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SADC meets over Lesotho

 

Lekhetho Ntsukunyane

Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili leaves today for Botswana to attend a Southern African Development Community (SADC) extraordinary summit whose main agenda is Justice Mpaphi Phumaphi’s report on Lesotho’s instability.

The meeting was called by the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation comprising Mozambique (chair), South Africa (outgoing chair) and Tanzania (incoming chair) to discuss the outcome of the Phumaphi-led Commission of Inquiry the regional bloc established on 3 July 2015 following the fatal shooting of former Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) commander, Maaparankoe Mahao.

Lieutenant-General Mahao was killed by his colleagues on 25 June 2015 just outside Maseru, allegedly as he resisted arrest for mutiny.

After the killing, which drew widespread condemnation, Dr Mosisili asked SADC to help investigate the circumstances surrounding the incident, resulting in the Phumaphi probe which took place between 31 August and 23 October.

However, despite submitting its findings to the security troika last month, the commission’s report has not yet been made public because of a court challenge launched by one of the people it interviewed, Lt-Col Tefo Hashatsi. The Special Forces Commander is challenging the probe’s legitimacy and the case continues in the High Court tomorrow after it was adjourned last month. As a result of the litigation, the government has since said it would only receive the Phumaphi report when Lt-Col Hashatsi’s case has been finalised.

Last month, the SADC security troika dispatched South Africa’s deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa to Maseru to express the bloc’s concern over the court case, which effectively brought the region’s intervention in Lesotho’s instability to a halt.

At its meeting held in Sandton, South Africa on 6 December, the troika, led by President Filipe Jacinto Nyusi of Mozambique “noted with great concern that the Commission of Inquiry had been taken to court and mandated the Facilitator to expeditiously communicate the concerns of SADC to the Kingdom of Lesotho”.

Mr Ramaphosa eventually came to Maseru on 16 December and met with His Majesty King Letsie III, Dr Mosisili and his fellow government leaders, principal chiefs, Christian Council of Lesotho leaders and members of civil society.

The Facilitator also met the opposition alliance comprising All Basotho Convention (ABC) deputy leader Tlali Khasu, Basotho National Party (BNP) deputy leader Joang Molapo and Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RFL) deputy leader Motloheloa Phooko, as well as members of the Mahao family.

It is understood Mr Ramaphosa would be reporting on his visit during tomorrow’s meeting. However, because the summit would also be discussing Lesotho’s other security-related issues such as the continued stay in exile of three opposition leaders and their supporters, and indeed other matters relating to the region, SADC has now made it a double troika summit.

The double troika comprises Botswana (SADC chair), Zimbabwe (outgoing chair), Swaziland (incoming chair), and the security trio of Mozambique, South Africa, and Tanzania.

Foreign Affairs and International Relations Minister Tlohang Sekhamane yesterday confirmed to the Sunday Express that the government had received SADC’s invitation and would be attending the summit.

“Indeed, the government of Lesotho received SADC’s invitation to attend Monday’s summit. Lesotho will be represented through the office of the Prime Minister but with an understanding that the summit is only going to hear Mr Ramaphosa’s report about his visit to Lesotho after SADC sent him here last month. That’s all we know about the agenda of the summit,” Mr Sekhamane said.

According to Mr Sekhamane, he would also be in Gaborone for the summit, alongside Defence and National Security Minister Tšeliso Mokhosi. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs principal secretary (PS) and director responsible for SADC issues would also form part of the Lesotho delegation, he added.

“The Prime Minister will leave tomorrow for Botswana and I am going there later today. Other senior government officials (PS and the director) left yesterday for the summit,” he said.

Meanwhile, opposition parties yesterday told the Sunday Express that they would send representatives to observe the summit.

BNP leader, Thesele Maseribane, who has been living in exile in South Africa since May 2015 for fear of “assassination”, said: “We will have our people representing us there but what Ntate Mosisili needs to know is that he is representing all of us there. He is not only representing his (seven-party) coalition government and their supporters. He is representing Basotho and the country at that summit. We do not necessarily need to have people representing the opposition. This is not about political parties; this is about ailing Lesotho. The country is ill and what we need is serious intervention by SADC.”

Chief ’Maseribane also said tomorrow’s summit was expected to come up with “solid decisions about how Lesotho’s situation can be solved”.

He added: “We cannot be talking about recommendations. The summit should come up with decisions which are bound to be implemented.

“You see, the whole process of SADC’s intervention in Lesotho has been a programme; starting with SADC sending a fact-finding mission up to when Mr Ramaphosa was brought in and eventually there was a Commission of Inquiry led by Justice Phumaphi. The whole thing was a programme. The summit will now have to hear reports from all those programmes. From the reports, including that of Justice Phumaphi, SADC will come up with the next programme on how to implement the decisions made. It is an on-going process until Lesotho is out of this mess.”

On her part, RCL leader, Keketso Rantšo, who has also been living in South Africa since May last year, said the opposition waiting anxiously to hear what the summit would decide.

“We have been waiting anxiously for so long for this summit. We are not invited but definitely we will be sending some of our people, as the opposition, to observe the summit.”

Ms Rantšo also said the summit was “bound” to discuss Justice Phumaphi’s report.

“There is no way the summit cannot discuss the report. They are there to discuss it. This report is so important, not only to us the opposition, but to the rest of the nation because it the solution to bringing lasting peace in Lesotho. SADC is aware of that and this is why it is making sure that the report is discussed.”

Efforts to get a comment from the ABC leader, Thomas Thabane, were unsuccessful as his wife indicated he was out of Ficksburg, on a trip.

On the other hand, BNP spokesperson, Machesetsa Mofomobe, told the Sunday Express that the opposition had decided to send Chief Molapo, and ABC secretary general, Samonyane Ntsekele, to the summit.

Mr Mofomobe also shared Ms Rantšo’s sentiments regarding the Phumaphi report, saying: “It important for the summit to discuss Justice Phumaphi’s report because it is what is holding Lesotho back. The fate of this country is in that report. We cannot talk of anything taking us forward unless and until we have heard what the report says.”

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