MASERU – A few weeks ago the Minister of Mines Keketso Sello accused some lobby groups of fanning chaos in the mining sector. Although Sello did not mention names it is clear he was referring to the Transformation Resources Centre (TRC), an ecumenical lobby group that has been working with the Kao community to pile pressure on the Kao Mine.
The minister said the lobby groups were instigating communities to fight the mines. Kao Mine, which has borne the brunt of most of the community protests this year, has similarly accused the groups of being the hidden head in the strife at the mine.
thepost this week spoke to Hlalele Hlalele, TRC’s Social Justice and Socio-Economic Rights officer, about these allegations in a wide-ranging interview. Below are excerpts from the interview:
What do you say to the allegations that TRC is instigating trouble at the mines?
That kind of accusation is not new to this organisation. When people are faced with problems and they are supposed to solve them they raise other issues to deflect attention. If we are talking about environmental damage the mine does not disagree that there are issues.
It does not disagree that it has been discussing with the community over some issues that have not been resolved. We are talking about compensation that has not been done in a fair way.
Some people have been compensated more than others and the basis of that is not clear. Some things are just not right.
We should focus on those people who are affected and insist on enforcing the law. If the environment regulations have been breached we should enforce the law. When we raise these issues they then come up with such accusations to derail the people’s focus.
The Minister of Mines has failed to perform his job because he has not been consistent. At one meeting he asked the people to decide what kind of shares they want from the mine and then later he changed course to accuse us of instigating the people. If mines are not following the state laws we have to ask why he (the Minister) is changing positions on certain issues.
You still have not addressed the allegation that you are instigating the community.
We capacitate communities to know their rights and demand them. People are supposed to get what is due to them. There are issues of informal agreements mines make to communities. They would say you will get jobs and development in your area. In Kao there was agreement to maintain the road from Kao to Ha Lejone.
It was an agreement that included the Kao community, Kao Mine and Liqhobong Mine. Present were TRC and the Ministry of Public Works and Transport. It was agreed that Kao Mine would repair the road to Tlaeeng while Liqhobong Mine would maintain the road from Kao to Ha Lejone.
But the agreement was drafted in a tricky way in that it allows the mines to repair the roads when it suits them.
So if Liqhobong Mine is responsible for the Kao to Ha-Lejone road why then is the pressure on Kao Mine which is already maintaining the Tlaeeng road as agreed?
The community is saying the mine used to use that road (Kao to Ha-Lejone) and it promised to maintain it. I must however say that the initial agreement between Kao Mine and the community to maintain that road was not written. In 2013 that road was well maintained.
There is now a written agreement stipulating the responsibilities of each mine. Why is TRC not telling the community that the Kao to Ha-Lejone road is Liqhobong Mine’s responsibility?
Kao mine promised things to the people of Kao. Each mine made promises to its community. The tricky part is that when Kao started using the Tlaeeng road it shifted the burden to maintain the Kao to Ha-Lejone road on Liqhobong Mine.
How is that so? You just said the community was part of the new agreement. TRC was also part of the new agreement. So the community and TRC know about that new agreement. Why is the pressure still on Kao Mine?
Before the agreement Kao said it has an agreement with the Minister of Mines to maintain the Tlaeeng road and Liqhobong Mine will take the Kao to Ha-Lejone. When we asked for that agreement it was not there so we came up with this new one.
What I am saying is that TRC was present during the negotiations because it wanted the discussed issues to be in the written agreement.
But because we are facilitators we were just making sure there was a discussion and an understanding but we were not on the drafting side of the final agreement.
So if there were consultations on the new agreement to maintain the roads why is TRC insisting on an unwritten agreement that is obviously disputed? Why is TRC not helping the community to insist on the implementation of the new agreement?
I know that there is no written agreement. Here on my table are a bunch of documents showing that there were studies and consultations with the communities. They are showing that there was an agreement with the community. For any mine to get the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) certificate it has to prove that it has consulted the people.
The problem is that there is no evidence that people were consulted. There is no document signed to prove that consultation. The Ministry of Tourism and Environment merely verifies whether the mine was in the community and whether there was some form of agreement.
