said Justice Moseneke had negotiated a “gentlemen’s agreement” to protect the two politicians from prosecution in violation of a standing SADC heads of state resolution that politicians, serving and former members of the security agencies accused of human rights violations must stand trial.
“I believe that Justice Moseneke is between a rock and a hard place due to the agreement he made promising that the two politicians will not be tried. He (Moseneke) is conversant with the law as he has served in the judiciary.
“SADC leaders made it very clear that all those accused of acts of impunity should be prosecuted but Justice Moseneke went on to make his own decisions via a gentleman’s agreement to stop the trials of the two politicians. But that agreement cannot supersede the resolutions of SADC leaders. In any event, he (Moseneke) cannot tell the courts of Lesotho how to go about their business.
“Other than that, Moseneke had done very well to bring leaders of different political parties and other stakeholders to the negotiating table. He had done very well considering the hostility that we, politicians, have towards each another. His only blight is that agreement to protect some people from prosecution,” Mr Mofomobe said.
Contacted for comment, Mr Mochoboroane said he was unfazed by Mr Mofomobe’s attacks. He said he paid scant regard to his cabinet colleague because he “lacked credibility”.
“I only pay attention to comments by credible and reputable politicians. This one (Mofomobe) isn’t one of the credible and reputable leaders. He is a nobody. I would rather focus my energies elsewhere than dignify his utterances with a response.
“My court appearance and the fact that I was not locked up has frustrated a lot of people who thought I would flee the country,” Mr Mochoboroane said.
LCD Spokesperson, Apesi Ratšele, said his party had no intention of holding anyone to ransom. He said they were simply fighting to get the government to abide by the SADC-brokered agreement not to prosecute their leader.
“We can’t argue with Mofomobe if his opinion is that this is a gentleman’s agreement. He is entitled to his views. However, our expectation is for the government of Lesotho to do the right thing and ensure that the political leaders are not charged now to allow them to participate in the reforms processes. That’s all we want,” Mr Ratšele said.
Clause 10 of the 2018 SADC-brokered government-agreement specifically stated that “Mr Metsing and similarly placed persons in exile will not be subjected to any pending criminal proceedings during the dialogue and reforms process”.
This paved the way for Mr Metsing and some other opposition politicians’ return from exile to participate in the reforms process in November 2018. However, the clause was invalidated in November 2018 and again in November 2020 by the Constitutional Court bench comprising of then Acting Chief Justice ‘Maseforo Mahase, Justices Molefi Makara and Semapo Peete (now retired).
The court judgements invalidating the clause cleared the way for Messrs Metsing and Mochoboroane to be charged with treason in connection with the 30 August 2014 attempted coup against the first government of former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane.
They have also been charged with the murder of Police Sub-Inspector Mokheseng Ramahloko which occurred during the attempted coup.