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‘SADC needs to change tack on regional crises’

by Sunday Express
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Billy Ntaote

THE Southern African Development Community Council of Non-Governmental Organisations (SADC-CNGO) Executive Director, Boichoko Ditlhake, has slated SADC for failing to address the underlying causes of unrest in member states and only prescribing elections.

SADC-CNGO is the representative body of non-governmental organisations operating in the 15-nation regional bloc and is headquartered in Gaborone, Botswana.

Mr Ditlhake was part of a SADC-CNGO pre-elections assessment mission dispatched to Lesotho from 11 to 13 February and led by the organisation’s President Lewis Mwape.

Speaking at a press briefing on Friday, Mr Ditlhake said the purpose of the mission was to assess the preparedness of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and Basotho for the 28 February 2015 snap elections.

The national assembly polls were pegged back earlier than the anticipated 2017 owing to the fallout between the coalition government leaders, Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, his deputy Mothetjoa Metsing and Sports Minister Thesele ‘Maseribane.

Mr Metsing accused Dr Thabane and Chief ‘Maseribane of ganging up on him and not consulting him on governance issues while the latter accused the deputy premier of instigating an attempted military coup which plunged the country on the verge of a civil war.

Whenever there are political or security challenges faced by member states, Mr Ditlhake said, SADC “never bothers to resolve the socio-economic basis of the crisis”.

With regards to Lesotho, he said there were persistent concerns over the volatility of the security situation as well as the tension and division between the army and police, adding the issue should be addressed by SADC facilitator to Lesotho, South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, before the elections.

Mr Ditlhake said the outcome of their assessment mission would contribute towards the verdict of the SADC-CNGO observer mission on the credibility of the elections which would be deployed two weeks ahead of the polls.

“It seems that SADC has one blueprint for all the challenges faced by its member states and whenever there are problems, their default response is elections,” Mr Ditlhake said.

“The Zimbabwe crisis continues to go unresolved, while in Madagascar there are fears that a coup is a possibility again in a few years’ time.

“The Lesotho crisis has been recurring and there is need for the socio-economic basis of the crisis to be addressed by the SADC facilitator to Lesotho, Mr Cyril Ramaphosa.”

He also said the SADC-CNGO had made efforts to meet with Mr Ramaphosa in South Africa to address the issues they feel have been left unresolved.

“Basotho need to reflect on the role of the security sector in the crisis,” said Mr Ditlhake. “Rushing to hold elections will not resolve the issues. This is why we are saying the SADC mission to Lesotho needs to reconsider its approach to ensure a lasting solution to the Lesotho crisis.”

He said the SADC-CNGO pre-elections assessment mission observed that while the time allocated for the preparations of the election was very short, stakeholders, who included political parties and the IEC, were ready for the elections.

“Accordingly, the IEC is equally ready to conduct free and fair elections notwithstanding initial challenges,” said Mr Ditlhake.

“Further challenges have been noted, including (the) polarisation of the media along political party preferences, corruption and tension among political parties, a highly politicised and partisan civil service and (a) leadership vacuum as well as the absence of a clear vision for the country to permanently resolve the persistent sources of crisis that led to the current challenges.”

The SADC-CNGO, he said, had noted that the elections were a result of the collapsed relations between leaders of the coalition government “including the unnecessary confrontation between the security formations”.

Mr Ditlhake called on SADC to urgently put in place “an immediate plan to ensure the deterrence of an active security sector interference in electoral processes and a long-term roadmap for security sector reform”.

“(The) SADC mission must also ensure peace and stability by its presence for at least four months after the election,” he said.

“SADC must also further put in place a detailed and coordinated roadmap for parliamentary and constitutional reforms, public sector reform and public finance management reform to build a long-term and sustainable democratic dispensation, accountable and independent institutions and supportive environment to ensure that the persistent instability that Lesotho periodically experiences is permanently addressed.”

Mr Ditlhake also appealed to political parties to respect and adhere to the various accords and pledges they have signed towards free and fair elections, as well as respecting the will of the people as expressed by the electorate during elections.

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