Home Comment Politicians must avoid pushing Lesotho to the edge once more

Politicians must avoid pushing Lesotho to the edge once more

by Lesotho Times
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ALLEGATIONS that Prime Minister Sam Matekane’s government is misusing the army to fight political battles should not be taken lightly and dismissed as mere rhetoric.

These very serious accusations were made at the weekend by Democratic Congress leader, Mathibeli Mokhothu, and had an ominous, if familiar, ring to them capable of pushing Lesotho to the edge once again, if they eventually turn out to be true.

According to Mr Mokhutu, members of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) mounted a roadblock just outside parliament on Monday last week, during which they stopped and searched legislators on their way from the august house.

The operation, the LDF has since told us, was targeting illegally acquired firearms in response to rampant crime which has plagued the nation over recent years.

But this is where the problem begins, as outlined by Mr Mokhutu, who is also the official leader of the opposition in parliament.

Mr Mokhutu is adamant the army had no right to search legislators as that was a violation of their parliamentary privileges and immunities. The DC leader is also not buying the LDF’s explanation that the operation sought to rid Lesotho of illegal firearms which are being used by criminals to terrorise the nation.

Instead, the opposition leader alleges the coalition government led by Mr Matekane is now taking Lesotho back to the bad, old days where those in power would misuse the military to intimidate and silence anyone critical of the status quo.

Mr Mokhutu says there is no way the opposition is going to accept such actions by the military and would  engage fellow MPs on how they are going to take the matter further to make sure it never happens again.

He also says the opposition would be alerting Lesotho’s development partners and the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) on the LDF action, and other alleged threats to civil liberties posed by the government, which, unfortunately, would thrust Lesotho back into the international spotlight for all the wrong reasons. Such a move would probably cost the Kingdom development funding and international goodwill which are tied to good governance and respect for the rule of law.

What complicates matters is another allegation Mr Mokhutu makes that National Security Service (NSS) agents have been assigned to keep tabs on him and his Basotho National Party (BNP) counterpart, Machesetsa Mofomobe.

These are also very serious allegations that government should not ignore if indeed, it has nothing to do with this covert operation whose motive could not be anything but sinister.

The ruling Revolution for Prosperity spokesperson, Mokhethi Shelile, has defended the government against all these allegations, and in turn, accuses the opposition of trying so hard to find excuses not to proceed with the much-needed national reforms process in parliament.

Yet coupled with Mr Mokhothu’s allegations is another matter of serious concern—the statement issued by police commissioner Holomo Molibeli on Monday this week. Commissioner Molibeli said the police had noted with concern that some MPs were planning to cause  instability in Lesotho. He also said the police had noticed some of these MPs moved around in the company of heavily armed bodyguards of questionable professional backgrounds. The police chief further warned the so-called plotters of the instability to stop their plans as they could result in bloodshed.

It goes without saying that the majority of Basotho do not want their country to descend into chaos. They want Lesotho to be a place where they can live in peace under a responsible, law-abiding government capable of providing the basics of life such as decent employment under a thriving economy.

That is why we call upon both the government and the opposition to carefully consider every step they take in what is increasingly becoming a hostile political environment.

The opposition’s concerns may be justified considering Lesotho’s very recent history of political turbulence caused by politicians abusing the army to settle scores with their detractors. However, it could also be a simple rule of law issue, where the LDF conducted a genuine stop-and-search operation because it had legitimate concerns about gun violence afflicting the country at the moment.

Lesotho is a country where criminal networks find it easy to engage in illicit activities such as human

trafficking, vehicle theft, smuggling of diamonds, firearms, and livestock. It does not help matters that some current and former MPs have been implicated in some of these crimes while others were actually arrested for stock-theft.

A case in point is that of former Motimposo MP Thabang Mafojane, who was arrested for allegedly stealing a Free-State farmer’s cattle, slaughtered them and sold the meat.

Some of the current MPs have also been involved in heists and other crimes.

The fact of the matter is that the MPs’ privileges and immunities only apply when they are being pursued civilly, and according to National Assembly Clerk, Adv Fine Maema, MPs are not above the law contrary to what many would want to believe.

That means the stop-and-search operation by the LDF could have been justified, as long as it was not done in pursuit of silencing Mr Matekane’s detractors, but to make Lesotho a safer place for all.

Still, the LDF manoeuvre is worrisome as it comes just weeks after  communications minister, Ntate Moorosi, and Mr Matekane issued warnings just days within each other, that government was aware of a plot to destabilise it, with the premier promising he would not take the matter lying down.

It is against this background that government must think long and hard before making decisions that might reflect negatively on Lesotho particularly on Premier Matekane, dubbed the biblical Moses due to his 2022 election campaign in which he promised to transform Lesotho and turn the country into a utopia where everyone will live in peace and harmony.

Ten months since assuming government power, Basotho still wait for that promised utopia with growing unease and frustration.

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Lesotho’s widely read newspaper, published every Thursday and distributed throughout the country and in some parts of South Africa. 

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