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Allow judicial process to unfold



SADC envoy to Lesotho, Justice Dikgang Moseneke, recently torched a storm when he proposed to set up a Transitional Justice Commission (TJC) to deal with past rights violations. Under the terms of the agreement, Lesotho would set up the TJC to focus on “reconciliation, peace-building . . . (and) compensation without compromising justice and impunity”. Justice Moseneke is pushing this initiative, which has so far received the thumbs up from key political players in Lesotho, to promote what he calls national healing. However, a few aggrieved families have come out guns blazing accusing the retired South African judge of applying “bullying tactics” in an effort to railroad his political agenda. While Justice Moseneke’s singular pursuit appears to be the restoration of peace and security in Lesotho, he risks antagonising a key section of society by pushing what is clearly a very unpopular agenda. His credibility as a fair-minded judge could also now be on the line. It would be fair and reasonable to conclude that Justice Moseneke would want to be remembered as the man who fixed Lesotho. That would be a plus to his already glowing CV. But if he wants to achieve that lofty agenda, he must allow the judicial process to unfold, running parallel to the reforms’ agenda. Any attempt to halt the court process until after the reforms would appear to be a deeply unpopular move by Basotho who suffered at the hands of soldiers between 2014 and 2017. Basotho would not take kindly to that. In fact, we see nothing that should stop the criminal trials running parallel to the reforms’ agenda. We can perhaps understand why the family of Lt Gen Maaparankoe Mahao and others who lost their sons between 2014 and 2017 are livid. The victims believe that Justice Moseneke could be hatching an elaborate plan that could get certain politicians, who were the real masterminds behind the tumultuous events of 2014, off the hook. That would be a travesty of justice. We all know that Lesotho has a very sad history of serious crimes that go unpunished. Some of these crimes date back to the early days of independence in 1966. Justice Moseneke must ensure that we break with that sad past; that will require that any of the soldiers accused of serious crimes are expeditiously prosecuted. In fact, we would like to argue that most of the soldiers have received a raw deal from our justice system; these soldiers are entitled to speedy trials. However, by keeping these soldiers locked up in cells since 2017, Lesotho might have been complicit in violating their basic human rights. It is one of the greatest ironies of history that Lt Gen Tlali Kamoli and others are now languishing in prison without trial, “persecuted” by the very people who pushed the human rights agenda. As a former jurist himself, Justice Moseneke should not be pushing to be remembered as the former judge who forestalled a court process to achieve his narrow, elitist political goals. Others are arguing that Justice Moseneke wants the trials held in abeyance because Lt Gen Kamoli et al, have requested the full Justice Phumaphi report to aid their legal defence. They argue he might not be too keen to go that route because the report has explosive contents that could scuttle the reforms. But this is not the time to shield politicians and individuals if Lesotho is to exorcise the ghosts of its past.  

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