The Southern African Development Community (SADC) this week holds a crucial summit whose outcome could make or break our nation.
The meeting takes place in Botswana and top of the agenda is Lesotho’s instability sparked by the fatal shooting of former army commander Maaparankoe Mahao on 25 June 2015.
Lieutenant-General Mahao’s killing by members of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF), allegedly while resisting arrest for mutiny, was one of the darkest days in the recent history of the Mountain Kingdom.
However, the findings of an investigation initiated by Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili and conducted by SADC, which was meant to establish the circumstances surrounding the killing, remain unknown—thanks to a court case launched by Special Forces Commander Lieutenant-Colonel Tefo Hashatsi.
Lt-Col Hashatsi decided to approach the High Court following his appearance before the SADC Commission of Inquiry led by Justice Mpaphi Phumaphi of Botswana.
The LDF officer believes the commission was biased when it interviewed him and wants its investigation declared illegal not only for its alleged prejudice but also violating terms of its reference.
The court action has virtually immobilised SADC’s intervention while government says it cannot do anything regarding the matter until the High Court has finalised Lt-Col Hashatsi’s case.
As expected, this stalemate has divided opinion among Basotho, and added to an already tense situation.
But what makes the whole situation even more unfortunate is the fact that SADC appears to be helpless in the face of government’s position, which of-course, is based on the country’s laws.
The government has also pointed out that SADC, and indeed the international community at large, cannot dictate to Lesotho because this is a sovereign state.
Yet this belligerence is surprising because the regional body only came into the picture after being invited by none other than the prime minister.
Justice Phumaphi submitted his report to the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation early last month and had it been tabled before the relevant stakeholders then, there is no doubt Lesotho would have gone a long way in resolving its current predicament.
However, to continue delaying the release of the report through whatever means, is merely to compound the country’s many challenges.
Already, the country’s image has suffered because of the report, with certain members of the international community, among them the United States of America which happens to be Lesotho’s major benefactor, expressing concern at its continued suppression.
International relations are of paramount importance to a least-developed nation such as Lesotho, as a clean record is always a magnet for foreign investment, which the Kingdom desperately needs.
Dr Mosisili would be in Gaborone tomorrow for the SADC summit and the premier has a glorious chance to negotiate a settlement that can take this country forward.
In addition to instability, Lesotho now faces an equally challenging situation brought about by the country’s worst drought in decades.
But with the issue of instability hovering over the Kingdom, government could find it difficult to fully focus on saving the nation from lack of food and water, and of-course unemployment.
It is against this background that we urge the premier to get the Phumaphi issue out of the way during this week’s summit one way or the other, so he can concentrate on delivering service to the electorate.