How will Phumaphi talk to Ba­sotho?

Lesotho Times - - Leader - So­fonea shale

The high level fol­low­ing of events demon­strated by Ba­sotho dur­ing the SADC Com­mis­sion of In­quiry into the cir­cum­stances sur­round­ing the death of for­mer Com­man­der of Le­sotho De­fence Force ex­plains the cur­rent pub­lic anx­i­ety to know the find­ings of Phumaphi Com­mis­sion. Lis­ten­ing to the or­di­nary Ba­sotho ex­press­ing them­selves on the com­ing re­port, one gets idea that pub­lic im­pres­sion is that Phumaphi will tell Ba­sotho about the demise of com­rade Maa­parankoe Ma­hao. How will Phumaphi talk to Ba­sotho?

The Phumaphi Com­mis­sion has been es­tab­lished by SADC as per the de­ci­sion of the Dou­ble Troika sit­ting in Tšoane South Africa on the 3rd July 2015. To op­er­a­tionalise it, the Com­mis­sion was do­mes­ti­cated to the Le­sotho sit­u­a­tion to give it co­er­cive pow­ers, au­thor­ity to com­pel tes­ti­mony and is­sue sum­mons. The oth­er­wise SADC Com­mis­sion was there­fore es­tab­lished in terms of Sec­tion 3(1) of the Pub­lic In­quiries Act 1994 and this was done through Le­gal No­tice N0. 75 later amended with Le­gal No­tice N0. 88.

Though ques­tions have been raised about le­git­i­macy of some of the ac­tiv­i­ties of the Com­mis­sion, it has been well grounded in terms of le­gal re­quire­ments. The Pub­lic In­quiries Act be­stows upon the Prime Min­is­ter power to de­ter­mine whether the Com­mis­sion can be lim­ited or not in its pow­ers to com­pel tes­ti­mony and pro­duc­tion of any doc­u­ment or thing be­lieved to be of help to the mat­ter be­ing in­quired and en­try into prop­erty and in­spec­tion thereof. In its do­mes­ti­ca­tion in­stru­ments the Phumaphi Com­mis­sion has fully been granted such pow­ers, an ar­range­ment that was facilitative rather than in­hibitive.

Fol­lowed to the log­i­cal con­clu­sion, this frame­work gives im­pres­sion that Phumaphi had ad­e­quate le­gal in­fra­struc­ture to han­dle the man­date. Though the Pub­lic In­quiries Act pro­vides in Sec­tion 8(1) that the Com­mis­sion es­tab­lished un­der this law shall re­port to the Prime Min­is­ter, the Le­gal No­tice N0. 75 Sec­tion 4 man­dates Phumaphi to re­port to SADC. While this pro­vi­sion seals the deal in terms of mak­ing the Com­mis­sion ac­cept­able to the in­ter­ested par­ties, it is on the other hand the very pro­vi­sion that ne­ces­si­tates this ques­tion how will Phumaphi talk to Ba­sotho?

The crit­i­cal ques­tions that Phumaphi was asked to seek an­swers to and those that Ba­sotho are wait­ing anx­iously to hear his find­ings on hav­ing heard the larger part of ev­i­dence given to the Com­mis­sion are not sig­nif­i­cant only on their own and what they mean but also the man­ner in which they would be de­liv­ered. How will Phumaphi talk to Ba­sotho? Lis­ten­ing to Ba­sotho, it is like Phumaphi will be at a cer­tain place like a hall or some­where de­liv­er­ing his re­port. While this may be seen as a good, easy and trans­par­ent way to go, re­al­is­ti­cally speak­ing it will not be.

So, how will Phumaphi talk to Ba­sotho? While this ques­tion can be or­di­nar­ily and di­rectly re­sponded to as dif­fi­cult and its an­swer not be­ing known, ap­pli­ca­tion of some political fore­cast­ing and sce­nario build­ing skill could help.

In the ab­sence of such a skill in this and the sis­ter col­umn in the sis­ter news­pa­per, gen­eral knowl­edge would be ap­plied. If Phumaphi re­ports to SADC, then it means he has no obli­ga­tion in fact man­date to re­port to Ba­sotho in the man­ner it could be wished by many.

