How was SADC Commission mandate altered?
SUNDAY is Independence Day, which undoubtedly is an important milestone in the country’s history.
Lesotho has been able to chart her own destiny since 1966 despite being amongst the smallest states in the world, and being wholly subsumed by south Africa. The Mountain Kingdom stands as a sovereign nation against the odds, which is testament to the resilience and tenacity of her people.
There are a lot of positives to take as we reach 49 years. Considering the repression that characterised the early years of our independence, we have indeed come a long way. Under founding premier, Leabua Jonathan, the promise of democracy turned into a nightmare as he ruled by decree and without a popular mandate for 16 years.
Army rule was no better, as freedom of speech and association were curbed to ensure the status quo remained. However, despite our myriad of problems, it can be safely stated that Lesotho is finally on an irreversible path to democratisation.
This was evidenced by the 28 February 2015 general elections which were credible and culminated in a peaceful transfer of power. That achievement is worthy of commendation in a continent littered with stories of vote rigging and politically-motivated violence. In such countries as Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Madagascar in the SADC region, peaceful elections remain as elusive as ever. It is, thus, heartening that Basotho can teach other nations a thing or two about holding credible elections.
However, before we pop the champagne, it should be borne in mind that our 49th independence anniversary celebrations are being held under the shadow of political instability which prompted the unprecedented intervention of southern African Development Community (SADC).
At 49, Lesotho would be well into middle age if she was a human being. Compared to the other countries in the SADC region, Lesotho would be regarded as an elder since the other nations attained independence way after the Mountain Kingdom.
It is, thus, sad to see that Lesotho is regarded as a problem child in the SADC region, despite having attained independence earlier than most. If a person or country fails to grow and evolve, it borders on delinquency. In short, 49 years after majority rule, Lesotho is a very poor country, both economically and intellectually, and badly in need of a new mindset.
While we dither, the majority in this nation continue to drown in a sea of poverty reflected in low scores in all social and development indicators. The promising road that we embarked on 1966 has led to a dead-end of corruption and decay, spawned by misplaced priorities. As a result of our lethargy, Lesotho leapfrogged Botswana into second place among the countries with the highest HIV/AIDS prevalence in the world with 23 percent. swaziland still leads the pack at 26 percent, but if we don’t get our act together, we might also soon overtake our fellow monarchy.
Being labelled as a least developed nation is not a badge of honour. Many other small nations like singapore, Taiwan or Rwanda closer to home have emerged from obscurity to punch above their weight on the global marketplace. Why not Lesotho?
Continually making news for the wrong reasons is something we must unequivocally reject as a nation. With the right resolve and creativity, Basotho should engage in a redemption struggle to prioritise the elimination of poverty and disease for this country to regain human dignity.
The words of counsel from Chinese Ambassador, HU Dingxian, elsewhere in this edition aptly elucidate on what Lesotho needs to do going forward.
He said: “At present, though, Lesotho is again facing a lot of difficulties and challenges, I sincerely hope all Basotho people will unite as one, put the overall national interests in the first place, and overcome the difficulties and challenges as early as possible so that they can put more time, energy and resources on social and economic development that are badly needy by the Basotho nation.”
We couldn’t agree more. As the Phumaphi Commission listens to evidence from various people appearing before it, the general public easily apportions as right or wrong, acceptable or unacceptable, helpful or unhelpful but all mainly within the political divide.
Though people have known that there have been some alterations to the work of the commission, it is not clear, in fact it is very confusing as to how exactly was Phumaphi commission mandate altered?
The general mood created and which seems to have also affected the appreciation of the commission of its mandate is that its terms of reference are exclusively contained in the section 3 (1) a) to o) as contained in the Legal Notice Number 88 which is in effect an amendment to the section 3(1) a) to s) in the Legal Notice Number 75 of 2015.
