Metsing’s second coming

Metsing’s second coming

MASERU – IT would appear that in the court of public opinion, Mothejoa Metsing, 52, has been found guilty as charged.
Despite his vociferous protestations of innocence, Metsing has found it almost impossible to shake off the “guilty tag”.
He has thus effectively found himself buried in an avalanche of propaganda.

To the ordinary Mosotho, there is a stubborn view that Metsing was the driving force behind some of the most appalling human rights violations perpetrated by the Lesotho army in recent times.
Metsing served as Deputy Prime Minister in a government led by former Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili between 2015 and 2017.

Metsing is said to have enjoyed a cozy relationship with the army which was then under former commander Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli.
Lt Gen Kamoli remains locked up at Maseru’s Maximum Security Prison two years after he was arrested for treason and murder, among other charges.
Metsing also served as Deputy Prime Minister in the first coalition government led by Prime Minister Thomas Thabane between 2012 and 2015.

That government spectacularly collapsed due to a vicious power struggle between Metsing and Thabane.
Again, the collapse of the government was seen as Metsing’s fault.

The general thinking then was that here was a deputy premier who was refusing to play second fiddle to Thabane by demanding to be “consulted” on every major government decision.
When that first coalition government went up in smoke, it was no surprise that Metsing was the one who was left with the unenviable task of batting criticism that he was to blame for its collapse.
It was a propaganda war that Metsing lost dismally.

Metsing has been hated and feared in equal measure; hated for his role in the collapse of the first Thabane-led coalition government and feared over his supposed connections with the military.
And it would appear Metsing is painfully aware of this negativity and hatred towards him.

“I would be dead by now were it for the wishes of some of you people,” he says with a chuckle.
He says right from the start of the initiatives to work with Thabane’s All Basotho Convention (ABC) party in 2012, there was a clear agenda to “scandalise” him as he was not good at defending himself.
“And we were unable to deal with that,” he says.

The result, Metsing says, was a ruthless propaganda war to “de-campaign” him and his Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) party.
While he expected clear rules of engagement with his coalition partners, Metsing says he soon realised there were none.
The result was a brutal, bare-knuckle fight with lots of mudslinging between himself and Thabane.
“There was a clear, calculated plan not to be bound by any rules of engagement.”

As the Thabane-led government stumbled towards the inevitable collapse, it was ultimately Metsing who was blamed for its collapse. He was seen as stubborn, uncooperative and ambitious.
On the night of August 30, 2014, Thabane was sent scurrying into exile after Lt Gen Kamoli stormed the State House and the police headquarters in an operation the premier said was an attempted coup.
Metsing swears he never at any time pulled the strings behind the scenes within the army.

“I was not the Prime Minister in 2014 and the Minister of Defence was the Prime Minister himself. How would I control the army when I was just a mere minister?”
He admits though that he enjoyed a special relationship with all “those who had been unfairly dismissed” by Thabane.

“Everybody who thought he was a victim (of Thabane’s dismissals) would come to me. They knew the only person who was not afraid to speak on their behalf was Metsing.”
Metsing says while some horrendous crimes were committed when he was in government, he is sorry in so far as the crimes were committed by an administration to which he was part.
“I want to take collective responsibility for atrocities committed by the government unless where I am personally responsible.”
“The individuals were not sent by me,” he says.

Metsing says the killing of Lt Gen Maaparankoe Mahao, tragic as it was, had nothing to do with him.
“There was no decision (in Cabinet) to kill Mahao. We were all taken by surprise after he was killed. That is why we did the right thing to set up a Commission of Inquiry to investigate the circumstances of the killing,” he says.

“We regret that he died, which was unfortunate.”
Metsing also denies that his government knew anything about the killing of Constable Mokalekale Khetheng whose decomposed body was found buried in an unmarked grave in Maseru.
“We were part of the security committee and were baffled by his killing. We never knew that Khetheng had been killed.”

“How would Khetheng’s killing advance my political career? How would that help me? He was just a junior officer, unfortunate as his death was,” Metsing says.
He argues there have been a lot of untruths peddled by political parties about him and to cure the toxicity within our politics, Lesotho must set up an independent Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).
We need to rid this country of so many untruths, Metsing says.

“I want to be given an opportunity to openly state my case. We are not going to heal this country and stop the polarisation until we get to the truth of what exactly happened,” he says.
He says the story SADC has been told was that Metsing was the “bad guy”; remove Metsing and everything will be fine.
He says that was a dummy.

He argues that most countries that emerge from decades of conflict often push for a TRC.
“They want to know the extent of the abuses and see how they can address these. But when our leaders came from exile in 1992, they inherited a heavily politicised civil service. Ministers were even kidnapped and the deputy Prime Minister Selometsi Baholo was killed by the army.

“In South Africa they came up with an interim Constitution that enjoyed the trust of all sectors of society. We too needed to have gone that route.”
Metsing says there are individuals in Lesotho who are bent on “using the courts to settle political scores” but the “truth can save this country”.
“If we know the truth we shall be able to deal with most of our problems.”

He argues Lesotho should have set up a Commission of Inquiry to investigate the circumstances that led to the killing of Lt Gen Khoantle Motšomotšo, Bulane Sechele and Tefo Hashatsi two years ago saying their deaths were highly suspicious.

“The killing of a sitting army commander was a serious matter and a commission of enquiry should have been set up to investigate the matter.”
Metsing argues Lesotho’s problems are a direct result of a failure of leadership across all sectors of society – within the church, the media, academia and politics.
To fix Lesotho’s problems, Metsing says he remains convinced about the need for a Government of National Unity (GNU).

He says a GNU will command support from all sections of society. “It will need a clear agenda, one of which is national unity,” he says.
Metsing argues the situation in Lesotho has reached “emergency” levels that no single political party will be able to handle. If that is not done we risk violent protests by our youths, he says.
He says the GNU would also look into past human rights violations and determine who needs to be compensated as well as the issue of reparations.
“Those that should have ordinarily been jailed, but have told it all, should be indemnified.”

The proposal will likely find few takers in a country that seems determined to push to the limits the principle of an eye-for-an-eye.
Metsing’s LCD won a paltry 12 seats in the last election in 2017, a massive drop from its heyday when it ruled the roost as the dominant political player in Lesotho two decades ago. A damaging split with the Democratic Congress (DC) in 2012, which Metsing says was regrettable, left the party seriously weakened.
But Metsing believes the party will do well if new elections are called anytime soon. He says a number of political parties, which he did not name, “were campaigning on the basis of lies” and have since been exposed. “The reality is sinking among the electorate and most of the things they were promised have proved to be untrue. They campaigned on a platform of hatred. We have a better vision for the country which resonates with what the people want.”

Abel Chapatarongo & Mamakhooa Rapolaki

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