Lesotho in regional diplomatic offensive
…as SADC Commission of Inquiry members arrive to probe instability
Members of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry established by the southern African Development Community (SADC) following the murder of former Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) Commander Maaparankoe Mahao by the military last month are expected to arrive in the country tomorrow.
The 13-member Commission is headed by botswana judge, Justice Mpaphi Phumaphi and in addition to investigating the circumstances which led to brigadier Mahao’s fatal shooting outside his Mokema farm on 25 June 2015 allegedly as he resisted arrest for suspected mutiny, the panel would also probe the 30 August 2014 attempted coup against the government of then Prime Minister Thomas Thabane.
SADC’s extraordinary summit of the Double Troika, which mooted the Commission early this month, also wants it to probe claims by leaders of Lesotho’s threemain opposition parties that their lives were in danger hence their decision to seek refuge in south Africa two months ago.
All Basotho Convention (ABC) leader Thomas Thabane, Basotho National Party (BNP) leader Thesele ‘Maseribane and reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL) leader Keketso Rantšo fled the country on 11, 13 and 26 May respectively, alleging they had been alerted of a plot to kill them by renegade LDF members.
SADC executive secretary stergomena Lawrence Tax who announced the Commission’s arrival in Lesotho during a meeting with Defence and National security minister Tšeliso Mokhosi, and his Police and Public safety counterpart Monyane Moleleki in botswana on Thursday — also
said the regional bloc was hoping for a lasting solution to the Kingdom’s security and political challenges.
A statement issued by the SADC secretariat after Thursday’s meeting reads in part: “Lesotho’s Minister of Defence and National security, Honourable Tšeliso Mokhosi, and Minister of Police and Public safety, Honourable Monyane Moleleki, today paid a courtesy call on SADC executive secretary Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax.
“When introducing his delegation and the purpose of their visit, Hon Minister Moleleki informed the Executive Secretary that they were in Botswana to benchmark with Botswana on security sector related matters. The delegation will continue to benchmark with other countries in the region as part of its resolution to urgently and effectively implement security sector, public sector, and constitutional reforms in Lesotho.
“The Executive Secretary thanked the ministers for the courtesy call and commended the steps taken by the Government of Lesotho in addressing security and political challenges in the Kingdom, in particular the benchmarking exercise which will enable them to undertake the needed reforms and restore order, peace and public confidence.
“She assured the ministers of SADC support. The Executive Secretary also informed the ministers that the Commission of Inquiry established by the Double Troika Summit (on 3 July 2015) has started working, and is expected to arrive in the Kingdom of Lesotho on 20 July 2015, and that the Oversight Committee will also start functioning in due course.
“The two parties reiterated their commitment to ensuring the restoration of Peace, Security and Political stability in the Kingdom of Lesotho.”
Contacted yesterday for comment on the arrival of the Commission which is expected to take 60 days to complete its probe, and government’s regional charm-offensive, Mr Mokhosi told the Sunday Express: “We expect the Commission of Inquiry to start work once it has arrived, although it should be gazetted first before it can begin.
“We hope the Commission’s findings will help lay to rest, all the lies being concocted around Lesotho’s security issues. There are a lot of lies being told and members of the SADC fact-finding mission who were here last month were also fed the very same lies.
“Apart from the fact that SADC is here to help us with the challenges we’re facing as a country, they should also help us establish the truth amidst the lies.
“The fact that SADC is currently intervening in Lesotho’s issues is as a result of the lies being peddled, such as the three leaders of the opposition fleeing Lesotho alleging their lives were in danger when they know they are not telling the truth.”
Mr Mokhosi added SADC’s Monitoring Team would establish the state of the three opposition leaders’ security “to end the lies once and for all”.
“The Monitoring Committee will also keep a close eye on the general security situation in the country. However, the truth of the matter is there is no threat to the three leaders’ lives and they know it,” the minister added.
Asked about the purpose of the “benchmark visits” to different SADC states, Mr Mokhosi said the “extensive consultations” seek to ensure Lesotho’s constitution becomes “airtight” once it is amended.
“Lasting peace in Lesotho has been elusive because of loopholes in the law giving people in power ample room to manipulate the system in their favour,” Mr Mokhosi said.
“For instance, we have been grappling with incidences of mutiny in the military and instability in the police for decades now. In the early 1990s, Major General Metsing Lekhanya was overthrown, in 1994, there were warring camps in the military, and then there was another mutiny in 1998.
“As if that was not enough, when Thabane became prime minister in 2012, in less than two years, he had appointed more than three people to the post of Commissioner of Police, thereby confusing the police. He also tried to do the same in the army but failed. He also tampered with the office of the Attorney General, Director of Public Prosecutions, Chief Justice and President of the Court of Appeal.”
As a result, Mr Mokhosi said, government was looking at putting into place, systems that give politicians no room to interfere with the autonomy of such key institutions.
“We need airtight reforms so that when we return from elections, there is no room for any prime minister to make unnecessary changes that interfere with the autonomy of these key institutions,” Mr Mokhosi said.
“We need a total overhaul of the constitution so that after elections, we are assured of stability and our economic prospects are brighter. We should leave no room for power-hungry politicians to maneuvre.”
Meanwhile, Mr Mokhosi, Mr Moleleki and Foreign Affairs Minister Tlohang Sekhamane, are expected to be part of a two-day SADC Ministerial Committee of the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation meeting which begins in Pretoria tomorrow.
Among issues to be discussed are the political and security situation in the region, administrative arrangements for the SADC Electoral Advisory Council, the SADC Observer Mission in Lesotho, SADC mediation structures and preparations for the hosting of Exercise AMANI AFRICA II.
A field training exercise for the African Standby Force will also feature on the agenda.
Reports of the Inter-State Defence and Security Committee and Inter-State Politics and Diplomacy Committee would also be considered during the meeting.