SADC re­jects ad­di­tions to com­mis­sion’s terms

Lesotho Times - - News - Bongiwe Zih­langu

THE terms of ref­er­ence of the SADC Com­mis­sion of In­quiry will re­main un­touched, con­trary to a govern­ment gazette pub­lished last month seek­ing to ex­pand the com­mit­tee’s scope of in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

The de­ci­sion was reached this week by the 35th SADC Heads of State and Govern­ment Sum­mit held in Botswana, thereby vin­di­cat­ing the de­ci­sion by Com­mis­sion chair­per­son Jus­tice Mpa­phi Phumaphi to re­ject the govern­ment gazette in favour of the re­gional bloc’s orig­i­nal terms.

The Le­sotho Times un­der­stands re­gional lead­ers in­formed Le­sotho to es­tab­lish its own probe in­stead of “di­lut­ing” the SADC Com­mis­sion’s man­date.

Also re­jected by the re­gional bloc were ad­di­tional terms of ref­er­ence pro­posed by SADC Fa­cil­i­ta­tor to Le­sotho, Cyril Ramaphosa, as well as those sug­gested by the op­po­si­tion.

A state­ment is­sued by the of­fice of Prime Min­is­ter Pakalitha Mo­sisili this week, states “due to fi­nan­cial and time con­straints as well as ex­per­tise and com­pe­ten­cies” of the present com­mis­sion­ers, the terms of ref­er­ence of the SADC Com­mis­sion of In­quiry, would be re­stricted to those orig­i­nally agreed to on 3 July 2015 in Pre­to­ria, South Africa.

The state­ment adds: “This means the ad­di­tional terms of ref­er­ence sug­gested by the govern­ment of Le­sotho, the SADC Fa­cil­i­ta­tor and op­po­si­tion are to be aban­doned.”

The du­ra­tion of the com­mis­sion’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion would be ex­panded by another month, mean­ing it would now be com­pleted in 90 days and not the ini­tial 60.

“The en­vis­aged com­ple­tion date is now the 10th of Novem­ber 2015. This is mainly due to de­lays by com­mis­sion­ers to ar­rive in Le­sotho and com­mence their work,” reads the state­ment.

The Com­mis­sion, which is headed by Botswana judge Jus­tice Phumaphi, was es­tab­lished to in­ves­ti­gate the 25 June 2015 as­sas­si­na­tion of former Le­sotho De­fence Force (LDF) com­man­der Maa­parankoe Ma­hao by his army col­leagues, for his al­leged role in a foiled mutiny plot against the mil­i­tary top brass.

How­ever, govern­ment sought to ex­pand the com­mis­sion’s man­date, by adding its own terms of ref­er­ence, which in­cluded in­ves­ti­gat­ing key de­ci­sions made by former pre- mier Thomas Tha­bane, such as the ap­point­ment of Court of Ap­peal Pres­i­dent Jus­tice Kananelo Mos­ito (KC) and the in­crease of po­lice salaries in the ab­sence of a bud­get to cover the cost.

How­ever, Jus­tice Phumaphi re­jected the ad­di­tional terms of ref­er­ence, ex­press­ing his discomfort with the ex­panded man­date to govern­ment. There­after, Mr Ramaphosa an­nounced all the pro­posed ad­di­tional terms of ref­er­ence would be tabled be­fore this week’s sum­mit for de­lib­er­a­tion.

Mean­while, the SADC de­ci­sion must have come as a re­sound­ing vic­tory for civic so­ci­ety, af­ter three lo­cal non-gov­ern­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tions (NGOS) namely Trans­for­ma­tion Re­source Cen­tre (TRC), Law So­ci­ety of Le­sotho and Catholic Com­mis­sion for Jus­tice and Peace (CCJP) wrote to the re­gional bloc ahead of the sum­mit, re­quest­ing the com­mis­sion’s man­date to “re­main fo­cused on the pur­pose for which it was es­tab­lished”.

“We have called for a com­mis­sion with a man­date to in­ves­ti­gate and make rec­om­men­da­tions on the po­lit­i­cal-se­cu­rity nexus that ap­pears to be at the heart of Le­sotho’s cri­sis. The cur­rent terms of ref­er­ence fail to do this,” the NGOS’ let­ter read.

“We are con­cerned that the com­mis­sion’s cur­rent man­date seeks in­stead to deal with mat­ters in which ef­fec­tive crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion, pros­e­cu­tion and trial are both pos­si­ble and more ap­pro­pri­ate, such as in­ves­ti­gat­ing the fa­tal shoot­ing of Maa­parankoe Ma­hao.”

The NGOS, had added that they were con­cerned about the ex­panded terms of ref­er­ence and lack of clar­ity re­gard­ing whether the com­mis­sion will “work within Sadc-de­fined terms or those pub­lished in the gazette”.

Con­tacted for com­ment on the de­ci­sion, to con­fine the man­date of the com­mis­sion to Sadc-de­fined terms, govern­ment spokesper­son — Com­mu­ni­ca­tions, Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy min­is­ter Khotso Let­satsi — told the Le­sotho Times that they we re “ac­cept­ing the de­ci­sion reached by SADC”.

“We have al­ways main­tained that govern­ment would ac­cept what­ever SADC puts on the ta­ble. If SADC is say­ing the man­date of the ju­di­cial com­mis­sion of in­quiry be con­fined to the orig­i­nal terms of ref­er­ence, then so be it,” Mr Let­satsi said.

Quizzed on whether govern­ment would go ahead and es­tab­lish a com­mis­sion to pur­sue its own in­ves­ti­ga­tion, Mr Let­satsi said this would “de­pend on the out­come of the cur­rent com­mis­sion”.

“Let me not be hasty to say we’ll es­tab­lish our own com­mis­sion of in­quiry to in­ves­ti­gate those as­pects that we wanted in­cluded. We’ll only con­sider such a move de­pend­ing on the out­come of the Phumaphi Com­mis­sion,” Mr Let­satsi said.

Mean­while, the Com­mis­sion has com­mence its in­quiry and is invit­ing mem­bers of the pub­lic to pro­vide it with the nec­es­sary in­for­ma­tion.

“The Com­mis­sion of In­quiry will hold its pro­ceed­ings in pub­lic, ex­cept for those wit­nesses who in­di­cate that they pre­fer to tes­tify in cam­era.

“There­fore, mem­bers of the pub­lic who wish to give ev­i­dence be­fore the Com­mis­sion may call the num­bers be­low, from 9am to 4pm on week­days, to reg­is­ter as wit­nesses: +266 22327515 and/or +266 50688818,” notes the SADC sec­re­tariat in a state­ment.

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