Government angers Ramaphosa

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Keiso Mohloboli

SADC Facilitator to Lesotho, Cyril Ramaphosa, yesterday left Lesotho “a frustrated man” after government allegedly maintained that it would only receive the Phumaphi report after the High Court has finalised Lieutenant-Colonel Hashatsi’s case.

The Special Forces commander is challenging the legitimacy of the SADC inquiry which resulted in Justice Mpaphi Phumaphi producing the report in question.

The regional bloc established the inquiry after Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili had asked for assistance in establishing the circumstances surrounding the death of former army commander Maaparankoe Mahao on 25 June this year.  Lt-Gen Mahao was shot death by his colleague on 25 June outside Maseru allegedly as he resisted arrest for mutiny.

However, the Phumaphi report is yet to be made public due to Lt-Col Hashatsi’s court case.

A meeting of the SADC troika on politics, defence and security comprising South African President Jacob Zuma, Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi and a representative of new Tanzanian President John Magufuli held early this month in Johannesburg resolved to send Mr Ramaphosa to Lesotho to engage government over the court case.

The summit “noted with great concern that the Commission of Inquiry had been taken to court and mandated the Facilitator to expeditiously communicate the concerns of SADC to the Kingdom of Lesotho”.

Mr Ramaphosa eventually came to Maseru yesterday and met with His Majesty King Letsie III, Dr Mosisili and his fellow government leaders, principal chiefs, Christian Council of Lesotho leaders and members of civil society. Mr Ramaphosa also met All Basotho Convention deputy leader  Tlali Khasu, Basotho National Party  deputy leader Joang Molapo and Reformed Congress of Lesotho deputy leader Motloheloa Phooko. He also met with members of the Mahao family as he consulted over the Phumaphi report and Lt-Col Hashatsi’s challenge.

After the meeting, Mr Ramaphosa did not address the media as he was said to be on his way to meet Mr Nyusi late yesterday on the Lesotho issue.

However, one of the principal chiefs who met Mr Ramaphosa yesterday, Khoabane Theko told the Lesotho Times that the South African deputy president had been “very disappointed” with his engagement with leaders of the seven parties constituting government.

“Ntate Ramaphosa met us after his meeting with the government leaders. He told us that he was very disappointed by government’s refusal to receive the SADC report claiming they were being guided by Lesotho’s laws.

“Mr Ramaphosa said SADC constitutional and law experts he brought with him told the government that the case which is before the High Court only challenges the validity of commission and also that there was never a court order to stop the release of the report,” Chief Theko said.

“The chiefs expressed concern to Mr Ramaphosa that the government wants to obey the rule of law only when it suits them. The chiefs told him that the same government failed to obey court orders for the release of 22 soldiers detained on mutiny allegations, so they could appear before Justice Phumaphi’s commission even after the soldiers had been subpoenaed.

“Mr Ramaphosa assured us today that SADC was fully aware of government’s stubborn behaviour. He also told us that he could not make a decision on the Lesotho situation and needed to take his findings to President Nyusi, where he is going today. He also said he believed that he would soon come back to update relevant stakeholders about the release of the Phumaphi report. He said the court case won’t stop SADC from releasing the report,” Chief Theko said.

Transformation Resource Centre Programmes Director Tsikoane Peshoane also told the Lesotho Times yesterday that he believed Mr Ramaphosa left a frustrated man.

“Mr Ramaphosa shared with us what he discussed with the government. He told us, as civil society, that the government had been firm that it was not going to shift from its position of not taking or accepting the Phumaphi report before Hashatsi’s case is settled by the courts.

“Since Mr Ramaphosa came with SADC legal experts, he said he had thought the government was going to understand what the specialists had to say about SADC protocols and international laws over national laws.

“However, Mr Ramaphosa said the government told the experts that regional treaties and international laws must be domesticated first before they can be effective and Lesotho had not done so.

“But he told us that the Phumaphi report was ready and could be released anytime. He said he had seen that the government was totally disengaging itself from the report,” Mr Peshoane said.

Mr Peshoane further said civil society warned Mr Ramaphosa that most Basotho had put their hopes on the Phumaphi report helping restore stability to Lesotho. He also said civil society warned Mr Ramaphosa that there might be trouble should the report not be released.

“It is well known that SADC reports on Lesotho issues are never released and cause chaos; it happened in 1998 when the Langa report resulted in the  burning down of Maseru instead of bringing peace and stability.

“We also told Mr Ramaphosa that the government is just employing delaying tactics to suit their political interests. All in all, we were trying to show him that the government had lost the plot this time around.”

Contacted for comment late last night, the Prime Minister’s Political Advisor, Dr Fako Likoti, said: “I can’t talk about the PM’s meeting with Mr Ramaphosa because it was closed; I was not part of it. I am not even aware of the people who met Mr Ramaphosa afterwards.”

Meanwhile, the wives of soldiers detained at Maseru Maximum Security Prison on mutiny charges were at Avani Lesotho hotel yesterday hoping to meet Mr Ramaphosa on the plight of their husbands. The women were holding placards pleading for the release of their husbands. However, Mr Ramaphosa could not meet them. The soldiers were arrested between May and June this year and are being tried by a Court Martial.

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