Leaders of opposition parties in parliament recently made a significant statement by boycotting a government-hosted breakfast meeting aimed at discussing the long-overdue comprehensive national reforms.
The government had organized the gathering to brief stakeholders on its proposed plan of action.
Machesetsa Mofomobe, the leader of the Basotho National Party (BNP), revealed to this publication yesterday that while they received an invitation from the government, they deliberately chose to snub the meeting.
Mofomobe cited the current allegedly oppressive atmosphere, stating that the government’s actions, such as the recent police raid on his residence and the withdrawal of the Democratic Congress (DC) leader’s security detail, “were indicative of persecution against opposition figures”.
The leader of the DC, Mathibeli Mokhothu, also the parliamentary opposition leader, was unreachable for comment yesterday.
Earlier this month, police raided Mofomobe’s home to search for an alleged illegal firearm.
In May this year, authorities issued a warrant under section 26 of the National Security Service (NSS) Act, permitting the confiscation of mobile phones belonging to or in the possession of Mofomobe.
Responding swiftly, he filed an urgent application, arguing that this action violated his rights.
The courts sided with him, deeming Section 26 of the NSS Act unconstitutional.
Expressing defiance, Mofomobe yesterday asserted that unless the government ceased its alleged persecution of opposition leaders and retracted statements made by security agency heads, they would not participate in government-led discussions.
“The government must retract the statements made by security agency heads and issue a public apology to the nation. That is a prerequisite before we consider engaging in any discussions with them,” he emphasised.
In an authoritative joint statement on October 16 this year, —the very day a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Ntsokoane Matekane was tabled in the National Assembly. Commissioner of Police (COMPOL), Holomo Molibeli, Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) Commander Lieutenant General Mojalefa Letsoela and NSS Director General Pheello Ralenkoane unequivocally declared that there wouldn’t be a change of government within the parliamentary chambers.
Molibeli, Letsoela, and Ralenkoane left no room for ambiguity, emphasising that the focus should shift towards vital comprehensive national reforms rather than seeking governmental upheavals within the parliament.
“The voice of the people resonates with a government that is truly ‘by the people, for the people’, not one tailored for the interests of Members of Parliament. This is why they have advocated for constitutional amendments to safeguard the integrity of full-term governance,” Molibeli asserted, flanked by his counterparts.
Their resolute statement stirred nationwide reactions, drawing criticism from various quarters, including the Law Society of Lesotho, Lesotho Council of Non-governmental Organisations (LCN), Advocates for the Supremacy of the Constitution (SECTION 2), among others.
At the 77th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights held in Tanzania in October, local advocacy group Transformation Resource Center (TRC) strongly condemned the heads of security agencies.
“TRC holds that the heads of the security institutions cannot decree what politicians should or should not do in exercising their constitutional powers in parliament,” TRC expressed.
Mofomobe yesterday reinforced these sentiments, highlighting the futility of implementing reforms while pivotal state institutions such as the LMPS, LDF, and NSS remain under the leadership of figures like Molibeli, Letsoela, and Ralenkoane.
“That is precisely why we abstained from today’s meeting. Our participation in the reform process hinges on the government addressing our concerns, ceasing the persecution of opposition leaders, and replacing these security chiefs,” he declared.
In its invitation, the government had stated: “You will recall that the Parliamentary process on the passage of the 11th Amendment to the Constitution Bill, 2022 (Omnibus Bill) was placed in abeyance pending judgement on the case between Kananelo Boloetse and the Speaker of the National Assembly.
“Following the judgement of the Court of Appeal, the government finds it fitting to meet with relevant stakeholders to inform them of the Government’s plan on the way forward regarding the passage of the Bill and establishment of a new structure that will coordinate, lead, and manage the remaining work on the national reforms.”