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Opposition warns govt over SADC report

by Lesotho Times
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khasuBilly Ntaote

The opposition alliance has vowed to release the original copy of Justice Mpaphi Phumaphi’s report should the government decide to publish an edited version of the much-anticipated document.

Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili last week said the government would not hesitate to remove parts of the report threatening the country’s security.

But the All Basotho Convention (ABC), Basotho National Party (BNP) and Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL), say they would not accept an abridged version of the report for whatever reason—a warning some members of the alliance also issued last week.

The report was compiled by a commission of regional and security experts led by Justice Phumaphi of Botswana.

The inquiry, which was commissioned by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) at Dr Mosisili’s request, sought to establish the circumstances surrounding the fatal shooting of former army commander Maaparankoe Mahao in June last year.

Lieutenant-General Mahao was killed by the military outside Maseru allegedly while resisting arrest for suspected mutiny.

However, although the Phumaphi-led probe ended on 23 October 2015, its findings are not yet public due to a High Court case lodged by Special Forces Commander Tefo Hashatsi. The case is challenging the legitimacy of the probe.

But a SADC Double Troika summit held in Botswana last week gave Lesotho until 1 February 2016 to publish the report.

The summit had initially resolved to suspend Lesotho from SADC after government refused to accept the Phumaphi report because of Lieutenant-Colonel Hashatsi’s case. But after Dr Mosisili accepted the report a day after the summit had ended, the issue of suspension was no longer applicable. However, the premier has since said the government would consider security issues when releasing the report, which ABC deputy leader Tlali Khasu has warned would be a mistake.

Mr Khasu issued the warning at a press conference held in Maseru on Monday this week.  BNP deputy leader Joang Molapo, and RCL deputy leader Motloheloa Phooko, also attended the media briefing.

“We have the original report as the opposition and we will release it if the prime minister publishes a doctored version of it. However, we can’t publish the report now as we respect SADC’s decision for government to be given a chance to study the document.

“But if, in these 14 days, they don’t release the report, we will publish it. Our expectation is also that SADC will publish the report as they had initially promised to do so after the government refused to take it in Botswana last week,” Mr Khasu said.

Mr Khasu also said opposition Members of Parliament (MPs) would not be in the legislature when the house opens on 8 February, unless their leaders are back in the country from South Africa where they sought refuge in May last year.

Former prime minister and ABC leader Thomas Thabane, BNP leader Thesele ‘Maseribane and RCL leader Keketso Rantšo fled the country in May 2015 after claiming they had been alerted of a plot to assassinate them by some members of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF). Government has scoffed at these claims and challenged the leaders to prove the allegations.

“We need our leaders back in the country so that reform processes can take place. If our leaders are not safely back home, and if their safety is not guaranteed, then we won’t go back to parliament to even discuss the report,” said Mr Khasu.

Mr Khasu also called on government to come up with a clear roadmap on security, public sector, parliamentary and constitutional reforms as suggested by SADC. Last week’s SADC summit resolved that  Lesotho should submit a progress report on the reforms in August this year.

Mr Khasu continued: “We are also of the opinion that SADC’s recommendations are resolutions which are binding on the government of Lesotho. They are binding more than the court case that the prime minister was referring to when he initially refused to receive the Phumaphi report.”

On his part, Chief Molapo highlighted the need for the opposition to give government an opportunity to think about the report and how best to implement its recommendations.

However, Chief Molapo said it was unfortunate the prime minister’s attitude gave an indication that the government was not happy with the report and would edit out certain sections.

“We can only regain our country’s integrity by working with facts and truths and not by doing everything secretly. We cannot hide the truth.

“The prime minister should be building trust, but his first move is to threaten that he will expunge certain parts of the report should he find it necessary. I don’t understand what’s there to hide when people committed these things. Hiding the report would be taking this  country in the wrong direction.”

In his address, Dr Phooko said what raised eyebrows was the prime minister’s “hard stance” on the report.

“What is it that Dr Mosisili fears about this report? Why should he expunge the report? He has the report, but then the question is who would he be protecting by expunging parts of the report? He must be protecting certain people whose names appear in the report,” said Dr Phooko.

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