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‘Human rights will be top of our agenda’



Maseru –  AS the new government is set to take over tomorrow following the swearing-in of Thomas Thabane as Prime Minister, MPs of the ruling parties have pledged to bring major changes.
thepost’s reporter, Majara Molupe, spoke to the Basotho National Party (BNP)’s Machesetsa Mofomobe and the Alliance of Democrats (AD)’s MP, Thuso Litjobo, on the new government’s agenda. Below are excerpts of the interview:

Which issues do you want the incoming government to address urgently?
Mofomobe: There are a lot of issues that we are going to implement as the 10th Parliament. Accountability will be our primary assignment because parliament plays an oversight role on what the government is doing or intending to do.
We will have to enact laws which are important to the Basotho nation as whole, not harsh laws like the previous government has done.

Any example of laws you are talking about?
Mofomobe: The Human Rights Commission (should be established as required by the constitution) as a body that is meant to protect the rights and interests of the Basotho nation.  The composition of the Human Rights Commission should be reviewed because it is not like what is supposed to be like. Once we assume power as the new MPs, we will tirelessly try to ensure that the Human Rights Commission resembles its counterparts globally.

I am also going to work without respite to ensure that the Road Traffic Act of 1981 and the 1979 Public Order Act are reviewed.
I have lodged a case in court challenging the 1979 Public Order. It is unconstitutional and i am still going to continue with that case.
Litjobo: I would like to see the new government prioritising job creation to reduce the level of youth unemployment. There are many youths who are roaming the streets without jobs but with academic qualifications.
Those youths are from tertiary institutions. The new government has to create jobs for those youths and should create an enabling environment for the youth to start businesses so that they become self-employed.
Mofomobe: I find it unacceptable that MPs have access to M500 000 interest free loans while Basotho are left out there hallowing in abject poverty.

This provision should be ended because it does not benefit Basotho. This government must bring positive changes to Basotho.
Instead of growing the capital budget we are busy ballooning the recurrent budget through arrangements such as this one. We will have to ensure that a sizable part of the budget is for capital not for recurrent expenditure.
This will help a great deal of Basotho to have a meaningful share of the cake. This new government will have a mammoth task to accomplish.

We seriously need to allocate funds to important public institutions like the National University of Lesotho, which is currently facing serious problems that want serious intervention of the government.
Unfortunately, the government seems to be silent while Lesotho’s education at its highest echelons is grappling with complexities.

There are several issues that you complained about ahead of the election, such as the full implementation of SADC decisions, what can you say now that you are in government?
Mofomobe: As the new government, it will be within our mandate to ensure that the SADC recommendations are fully implemented. SADC formed a commission of enquiry led by a Botswana retired judge Justice Mphaphi Phumaphi to investigate circumstances leading to the death of former army commander Maaparankoe Mahao.  Upon its completion, the commission made some recommendations that the government of Lesotho should implement. But some of the recommendations have not been implemented.  They are still gathering dust on government shelves. Failure to implement some of the SADC recommendation is likely to plunge this country into gloom. Lesotho’s development partners like the European Union are likely to pull out from backing Lesotho with financial assistance.
It is practically impossible for a country like Lesotho to survive without international financial back-up. It is only if we comply with the SADC recommendations that we could be backed up financially by the international bodies like the EU.
We can hardly survive without development partners. If we do not implement SADC recommendations, chances are also high that we are likely to lose the AGOA opportunities.

\It is through AGOA that Lesotho has managed to attract international investors to invest in the garment and fabric factories.
Most of them are from Asia especially China and Taiwan. Lesotho has created more than 40 000 jobs through AGOA.
Litjobo: SADC decisions must be implemented fully. Since the out-going government has failed to implement the SADC decisions and Phumaphi recommendations, we are going to ensure that they are implemented.
Lesotho is a founding member of SADC and Lesotho has good relations with the SADC member states. There is no way that we cannot implement its recommendations or decisions.

What promise do you have about fighting corruption?
Litjobo: The new government has to wage war against corruption in all its forms. We are going to fight against corruption at all levels of governance. We have witnessed when corruption, left unbridled, unseated the out-going government led by Pakalitha Mosisili, the leader of Democratic Congress. When we were still members of the DC we complained aloud saying the Mosisili-led government was corrupt.
We were citing the Bidvest fleet services deal as an example. The government had awarded the fleet tender to Bidvest illegally and as such, that is corruption. We decided to defect from DC because we did not want to be associated with corrupt deals.

How do you want the new government to deal with those who could have looted public funds?
Litjobo: The new government is going to establish a Truth and Reconciliation Commission where (individuals) will have to appear before it and declare what they have illegally taken from the government.  No legal action will be taken against those who will voluntarily declare what they illegally took from the government.  And if they fail to do so, and the police and the DCEO find that they illegally took anything from the government to benefit themselves, they will have to face the wrath of the law.

