SADC ultimatum for Lesotho

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Keiso Mohloboli

THE Southern African Development Community (SADC) Double Troika on Monday ordered the Lesotho government to publicise Justice Mpaphi Phumaphi’s report within fourteen days.

SADC tasked Justice Phumaphi to head a 10-member commission of regional and security experts to investigate the fatal shooting of former Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) commander Maaparankoe Mahao in June last year, and other security-related issues.

Lieutenant-General Mahao was killed just outside Maseru by LDF members, allegedly while resisting arrest for suspected mutiny.

Justice Phumaphi and his team conducted their investigation between 31 August and 23 October 2015 in both Lesotho and South Africa and last month submitted a report of their findings to a meeting of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation held in Johannesburg. The meeting was attended by President Filipe Jacinto Nyusi of Mozambique (the Organ’s chair), South Africa (SA) President Jacob Zuma (outgoing chair), and a representative of Tanzania (incoming chair).

However, the Organ expressed concern that a member of the LDF, Lt-Col Tefo Hashatsi, was challenging the legitimacy of the Commission in the High Court. Lt-Col Hashatsi was one of several witnesses interviewed by the Commission but in his lawsuit filed on 16 October 2015, claimed Justice Phumaphi was biased and made him appear a suspect in Lt-Gen Mahao’s killing hence his prayer that the Commission be declared illegal. The Special Forces Commander also claimed in the application that the Commission had allegedly violated terms of its establishment by hearing evidence in Thaba-Nchu, South Africa, yet it had been established by a Lesotho law.

But during its 5 December 2015 meeting held in Johannesburg, the Double Troika asked SADC Facilitator in the Lesotho crisis, SA Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, to visit Maseru (on 16 December) and express the Organ’s concern regarding Lt-Col Hashatsi’s case.

SADC’s Double Troika comprising Botswana president Ian Khama (SADC chair), Mr Zuma, Swaziland Prime Minister Barnabas Sibusiso Dlamini, Mr Nyusi, Tanzania Prime Minister Majaliwa Majaliwa, and Zimbabwe Foreign Affairs Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, then convened a meeting in Gaborone this week to discuss Mr Ramaphosa’s visit to Lesotho.

After the summit, Mr Zuma told the South African media that the Double Troika had agreed to suspend all SADC activities in Lesotho because Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili had said the Phumaphi report should not be made public because of Lt-Col Hashatsi’s case. Mr Zuma also said the summit’s decision would be discussed by all 15 SADC members, but an official communiqué issued by the regional bloc on Tuesday did not mention the suspension but only a 14-day ultimatum for government to publicise the Phumaphi report.

The statement also noted that the Lesotho Government had been asked to ensure a conducive environment for the safe return of opposition leaders and their supporters, as well as LDF members, who have been living in exile in South Africa since May last year fearing for their lives.

The communiqué reads in part: “The Double Troika Summit received and endorsed the report of the Commission of Inquiry and urged the government of the Kingdom of Lesotho to implement its recommendations.

“The Double Troika Summit handed over the report of the Commission of Inquiry to the government of the Kingdom of Lesotho…and tasked the government of the Kingdom of Lesotho to provide feedback to the Chair of the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation and publish the report within 14 days (1 February 2016).”

The statement also emphasised that the Commission was “immune” to litigation in apparent reference to Lt-Col Hashatsi’s lawsuit.

Read the communiqué: “The Double Troika summit received the mission report from the SADC Facilitator and reiterated that SADC enjoys immunity as per SADC Treaties and Protocols on immunities and privileges and urged the Kingdom of Lesotho to abide by the immunity provisions. Any court decision taken against the Commission of Inquiry is of no legal effect and will not bind SADC and its institutions.”

The Double Troika also said it had “noted with concern” that Lesotho had not reformed its  constitution, public and security sectors.

“The Double Troika summit urged the Kingdom of Lesotho to prepare, with the support of the Organ Troika and the Secretariat, a roadmap for the implementation of the reforms as contained in the SADC Facilitator’s Final Report. The government of the Kingdom of Lesotho is to submit a progress report in August 2016,” the communiqué noted.

On the issue of stability in Lesotho, the summit “urged the government of the Kingdom of Lesotho and political stakeholders to actively contribute a conducive environment to allow the safe return to Lesotho of opposition leaders and security forces members who are in exile.”

All Basotho Convention (ABC) leader and former prime minister Thomas Thabane,  Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL) leader, Keketso Rantšo and Basotho National Party (BNP) leader,  Thesele ‘Maseribane, fled to South Africa in May 2015 after alleging some LDF members were out to kill them for allegedly victimising them when they were in government.

Dr Thabane was leader of a coalition government comprising his ABC, BNP, and Lesotho Congress for Democracy. Ms Rantšo was a member of Dr Thabane’s cabinet and was an LCD official at the time.

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