‘We want short, sharp and quick reforms’

‘We want short, sharp and quick reforms’

 

Staff Reporter

MASERU

 

THE SADC Double Troika Summit last week has drawn mixed reactions from the opposition, the government, analysts and the civil society. There have been varied views on what the summit’s decisions mean for Lesotho. The government seems to view the outcome of the summit as a victory. The opposition is yet to crystallise its opinion on the summit (a statement is expected this week). thepost however managed to discuss the summit with Basotho National Party deputy leader, Joang Molapo. In the interview, held as the opposition was preparing its statement, we started by asking his verdict on the summit?

 

We are busy preparing a press statement that will sum up our position on the outcome of the summit. Before the summit Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili issued a statement in Parliament acknowledging that Lesotho will implement SADC’s decisions. In our meeting with the Deputy President of South Africa Cyril Ramaphosa he set out a strategy on how they will make Lesotho (accountable). We have seen the summit’s communiqué and the record of proceedings. As the opposition we are happy with the outcome. We understand why SADC leaders have toned down on their adversarial attitude towards Lesotho. The reason for this is that Lesotho has agreed that SADC decisions will be implemented. The meeting was very clear on the implementation of those decisions.

 

Are you confident that the opposition leaders will come back to Lesotho before the end of August?

 

Yes, because Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli will be gone by then. SADC has clearly said it wants reforms implemented. It wants to see the reform process underway. They said all role players should be here when that process starts. We, as opposition, have a lot to gain from a legitimate and credible reform process. SADC has already said it will partake in that process and we are happy that they will be here. As far as I can see there is no reason for the opposition leaders to refuse to participate in a process that will take this country forward. So the answer to your question is that the leaders will certainly be here as SADC has said.

 

You are generally considered to be a moderate in the opposition. How sure are you that the hawks will not prevail and throw spanners into the works?

 

Let me say that in our circle and in my own analysis I consider myself to be more of a hawk. But I understand that negotiations are a give and take thing. My position is that the opposition leaders want to come back home soonest. To achieve this they are willing to consider reasonable concessions from the government regarding their security when they are back home. They understand that there are sacrifices that have to be made. They will take a principled position but that does not mean they will take a hard-line stance that will stop them from coming back home to be part of the reform process. The government should however not make the mistake of thinking that the opposition leaders will give in on everything. We have seen that taking a principled position on things pays off. Look at the General Kamoli issue. We will make reasonable concessions.

 

What does “reasonable concessions” mean?

 

The leaders are already on their front foot back home. What they only need to cross the border are reasonable guarantees on their security. The only issue is that General Kamoli remains in charge of the army. This is the same army that raided police stations. In other words he already had an operation against the police on his CV. You will remember that there were talks between us (opposition) and the government to bring the leaders back home. In those meetings we accepted that the government has agreed to give police protection to the opposition leaders. We said we were fine with that arrangement. We however asked the government what mechanisms they have put in place so that the army does not have another operation against the police. The government could not answer that question so the talks failed. We said if you as government cannot answer this question than how do you expect us the opposition to answer it?

 

You said the opposition leaders know that sacrifices have to be made. What sacrifices are those?

 

Let me be clear that the opposition leaders are not going to give up on anything. They have no reason to give up on anything. Our position is that they are coming to participate genuinely in the reform process. They are willing to put their faith in whatever arrangement is made for their security, as long as it is reasonable. A reasonable arrangement means those tasked to protect them can operate and do not live in fear of the army.

 

Where do you derive the confidence that General Kamoli would have left the army command by the time the leaders are back home?

 

The summit communiqué calls for the total implementation of SADC decisions. We know that SADC has made the undertaking to see those decisions implemented. I am absolutely confident that he is going to move. I have no doubt about that. We are certain that he is going. I cannot say who has told us that he is going for sure but that source is reliable. We know that General Kamoli is now past tense.

 

Let’s talk about the reform process. What, in your opinion, is the priority issue?

 

The fundamental issue is the timeframe for the reforms. We are looking at a maximum of 18 months while the government is looking at five years. We are not interested in a long process. We want a reform process that will be quick and fast. We understand that some reforms might take more time but we believe that five years is a lazy target, deliberately designed to allow the government to remain in power.

 

What major change are you looking for?

 

I am very much in favour of adding to the King’s powers. We need to create space for His Majesty to participate better in the administration of power. We had had trouble for a long time and in all those times the King has proven that he is the only neutral person. When people fail to get what they want they resort to badmouthing the monarchy. The King has shown, time and again, that he doesn’t take sides. We have shown that as politicians we need a referee. Why not give the King the platform to do the job all kings do in the world?

 

What is likely to derail the reform process?

 

I don’t think there is anything that will make the reform process collapse. I think everybody is committed to making the process work. All role players understand the importance of this process. They all want this process to succeed for the good of the country. We will work together. As far as I can see we are at the very end of this crisis. Remember these reforms are not like talks between government and the opposition. They are a process.

 

What kind of a Lesotho do you want to emerge from the reform process?

 

I want to see a country that respects the rule of law. I want to see a less polarised country. I should admit that there have been mistakes on both sides. Now is the time for us to be at peace with each other. We have to be a country that is not politically divided. We have to be more tolerant. It would be great if the reforms are going to create a country that is politically tolerant. I want to see a professional army that does not involve itself in the politics of the country. I want an army that is firmly under civilian control. After the reforms there should be a clear distinction between the roles of the police and those of the army. We will see the police taking a more prominent role.

 

With hindsight, what do you think the opposition could have done better in this crisis?

 

We could have been stronger in Parliament. I am however happy that our influence outside Parliament and in shaping the public perception has been excellent. We have achieved all that we set out to achieve. We could have been stronger in Parliament. We could have been more vocal on issues. We could have debated issues more but we were a lot weaker. But we have learnt a lot from that episode.

 

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