Opposition Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) leader Mothetjoa Metsing says Lesotho must choose between complying with SADC decisions and being isolated from the regional bloc.
Mr Metsing said this in an interview with a local radio this week. His remarks were in response to the head of SADC Facilitation Team to Lesotho Justice Dikgang Moseneke's demands that the government stops the courts from trying the LCD leader and fellow opposition politician Selibe Mochoboroane for treason.
Messrs Metsing and Mochoboroane have been charged with treason alongside former army commander Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli and an army officer, Captain Litekanyo Nyakane, over their alleged roles in the 30 August 2014 attempted coup.
But in a strongly worded 29 March 2020 letter to Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, Justice Moseneke insists the trial of the two politicians would contravene the government-opposition agreement to halt all criminal trials against all politicians until after the implementation of the multi-sector reforms. He vows such a trial "will not be welcomed by the SADC".
Director of Prosecutions (DPP), Advocate Hlalefang Motinyane, equally insists hers is an independent office that cannot be stopped from doing its work for political expediency.
Mr Metsing has nonetheless welcomed the SADC stance on the treason trial. He said that past governments had always respected SADC decisions even if there were court rulings to the contrary.
"We have to choose between respecting SADC decisions or saying we are a sovereign country and end up being an island within SADC," Mr Metsing said.
He said he only returned from exile in South Africa in November 2018 to participate in the reforms process because the government-opposition agreement protected them from prosecution.
He said after they were charged with treason, he and Mr Mochoboroane travelled to South Africa and met with the SADC facilitation team to air their concerns.
"We needed to remind each other of these issues and make them (SADC) aware this (of the treason charges) because I came to Lesotho on the terms of SADC.
"We went there to remind them of this (2018 agreement) and ask for protection (from prosecution). This (Justice Moseneke's) letter is as a result of that meeting," Mr Metsing said.
He said the South African-led SADC facilitation team had been seized with Lesotho's problems since 2014 when he fell out with his then coalition partners, Dr Thabane and Basotho National Party (BNP) leader Thesele 'Maseribane.
Mr Metsing was deputy prime minister in that coalition but fell out with Dr Thabane over the latter's alleged failure to consult him in decision-making processes. The fallout led to the attempted coup of 30 August 2014 after Dr Thabane fired then army commander Tlali Kamoli, without consulting Mr Metsing. The attempted coup is now the basis for the current treason charges against Messrs Metsing and Mochoboroane.
Mr Metsing said the then Thabane government had attempted to charge him with treason in 2014 but South Africa made it clear that it was only interested in brokering peace between him and his erstwhile coalition partners and it did not support any criminal prosecutions in connection with their fallout and the subsequent political instability.
"The then government even requested assistance in their quest to charge me at that time (2014). At that time, the facilitator (South African President Cyril Ramaphosa) said he could not come to Lesotho to assist the government to go after certain individuals while others were left to go free.
"He (Ramaphosa) said he would rather come to broker peace among us. He told us to make up our minds and choose between peace and going after one another."
Mr Metsing said after Mr Ramaphosa's intervention the then government of the ABC, LCD and BNP agreed to abandon the plans to charge him with treason only for the charges to be revived this year.
He said he has since engaged Dr Thabane and Deputy Prime Minister Monyane Moleleki and the two assured him of their commitment to the 2018 government-opposition deal not to try him and other politicians for any crimes.
"I think we are of the same opinion on this matter. Now that there is that (Justice Moseneke's) letter, I think it will empower them (Drs Thabane and Moleleki) to reprimand those who may be doing all of this (pressing treason charges) without the involvement of the leadership of this government...
"Governments have been toppled before in Lesotho. There have been coup attempts but I have never attempted to topple the government... We are here today as a country because of the agreements between SADC and Lesotho... I have no reason to suspect that they (Drs Thabane and Moleleki) will go against that letter (by Justice Moseneke)," said Mr Metsing. The opposition leader fled into exile in 2017 and only returned in November 2018 to participate in the multi-sector reforms after the government agreed not to prosecute him for any crimes until after the implementation of the reforms.