24 August 2018

Lesotho: No Going Back On Reforms - Thabane

PRIME Minister Thomas Thabane says the National Leaders Forum will go ahead today as planned with presidents Hage Geingob (Namibia) and Edgar Lungu (Zambia) expected to attend on behalf of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC).

Dr Geingob and Mr Lungu will attend in their capacities as SADC chairperson and SADC Chairperson of the Organs on Politics, Defense and Security Cooperation respectively.

Dr Thabane also called on the public to shun all politicians who work against the implementation of the multi-sector reforms.

He said this while addressing journalists in Maseru early this week soon after his return from the 38th SADC summit of heads of state and government that was held in Windhoek, Namibia on Friday and Saturday.

His remarks come against the background of last week's decision by the opposition to boycott the much-postponed National Leaders Forum which is one of the critical initiatives aimed at resuscitating the stalled reforms process.

Addressing the media this week, Dr Thabane said the National Leaders Forum will go ahead as planned with "only peace-loving people" who have heeded the call of SADC taking part in the proceedings.

He said presidents were expected to attend or send representatives to the forum.

"The SADC summit urged Lesotho and all stakeholders to ensure that the National Leaders Forum, scheduled for 23 to 24 August 2018 takes place as planned and called upon all stakeholders, including those who reside outside to participate," Dr Thabane said on Monday.

"The forum will take place in the presence of the SADC chairperson and chairperson of the Organs on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation. The two chairpersons will either attend or send their representatives."

Dr Thabane said the Multi-stakeholder National Forum will take place from 9 to 12 October this year as part of efforts of ensure that the reforms are fully implemented.

The premier further said the summit noted and appreciated efforts by the government to implement the SADC recommendations including those calling for the arrest and prosecution of all those who had committed serious offences in violation of human rights.

"SADC has called on every Mosotho to take part in discussions of peace-building. Those who want peace will come and take part in this (reforms) process and those who want something other than peace will pursue whatever they want outside Lesotho. We therefore call on the nation to shun whoever is working against this process.

"We invite everyone who feel they have something to say about this process and if anyone does not want to come we are going to apply the principle of majority rule, where we will follow what the majority of the people want. That's how the world functions and the reforms will be implemented," Dr Thabane said.

His remarks come against the background of last week's decision by the opposition to boycott the reforms process.

The exiled leader of the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD), Mothetjoa Metsing, wrote to the head of the SADC facilitation team to Lesotho, Justice Dikgang Moseneke, last Wednesday and stated that the opposition would boycott the reforms process including the National Leaders' Forum if the government did not meet their demands.

But the regional body would have none of it and instead it warned at the weekend summit that it would not tolerate further delays to the reforms process from any quarter.

"The summit noted with concern that, despite a number of SADC initiatives in the Kingdom of Lesotho, progress on the implementation of the reforms roadmap, and national dialogue remains very slow," regional leaders said in a communique that was issued on Saturday.

"The summit urged the Kingdom of Lesotho and all stakeholders to ensure that the National Leaders Forum, scheduled for 23 to 24 August 2018 takes place as planned and called upon all stakeholders, including those who reside outside to participate."

In a less diplomatic tone, the regional leaders said they had "resolved not to entertain any further delays in the implementation of reforms and national dialogue and called upon SADC member states to take necessary measures against those with intentions to delay, or threaten to derail the Reforms and the National dialogue processes".

The SADC leaders also called upon the government "to put in place a programme with clear milestones for the implementation of priority activities on the reforms roadmap and national dialogue".

However, supporters of the opposition parties have come out guns blazing against the SADC heads state. The opposition supporters on Monday addressed an open letter to the SADC chairperson, Dr Geingob, accusing the regional body of bias against Mr Metsing and the opposition in general.

"We read with an utter consternation the communique of the 38th SADC Summit which was held in Namibia on 17 to 18 August 2018. Our disappointment emanates from clause 22 of the Communique in which the SADC Summit 'resolved not to entertain any further delays in the implementation of the reforms and national dialogue and called upon SADC member states to take necessary measures against those with intentions to delay or threaten to derail the reforms and national dialogue processes'.

"Although the clause is amenable to a multiplicity of interpretations, our own interpretation is that its crafters were specifically targeting the Lesotho coalition of opposition parties and more in particular Mr Metsing," opposition supporters wrote on Monday.

They further stated that the opposition had made a "democratic choice" not to participate in the reforms and their choice "is a not a threat to the reforms process".

"Our view is that SADC and the government can happily continue with the reforms without issuing unwarranted threats to anyone who is not willing to participate.

"We find it regrettable that the regional organisation of the stature of SADC which prides itself as an advocate of democracy cannot accommodate differing views and use coercive bullying tactics to trample upon people's conscience. Freedom of conscience is entrenched in the constitution of Lesotho and it is, ipso facto, a democratic right of every citizen whether in government or in the opposition.

"It is our belief that those who are not willing to participate in the reforms because the government does not want to accede to their demands commit no crime and should not be coerced to do so. Hence it would not be fair on the part of SADC to interpret their abstinence as a threat or derailment geared towards reforms and national dialogue processes since these can still continue without their participation. It is our view that SADC should endeavour to assist the government to implement the reforms while at the same time respecting the views of those who have their own reservations," the opposition supporters further stated.

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