It doesn’t demand that there be a written agreement. The mines are taking advantage of that lack of written agreement with the communities. They are cunning.
Is that not a problem of the policies of the government? Surely if the policies are not strong enough companies find a way around them.
It’s a ministerial problem. That is why the civil society is advocating for a Public Participation law that can help our work in that we can have an agreed model on how things should be done.
You will realise that while consultation is part of the public participation process it is not public participation on its own. In real sense it should be about ownership and partnership.
If the government would hear that it would see that there are problems with the system. Even people who have PhDs don’t understand much about the concept of public participation.
In the absence of written agreements we believe the communities because companies have professionals who know what should be done but they deliberately choose not to do the proper thing.
Why are the communities and TRC not fighting the contractor hired by the government to repair the Kao to Ha-Lejone road? We understand the contractor was paid millions by the government but did a shoddy job.
When you take Article Two of the agreement it says the Ministry of Public Works and Transport would help in the negotiations between the contractor and Liqhobong Mine over the maintenance of that road.
The idea was that if Liqhobong Mine constructs certain structures the contractor would use his money elsewhere in that part of the road.
It was the function of the Department of Roads to monitor the contractor especially after getting some assistance from Liqhobong Mine.
You can therefore see that while the TRC was involved in the negotiations its mandate did not include monitoring the work on the road.
That sounds fair enough but then why does TRC think it is right for the community to block the Tlaeeng Road when it’s the one that is well maintained? How does it help the Kao community to block the Tlaeeng Road used by Kao Mine yet the problem is with the Kao to Ha-Lejone road used by Liqhobong Mine?
What I want to say is that there was an agreement between the mines. What I am trying to say is that if Liqhobong is not meeting its obligation the Kao community uses what it has to protest. Here I mean the Tlaeeng road.
They were saying if the Kao to Ha-Lejone road is not maintained lets close this Tlaeeng road so that these companies use the bad road. Remember that Liqhobong Mine is also using this road but it agreed to maintain the Kao to Ha-Lejone.
The Kao community wants the mines to remind each other of the responsibility to maintain the Kao to Ha-Lejone road.
And TRC doesn’t find it prudent to remind the people of the agreement between the mines?
We do educate them. We educated them about the rules. But they say they don’t have a clear agreement with Kao Mine over the Kao to Ha-Lejone road. It’s going to be difficult for them to push Liqhobong Mine to maintain the road. So they would rather deal with Kao Mine.
The community is looking at this as a system. When the Kao to Ha-Lejone road is not maintained they deal with the road system so that each mine is reminded of its responsibility. If the system has collapsed the mine will remind each other of their respective roles.
Is it not the responsibility of the government to build and maintain the roads?
It’s the role of the government but this is complicated by the very same companies. When they come they ask what kind of development people want.
In Kolo Mine, for instance, there is a long list from as far back as 2009 where the community listed its demands. The problem comes when the mines have promised services and when the community demands them.
Unfortunately we are not a developmental state but a rent seeking state in which the state looks for minor benefits like lease fees and royalties. If we were a developmental state the government would be asking for development.
The mines would not take Corporate Social Responsibility (CRS) as a developmental tool because the truth is that it is a marketing tool.
Are you saying mines should develop areas? How is that their responsibility?
I am saying the presence of the mine should come with development. The presence of the mines should lead to development. But that can be done by government only when they can regulate the mines properly.
This government talks about jobs but doesn’t say how much are they paying. Johannesburg and Kimberly grew out of mines.
Who do you blame for the death of a villager during the protest in February?
For the death I blame the police. There were negotiations and all parties were agreeing to a common approach but the police decided to take another route. The road is not theirs and they were not going to be prejudiced in any way but they decided to fire at the protesters. I blame the police for that.
TRC is helping to establish a union at Kao mine. What right does an NGO have in establishing a union at a private company?
We have a moral obligation that when we see things not working properly we offer help. But I must say that the Construction and Mineworkers Association Union (Camau) you are referring to is an independent organisation despite the fact that its formation was a result of TRC’s work.
In order for the union to sustain itself it should have an office and an address. TRC is providing that office because it has the capacity.
