Opposition boycotts reforms programme

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Joang Molapo, BNP Deputy Leader

Billy Ntaote

THE tripartite opposition bloc has vowed to boycott Lesotho Reforms Programme (LRP) meetings arguing the “minority government” no longer had the legitimacy to lead the process.

The All Basotho Convention (ABC), Basotho National Party (BNP) and the Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL) have also argued that the LRP could not be truly inclusive without their leaders who are exiled in South Africa.

Representatives of the three parties on Monday walked out of the first LRP meeting led by Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing on Monday in Maseru.

The meeting was meant to create a framework for constitutional, parliamentary and security reforms envisaged in the LRP which was launched by Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili last week.

The reforms are in line with recommendations made by the Justice Mphaphi Phumaphi-led Southern African Development Community (SADC) Commission of Inquiry into Lesotho’s instability.

The inquiry, which was launched following the killing of former Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) commander Maaparankoe Mahao by his army colleagues on 25 June last year, was held between 31 August and 23 October 2015.

BNP deputy leader Joang Molapo told the Lesotho Times they walked out of the Monday meeting because it was being led by a “minority government” which he said only remained in office due to constitutional technicalities.

He said the only “useful” thing the government could do was to reopen parliament to gauge its numerical supremacy in the august house — a prerequisite for retaining power.

National Assembly Speaker Ntlhoi Motsamai indefinitely adjourned the august house 22 November 2016 to the chagrin of the opposition which intended to pass a no-confidence motion on the government. This was after the opposition bloc’s ranks were swelled by a faction of the main governing coalition partner, Democratic Congress, which inked an alliance agreement with the tripartite bloc to oust the incumbent regime and form government. The faction, led by former DC deputy leader Monyane Moleleki, has since jumped ship and formed a new party dubbed Alliance of Democrats (AD)

Ten Members of Parliament (MPs) have challenged the adjournment in the High Court arguing it was unprocedural. The case will be heard on 23 January 2017.

“The meetings are nothing but a waste of time. We won’t achieve anything by acting as if they are a government with the majority to rule us.

“If this government had sincerely implemented the reforms while there was time, we would have cooperated,” said Chief Molapo, adding the exiled opposition leaders would “soon” return home to oust the seven-party coalition government.

ABC Secretary-General Samonyane Ntsekele echoed the sentiment, saying they would only participate in the reforms process upon the return of their leaders and reopening of the National Assembly “since we now command a majority”.

The opposition bloc leaders, former premier Thomas Thabane, Thesele ’Maseribane and Keketso Rantšo of the ABC, BNP and RCL respectively sought refuge in South Africa in May 2015 after alleging a plot to kill them.

While acknowledging the urgent need for reforms, Mr Ntsekele however accused the government of sabotaging the process by “clinging on to power”.

“This country needs those reforms to take off. However, we understand that to continue with reforms, there are certain key things that should take place,” he said.

“This administration is now doing everything in their power to throw spanners in the parliamentary works by closing the avenue for a legal change of government in the house.”

He said the ABC had already expressed its views on how best the reforms should be implemented.

“We have already issued our reforms position paper. It states that the reforms should be held under an inclusive environment with stakeholders from all sectors of society.

“The government is leading the process contrary to our suggestion and demands that an independent body be established. Such a body should be similar to the interim Political Authority we had following the political disturbances of 1998. This, we feel, will enable all stakeholders to participate on an equal footing,” said Mr Ntsekele, adding the reforms should be coordinated by a secretariat autonomous from the incumbent government.

He said the retirement of LDF commander Lieutenant-General Tlali Kamoli on 1 December 2016 was “not enough” for the exiles to return home. Mr Ntsekele said the opposition was also awaiting the government’s implementation of a Phumaphi inquiry recommendation to suspend LDF officers implicated in cases of murder, attempted murder and treason while investigations into the allegations proceeded.

“The reforms process can’t continue with our leaders still in exile and unable to participate. Our previous negotiations for the return of Ntate Thabane and other exiled leaders hit a snag because government was harbouring the army commander (Lt-Gen Kamoli) and the soldiers facing serious criminal charges,” Mr Ntsekele said.

“So we still demand that the soldiers be suspended and face prosecution in line with the SADC commission of inquiry’s recommendations. It is important to have a level playing field for us to participate.”

Chiming in, RCL Secretary-General ’Mamolula Ntabe also called for the prosecution of soldiers facing murder and treason charges.

“Following the recent removal of the army commander, Lt-Gen Kamoli, our expectation was that all soldiers mentioned in the SADC inquiry’s report to have been involved in the killing of Lt-Gen Mahao should be suspended and face prosecution,” she said, adding the adjournment of the National Assembly was also “unacceptable”.

“We believe the adjournment was carried out in an undemocratic manner and flouted due process by muffling legislators’ voices. We want the house reconvened.”

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