Ultimate magazine theme for WordPress.

Zuma’s should also tackle pertinent issues

THE visit by President Jacob Zuma of South Africa to Lesotho this week did not only surprise many on what could have necessitated the hurried and short trip but has added context to the current debate on the political transformation agenda in Lesotho. Of course Mr Zuma’s visit as a neighbour should not be a shock but it is very illustrative. Considering that Mr Zuma is reported to have said South Africa is ready and capable to help Lesotho in its political development, the begging question becomes Is Msholozi acting mero moto (of his own accord) or by application?’

When the coalition government experienced challenges in the recent past, it was SADC through its Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation that intervened to facilitate the smooth resolution of the impasse.
Going back a little, it is common cause that had it not been for the timely intervention of Namibian President Hifikepunye Pohamba also the chair of the SADC organ, the All Basotho Convention (ABC), Basotho National Party (BNP) and Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) coalition could have collapsed.

It was due to the appeal and guidance of Mr Pohamba that LCD leader Mothetjoa Metsing, who had not only filed divorce papers but courted the DC, made a bold announcement that the marriage between the LCD and DC would not be consummated pending talks brokered by the SADC organ’s chair.

At that time, the three parties which needed a third party to give them courage and confidence in dialogue found such in the SADC organ. This also came about because of the track two diplomatic strategies and approaches by the non-state actors in the country.

The possibility of the LCD and DC coalescing and unseating the ABC-led coalition was counteracted by Prime Minister Thomas Thabane acting swiftly to prorogue parliament thus making its opening problematic, something that could have been easily done if it stayed adjourned sina die.

Though some may opine that the coalition is not yet out of the woods, there are signs the trio have made considerable progress. Besides its stance on a possible military takeover in Lesotho, which sent very sensitive signals to the world, and announcement of its commitment not to tolerate an unconstitutional change of government, South Africa has been conspicuously absent.

Following government’s acceptance and pronouncement of its intent to tackle the New Zealand trip’s report and to set the country on a path of transformation of its political system, Mr Zuma suddenly comes in.
Ordinarily, the coming of Mr Zuma as a neighbour would not be an issue particularly given South Africa’s role in peace building. With the 1994 political change in South Africa which ushered a new dawn for South Africa’s role and position in Africa, that country moved from a pariah to the peace builder state.

Besides the hard-nosed hegemonic posture that South Africa demonstrated at Katse Dam, our neighbour was credited for its diplomatic intervention in the 1998 political turmoil in Lesotho which ushered a political reform process that led to the change of first-past-the-post to the current mixed member proportional. Besides, South Africa has made an indelible mark as far as conflict resolution to the rest of the African continent is concerned.

This explains, therefore, why the presence of South Africa would not raise alarm. However, it is compelling to ask whether Mr Zuma is acting on his accord or was invited. If he was invited, what exactly for? To help quicken the talks among coalition leaders as he said or should the visit be seen as a move to enhance the New Zealand process or make his mark lest Lesotho progresses without the big brother being noticed?

Is Mr Zuma seeking to create a story for the SADC summit that sits in Victoria Falls this month? Analysts in Lesotho have always advised that the coalition partners’ talks need a facilitator. If Mr Zuma comes to fill this gap, well and good, but his mandate should go beyond merely helping Messrs Thabane, Metsing and ‘Maseribane to govern.

Though Basotho had to defend their sovereignty against the colonial and apartheid South Africa and indeed triumphed, what is not yet clear is whether the same struggle should continue in the post-apartheid South Africa. The defining feature of the pre-1994 regime’s constellation programme aimed at coercing the whole region into depending on South Africa was to have accomplices in the neighbouring states to carry on destabilisation programmes.
All the major political actors in Lesotho have, at one point in history, been accomplices to the apartheid government.
Though South African identity has been reconstructed along the lines of justice, human rights, democracy, international cooperation and just economy, all of which shape its foreign policy architecture, its interests in Lesotho remain intact, it is just a matter of how to protect and advance them.

Because of being a big brother and perhaps given the way it behaves towards Lesotho, South Africa is even in the present moment viewed by politicians of this country as arbiter in the Lesotho’s political matters. Some leaders in this country, in and outside government, still report to Luthuli House for endorsement, consultation, approval and direction on how to govern Basotho.

Can Mr Zuma’s mandate go beyond facilitating the talks to easing movement between Lesotho and South Africa, enabling Basotho taxi operators to engage in cross border trading without South Africans harassing them? Can he act swiftly to help the coalition government resolve the challenges of rights of Basotho illegal immigrants in South Africa who under the international law still have rights? If Mr Zuma really cares so much about Basotho and values stability of their country to be personally involved even when the Troika chair and Commonwealth have paved the way, can he also take this uncontested area of his expertise and usability and help the coalition deal with Basotho problems in South Africa effective?

Comments are closed.