But you are actively involved in Camau’s affairs. Is that part of TRC’s mandate? Isn’t TRC already dealing with community issues?
As TRC we are very clear that the mandate is between the communities and the mine. We are there to safeguard the rights of the community. But when the community member gets employed we accompany them to the gate and our job ends there.
In this case your mandate has not ended at the gate because you are now helping to form a union for the workers.
That is a question to be asked to Camau. This arrangement is not unique. In Lesotho and the world you find people who work in an organisation being on the boards of other companies.
In the board you find someone who works in other organisations. Why do you want to deprive Camau the skills it needs from someone who works for a different institution? I find it awkward that when it’s done by Camau people think it’s wrong yet it’s being done by other institutions.
They are crying about our involvement with Camau but they should know that we are planning to go international with our concerns. TRC is a social movement not a capital one. Why is it a problem when the TRC works with unions?
It is that involvement that leads to accusations that TRC is not interested in solutions but creating chaos.
We want solutions but the problem is with the loopholes we are dealing and ministries working in silos. For example, the Ministry of Mines is not always working in line with other ministries. But when the Ministry of Tourism and Environment wants EIA reports they will invite all the ministries and even stakeholders. The Ministry of Mines doesn’t do that. That is why all other ministries have problems with the mines. Initially we were engaging ministries but the portfolio committee came and the ministries withdrew. The government is not working as a unit.
You sound like you want TRC to be an authority that government consults on community issues at the mines. Where does TRC get that mandate?
We are not saying they shouldn’t do their work. We are saying in some areas they will have short-comings. Our training is oriented around social issues. We are trained in community engagement.
Deadlock over reforms
MASERU – THE government’s plan to use state of emergency powers to recall parliament to pass the reforms faces serious resistance from the opposition and legal experts.
A marathon meeting this week to build consensus on the use of state of emergency powers to recall parliament could not break the impasse.
The deadlock comes as Lesotho is reeling under pressure from the international and regional community to pass the reforms. SADC, which instigated and part-funded the reforms, has promised Lesotho hell if the reforms are not passed.
The United States might pull the plug on its recently approved M4 billion development aid to Lesotho. The African Union is said to have registered its disappointment with the government and insisted that the reforms be passed.
The EU, which contributed generously to the reforms process, is not playing the ‘carrot and stick’ game but gently pushing the government to find a way to complete the reforms.
Law Minister Lekhetho Rakuoane told a meeting of political parties yesterday that the government will soon discuss how Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro can request the Council of State to advise the king to recall parliament to pass the reforms.
Rakuoane, a lawyer by profession, is still cautiously optimistic that it’s possible to use the state of emergency powers for the King to recall parliament.
That interpretation is however being rejected by some in the government and the opposition who believe the failure to pass the reforms is not an emergency.
The constitution defines a state of emergency as a war or a monumental threat to Lesotho’s sovereignty or life.
Monyane Moleleki, the Alliance of Democrats (AD)’s leader, told the meeting that he doesn’t believe the reforms constitute an emergency that justifies recalling parliament.
“In general, it is unthinkable to recall a National Assembly which was dissolved constitutionally, officially or formally by His Majesty the King,” Moleleki said.
“The country finds itself in a difficult situation. Lesotho is constitutionally in a predicament and some urge us to consider the predicament an emergency.”
“Actually, there is no state of emergency in Lesotho today but just a predicament,” he said.
Even if the government goes ahead to use the state of emergency clause to reopen parliament there will still be disagreements over which Bill parliament should pass.
The majority of the officials who were in the now disbanded National Reforms Authority (NRA) accuse the parliament of dismembering the initial Bill they submitted.
They say the parliament sneaked in new amendments and removed others to create a Bill that doesn’t reflect the people’s views.
The Senate has reservations about the parliament’s changes and appears sympathetic to the NRA’s view that the Bill should not be outrageously different to what the people suggested.
The Lesotho Council of NGOs (LCN), which facilitated this week’s dialogue, is reportedly not hostile to recalling parliament but wants parliament to pass the initial Bill from the NRA without changes.
