Tread carefully

Tread carefully

THE return home last weekend of three exiled opposition leaders could set in motion a successful process in the search for a lasting political solution for Lesotho if handled carefully.
But if we squander the opportunity, it could mean Lesotho could be stuck in a hole for the long haul.

We have always argued the three – former premier Thomas Thabane, BNP leader Thesele Maseribane and Reformed Congress of Lesotho’s Keketso Rantso – needed to be here to take part in the reform process.

Lesotho needs the three leaders’ input if the whole reform process is to have any semblance of legitimacy.
Now that they are back home, it is our hope and expectation that no harm will fall their way.

There is no doubt that their two-year exile in South Africa resulted in a negative reputation for the government.
The general perception was that they had been hounded out of their own country.  The result was the intervention by SADC to restore peace and stability in Lesotho.
Lesotho can do without that negativity by ensuring the country has some stability and peace.
Both the government and the opposition must tread carefully not to exacerbate the current delicate political situation.
We expect restraint from both sides.

Of course exile is an extremely traumatic experience.  It has the potential of radicalizing an individual. In most cases it can harden one’s political resolve.
No man who has been forced into exile for political reasons can be expected to come back home and remain the same.
It is therefore critical that those who were forced into exile treat this matter with caution.
They must resist the temptation to chase revenge.

On the other hand the government must also resist the urge to ‘harass’ the returnees. With all state machinery at its disposal, it would be tempting for the government to unleash that machinery on the returnees. In our opinion, that will not help stabilize the country. It will instead only serve to attract further doses of negative publicity for the government.

Even if some of the returnees might be wanted by the police in connection with cases allegedly committed before they left, the police must tread carefully lest that is seen as political persecution.
There is a real danger that even legitimate cases might be construed as acts of vengeance.  Take for instance, the call earlier this week for Maseribane to report to the police which triggered some brouhaha on social media.

Such negative publicity does not bode well for the country. We are confident that the police will deal with all cases professionally.
Those with cases to answer must be given a fair chance in the courts.  We believe our courts are competent enough to handle such matters.
As the contestation for political power intensifies, we are likely to see the game getting dirtier.
That is the nature of politics.

Yet, this must be done within the rules of the game. When all has been said and done, we believe the ultimate solution will only come from Basotho.
We should be able to sit down and talk to resolve our issues as Basotho. We cannot continue to outsource the search for political solutions to outsiders, including SADC.
Now is the time to stand on our own.

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