Diplomatic gaffe in Botswana
I AM sure Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili wanted the 35th Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) summit, held in the Botswana capital Gaborone, to end as soon as possible. In fact, he probably heaved a huge sigh of relief as his plane left Gaborone but, sadly, this was not the end of his problems. This is because, even before the plane touched down at Moshoeshoe I International Airport, local media and social networks were abuzz about the proceedings of the summit.
Mind you, to make matters worse for him, he was attending the Summit that among others, welcomed him to the elite club of newly-elected Heads of Government of Namibia, Zambia and others. The Summit’s agenda also included regional economic integration and a lasting solution to Lesotho’s now-wellpublished incessant political crisis.
Why Ntate Mosisili did not rein-in his advance team of senior government officials and warn them of the potential diplomatic minefield they were going to walk into in Botswana still baffles me. Why Ntate Mosisili did not, on the day he was supposed to steal the limelight with the other newly-elected heads of government, order his speechwriters to purge the offending paragraphs from his speech still baffles me too. The least he could have done as an accomplished and seasoned politician would have been to deviate from those offensive paragraphs from his speech.
At this juncture I wish to quote him for avoidance of doubt (as reported in Lesotho Times, August 20 – 26 2015): “We may recall that Lesotho has been on the agenda of SADC for too long and for the wrong reasons. Our coalition government is, therefore, committed to a reform process that will affect various institutions, and hopefully ensure that SADC is spared the trouble of dousing the flames in the Mountain Kingdom.
He is further reported as saying: “The new challenges we are confronted with all point to a refusal of certain sections of the population, particularly members of the opposition, to accept the outcome of the February 2015 elections.”
In my humble view, these words were the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. They made all those heads of government snap, for lack of a better term. I will of course substantiate my argument that they snapped at a later stage in this article.
You may all recall that on 17th March, this year, SA President Jacob Zuma, his deputy Cyril Ramaphosa and a host of representatives from SADC and around the world, witnessed together with tens of thousands of Basotho, at the Setsoto Stadium, the smooth handing-over of power by former premier Thomas Thabane to Ntate Mosisili. This was a result a snap general election that was held on 28 February, observed by critically a SADC observer team and other international and local teams. Their unanimous assessment of the whole electoral process was that it was credible, free and fair and this was reported to the world. In fact it was Ntate Mosisili who, for no apparent reason, delayed to appoint his cabinet, open Parliament and pass the national budget. In fact, he even opted to invoke the Constitution and rarelyused piece of legislation so that he could meet the statutory guidance to meet all the above timeframes. Why the inordinate delay, only he knows.
For the prime minister to insinuate at such a high profile forum, as the SADC Summit, that the intervention of the regional body was unjustified and that the opposition was disputing the result of the election, when all pro- cesses prior to, during and after the election, were reported by the same SADC, was taking the Summit for a ride.
Put simply, the premier sought to downplay the importance of the regional bloc in resolving Lesotho’s challenges in a very cavalier fashion.
After the assassination of former army commander Maaparankoe Mahao and the flight of the leaders of the three major opposition parties from Lesotho, the SADC Double Troika Summit in Pretoria, South Africa, on 3 July, 2015, established a Judicial Commission of Enquiry to: (i)enquire into the circumstances surrounding the killing of Gen. Mahao. (ii)the legality of the removal, appointment and re-instatement of recent Commanders of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) (iii)the existence of the alleged mutiny against the LDF command among others.
Ntate Mosisili left the Pretoria summit having undertaken to initiate the domestication of the Terms of Reference of the Commission and facilitate the modalities for the Commission to implement its mandate. However, upon his arrival in Lesotho, Ntate Mosisili wrote to the SADC facilitator, Mr Rama- phosa, asking him to incorporate additional TOR’S for the Commission and promptly gazette these into law. Mr Ramaphosa was thereafter sent to Lesotho to check on the progress and to his utter surprise, he found that in his opinion and that of Judge Phumaphi, the Commission Chair, that the additional TOR’S were diluting, were burdensome and confusing the Commission as reflected in the gazette. They both declined to incorporate the additional TOR’S. However, they undertook to bring this to the attention of the full SADC Summit in Botswana. The TOR’S now also included those from the opposition parties and civil society.
However, in flagrant violation of the SADC official communique of Pretoria, prohibiting the holding of the Court Marshall on the 13 August 2015, the Lesotho government published a “convening order” of the Court Marshall. This is in full knowledge that the additional TOR’S were to be tabled for deliberation at the Summit of 17-18 August, 2015. In fact, the Court Marshall is violating the SADC Double Troika Summit resolutions.
Ntate Mosisili therefore went to Botswana well knowing the sentiments of both the chair of the Commission and the Facilitator that the additional TOR’S would, in all likelihood, not be incorporated at the Botswana Summit. The government team ought to have seen the ominous signs from these two pivotal players before they tabled their additional TOR’S in Botswana to avoid the huge diplomatic embarrassment.
His spin doctors got it completely wrong if they thought they were going to hoodwink and bulldoze SADC into admitting the additional TOR’S.