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MP defies party, backs opposition



MOHLOMINYANE Tota, the only MP for the United for Change (UFC), has defied the party’s order to stop voting with the opposition in parliament.
Tota, the UFC’s deputy leader, told thepost this week that he will vote, guided by his own conscience, and not the party’s instructions.

His defiance comes after the party publicly chastised him for voting with the opposition in parliament.
A fightnight ago, Tota angered his party when he sided with the opposition to vote against the government’s motion to continue discussing the reforms’ Omnibus Bill despite that it was being challenged in the Constitutional Court.

The government however won with 57 votes against the opposition’s 50.
The UFC issued a statement reprimanding Tota for defying its decision to always vote with the government.
But Tota told thepost this week that he was unfazed by the party’s warning.

“I will continue to vote with the opposition where need be, and I will also vote with the government where need be,” Tota said.
He said he respects the party’s position but “I also have a right to follow my conscience”.

This, he added, is because “it is not mandatory for an MP to toe the party line even when his conscience does not allow it”.
He said whether he will vote with the government or the opposition will depend “on the issue on the table”.
He said his conscience would not allow him to vote with the government on the Omnibus Bill motion.

“It was wrong,” Tota said.
“I will do the same again given another chance.”

Tota’s response comes three days after the UFC issued a statement distancing itself from his stance in parliament.
The party said its national executive committee had an urgent meeting over the weekend to discuss Tota’s behaviour.
It said its position is to always support Prime Minister Sam Matekane’s coalition government.

“‘The issue has caused a lot of confusion in the party and among Basotho at large,” the statement reads.

The party also said Tota did not bother to inform the national executive committee about his decision so that he could get a new mandate.

“He did not even inform the committee before voting,” the statement reads.
“The national executive committee held an intensive meeting with Tota about the matter because the purpose of the party is to support the government,” it reads.
The UFC said where the government goes wrong “the party will continue to confront it with peace and not with a fight” (sic).

“We have confidence in the current government because it was voted in by Basotho.”
The UFC’s statement makes it clear that the party “will not support anything against the government”.

Nkheli Liphoto

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Inside plot to oust Matekane



THE plot to topple Prime Minister Sam Matekane thickened this week amid allegations of brazen vote-buying ahead of the opposition’s planned vote of no-confidence.

The opposition is said to be ready to push out Matekane when parliament reopens sometime in September. They accuse Matekane’s government of incompetence, nepotism, corruption and using the security forces to harass opposition MPs.

But as the lobbying and touting of MPs reaches fever pitch, there are now allegations of each side using bribes to secure votes crucial in the vote to remove the government.
Democratic Congress leader, Mathibeli Mokhothu, this week accused the government of bribing its MPs to defeat the motion against Matekane.

Mokhothu, who made the allegations at the opposition’s press conference yesterdday, did not give further details or names of those bribed and those bribing.
But on Monday, the Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) MP, Puseletso Lejone, told thepost that Mokhothu offered him a M2.2 million bribe to support the opposition’s motion to upend the government.

Lejone said Mokhothu made the offer at a secret meeting, attended by almost all opposition leaders on August 14, at Monyane Moleleki’s house in Qoatsaneng.
The Thaba Moea MP said the leaders claimed that 60 MPs were supporting the motion against Matekane and wanted his vote to make it 61.

“The money was to come directly from Mokhothu,” Lejone said.
“They asked me to provide them with my bank account so that they could transfer the money.”
Mokhuthu denied the allegations, saying he wondered if Lejone “was smoking socks”.

Lejone repeated the same allegations on the sidelines of yesterday’s press conference where Matekane assured Basotho that his government has enough numbers to fend off the opposition’s attempt to push him out.
He said apart from Moleleki and Mokhothu, other political leaders who attended the meeting were Lekhetho Rakuoane, Machesetsa Mofomobe, Nkaku Kabi, Professor Nqosa Mahao, Teboho Mojapela, Tefo Mapesela and Tšepo Lipholo.

He said the leaders gave him a document showing that six RFP MPs had pledged to support the vote of no confidence. Lejone however refused to name the RFP MPs, saying he still wants them to remain in the ruling party.
He said four MPs from parties in the RFP-led coalition had signed.

They are Mohlominyane Tota (UFC), Reverend Paul Masiu (BAENA), Mokoto Hloaele (AD) and Motlalepula Khahloe (MEC).
The deal, Lejone said, was that Mokhutho would become prime minister and be deputised by Dr Mahali Phamotse.
He said the RFP’s faction was going to be rewarded with 10 ministerial seats for their role in toppling Matekane.
Nearly all the political leaders mentioned by Lejone denied attending the meeting at Moleleki’s house.