MPs however insist they will not take instructions from any other institution because only parliament has the power to make laws.
But even if they agree to reopen parliament and find each other on which Bill to pass, there is likely to be another problem.
Advocate Tekane Maqakachane believes there is no legal loophole that the government can use to recall parliament.
“There is absolutely no loophole to use for that. There is no state of emergency to justify such,” Advocate Maqakachane said.
“The law is the law. You cannot violate it because you have created your own crisis by failing to do things on time.”
He said even if the government insists on violating the constitution by recalling parliament, the MPs will quickly find themselves in another legal jam.
He said several of the amendments that were before parliament require a referendum before they get royal assent. These include the changes to the Bill of Rights and changes to the structure of the judiciary.
“These are what we call double entrenched clauses and they are part of the Bill that some are saying parliament should be recalled to pass,” Advocate Maqakachane said.
“The trouble is that a referendum can only be held no less than two months and not more than six months after it has been passed by parliament.”
This, Advocate Maqakachane said, means there is no way the amendments can be legally passed before the October 7 election even if parliament is recalled.
His strong legal view is shared by several other lawyers who spoke to thepost.
That could indicate that there is a real possibility that a decision to recall parliament could be legally challenged. If that happens, the matter would no longer be in the government’s hands but would play out in the courts.
An epic legal battle might be looming.
Moleleki’s security guards, car withdrawn
MASERU – THE government has withdrawn security guards and a vehicle allocated to the official leader of parliament Monyane Moleleki.
The vehicle was taken away last Friday.
Moleleki could not be reached for comment but his Alliance of Democrats (AD) spokesman, Thuso Litjobo, confirmed the development.
The position of official leader of opposition in parliament is equivalent to that of a deputy minister and is entitled to the use of a government vehicle and security guards.
Even when the King dissolves parliament and calls for fresh elections, ministers and their deputies do not lose their entitlements such as cars or security.
The same goes for the official leader of opposition in parliament, the Speaker and his deputy.
Litjobo said the withdrawal of the vehicle and security was meant to ensure that Moleleki did not have resources to campaign for the October 7 general elections.
He said this was unfair since all ministers and their deputies still have access to state resources to campaign.
“Our leader is still entitled to those benefits,” Litjobo said.
“We do not have the power to do anything about this.”
Litjobo said they were shocked when they learnt that Moleleki’s security, staff, salary and everything had been taken away.
“For now the only thing we can do as a party is to complain,” he said.
Moleleki has been the official leader of opposition in parliament since the establishment of the Moeketsi Majoro-led government in 2019.
The Thomas Thabane-led government which began its tenure in 2017, in which Moleleki was the deputy prime minister, collapsed and Moleleki’s party was the largest in the opposition, making him leader of opposition.
As the official leader of the opposition, the Constitution grants Moleleki some benefits.
Among these, he has an office, staff, salary, a vehicle, and free fuel.
Moleleki had qualified to be the leader of opposition with his 11 MPs although most of them have since joined other political parties.
The army spokesman, Captain Sakeng Lekola, told thepost that he was not aware of the removal of Moleleki’s security.
“Such things can be asked to the government,” Captain Lekola said.
The Prime Minister’s spokesman, Buta Moseme, said the premier’s office is not responsible for the installation or removal of entitlements of the leader of opposition.
The government spokesman, Communications Minister Sam Rapapa, said the questions should be directed at the Clerk of Parliament Fine Maema.
Maema’s phone was ringing unanswered last night.
Deputy Prime Minister Mathibeli Mokhothu, who is the leader of parliament, could not be reached for comment last night.
ABC at war over Thetsane candidate
MASERU – A fight over who should represent the All Basotho Convention (ABC) in the Thetsane constituency in Maseru spilled into court this week.
Two separate constituency committees which were elected on June 11 and July 2 respectively are now fighting over who has the right to preside over the selection of a candidate this Sunday.
The June 11 committee is made up of Silase Mokhitli, Semonko Lesenyeho, Mako Chobokoane, Khoale Thene, Thabo Nkesi and ‘Mathabo Makalanyane.