The only log­i­cal way of re­spond­ing to this ques­tion could there­fore be to look at how nor­mally Ba­sotho know of what SADC said af­ter its meet­ings. The Prime Min­is­ter af­ter SADC meet­ings nor­mally calls a press con­fer­ence and pro­vides sum­mary of what tran­spired. The me­dia equally po­larised like the political so­ci­ety it serves nor­mally use this plat­form to crasp as much as pos­si­ble to in­form the na­tion on the one hand but also as fur­ther­ing ir­ri­tat­ing political an­tag­o­nism on the other.

When the le­git­i­mate govern­ment of Le­sotho which is there­fore a con­tact point for SADC par­tic­i­pates in the SADC plat­form where Phumaphi re­ports and in­forms the SADC po­si­tion on the re­port comes back home to pro­vide feed­back in the sim­i­lar way, where does that leave other in­ter­ested par­ties? How will Phumaphi talk to Ba­sotho? Will he talk to Ba­sotho through the con­ven­tional way in which Ba­sotho nor­mally get to know SADC stuff? As­sum­ing that the re­sponse to this ques­tion is in the af­fir­ma­tive; would it not taint the le­git­i­macy of the process and there­fore ne­ces­si­tate neg­a­tive re­ac­tion of other in­ter­ested par­ties to the re­port?

For those who know how SADC mis­han­dled the Jus­tice Pius Langa re­port in 1998, this ques­tion may be nec­es­sary to con­sider. Per­haps for those who could con­sider 1998 as an ar­chive and per­haps a far fetch ex­am­ple, the most re­cent and per­haps ap­peal­ing could be Post-masire di­a­logue fa­cil­i­tated by the lo­cals.

When the SADC led political di­a­logue fol­low­ing post 2007 Na­tional As­sem­bly elec­tions dis­con­tent reached dead­lock and the Em­i­nent Per­son for­mer Pres­i­dent of Botswana left the process not only in­com­plete but also at the volatile level with in­ter­party vi­o­lence im­mi­nent, Ba­sotho saved the sit­u­a­tion.

When the sub-re­gional body aban­doned the re­spon­si­bil­ity civil so­ci­ety held fort and not only saved the di­a­logue process from col­laps­ing but averted po­ten­tial civil strife, a brav­ery and vig­i­lant op­tion that Ba­sotho can only for­get at their own peril.

When ob­servers and an­a­lysts ridiculed as SADC com­ing back with its tail be­tween the legs, the civil so­ci­ety-church acted with mag­na­nim­ity and re­quested the sub-re­gional body to con­tinue lead­ing the process but al­low­ing the lo­cals to do the ac­tual fa­cil­i­ta­tion of talks.

The good job done by the lo­cals un­der the lead­er­ship of Le­sotho Coun­cil of NGOS and the Chris­tian Coun­cil of Le­sotho and un­der the aus­pices of SADC cul­mi­nated with the con­venor, the Bishop emer­i­tus Philip Mokuku di­rectly re­port­ing to SADC Sum­mit in Namibia.

This record is yet to be par­al­leled in all the 14 coun­tries. The Con­venor’s re­port was made in full con­sul­ta­tion with all par­ties in di­a­logue but the op­po­si­tion rose against the re­port when the Prime Min­is­ter hav­ing been privy to at­tend SADC sum­mit and heard the re­port, came back to share feed­back with pub­lic in the man­ner that ridiculed op­po­si­tion.

How will Phumaphi talk to Ba­sotho? In the reg­u­lar man­ner in which Ba­sotho get SADC feed­back? how will that im­pact on the way the re­port is per­ceived? In terms of Sec­tion 8(2) of the prin­ci­pal law, the Prime Min­is­ter would oth­er­wise as a re­cip­i­ent be bound to ta­ble the re­port in both houses of par­lia­ment thus mak­ing the re­port a pub­lic doc­u­ment.

How will Phumaphi talk to Ba­sotho? Will SADC de­cide to make the re­port a pub­lic doc­u­ment for Ba­sotho or con­sume it for its pur­poses of de­cid­ing on how to guide Le­sotho? How will Phumaphi talk to Ba­sotho? Can the SADC Le­sotho Sum­mit work?

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