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DC breaks ranks

LCD's Mothetjoa Metsing and Selibe Mochoboroane of MEC

Nov. 27, 2020 6 min read

6 min read

THE second biggest party in the nine-party coalition government, Democratic Congress (DC) led by deputy prime minister Mathibeli Mokhothu, has broken ranks to speak against some two Lesotho political leaders who are charged with treason to be enjoined with the former army commander, Lt General Tlali Kamoli who is already awaiting trial in prison for the same charge.

The leader of Movement for Economic Change (MEC), Selibe Mochoboroane, also part of the current ruling coalition and minister for planning, and the leader of an opposition party Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) Mothetjoa Metsing, face treason, a charge which could see them hanged if found guilty.

Speaking at a press conference in Maseru on Tuesday November 24, DC Secretary General Tšitso Chabe said the party viewed the charge as a mere conspiracy to destabilise the country because it means long pre-trial imprisonment of the accused leaders like their co-accused soldiers who have been awaiting trial in prison for over three years.

The DC said it was aware that everyone who faces a political charge such as treason are traditionally incarcerated and denied right to bail.

The two leaders would be added to the charge sheet of the retired Lt General Kamoli, Captain Litekanyo Nyakane and Lance Corporal Motloheloa Ntsane, adding the number to five when they appear in court next week according to Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) Paseka Mokete.

DCP Mokete told the media on Friday last week at police headquarters in Maseru that the leaders were now going to be formally charged as per directive of the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) for contravening section 74 (1), read with sections 26, 74 (2) (a), 74(4), 109 (1) and 109 (2) of the Penal Code Act 2010, Act No.6 of 2012 (treason), in that they are alleged to have been involved in an attempted coup deta’t against the government of former prime minister Tom Thabane on August 30, 2014.

Section 74 (1) of the Penal Code Act, 2010 states that 'A person who, owing allegiance to the Kingdom of Lesotho, is a citizen of Lesotho or a bearer of a Lesotho passport, unlawfully does any act with the intention of overthrowing or coercing the government of Lesotho commits the offense of treason.’

At the time when the alleged attempted coup is alleged to have taken place,

Mr Metsing was deputy prime minister while Mr Mochoboroane was Communications minister from the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) in the three-party coalition with Dr Thabane's All Basotho Convention (ABC) and the Basotho National Party (BNP).

Mr Chabe said DC viewed the treason charges against political leaders at the time when the country was on the brink of important constitutional reforms as a ploy to serve nothing but to distablise the country and as the party they appeal to the government to review its position on these treason charges.

He said the party’s reaction should not be construed as a shift from their firm belief in the rule of law and judiciary independence but they believe that a way to go about political problems that the country went through in the past and those that it is facing now was through constituting Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).

TRC is a court-like body usually assembled after a country went through serious political instability or a massacre where anybody who felt they had been a victim of violence or unfair justice could come forward and be heard in open proceedings; perpetrators could also give testimony and request amnesty from prosecution depending on what influenced their actions.

“We fear that the two leaders, just as it happened to Lt General Kamoli and co-accused soldiers, they will be incarcerated for years and denied bail. It means they will not take part in the forthcoming elections scheduled for 2022 because they will be in jail,” Mr Chabe argued.

He said the fact that Mr Mochoboroane is part of the present coalition government could also be a recipe for destabilization of the government.

Defence lawyers representing the soldiers who have since been kept in jail for over three years last week forsake the trial on grounds that they suspect the accused soldiers would not receive fair hearing.

Mr Metsing and Mr Mochoboroane had earlier managed to delay charges when they challenged their validity before magistrate court on February 25 and later filed a Constitutional Court application for an order barring prosecution until after the completion of the planned country’s national reforms.

Their grounds for stay of prosecution and drop of charges were based on the Southern African Development Community (SADC) brokered deal through South African judge, Justice Dikgang Moseneke on peace and stabilisation of Lesotho which resulted into formulation of an agreement to reform the country’s constitution with an inclusive participation of all public leaders.

Clause 10 of the SADC brokered agreement states that "Mr Metsing and similarly placed persons in exile will not be subjected to any pending criminal proceedings during the dialogue and reforms process".

The agreement had paved the way for their return from self-imposed exile.

However, the Constitutional Court has since outlawed clause 10 and declared it unconstitutional saying self-serving agreements between politicians could not outstrip the constitution.

The retired Chief Justice Moseneke leads SADC's facilitation in Lesotho on behalf of South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and has questioned the move to charge the opposition leaders with treason when he wrote to the Lesotho government on March 29 2020 to request that the trial should be stopped in line with the 2018 government-opposition agreement in a Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) to defer criminal trials until after the implementation of the multi-sector reforms.

“Any action or process in contravention of the letter and the spirit of the government-opposition agreement ‘will not be welcomed by the SADC”, Justice Moseneke had said.

Former army chief Lt Gen Tlali Kamoli

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Retired SA Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke

Reads the letter in part: "The SADC facilitation process is a political process which was necessitated by the political events of August 2014 in the Kingdom of Lesotho. A political decision was taken by the regional body, jointly with all Lesotho stakeholders, to seek for a political process in order to end the political impasse. This political decision led to the adoption of the reforms process as the chosen route for the resolution of the problem.

"However, I have learnt with surprise and concern about the charges of high treason against the leader of the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD), Mr Mothetjoa Metsing, and the leader of the Movement for Economic Change, Mr Selibe Mochoboroane, for their alleged involvement in an attempted coup in August 2014.

"Article 10 of this MOU states that … Lesotho shall ensure the safety of all citizens in exile and must provide adequate security to Mr Metsing and similarly placed exiled persons. Mr Metsing and similarly placed persons in exile will not be subjected to any criminal proceedings during the dialogue and reform process.

"In view of this, it is my considered and firm view of the rest of the SADC Facilitation Team that no political leaders should be charged or prosecuted until the dialogue and reforms process... . has been duly and fully completed. I am therefore appealing to you and the government of... Lesotho to adhere to the letter and spirit of the MOU."

While the move taken by the Lesotho police has been praised by the general public, supporters of the political leaders have disparaged it, accused police of crossing their boundaries and called for supporters to come to court in numbers as a show of force when the duo appear in court.

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