The July 2 committee is made up of Motinyane Motinyane, ‘Matsekiso Motinyane, ‘Matokelo Morie, Mphonyane Kekana, Nondabesithe Babeli and Lelimo Monese.
The June 11 committee filed an urgent application in the High Court yesterday seeking to interdict the July 2 committee from holding themselves out as the members of the constituency committee pending determination of their application.
The June 11 committee also asks the court to order the party’s spokesman, Montoeli Masoetsa, and the National Executive Committee to file a record of proceedings of the elective conference of July 2 for the constituency.
They say the court should declare the July 2 committee election null and void.
A lawyer representing the June 11 committee, Advocate Letuka Molati, in his certificate of urgency, said the July 2 committee prejudiced his clients.
Advocate Molati said the July 2 committee is unlawfully preparing the nomination of the candidate for the Thetsane constituency on Sunday.
“Applicants have no alternative remedy as the National Executive Committee of the All Basotho Convention is ignoring to pronounce itself on the matter such that the illegal body will prepare for the nominations of the candidates for the up-coming national elections,” Advocate Molati said.
The June 11’s representative, Silase Mokhitli, told the court in an affidavit that Masoetsa and Senator Mphonyane Lebesa conducted the July 2 elections fraudulently.
“On the 11th June 2022, my co-applicants and I were elected as members of the constituency committee of the All Basotho Convention for the Thetsane constituency no. 34,” Mokhitli said.
Mokhitli said there was a peaceful handover of power from the old constituency committee and he was elected as the chairperson of the new Constituency committee.
The newly elected constituency committee submitted reports to the NEC on June 13 that there was only one branch of Thetsane West that had abstained from the constituency committee elective conference.
“We worked very well as the new constituency committee with the NEC of ABC for a period of about two weeks without any complaint,” he said.
He said on June 24, he was surprised to get a call from the secretary general of ABC, Lebohang Hlaele, ordering him and the new committee to report at the party’s headquarters.
Hlaele also invited the old committee, Mokhitli said.
However, Hlaele was not in the office when they arrived on June 27.
Instead they found one ’Maseeng Maputsoe who was accompanied by Masoetsa.
Maputsoe asked why there were two committees in the Thetsane constituency.
Mokhitli said there was only one committee for which he was the chairperson.
He said there were no disputes as all went on smoothly.
Mokhitli said after the deliberations, Maputsoe left with Masoetsa.
“They said they were going to deliberate alone and when they came back they said they made the decision that there should be a repeat of elections in Thetsane constituency,” he said.
Mokhitli said they were not satisfied and they wrote the executive committee seeking intervention but they have not received any response to date.
Instead, Maputsoe and Masoetsa went to Thetsane constituency on July 2 to oversee the repeat of elections.
“They did not have any official document that shows delegation to them from the NEC of ABC,” he said.
“They conducted everything through dictatorship.”
He said during the elections Masoetsa announced that he had expelled two branches and dissolved the four remaining branch committees out of six.
“They then proceeded to conduct elections without verifying the cards of those who qualify to elect and he took 12 people from three branch areas,” Mokhitli said.
“He took 13 people from Thetsane West branch which had abstained when I was elected on the 11th June 2022,” he said.
When people objected, Mokhitli said, Masoetsa strangled one ’Mako Chobokoane with his clothing and one Semonko Lesenyeho came to his rescue.
“Masoetsa, when faced with another objection, assaulted ’Mako Chobokoane, and Lesenyeho intervened again,” he said.
He said Senator Lebesa “was electing on behalf of the electors”.
He said when Maputsoe was asked whether it was proper that Lebesa was writing ballot papers on behalf of voters, she said Lesenyeho could do what he wished.
“Masoetsa and Maputsoe scolded everyone who objected,” he said.
He said the results of the elections were not announced publicly.
Many people left in disgust, Mokhitli said.
“When there were about less than 20 remaining from the original number of more than 150 people Maputsoe announced (the results).”
Mokhitli argued that it would be wrong for people who were not rightly elected to prepare and hold an elective conference for the constituency candidate.
“The fairness and democracy shall not reign. It is clear that democracy is already under threat,” he said.
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