…says Commission of Inquiry will only focus on four areas agreed upon by SADC and disregard additions published in last week’s government gazette
SADC Facilitator to Lesotho, Cyril Ramaphosa, has rejected government’s gazetted terms of reference for the Commission of Inquiry established by the regional bloc last month to probe the country’s security and political crises.
Mr Ramaphosa on Friday told reporters at the conclusion of a two-day visit to Lesotho that the 13-member all-foreign probe team would only be guided by terms approved by the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
The South African deputy president stressed any amendments to the Commission’s mandate would first need the approval of the SADC Double Troika.
Mr Ramaphosa—who was in the company of Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing during the press conference held at Moshoeshoe I International Airport—further said the Commission would begin its investigations with immediate effect but focusing solely on the SADC terms agreed upon by the bloc on 3 July 2015 in Pretoria.
The terms are limited to probing the fatal shooting of former Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) Commander Maaparankoe Mahao on 25 June 2015 by soldiers who wanted to arrest him for allegedly leading a rebellion in the army, the alleged killings of members of the opposition, the removal of Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli as LDF commander in August 2014 and his reinstatement in May this year, and allegations that his return had resulted in divisions in the army, as well as political and security instability in Lesotho.
However, the government gazette had announced at least 19 terms-of-reference, with the additions “suggested” by both Dr Mosisili, on behalf of his seven-party government, and Mr Ramaphosa.
“We have had fruitful discussions today with His Majesty the King; with the prime minister and members of his cabinet, as well as with leaders of opposition parties here in Lesotho.
“We presented the report of the Facilitation process here in Lesotho, the final report, to his Majesty the King. Attached to the report was the recommendation that SADC is making to Lesotho in relation to constitutional as well as security reforms. That has now been tabled before His Majesty the King and the government of Lesotho.
“These are recommendations which SADC made to the government of Lesotho to deal with, to find a way of handling them because some of the problems that beset Lesotho have to do with constitutional matters, as well as security reforms.
“And it is our considered view and opinion that if stakeholders in Lesotho were to give consideration to the recommendations, a much more stable and conducive atmosphere will be created in Lesotho.
“But we have left all these in the hands of the government and the people of Lesotho. SADC would clearly like to see greater stability being restored in Lesotho.”
Mr Ramaphosa then spoke about the Commission of Inquiry headed by Justice Mpaphi Phumaphi of Botswana.
“We also dealt with matters that have to do with the Commission of Inquiry set-up by the Double Troika in Pretoria in July.
“We welcomed the Lesotho government’s initiative of setting up the machinery to support the work of the Commission. They have prepared office space; they have prepared the full administrative logistical infrastructure that will support the work of the Commission.
“The Commissioners are already on the ground, they are about to commence work, there are 13 of them, and led by a Judge of the High Court from Botswana.
“We are certain they will commence their work with great earnest and we call on the people of Lesotho to participate in the work of the Commission. The Commission is meant to engage in its work and conclude within 60 days and thereafter, report to the chairperson of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation (South African President Jacob Zuma).”
Mr Ramaphosa then tackled the topical issue of the Commission’s terms of reference.
“The issue of the Terms of Reference is another matter which we dealt with. The Double Troika issued a set of Terms of Reference which are going to be a guide to the work of the Commission.
“We have agreed with the government that we should allow the Commission to work guided by the SADC Terms of Reference.
“The Lesotho government, and indeed members of the opposition parties including myself as facilitator, have also made certain proposals that could lead to the amendments of the Terms of Reference.
“And we discussed this matter and we all agreed that we want to see the Terms of Reference being added to when the Summit of the Troika meets again on the 16th of August.
“So the Commission will commence its work right now, proceed and we will then be, on a consensus basis, working on additional Terms of Reference to look at various other aspects which we believe need to be looked at. And this does not mean the Commission should stop its work, it should commence and the people of Lesotho, through their various structures, should participate.
“Now what it means is that as we move forward, we will be able to add to the Terms of Reference but that will only be agreed to when the leaders meet on the 16th of August, because they are the ones who set up the Commission.
“Everybody is open to that; everybody understands that, leaders of the opposition understand that, the government as well as myself as facilitator.
“So we are proceeding with great speed to make sure the Commission of Inquiry executes its task and leaves no stone unturned and goes to the depth of what has been happening here in Lesotho, which recently led to the death of a loved son of this country Lt –General Mahao. So that is going to be all handled and I am sure the truth will come out.”
The Facilitator also emphasised the need for the Commission to be allowed its “independence”.
“We call on everyone to cooperate, be they in government service; be they in the army; be they in the police; be they in civil society; to work with the Commission and not seek to impede its work… to make sure it reaches a conclusion in a way where they will not be adversely influenced by anyone, be it a politician or whoever.
“It is an independent commission and we would like everyone in Lesotho to respect it for what it is, and thereafter, gives its report to SADC and its recommendations made public. Thereafter, we will see what further action needs to be taken.”
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