SADC appears to be graduating from being a toothless big boys’ club that protects its members to a cheeky bulldog that guards its master.
On Monday the Double Troika summit held in Gaborone to specifically discuss and take a position on Justice Mpaphi Phamaphi Commission’s report on the Lesotho instability accepted the whole report and directed their brother in arms - Prime Minister Phakalitha Mosisili - to act on it as well as make it public within 14 days.
This means that Mosisili and his executive will have no time for Valentine, as the ultimatum to either toe the line or face the music gives him until February 1. Further, it is expected that whichever decision the government may choose, will have to bring change that will usher in peace and tranquillity to the kingdom.
Inside sources who attended the summit say Mosisili has no way out as he has been clamped down and shown that his government’s behaviour can no longer be tolerated because for more than two decades his country’s problems that started in 1994 have become too expensive an exercise for member states of the regional economic bloc.
Perhaps this is what caused his hasty change of heart on Tuesday and decided to accept the report. According to Botswana’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi, Mosisili had a private meeting with the SADC chairman, President Ian Khama on Tuesday and told him that he will now accept the report.
Mosisili has been refusing to accept the report saying there is a case currently before the Lesotho high court brought by one serving soldier, Lt Colonel Tefo Hashatsi. Allegations are that the Lesotho government is the one sponsoring Hashatsi’s case in order to cause more confusion.
Hashatsi allegedly filed an urgent application seeking to block the Commission, which he accused of bias against him. He further wants Justice Tseliso Monaphathi to declare the report of the Commission illegal. Media reports state that the marathon case, which started last October, continued this week Monday and Tuesday.
Hope for Basotho
However, the good news is that come what may, the Hashatsi case will be of no effect as SADC has made it crystal clear that there is nothing that the Lesotho government can do because as a member state, it has to abide by the SADC Protocol on Immunities and Privileges.
On Tuesday SADC issued a communiqué stating that amongst other things, the Double Troika summit received a Mission report from the SADC facilitator Cyril Ramaposa and reiterated that SADC enjoys immunity as per the SADC Treaty and the SADC Protocol on Immunities and Privileges, and urged Lesotho to abide by the immunity provisions. Any court decision taken against the commission of inquiry is of no legal effect and will not bind SADC and its institutions.
The Double Troika, according to the communique, handed over the report to the government of Lesotho to provide feedback to the chair of the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation, and to publish the report within 14 days by 1 February 2016.
The delegation opposition
Ahead of the summit, three opposition parties whose leaders are in exile sent a 12-man delegation as observers specifically to drum up support amongst the member states. The opposition in question, which has long boycotted attending parliament, has 46 seats in parliament
Chief Joang Molapo, former cabinet minister and deputy leader of Basotho National Party (BNP) and MP, led the delegation. Other members who are members of parliament are Samonyane Ntsekele (secretary general of ABC), Chalane Phoru, Majoro Mohapi, Keketse Sello, Moshoessh Fako, Ts’ehlo Ramarou, Lesego Makgothi, Halebonoe Setshabi, Thapelo Nkunynae, Likopo Likopo and Machesetsa Mofomobe (PRO)
The delegation portrayed a gloomy picture of Lesotho as nothing else, but a banana republic whose government does not uphold the rule of law, with security deteriorating by the day, which explains the exiling of its leaders.Speaking on behalf of the delegation, Molapo said they came before SADC because since elections numerous promises have been made principal among them being commitment to the rule of law and dealing with key issues that require reform.
But instead of the country dealing with the issues, “The security situation continues to deteriorate. We came to remind SADC on the importance of dealing properly with Lesotho issues. The evidence is there before the heads of states compiled through a credible process and now it’s time for SADC to take action.”
The opposition letter
The opposition were armed with a letter signed by the three leaders -Thomas Thabane of All Basotho Convention (ABC), Chief Thesele Maserane of Basotho National Party (BNP) and Keketso Rantso of Reformed Congress of Lesotho, which they presented to the SADC Secretariat.
The letter reads in part that, “The Government of Lesotho has violated several SADC resolutions reached by the SADC Double Troika meeting of 3rd July 2015. Notably, it has not, in our view, cooperated with the Phumaphi Commission of Inquiry whose report you will be discussing momentarily.”
It further reads that “It has gone as far as using scarce public funds to hire private lawyers to assist it in undermining the Commission at every step, including litigating against the Commission through its proxies. The LDF has persistently defied court orders with government endorsement. It is our contention that government’s unhelpful posturing, undermining of the rule of law, and non-cooperation with the Commission arises because of complicity with the LDF in acts averse to standard democratic practice.”
The letter then urges SADC to move quickly to sever the pernicious relationship between the Lesotho military and civilian leadership that, no doubt detract from the universally recognised democratic norms. The opposition argues that political normalcy has eluded Lesotho since the attempted coup of 2014, which “In our view is attributable to both the LDF and then opposition politicians. SADC has been involved in efforts geared at bringing to an end Lesotho’s political instability since 1994 and seems set to remain engaged in the affairs of the country for the foreseeable future unless a decisive and resolute action by the regional body encapsulating inclusive transformation beginning with the security sector is taken.”
The Opposition’s position and demand is that in order to help restore normalcy and return peace and security to Lesotho, SADC should, at the minimum, cause the following actions. Temporarily (6-12 months) replace LDF Command with SADC Command to eliminate politicisation and restore normalcy and promote professionalism.
Arrest all LDF officers and soldiers involved directly and indirectly in the killing of Lt General Maaparankoe Mahao; arrest all civilians and politicians involved directly and indirectly in the killing of Lt Gen Mahao; Arrest everyone involved directly and indirectly in planning and executing a coup d’état of 2014; temporarily replace the Lesotho Mounted Police Services Command with SADC police command to eliminate politicisation and restore normalcy and promote professionalism in the police service; restore the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary by severing the channel of influence and intimidation on the Judiciary.
Other demands include the removal of both the DPP and Attorney General, both of whom are politically biased and undermine people’s faith in justice; force the LDF to accept decisions of the judiciary and accede to civilian authority; SADC to provide political authority for Lesotho to undertake radical and inclusive reforms building on the New Zealand and SADC reports, as corruption is at the heart of insecurity and lack of peace in Lesotho; the international community through SADC should deploy an anti-corruption tribunal complete with investigators and full judicial powers as well as deploy at the soonest the SADC Oversight Committee as per decision of July 3, 2015.