SADC snub must be a lesson to Lesotho: analysts 

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Bongiwe Zihlangu

FAILURE by Lesotho to secure the chairmanship of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation (OPDS), is an embarrassment and a lesson for politicians to always take their responsibilities seriously, analysts say.

According to commentators who spoke to the Lesotho Times this week, losing the leadership of the critical organisation, which was handed to South Africa leaving Lesotho a deputy for the second year running, is an indication that Lesotho does not take its business seriously.

Lesotho on Sunday failed to secure the Organ’s chairmanship after the 34th Summit of SADC Heads of State and Government decided, due to the political, parliamentary, defence and security issues the country is grappling with, not to entrust the kingdom with the mammoth task of managing the critical body.

According to the Human Rights and Democracy Manager at the Transformation Resource Center (TRC), Lira Theko, “it is just as well” the nation failed to secure the post “because Lesotho is a country whose political leaders put their personal interests first before those of the country”.

“These political parties which run the coalition government, don’t seem to understand what it means to be in a coalition,” Mr Theko said.

“There’s no way that SADC could have entrusted the management of the OPDS to Lesotho, when we’re dismally failing to address our own internal problems, let alone those of other countries.”

According to Mr Theko, the fact that there was resistance with regard to ending the ongoing nine-month prorogation of parliament, which started on 13 June, puts a huge question mark on the country’s credibility, adding: “My understanding is that if you can’t manage your own issues on your home turf, how then do you hope to preside over other countries’ challenges?

“For instance, how would you address the political impasse in the DRC, when you won’t open your own parliament? Why should you be scared that by opening parliament, you will be overthrown? So what if they overthrow you? It’s not as if you’re going to die once they remove you because this is politics.”

Mr Theko added the valuable lesson to be learnt by Lesotho is that issues of governance are not child’s play.

“It’s time we learnt to copy from other countries instead of always criticising. Our parliament has been a joke, with no laws being drafted. We act like amateurs and yet we expect to run other countries’ affairs. Losing this Organ, in my view, is a positive sign.”

Political analyst and economist Arthur Majara, says the fact that Prime Minister Thomas Thabane failed to honour the Windhoek Declaration he signed together with Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing on 31 July (committing to lifting the nine-month suspension of parliament by 14 August, that the premier requested the King to effect on 13 June, 2014), contributed to Lesotho losing the Organ to South Africa.

“The fact the PM undermined the Windhoek Declaration disappointed SADC, which in turn decided to teach him a lesson,” Mr Majara says.

“This is not just a lesson for Lesotho but also other African countries that we should move away from the old way of thinking and learn to respect laws and honour promises.”

However, Mr Majara is quick to add as embarrassing as losing the chairmanship of the OPDS might be “it would never have come with any economic benefits for Lesotho”.

He continues: “We have been embarrassed, yes, but the OPDS would never have added any economic value to Lesotho.

“I don’t think we should worry much because losing the post will not our political landscape in any way.”

National University of Lesotho (NUL) political science lecturer, Dr Motlamelle Kapa, however, believes losing the chairmanship “is not the most important thing”.

“Materially, it doesn’t mean anything except the fact that we have lost moral authority over the southern African community,” Dr Kapa said.

The NUL lecturer adds for now, the most important assignment for Lesotho is implementing the New Zealand recommendations then open parliament once there are laws that need to be enacted. The New Zealand recommendations, as outlined in a report compiled by the Commonwealth Expert Adviser to Lesotho, Rajen Prasad, suggest, among other issues, that Lesotho should depoliticise its civil service and undertake parliamentary reforms.     “Attention should be on the New Zealand recommendations, implement them, get it right, then reconvene parliament to enact laws.

“Right now, it would be futile to reconvene parliament because as things stand, there’s no business in there. That’s why even before the prorogation, it was closed sine die.”

“To suggest that parliament is not performing its oversight functions because of the prorogation, is absurd because it has never been effective in that respect, anyway.”

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