“By the living God, I have never been in a meeting with that man (Lejone),” Mokhothu said, adding that Lejone’s allegations are “defamatory”.

Mahao said he last visited Moleleki’s house, which is up the road from his, 22 years ago. Mofomobe said Lejone is lying about the meeting because he wants to curry favour with Matekane, whom he had been criticising for months.
Mofomobe said all his meetings with Lejone were at the BNP Centre and their agenda was toppling Matekane.

“We were discussing his (Matekane) incapability to rule this country,” Mofomobe said.

Rakuoane and Mapesela said they have never been to Moleleki’s house.
So did Kabi who implied that Lejone could have smoked something intoxicating “to talk about a meeting that never happened”.
Lipholo, Rev Masiu, and Tota said they were not at that meeting while Moleleki said he had “no comment”.

Staff Reporter

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Matekane abusing state agencies, says opposition



THE opposition has accused the government of weaponising security agencies to harass and intimidate their MPs.
The accusations come as the opposition plots to push a vote of no confidence against Prime Minister Sam Matekane when parliament re-opens in September.

Opposition leaders told a press conference yesterday that the government has resorted to using the army and the police against its MPs because it is afraid of the motion.
Democratic Congress (DC) leader, Mathibeli Mokhothu, said the security bosses have been willing tools for the government because their bosses are desperate for Matekane to renew their employment contracts.

He was talking about Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli, army boss Lieutenant General Mojalefa Letsoela and National Security Service (NSS) boss Pheello Ralenkoane.

“Employment contracts for the security agencies’ bosses are the ones causing these problems because the commanders end up working towards pleasing the government for their contract extension,” Mokhothu said.

He said the army has also started setting up roadblocks closer to parliament to search MPs. Mokhothu said the army searched Nkaku Kabi and Advocate Lebohang Maema KC at the parliament premises last week.

“The government is now bringing back the security agencies into party politics,” Mokhothu said.
“This was the first time the army entered the parliament premises to search members and other people there. It is an embarrassment.”
“The responsibility of our soldiers is to guard the borders and ensure security, not to enter politics or set up roadblocks on the parliament roads.”
“They are now running the country like a shop or a company.”

Basotho National Party leader, Machesetsa Mofomobe, alleged that Matekane had a meeting with the security bosses in Teya-teyaneng to discuss how they could use their institutions to clip the opposition’s wings.

“The LDF, LMPS and NSS boss’s contracts have expired, and now they are using the institution to get extensions,” Mofomobe said.
“The LDF and LMPS are doing this deliberately to protect the government.”
thepost could not independently verify this allegation.

Tefo Mapesela, the Basotho Progressive Party leader, said Matekane’s government is taking Lesotho back to 2014 when the army was wooed into politics.
He warned that officers who allow themselves to be used as pawns in political fights might find themselves in jail while their political handlers enjoy freedom.
He referred to Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli who has been in remand prison for seven years as he faces charges of murder, attempted murder and treason.
Mapesela however said the opposition will not be intimidated because it is their democratic right to bring a motion of no confidence against the government.

“When there is time to enter a motion of no confidence it is time, it is written in the law, there is nothing wrong there,” Mapesela said.
“I once launched a motion of no confidence in the previous parliament, but I was never arrested or threatened.”

“We do not owe Matekane anything. When the time has come he has to go. We will lobby others as it is not a crime.”

The Basotho Action Party’s Nqosa Mahao criticised the police for issuing a press statement with political undertones.

In a controversial statement last week, Commissioner Molibeli said the police were aware that some MPs were coercing their colleagues to support their plot to topple the government.
Molibeli also said they were aware that such MPs were surrounding themselves with armed groups.

“Police warn those perpetrating these acts to stop immediately to avoid action that could be taken to protect the country,” Molibeli said.

Matekane made the same allegations at his press conference yesterday.
Professor Mahao said the statement shows that the police have now been entangled in politics.

“Every time parties experience internal problems the leaders conspire with the security agencies,” he said.
“The opposition leaders are now being harassed because the government wants to stop them from exercising their rights.”

The opposition’s charge sheet against Matekane

  •  Filling of statutory positions despite the reforms aiming to change the system.
  • Corruption
  • Nepotism
  • Using security agencies to deter MPs from ousting Matekane.
  • Job losses.
  • Lack of job creation.
  • Failure to fulfil campaign promises.
  • Protecting mining companies’ interests at the expense of Basotho.
  • Incompetence and lack of communication skills.
  • Arrest of MPs by the police.
  • Cherry-picking reforms that insulate his government.

Staff Reporter

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