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D-Day for Lesotho at SADC summit


…as chairmanship hangs in the balance

Billy Ntaote

Lesotho could be denied the chance to assume the chairmanship of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation this week due to the country’s “unstable” political climate.

Thomas Thabane, in his capacity as Lesotho’s Prime Minister, is supposed to take over the Organ’s leadership from President Hifikepunye Pohamba of Namibia, but failure by the country’s three ruling parties to resolve their differences is said to have divided the region.

According to sources who spoke to the Sunday Express from Zimbabwe where the two-day 34th SADC Heads of State and Government Summit gets underway in Victoria Falls today, a certain influential nation is lobbying the regional block to vote against Lesotho taking over the chairmanship due to the bickering between the leaders of the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD), All Basotho Convention (ABC) and Basotho National Party (BNP), which has been on-going since early this year.

The three parties, which formed a coalition government in June 2012, have failed to end their feuding sparked by LCD leader, Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing’s allegations that Dr Thabane does not confer with him and his BNP counterpart Thesele ‘Maseribane, when making key decisions with a bearing on governance, violating the consultative spirit of the Coalition Agreement.

President Jacob Zuma of South Africa, Dr Pohamba in his SADC capacity, the Commonwealth and Christian Council of Lesotho are among some of the stakeholders who have tried to mediate in the dispute but to no avail.

According to the source, this failure by the Lesotho government to resolve its own internal political differences had left some of its neighbours sceptical about handing over such an important responsibility to Maseru.

“The question being asked is if Basotho cannot make peace among themselves, how can they lead an organisation such as the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation?” said the source.

The Organ, launched in June 1996, is tasked with “supporting the achievement and maintenance of security and the rule of law in the SADC region”, while the Member State holding the chairpersonship provides Secretariat Services.

“This is where some of the member-states are concerned that Lesotho might not have the capacity to lead the Organ, and there is a strong possibility that Dr Thabane might not get the post because of these differences between the government partners, which are no longer a secret because SADC itself has tried, and so far failed, to help end the bickering.”

Meanwhile, five senior members of Lesotho’s civic groups are at the SADC summit lobbying member-states to support “local remedies” to resolve the deadlock between the coalition partners.

The leaders are in Zimbabwe under the auspices of the Lesotho Council of Nongovernmental Organisations (LCN) and its two affiliates, the Development for Peace Education and Action-Aid Lesotho.

The activists have been in Zimbabwe since Friday and the Sunday Express has been reliably informed they would want to ensure Lesotho’s political situation is properly dealt with at the Summit.

“We believe that SADC, when discussing Lesotho, should base itself on the truth and what exactly is happening on the ground,” the source said.

“The chairperson of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security and the Commonwealth are engaged in formal diplomacy while we, as non-state actors in civil society and the heads of churches of the Christian Council of Lesotho, are making real efforts towards resolving this coalition government crisis,” the source said.

“If Lesotho’s problems are to be resolved, a local remedy would be key. That is why we would want SADC decisions on issues relating to our country to be cognisant of the already existing processes and ensure they enhance and complement one another.”

Another member of the Lesotho civil society team also in Victoria Falls, said SADC should understand that resolving Lesotho’s challenges of stabilising the coalition government can only be achieved through a Basotho-based approach.

“Our civil society and local experts are the best people to resolve our problems and they need to be given a chance and the necessary support, particularly from SADC,” the source said.

“External intervention towards resolving our local problems should not be leading the mediation process but only complimenting local initiatives, and this is what we will be trying to make the Heads of State and Government realise during the Summit.

“So there is need to build and support what already exists locally, and not to completely ignore these home-based mediation efforts, which we believe is the reason why this dispute has dragged for so long.”

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