Probe team must not un­der­es­ti­mate chal­lenge

Lesotho Times - - Leader -

SADC has ended what was in­creas­ingly be­com­ing yet another source of bit­ter­ness among an al­ready po­larised na­tion by con­firm­ing the Com­mis­sion of in­quiry would stick to its orig­i­nal man­date.

it is com­mon cause that the probe team was only es­tab­lished be­cause of the fa­tal shoot­ing of former le­sotho De­fence Force com­man­der Maa­parankoe Ma­hao two months ago.

it goes with­out say­ing es­tab­lish­ing why the army killed one of its own would pro­vide an­swers to the Com­mis­sion’s other terms of ref­er­ence re­gard­ing the coun­try’s in­sta­bil­ity.

That govern­ment and SADC Fa­cil­i­ta­tor to le­sotho Cyril Ramaphosa, and in­deed the op­po­si­tion, wanted to make ad­di­tions to the com­mis­sion­ers’ man­date was un­for­tu­nate and sug­gested lack of re­spect for what the re­gional bloc was hop­ing to achieve through this probe.

Not only was an ex­panded man­date go­ing to un­nec­es­sar­ily pro­long and con­fuse the probe, it was also cer­tainly set to cre­ate fur­ther prob­lems as any of the ag­grieved par­ties could have come up with more de­mands be­cause of the prece­dent that was go­ing to be set had this week’s SADC sum­mit al­lowed it­self to be bul­lied into ac­cept­ing the ad­di­tional terms.

Al­ready the Com­mis­sion is way be­hind sched­ule hence the Ma­hao fam­ily’s anger that this could be yet another fu­tile re­gional ini­tia­tive in le­sotho.

Again, one would have thought the probe team would by now, have en­gaged the Ma­hao fam­ily to re­as­sure them that some­thing was be­ing done to get to the bot­tom of what re­ally hap­pened on the af­ter­noon of 25 June 2015 when their son met his un­timely death.

it is true the Com­mis­sion would want to work with­out un­due in­flu­ence from any quar­ter but to com­pletely ig­nore this an­guished fam­ily, as one of the mem­bers says else­where in this is­sue, is but a ter­ri­ble start for this 13-mem­ber panel.

hope­fully, the Com­mis­sion’s an­nounce­ment that the probe is now un­der­way would pro­vide Ba­sotho with the re­as­sur­ance that their lives count for some­thing no-mat­ter the ag­gres­sor.

Af­ter stand­ing his ground re­gard­ing the ad­di­tions to the Com­mis­sion’s terms of ref­er­ence and be­ing vin­di­cated for it by the re­gional bloc this week, the leader of the probe team, Jus­tice Mpa­phi Phumaphi of Botswana, has shown he is not one to be eas­ily in­tim­i­dated.

This is a good sign from the leader of a mis­sion whose out­come is surely go­ing to be met with mixed feel­ings by dif­fer­ent stake­hold­ers.

A timid ap­proach would surely be viewed as a weak­ness by cer­tain el­e­ments of so­ci­ety who would most likely be en­cour­aged by this flaw to in­ter­fere with the Com­mis­sion’s pro­ceed­ings.

Al­ready there are con­cerns that those with im­por­tant in­for­ma­tion that could help the com­mis­sion­ers might de­cide not to come for­ward for fear of a back­lash when the SADC team has packed its bags and left le­sotho.

These are some of the is­sues this Com­mis­sion should be tack­ling and clearly ex­plain­ing to the peo­ple as the wit­nesses would still be liv­ing in this coun­try af­ter the probe is com­plete.

how­ever, as things stand, the Com­mis­sion has not pro­vided this as­sur­ance, leav­ing po­ten­tial wit­nesses won­der­ing whether com­ing for­ward with the much­needed in­put would be worth the risk.

That is why the Com­mis­sion should be clear on how it is go­ing to con­duct this in­ves­ti­ga­tion be­cause it doesn’t ap­pear to have done its home­work be­fore em­bark­ing on this mis­sion.

hold­ing the hear­ings in pub­lic is a good idea as far as trans­parency is con­cerned but then, the is­sue of ret­ri­bu­tion could then limit the ef­fec­tive­ness of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion. hold­ing the probe in cam­era could also open the Com­mis­sion to at­tack for the same rea­son of trans­parency.

The com­mis­sion­ers might be happy to an­nounce that the probe has be­gun, but with­out prop­erly en­gag­ing the pub­lic re­gard­ing their safety af­ter tes­ti­fy­ing in this in­ves­ti­ga­tion, this ex­er­cise might prove more dif­fi­cult than orig­i­nally en­vis­aged.

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