Govt dodged bullet at SADC summit – Analysts

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Billy Ntaote

PRIME Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s coalition government “dodged a bullet” by reversing its position of not accepting the SADC Commission of Inquiry’s report until the finalisation of a court case challenging its legality, analysts have said.

According to the analysts, Lesotho risked “plunging into the abyss” if the SADC Double Troika summit in Gaborone, Botswana had followed through with its resolution on Monday to immediately suspend SADC activities in Lesotho. This was after Dr Mosisili insisted on that the government of Lesotho would not receive the report until Lieutenant-Colonel Tefo Hashatsi’s legal challenge of the commission’s legality was decided by the courts.

The Double Troika consists of the leadership of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Co-operation (Mozambique, South Africa and Tanzania) and the SADC Summit Troika (Botswana, Swaziland and Zimbabwe).

After Lesotho agreed to receive the report on Tuesday, the suspension was withdrawn, with the government given until 1 February 2016 to publish the report and prepare a road map for the implementation of constitutional, public sector and security sector reforms.

The SADC Commission of Inquiry was chaired by Botswana judge Justice Mpaphi Phumaphi and established to investigate the murder of former Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) commander, Maapankoe Mahao, on 25 June 2015 among other causes of instability in the Mountain Kingdom.

According to Dr Motlamelle Kapa from the National University of Lesotho’s Social Sciences faculty, government made the right decision by receiving the report under duress.

“They (coalition government) did the right thing by accepting the report as suspension from SADC activities would have plunged this country into the abyss,” Dr Kapa says.

“We are now waiting for the government to implement the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry, and also expect them to comply fully with the recommendations made during the SADC Double Troika summit in Gaborone, Botswana.”

He says the government’s belligerent approach towards the regional bloc had backfired after Lesotho was threatened with suspension.

“They (coalition government) have learnt the hard way how dangerous it can be to defy SADC. The government needs to implement the Troika’s recommendations to ensure Lesotho emerges from this crisis as a united nation at peace with itself and focused on development,” says Dr Kapa.

“While it’s understandable that there are sensitive parts of the report that are not for public consumption, we expect the rest of the report to be published without any alterations. We also expect all the recommendations to be fully implemented even if they may not be for public consumption.”

He also urges the regional bloc to remain vigilant in ensuring Lesotho implements the recommended constitutional, public sector and security sector reforms.

“It is paramount for SADC to never lose sight of the happenings in Lesotho. They should always keep an eye on the implementation processes,” Dr Kapa says.

“It would also be irresponsible for South Africa as a regional behemoth to allow the situation in Lesotho to deteriorate any further.”

He adds that pleas by government for drought assistance from development partners needed to commensurate with good governance and accountability.

“It would have been very unwise for the government to reject the SADC Commission of Inquiry’s report after declaring a state of emergency last month due to the prevailing drought,” notes Dr Kapa.

“How do you ask for assistance and refuse to comply with democratic principles at the same time. Surely, that would be a great contradiction.”

Tlohang Letsie, also from the NUL’s political science department, agrees with Dr Kapa, adding that SADC had shown it was not a toothless bulldog with its ultimatums to Lesotho. He says the developments in Gaborone left Dr Mosisili in a catch-22 situation.

“Basotho should look attentively at the government’s reaction to the directives made by SADC. Dr Mosisili will now have to choose between obeying SADC’s recommendations or continuing to protect certain elements aligned with the coalition government,” Mr Letsie says.

“The coalition government is mainly composed of the Democratic Congress and Lesotho Congress for Democracy parties which stood by the army during the height of instability in the country.

“Dr Mosisili’s relations with the army and his other allies will come under greater scrutiny since the Commission of Inquiry’s report will most likely deal with security sector reforms.”

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