JUST when it appeared that SADC was finally shedding its unflattering tag of being toothless in the face of regional crises by acting to help restore stability to Lesotho, reports suggest that the regional bloc could be returning to its old ways of procrastination.
As we report elsewhere, the government of Lesotho is demanding answers from SADC after the bloc’s defence chiefs decided to dispatch a third security assessment mission to Lesotho on 18 October 2017 despite the region’s commitment to deploy a 1 200-strong standby force by 1 November 2017.
Foreign Affairs Minister, Lesego Makgothi, is today expected to meet SADC Executive Secretary Stergomena Lawrence Tax at the region’s headquarters in Gaborone, Botswana to get an explanation on the Defence Sub Committee’s decision.
Mr Makgothi told the Lesotho Times en route to Botswana yesterday that the government wanted to know how the Defence Sub Committee could “overrule” a decision of the SADC Double Troika Summit to deploy a contingent force to Lesotho when it was only supposed to decide on its size, tenure and scope.
The Defence Sub Committee met last Friday in Luanda, Angola to deliberate on the findings of a 40-member SADC technical assessment team that was in Lesotho between 24 and 28 September 2017.
The technical assessment team had been dispatched by a 15 September SADC Double Troika Summit to assess the security situation in Lesotho after the 5 September 2017 assassination of Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) commander, Lieutenant-General Khoantle Motšomotšo by his subordinates Brigadier Bulane Sechele and Colonel Tefo Hashatsi.
Brig Sechele and Col Hashatsi were gunned down by Lt-Gen Motšomotšo’s bodyguards in the aftermath of the assassination, while a third suspect, Captain Boiketsiso Fonane, is in military detention.
The summit also approved Lesotho’s request for a stand-by force consisting of military, security, intelligence and civilian experts to assist the LDF in managing the security crisis in the country caused by the assassination. According to Mr Makgothi, the contingent force will consist of 1 099 troops, 30 civilians, 34 police officers, one pathologist, four scuba divers and a police mobile unit.
SADC had also dispatched a Ministerial Double Troika fact-finding mission to Lesotho soon after Lt-Gen Motšomotšo’s assassination on 7 September led by then Angolan Foreign Affairs Minister, Georges Rebelo Pinto Chikoti. The fact-finding mission submitted its findings to the bloc’s chairperson and South African President Jacob Zuma ahead of the 15 September summit.
Mr Makgothi said the government was “baffled” after being notified by SADC that a third mission was coming to Lesotho on 18 October 2017.
“The deployment of the technical assessment mission had been sanctioned by the SADC Double Troika. So far, we don’t know who has given this third mission the green light to come to Lesotho. We need to know who has the power to overrule the SADC Double Troika’s decision,” he said.
Now this is procrastination of the proportions of the Shakespearean tragedy, Hamlet where the protagonist dithered and only moved to act when the forces arraigned against him were already too powerful and subsequently consume him in the process.
Or should we say that this act by SADC is the equivalent of the fabled fidgeting of the ancient emperor Nero while Rome burnt to the ground?
We are talking about a country which has already experienced bouts of instability including the assassination of an army commander as it sought to implement SADC recommendations designed to ensure lasting peace and stability.
Lesotho is a country which clearly needs the help of SADC even if for the purposes of deterring those who might be thinking of derailing the reforms roadmap.
The dilly-dallying by SADC could well embolden those with nefarious designs to derail the reforms process.
We therefore call upon SADC to show some teeth and abide by its own decisions and assist Lesotho to implement reforms for the sake its own reputation if not for stability.