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The elephant in SADC’s living room

SINCE biblical times, when Egypt’s Pharaoh ignored Moses’ demands for freedom until the plagues hit him where it hurt most, leaders have, over millennia, routinely ignored the pleas from the opposition, often at their own peril.
Could this be the case for some leaders in the Southern African Development Community (SADC)?
It was only last week that we at Newsmakers & Noisemakers awarded SADC secretary-general Tomaz Salamao the dubious distinction of being Noisemaker of the week. He earned this award by quietly slipping into the country and holding discussions with the LCD before announcing his mission and presence to the opposition. The opposition was irked by Salamao’s general conduct, but of particular concern to him was the fact that he refused to discuss the matter of the Masire report.
A week later, a SADC troika of foreign ministers — Oldemiro Baloi (Mozambique), Kabinga Pande (Zambia) and Lutfo Dlamini (Swaziland) — arrived here on Sunday hoping to convene a stakeholders’ meeting.
After Salamao’s trip one would think by now SADC would have appreciated the simple fact that the opposition is literally dying to see the Masire report.
No. The three ministers did not come with the report, and it appears they were not ready to discuss it.
It came as no surprise therefore that the opposition parties refused to meet the triumvirate, insisting that they would not engage in further discussions unless they got the report.
It is not for us at Newsmakers & Noisemakers to tell SADC what to do with its report, but we can certainly say that it is ridiculous for the regional body to keep pretending that it is not aware of the opposition’s demand to see it.
SADC should therefore take a clear position on whether it will release the report and make public its stance on the matter.
The current situation where it keeps sending envoys for talks in the hope that the opposition will suddenly forget about the Masire report is a total waste of scarce regional resources.
The Masire report has indeed become the elephant in SADC’s living room.
ABC leader Tom Thabane perhaps summed up the mood in the opposition when he said: “This meeting was the most useless meeting I have ever attended.”

Justice Michael     Ramodibedi
With the atmosphere in Maseru polluted by SADC’s mischief, a breath of fresh air however came from the judiciary.
The Lesotho Times this week reported that the president of the Lesotho Court of Appeal, Justice Michael Ramodibedi, attacked the inefficiencies in the justice system.
What is most refreshing about Ramodibedi’s statement is not only his candid assessment of where things are going wrong in the justice system but the precedent he is setting.
One of the hallmarks of a true democracy is an independent judiciary.
While it cannot be discussed in this short space whether or not Lesotho’s judiciary is  indeed independent, suffice to say that the lack of self-criticism and inability to apply ethical standards threatens the independence of judges in even the best of democracies.
To quote an article that appeared last year in the Korean Times, “The sure thing is that the judiciary cannot realise its goal of independence and neutrality without sincere reflection . . . and self-criticism . . .”
The government has the responsibility not to interfere with the justice system, but in turn judges have the responsibility to ensure that they execute their mandate in the most efficient manner. Only this way will the system work.
By criticising the system as he did this week, Ramodibedi did not humiliate his colleagues but rather furthered their cause by demonstrating that it is possible for the judiciary to regulate and monitor itself.

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