Families fume over deal

Families fume over deal

MASERU – THE families of victims of the army’s brutality are fuming after the government signed a deal with the opposition that will see the prosecution of offenders suspended until after the national reforms. The families told a press conference in Maseru on Tuesday that the suspension of prosecution is a gross injustice.
They fear perpetrators might take advantage of the reform process to evade accountability describing the deal as an unacceptable compromise.
But government spokesman Nthakeng Selinyane said the arrangement only affects Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) leader Mothetjoa Metsing because he skipped the country claiming that his life was in danger.

Part of the provision contained in the 10th clause of the agreement provides that Metsing “and other similar placed persons in exile will not be subjected to any pending criminal proceedings during the dialogue and reform process”.
Many exiles, including politicians, police and army officers skipped the country after the commencement of investigations on their role in several murders between 2012 and 2017.
Metsing’s deputy in the party, former Defence Minister Tšeliso Mokhosi and his driver were accused of having a hand in the murder of Police Constable Mokalekale Khetheng.
The families have argued that the step taken by the government is not only morally wrong but also unconstitutional.

They accuse the government of failing to consult them before entering into the agreement with the opposition.
“We are direct stakeholders in these matters and we demand answers from government to make us understand this injustice if it is possible to comprehend,” said ’Mamphanya Mahao, a representative of the families.

’Mamphanya is the widow of slain Commander of the Lesotho Defence Force, Lieutenant General Maaparankoe Mahao. Mahao was killed by his juniors in 2015.
Speaking on behalf of the concerned families, ’Mamphanya pleaded with the government to urgently meet the families to iron out the sticking issues.
The families that have teamed up against the government include that of Mahao, Khetheng, Nteso, Mosole, Matsie, Qobete and Ramahloko.
’Mamphanya said such a meeting could help shed some light on the issue.

“What are the human rights implications on them including ourselves?” queried ’Mamphanya.
She said families have no problem with alleged perpetrators returning home to participate in the reform process as long as justice is not sacrificed.
The families are also concerned about the silence on how the government plans to guarantee that the alleged perpetrators will not tamper with police investigations as well as the security of witnesses to the cases.

“Our fears are that the government neither has security arrangements nor capacity to put in place security measures that will protect our lives and the evidence that link the suspects to the criminal offences,” said ’Mamphanya.
“They may even kill some of us,” she added.

’Mamphanya said the reform process might take longer than 18 months and the outcomes are unknown.
The families want the courts to overturn the decision to suspend prosecution of alleged perpetrators as well as review the agreement between the government and the opposition.
“We feel that suspending these criminal offences challenges the supremacy of the constitution,” ’Mamphanya said.

She said the courts should set aside all unconstitutional agreements signed by the government and the opposition.
“We feel that the decisions or conclusion reached thus far has a direct bearing on judicial independence and violates even Clause 4 of the agreement which puts more emphasis on judicial independence,” ’Mamphanya said.

She clarified that their demand for justice should not be misconstrued as a form of resistance to reforms, but the rreforms should not come at the expense of justice.
Affected families are puzzled that the government and SADC facilitation team led by former South African judge Dikgang Moseneke have chosen to ignore grassroots people affected by the human rights violations.

“We therefore plead with the government to grant us a meeting on (November 7) wherein we propose that we as stakeholders meet with a view to provide clarity and iron out issues,” said ’Mamphanya. The issue of compensation was topical at the press conference. ’Mamphanya accused the government of reneging on its pledges to pay compensation to families that lost relatives during the years of turmoil.

Some of the deceased were sole bread winners in their families yet the government has done nothing to compensate the families, said ’Mamphanya.
She called for the appointment of an independent expert to advise on the issue of compensation.

Majara Molupe

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