Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s declaration of a state of emergency this week because of the drought currently ravaging the country was the right and responsible thing for any leader to do.
Such a declaration authorises the government to speed state assistance to vulnerable communities even if this requires circumventing normal legalistic procurement and implementation routines.
We congratulate the Prime Minister for his move in acknowledging the scale of the disaster and the need for external help.
What we find ironic is Dr Mosisili’s increasingly belligerent public remarks against some of those very development partners that he has now asked for help, especially over their rule of law and human rights concerns.
In declaring the state of emergency the Prime Minister remarked; “….. government requires more assistance from our development partners and friends of Lesotho to supplement our own national efforts and translate into action, plans for addressing the prevailing drought situation in the country robustly.”
This acknowledgement of increased assistance from development partners is very important.
As we are a very poor country which routinely fares badly on the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)’s Human Index Development report, there is no denying that we need more assistance from donor partners not only this time round, but at all times as we seek to acquire the necessary infrastructure support for human advancement.
It’s thus hugely worrying that the Prime Minister’s declaration of a state of emergency was preceded by the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC’s) decision to effectively suspend aid to Lesotho over the rule of law and human rights concerns in the country.
It does not need the wisdom of a rocket scientist to see that the Americans and other donors are now closely watching the government’s handling of the report of the Southern African Development Community (SADC)’s Phumaphi commission into the death of former Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) commander Maaparankoe Mahao before making any further moves. The Americans have specifically alluded to that fact.
We have said it in the past and we will repeat it again. The government and this nation are better off knowing the outcomes of the Phumaphi commission. The current legal effort to try and suppress its findings at the behest of a man who fears that its findings might not favour him are not in the national interest. Neither is the Prime Minister’s failure to respond to the court papers in that litigation despite being cited as the first respondent. Let’s have the Phumaphi commission’s findings made public whatever they are. Let the government pronounce on whether it accepts or rejects the findings wholly or partially. This is the transparency that the world and many Basotho are asking for.
The government has been steadfast in maintaining that it won’t be bound by the findings of the Phumaphi commission as the findings don’t equate to law. But the question is: What are these findings?
The fact that the Prime Minister has not elected to respond to the papers filed against the commission yet he is cited as a first respondent has further raised suspicions that the whole legal action is somewhat orchestrated to forestall the Phumaphi commission.
Let’s hypothetically speculate that the legal action by Lieutenant-Colonel Tefo Hashatsi succeeds and the Phumaphi commission is nullified after all the work it did at the behest of a regional organization comprising 13 other heads of state and government. Will that help Lesotho or it will further enhance divisions in the country and throw us in more limbo? We believe that any outcome that suppresses the Phumaphi commission will not help heal the divisions among Basotho. The best way of resolving a challenge many a time is to deal with it openly and transparently. The government might not see this but the best way forward is to get the Phumaphi commission out of the way one way or the other. The government does not even need to raise a finger to persuade Lt-Col Hashatsi to drop his court bid. The fact that SADC has expressed its concerns over the legal action should in itself be a cause to worry. This was an international commission of inquiry which must not be impeded.
After all is said and done, we urge all donors to answer positively to the Prime Minister’s call for drought relief. Human rights and rule of law concerns can never trump the need to save human lives in an emergency situation caused by a natural disaster. Lesotho also needs all the aid it can get to build the infrastructure required to deal with any future natural disasters. In light of that, we also urge the Prime Minister to be less belligerent against development partners who have assisted us many times before and deal with some legitimate concerns they raise. A win-win formula is what both Lesotho and development partners must seek. Let’s rally all our friends particularly those with the financial wherewithal to assist us in our greatest time of need.