10 August 2018

Lesotho: National Leaders' Forum Postponed

THE National Leaders' Forum that had been scheduled to start today has been postponed to a later date amid threats of a boycott by opposition political parties.

According to former South African Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke who was recently appointed the head of the facilitation team, the National Leaders' Forum will now be held in two or three weeks' time.

The National Leaders' Forum is supposed to be held in the build up to the multi-sectoral reforms that the country is set to implement as recommended by the Southern African Development Community (SADC). The reforms were recommended in the aftermath of the report by the Justice Mpaphi Phumaphi-led 10-member Commission of Inquiry that was appointed by SADC in July 2015 to investigate the killing of former army commander, Maaparankoe Mahao, by his army colleagues.

Justice Moseneke jetted into the country yesterday where he met with the opposition political parties and Prime Minister Thabane.

In the meeting, the opposition said they would boycott the forum if it was convened today because of the government's failure to meet its demands.

Speaking to the media after the meeting yesterday, Justice Moseneke said there was positive energy among the stakeholders and he expressed confidence that "we will end up with a national dialogue that will seek to resolve some of the challenges facing the kingdom".

"We have had long and cordial discussions with the heads of government and members of the cabinet and the discussions were thorough and indeed very cordial and fruitful," Justice Moseneke said.

"Arising from the discussions, it is not amiss to say that the opposition parties, civil societies, representatives of the church and indeed other stakeholders have closed and narrowed the differences among them significantly, to a point where I am confident that we should be able to hold a National Leaders Forum in the next two to three weeks.

"In in my view this is a wonderful and positive energy around Lesotho and among the parties we have had occasion to talk to and we are confident we will end up with a national dialogue that will seek to resolve some of the challenges facing the kingdom."

Speaking at a press briefing at the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) offices in Maseru after yesterday's meeting deputy leader of the Democratic Congress (DC), Mathibeli Mokhothu, said they were unhappy that Dr Thabane failed to take their issues seriously in the meeting with Dr Mosisili last week.

Last week Dr Thabane invited opposition parties and reportedly allocated 15 minutes for each party. The parties however, decided that Dr Mosisili represents them at the meeting.

"Instead of saying why he (Dr Thabane) had called them he presented Mosisili with some talking points saying he should go back, deliberate on them and await his next appointment when he would summon them again," charged Mr Mokhothu.

"However, with the National Leaders' Forum scheduled to begin, we are disappointed that he still has not called us again to give us a feedback on our demands."

Mr Mokhothu said they are disappointed that instead of getting feedback from the Prime Minister, they are being invited for the leaders' forum before their demands have been met.

Among other things, the opposition want their exiled leaders including LCD leader Mothetjoa Metsing to be allowed back in the country. They also want murder-accused former army commander of the Lesotho Defense Force (LDF) to be released on bail or his case to be speedily heard.

"There is no point in putting him (Kamoli) in custody without charges. Police should have long wrapped up their investigations other than keep Kamoli in unwarranted further detention," Mr Mokhothu said.

Mr Mokhothu also said they want the reforms to take off in a conducive atmosphere as they are a step towards healing.

"We want a truth and reconciliation commission so that we may turn a fresh leaf and forget about what happened in the past fifty years since Lesotho got its independence.

"We have eagerly awaited the response from the Prime Minister to our demands and that he calls us to talk more on how we will handle the reforms issue but he (Dr Thabane) is nowhere in sight," Mr Mokhothu said.

"We are not going to be part of the national leaders' forum as long as our demands have not been met and it is sad that people are being told there was a meeting between Dr Mosisili and Dr Thabane which was not in any way fruitful.

Popular Front for Democracy leader Lekhetho Rakuoane accused the government of lacking seriousness on the reforms issue.

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