A coalition of non-governmental organisations (NGO), the Law Society and College of Chiefs has called on Basotho “to rise and act to resolve and protect their country from the apparent political void emanating from political decisions that do not prioritize the well-being of ordinary citizens”.
The group also wants the international community to impose targeted sanctions against government officials to ensure respect for the rule of law in Lesotho.
The cluster says withholding aid to the Kingdom would hurt innocent citizens and not the authorities, hence their call for sanctions against individuals.
The group is not happy that the Southern African Development Community (SADC) has failed to release the Phumaphi Inquiry report because of a court case launched by Lieutenant-Colonel Tefo Hashatsi challenging the probe’s legitimacy.
The Inquiry, which was sanctioned by SADC, sought to establish the circumstances surrounding the fatal shooting of former army commander, Lieutenant-General Maaparankoe Mahao in June this year.
Lt-Gen Mahao was shot by his colleagues outside Maseru allegedly as he resisted arrest for suspected mutiny and despite the Phumaphi probe’s completion two months ago, and the investigation’s report being submitted to the regional body early this month, the findings are yet to be made public due to Lt-Col Hashatsi’s court challenge.
However, at its meeting held in Maseru on Monday this week, the cluster resolved to appeal to the international community to maintain pressure on government concerning the report and the general rule of law in the country.
“We are concerned that the government of Lesotho is determined to use a legal technicality to delay the release of the SADC Commission’s report, and that there is a pattern emerging in Lesotho where military influence pervades political and governance structures,” reads the group’s statement issued after the meeting.
“We, as non-state actors, find it duty bound to robustly engage government in defense of democracy. Unless measures are taken to re-assert civilian authority over the military, democracy in Lesotho would be as good as non-existent.
“The recent decision of the American government to suspend the Millennium Challenge Corporation compact to Lesotho until military-linked human rights abuses are addressed and the SADC report is released, affirms our concerns.”
The cluster said it was convinced that Basotho should tackle their problems with the help of their neighbours and organisations such as SADC, not the other way round.
The group further said it was “convinced that the government’s development of a political will that rises above parochial legal technicalities and party politicking will only help take Lesotho out of the prevailing political quagmire”.
It also called upon government to remain in the SADC process and not “allow such an important inquiry, with political and economic significance to the livelihood of many ordinary citizens, to be obstructed.”
“Moreover, this process has implications for Lesotho’s rating on the rule of law, respect for human rights, accountability and other principles of good governance, all embraced in the coalition agreement.”
The group wants SADC “to apply its mind carefully on the stance of the government of Lesotho on this matter and to act firmly and promptly to ensure that the outcome of the inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the death of Lt-Gen Mahao is accepted by Lesotho government and a clearly defined course of action for implementation of the recommendations is developed forthwith”.
The coalition further wants SADC and Lesotho government to “appreciate that the inquiry has the potential to make or destroy peace and the unity of Basotho”, and wants Lt-Col Hashatsi’s case to be concluded “not later than January 2016”.
The statement continues: “The international community must add their voice to this call, firmly maintain pressure on the government and take corrective punitive measures that are targeted.
“In line with our previous calls, we maintain that targeted sanctions be applied instead of imposing negative evaluation on the country that shall have potential detrimental implications on the citizenry.
“In relation to AGOA, for example, more than 46 000 jobs would be lost in the textile industry, with deleterious effects on business, transport and livelihoods in general, should the US government take indiscriminate action.
“We call upon SADC to formalise links with local structures and processes, as in the case of the ‘Post-Masire Process’, in order to maximize the benefits of combined external and local processes and also facilitate ownership of the solution.”