TRC urges compliance with SADC recommendations

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TRC Director Ts'oeu Petlane  (left)
TRC Director Ts’oeu Petlane (left)

Lekhetho Ntsukunyane

CIVIL society group, Transformation Resource Centre (TRC), has urged the government to fully implement the Phumaphi Commission of Inquiry recommendations and outline a “clear plan for all actions necessary to fulfil them”.

Addressing a press briefing on Tuesday in response to the outcome of the SADC Double Troika Summit held in Botswana on 28 June 2016, TRC Director Tsoeu Petlane also called on the government to ensure those  suspected of killing former Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) commander Maaparankoe Mahao, among other alleged offences, are brought to justice “without delay”.

Lt-Gen Mahao was fatally shot by his colleagues on 25 June 2015 just outside Maseru. The LDF announced he was resisting arrest when he was killed, which the family has dismissed as untrue.

After the killing, Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili asked SADC to help establish the circumstances surrounding the tragedy, resulting in a Commission of Inquiry led by Justice Mpaphi Phumaphi of Botswana. The 10-member commission carried out its investigations between 31 August and 23 October 2015 and recommended, among other things, that government should investigate the killing and prosecute those found to be responsible.

Mr Petlane noted the TRC fully supported the decisions made by the SADC Double Troika Summit, saying they were in line with the calls made by civil society.

Among the summit’s decisions was for exiled opposition leaders to return home by the end of August 2016 and for the government to develop a comprehensive roadmap for the implementation of the Phumaphi recommendations with clear actions and timeframes in relation to the responses given during the summit.

The summit also approved terms of reference for an Oversight Committee to serve as an early warning mechanism and provide assistance in the implementation of constitutional, security and public sector reforms in Lesotho.

Mr Petlane said the government should implement the SADC probe’s recommendation for amnesty for the 23 soldiers accused of plotting to overthrow the LDF command. In the event that they were not released, the TRC said the soldiers should be allowed to defend themselves under open arrest.

However, Mr Petlane stressed the law should take its course on “criminal activities” perpetrated by members of the LDF.

“The rule of law should be respected, and particularly those identified as perpetrators of crimes (including the killing of Mahao) should be brought to justice without delay,” he said.

“Amnesty should not be broadened in such a manner that it implies impunity for criminal actions including human rights violations.”

The civic group called on the government to facilitate and guarantee the security of opposition leaders upon their return from exile so they could fully take part in national activities.

Former premier and All Basotho Convention leader Thomas Thabane, Basotho National Party leader Thesele ‘Maseribane and Reformed Congress of Lesotho leader Keketso Rantšo sought refuge in South Africa in May 2015 saying they feared for their lives. Some members of the LDF and opposition political parties also fled to the neighbouring country citing similar concerns.

Mr Petlane said the SADC Oversight Committee should first deal with security issues to facilitate the return of the opposition leaders and all other exiles so they could take part in the constitutional reforms.

SADC and the government, he added, should engage civil society and other stakeholders in the recommended constitutional reforms.

“TRC is interested in participating in the oversight body’s programme, particularly the inclusiveness that is required for constitutional reforms. Non-governmental organisations are better-placed to engage the citizens in these important constitutional reforms,” Mr Petlane said.

“TRC is happy that SADC reiterated its position on the Phumaphi Commission of Inquiry recommendations and that dialogue is necessary among political parties.”

Meanwhile, Dr Mosisili last week said the SADC Commission of Inquiry’s recommendations were not binding on Lesotho, saying the summit only urged the government to fully implement the SADC Observer Mission to Lesotho (SOMILES) report.

The premier also said the government would not just amend the Constitution, but work towards making a new one.

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