Anger over reforms deal

Anger over reforms deal

MASERU – THE family of slain army commander Maaparankoe Mahao says the agreement between the government and the opposition is a blow to their quest for justice for their son.
The government and the opposition signed an agreement to put the reform process back on track after months of squabbling.
Both sides said they were satisfied with the deal, with the government saying it made necessary concessions to take the reforms forward.
But the deal has come under a barrage of criticism from some government supporters who think Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s administration “sold out” by giving in to the opposition’s demands.

What has irked the Mahao family is Clause 10 of the agreement which says the government shall ensure the safety of all citizens in exile ad must provide adequate security for Mothetjoa Metsing and other similar placed persons in exile will not be subjected to any pending criminal proceedings during the dialogue and reform process.

The family has read the clause to mean that Metsing, whom it accuses of having a hand in the killing of their son, will not face prosecution until the reforms are done.

The Mahaos are apprehensive that the clause could scuttle efforts to prosecute several soldiers charged with their son’s murder.

Lehloenya Mahao, brother to Lieutenant General Mahao who was killed by soldiers in June 2015, said the agreement violates the constitution because it suspends prosecutions.

He said by signing the agreement the government and the opposition have temporarily suspended the prosecution of those accused of committing heinous crimes, including the killing of Lt Gen Mahao, until the reforms are finished.

This, Mahao said, means the government has tacitly agreed to ignore the constitution in order to proceed with the reforms.

Mahao said this amounts to a selective application of the law because those whose families are affected by the crimes are now being told to put their demand for justice on hold.

He queried why the government would sign a deal that benefits “less than five people” while disadvantaging thousands of people who have been waiting for justice for years.

Mahao said he is shocked that the government is now working with the opposition to “undermine justice and the rule of law”.

The prosecution of suspects cannot be suspended by an agreement between government and the opposition, he said.

Mahao said the government could have “at least consulted us before signing that agreement”.

What infuriates the family, he said, is that the government seems to have reneged on its promises during the election campaign to prosecute those accused of committing crimes between 2012 and 2017.

“So now since they have arrived where they wanted to go (in government), they no longer care about us,” Mahao said.

“We see the government and the opposition interfering with courts of law,” he said, adding that Clause 10 contradicts Clause 4 which says the government shall respect the independence of the judiciary.

It is baffling that provisions of the constitution are being suspended to benefit a few people, he added.

“All people are equal before the law.”

“We have just sued Metsing in the past two weeks so this agreement means that the case cannot proceed until the reforms are finalised.”

Mahao said the family will complain to SADC, the African Union, the EU and other international bodies about the agreement.

Asked if they have tried to meet the government, Mahao said “there was no use because the agreement was sealed”.

The family of Constable Mokalekale Khetheng, who was murdered by his colleagues, is also worried about the agreement.

Thabiso Khetheng, Mokalekale Khetheng’s brother, said the family fears that the cases against police officers accused of killing their soon will be derailed because of the agreement.

“We do not know the nature of the laws after the reforms and we are scared that they might entail reconciliation and justice will not be served,” Thabang said.

Government spokesman Nthakeng Selinyane said the government has noted public concerns about the agreement but will not comment further about the issue.

Nkheli Liphoto & Majara Molupe

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