How will Phumaphi talk to Basotho?
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?