FORMER Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili has blasted the government for failing to meet former deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing’s security demands, adding that if anything were to happen to the latter then the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) “will see what the otherwise peaceful Basotho are capable of doing”.
Dr Mosisili, who leads the opposition Democratic Congress (DC), said the coalition of opposition parties had already communicated its displeasure over the government’s failure to meet Mr Metsing’s demands to the SADC.
The former premier made the remarks during a short appearance at the Maseru offices of Mr Metsing’s Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) party meant to welcome Mr Metsing who had been in self-imposed exile in South Africa since fleeing the country in August 2017. He returned home on Sunday.
Mr Metsing fled Lesotho citing a government plot to assassinate him. The government has nevertheless refuted his claims, insisting that he fled to escape prosecution for corruption.
His return along with LCD deputy leader, Tšeliso Mokhosi and Socialist Revolutionaries leader, Teboho Mojapela, was brokered by SADC to enable them to attend the national dialogue on the multi-sector reforms which got underway on Monday and ended yesterday in Maseru.
The national dialogue, which was attended by leaders of political parties in government and in the opposition as well as other stakeholders, is expected to come up with an agenda for the constitutional, security sector, governance, judicial and media reforms that were recommended in 2016 by SADC.
The opposition set Mr Metsing’s return as one of the preconditions for its participation in the multi-sector reforms that are aimed at achieving lasting peace and stability in the country.
Mr Metsing and other opposition leaders only returned home in the aftermath of the agreement that was signed by the coalition of opposition parties and the government on 16 October 2018. The deal was mediated by the SADC facilitator Justice Dikgang Moseneke and his team.
Ahead of his return, Mr Metsing wrote to Justice Moseneke informing him that following “recent discussions and agreements”, he had “applied my mind to the matter of my personal security, a key element of my return conditions”.
“(In terms of) minimum security requirements, I would prefer to be protected by the LDF as per the current practice with regard to VIP protection as follows: two 24-hour close protection bodyguards, four 24-hour mobile protection crew for back-up to bodyguards, four detailed guards for residence, appropriate arms and ammunition, an appropriate vehicle for my transport and an appropriate vehicle for my guard,” Mr Metsing wrote.
He also submitted a list of names for his proposed guards and drivers who were only identified by their surnames.
“My wish is that the team be closely monitored by the LDF and the SADC security element in Lesotho. All my personal security arrangements should be in place when I enter Lesotho.
“My bodyguards and the mobile protection team should be in place and with me at the South Africa/Lesotho border post on the day that I return- the 25th of November 2018.
“All my security arrangements should be in place for the full duration of the national reforms process and until such time as Lesotho has adopted a revised constitution and a democratic election has taken place. Your assistance and support in this very personal and critical area is greatly appreciated.”
And on Sunday, Dr Mosisili said the opposition was not satisfied with the security arrangements for Mr Metsing. He said that when Mr Metsing arrived at the Maseru border, there was no security to escort him. The government has however, provided two close protection guards who were at Mr Metsing’s side throughout his Sunday itinerary which included addresses to opposition supporters at the Setsoto Stadium.
“We are very unhappy that despite Metsing’s security demands, there was no one for that purpose when he got to the border. The promise on his security was not kept and this is wrong of the government as it is against the agreements that we made.
“We expect the government to be genuine when working with us and SADC should make sure of that,” Dr Mosisili said.
In a direct address to some SADC officials who were at the LCD offices, Dr Mosisili said, “Here he (Metsing) is, he may not have security but I pray to God nothing happens”.
“But if anything were to happen- anything untoward were to happen, only then will you (SADC) see what Basotho are capable of doing.
“Only then will you really see what these people- a peaceful people- are capable of doing should anything happen to this man (Metsing) and his deputy.”
Dr Mosisili said they registered with SADC their concerns over the government’s ‘failure’ to address Mr Metsing’s security needs and they were told that Justice Moseneke “would definitely deal with the issue”.
“We have also told them (SADC) that we are not happy that the government has breached its promise and has discriminated against other people who are still in exile and has not said a word about their return. We shall not rest or be satisfied until everyone has come home.”
Former commissioner of police Molahlehi Letsoepa, former director of the National Security Services (NSS), Tumo Lekhooa and Assistant Superintendent Bereng Ramahetlane (an officer with the Lesotho Correctional Service) and Mr Lebohang Setsomi (who was head of procurement at the Lesotho Mounted Police Service) are some of the exiles who did not return home. Their failure to return was due to uncertainty over whether or not the government would ensure that they are not subjected to criminal prosecution.