BachaShutdown, Transform Lesotho initiative and Unity for Radical Transformation issued a statement directed to Prime Minister Dr. Moeketsi Majoro wherein they condemn the continued ban on all protests and pickets.
The initiative by the joint movement is a civil rights organisations and protest movement driven by a purpose to be the voice for the voiceless in Lesotho.
According to the movement, the protests are a manifestation of the right to freedom of expression, the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and the right to freedom of association which are all freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution.
â€œEven during a global pandemic, the people still have rights and freedoms, the Constitution still applies and it is important that government must follow it. Democracy does not stop during a pandemic and experience in other countries has shown that protests can continue to take place safely. The #BlackLivesMatter movement and the #EndSARS movement in Nigeria come to mind,â€ they say in a statement released this week.
The joint movements further state that, the blanket prohibition of all protests amounts to nothing less than suspension of the right to the freedoms of association, expression and peaceful assembly. Also, the ban must be lifted immediately because Dr. Majoro continues to lift restrictions across the country allowing political rallies and reopening nightclubs while he also has a democratic responsibility to allow safe and peaceful protests.
â€œWe do appreciate that in the context of serious public health threats and public emergencies threatening the life of the nation, restrictions on some rights can be justified. Such restrictions should be based on scientific evidence and have a legal basis, be strictly necessary and proportionate to achieve the objective,â€ as they plead.
They further indicate that Dr. Majoroâ€™s total prohibition of protests is unjustified, potentially unconstitutional and he is using the pandemic as a smokescreen to silence dissent. Moreover, the pandemic has given his unpopular administration a chance to enact excessive and disproportionate restrictions without necessary justifications to bully people and make them feel afraid to protest.
Additionally, the government has a responsibility recognised under international human rights law to take reasonable steps to proactively facilitate safe and peaceful protest activity. Therefore, protests are how the overlooked and marginalized can be seen and heard.
The right to protest and picket is vital for the nation to amplify its voice against rampant killings and gender-based violence. Condemning and fighting gender-based violence and femicide requires incredible public momentum and visibility, which can only be sustained through protests.
They continue to state that, Dr. Majoro has silenced voices against corruption, gender based violence, femicide and homicide. This makes it clear that Dr. Majoro wants to silence the people while his government continues to mismanage public resources â€œand criminals continue to kill our people, especially defenseless women.
â€œHow does Prime Minister and those who advise him sleep peacefully at night knowing that they have prohibited people from picketing outside the courts to support victims of gender-based violence, advocate for successful prosecutions and demand justice for the lives lost, we call on Dr. Majoro to abandon the road to dictatorship,â€ the statement continues.