The amendment sought to remove in the list of Terms of Reference of the Commission of Inquiry into Disturbances to national Peace and stability all other issues which have been inserted by the government and retaining the Tors originally agreed by the SADC Double Troika meeting in Tšoane south Africa on the 3rd of July 2015.
The explanation of this has rightly been that the alteration concentrated all the work of the Commission on the issues related to the killing of former commander of Lesotho Defence Force.
While this is true it would be very dangerous for people to think that anything which does not say how Mahao was killed is unhelpful to the Commission. In terms of section 3(1) a) to o) Commission is expected by way of summarising to establish circumstances under which the former commander was killed and investigate whether it is true or false that he resisted arrest and if Lesotho Defence Force applied excessive force in seeking to arrest him.
The Commission also seeks to find who is responsible for killing with a purpose of making them to account. It is also to look at some related matters like legality or otherwise of removal and reappointment of Tlali Kamoli as commander of the LDF and how the latter movement informed the alleged division within the military.
The approved and legal version of the mandate also seeks to investigate allegations that there was a mutiny and find out whether opposition members are being killed.
This is extremely important because the Commission was established when the nation was angry not only at the perpetra- tors but also that willy-nilly kind of approach of the government to the matter. so it is extremely important for Basotho to know the truth about the death of this hero.
However it would be a grievous mistake for anyone including the Commission to believe that anything that is not contained in the section 3 (1) a) to o) of Legal Notice Number 88 is not helpful to its Tors.
The parent legal Notice Number 75 has two subsections in section 3 and these are 1 and 2. When the Legal Notice Number 88 amended section 3(1) a) to s) of the parent legal notice, it left 3(2) of the same intact.
It should therefore be appreciated that section 3(2) which reads “Consistent with the Commissions of this nature, the Commission of Inquiry shall make such recommendations as may bring everlasting reconciliation, peace and stability to the Kingdom, for posterity” forms part of the Terms of Reference of the Commission.
The last word might be typo error and legislator might have intended to say “prosperity”.
In fact it would be unfair to this nation if the Commission can fail to come up with recomemndatios on this critical component of its mandate simply because it may feel as some people do that its mandate is limited to section 3 (1) a) to o).
Because Phumaphi Commission has to recommend on ways of everlasting reconciliation, peace and stability in a manner that SADC may not reside in this kingdom, it has to only as a matter of its founding law but also as a matter of principle give attention to the politics and governance.
In the best case scenario that the Commission establishes whether or not there was a conspiracy over death of the former commander and perpetrators are identified and it is recommended that they be held accountable, what will happen?
Is it not true that the similar questions that government asked itself before it ran to Gaborone for salvation would still be asked?
In the potential affirmative response to this question one has to deeply reflect whether it is not true that Basotho do need better than this raw deal from their leaders and the Commission should be relevant in that regard.
If this makes sense, would it be correct for Phumaphi Commission to emphasise section 3(1) to the determine of section 3(2)? surely no!
Just like the Commission has to concentrate and on section 3(1) and understandably even get bit emotional at times, it has to make a deliberate effort to understand the particular political context within which Mahao was killed by the institution which ought to have protected him and government reacted the way it did.
These are bigger questions that will not only point to symptoms but to the core of the problem. The Commission should appreciate that for it to be in a position to propose everlasting reconciliation and peace, it has to understand in the first place why and how are Basotho so divided politically, how the SADC can be of help without parading itself as father Christmas for artificial solutions that never go to the roots of challenges of this Kingdom.
The only way to meet the essence of the section 3(2) is to listen to the story of how disjuncture between the locals in their track II diplomatic means and the mainstream in the form of SADC and the government of Lesotho allowed the situation to degenerate into incorrectible damage in the institutions of government and corrupted those who lead them.
Unless section 3(2) is given necessary attention, what is likely to come out of section 3(1) may be hard to realise.
As people continue to engage on what they want and perhaps what they do not consider as helpful to the Commission and as strain catches up with the SADC team, and the question is asked on how Phumaphi commission mandate was altered remember section 3(2).