. . . says re­gional bloc has no right to dic­tate to Le­sotho

Lesotho Times - - Front Page - Lekhetho Nt­sukun­yane

IN its strong­est ever re­buke of the South­ern african de­vel­op­ment Com­mu­nity ( Sadc), Prime Min­is­ter Pakalitha Mo­sisili’s govern­ment says the re­gional body can­not dic­tate nor “im­pose any­thing” on Le­sotho as it (Sadc) is not a court of law.

The re­buke of the re­gional body comes af­ter it is­sued a terse state­ment ex­press­ing “great con­cern” over le­gal ac­tion launched by the Le­sotho de­fence Force (Ldf)’s Lieu­tenan­tColonel Tefo Hashatsi against the Sadc’s com­mis­sion of in­quiry into the death of for­mer army com­man­der Maa­parankoe Ma­hao on 25 June this year.

Lt-col Hashatsi’s court ac­tion ef­fec­tively seeks to nul­lify the Sadc in­quiry’s re­port which is be­lieved to be highly crit­i­cal of the govern­ment.

But a very se­nior SADC of­fi­cial who spoke to the Le­sotho Times this week slammed the court ac­tion as a “mere des­per­ate ex­cuse” by the Le­sotho govern­ment to pre­vent the ex­pe­di­tious pub­lic re­lease of the Sadc re­port com­piled by a com­mis­sion led by Botswana High Court judge Mpa­phi Phumaphi.

“It’s a pity that the Le­sotho govern­ment has re­sorted to play­ing an un­nec­es­sary game of chess. There is sim­ply no ba­sis of any mem­ber of the Le­sotho state to chal­lenge in court the work of an in­ter­na­tional com­mis­sion of in­quiry es­tab­lished by re­gional con­sen­sus to help a stricken mem­ber state.

“We don’t see how th­ese de­lay­ing tac­tics and chess games will help bring sta­bil­ity in Le­sotho,” said the of­fi­cial who pre­ferred not to be named cit­ing diplo­matic eti­quette and the fact that he is not au­tho­rised to speak to the Press.

The re­gional body, which rarely crit­i­cises mem­ber states pub­licly, is­sued a suc­cinct state­ment on Sun­day ex­press­ing “great con­cern” over the le­gal ac­tion against the Phumaphi re­port.

This was af­ter a meet­ing of the Sadc troika on pol­i­tics, de­fence and se­cu­rity com­pris­ing South african Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma, Mozam­bi­can Pres­i­dent Filipe Nyusi and a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of new Tan­za­nian Pres­i­dent John Magu­fuli on the side­lines of the Fo­rum for China-africa Co­op­er­a­tion (Focac) in Jo­han­nes­burg at the week­end.

Sadc said it had man­dated its fa­cil­i­ta­tor in Le­sotho South african deputy pres­i­dent Cyril ramaphosa to “ex­pe­di­tiously com­mu­ni­cate the con­cerns of Sadc to the King­dom of Le­sotho.”

But the Le­sotho govern­ment has come out guns blaz­ing with Prime Min­is­ter Mo­sisili’s political ad­vi­sor, Fako Likoti, say­ing Sadc has no right to dic­tate to the Le­sotho govern­ment as the re­gional body was not a court of law.

dr Likoti told the Le­sotho Times that the re­gional bloc was “like any other or­di­nary or­gan­i­sa­tion” and there­fore, “can­not im­pose any­thing on Le­sotho since it is not a court of law”.

Le­sotho op­po­si­tion par­ties, civic groups and an­a­lysts have slammed the court ac­tion as a tac­tic by the govern­ment to de­lay the re­lease of the re­port (see sep­a­rate re­ports on pages 4 and 7).

even though the court case is cham­pi­oned by the Ldf’s Spe­cial Forces Com­man­der Hashatsi, the govern­ment’s crit­ics say it is the one which en­gi­neered the le­gal ac­tion as a ploy to knock down the Phumaphi in­quiry.

But dr Likoti dis­missed th­ese con­cerns say- ing they were be­ing raised by peo­ple seek­ing to achieve “regime-change” in Le­sotho us­ing the Phumaphi in­quiry.

dr Likoti said “too much” was be­ing made of the Phumaphi re­port when the judge’s find­ings would be only “rec­om­men­da­tions” that dr Mo­sisili’s govern­ment was at lib­erty to ac­cept or re­ject. He ac­cused civic groups and an­a­lysts crit­i­cal of the govern­ment’s han­dling of the whole is­sue of be­ing “too lo­cal” in their rea­son­ing.

“First of all, ev­ery per­son has the right to seek the in­ter­ven­tion of the courts if he feels prej­u­diced, and the same ap­plies to Lt-col Hashatsi,” dr Likoti said.

“But again, it is not true that the govern­ment is be­hind this case. In fact, govern­ment is a re­spon­dent in the mat­ter. How do peo­ple then con­nect govern­ment with an in­di­vid­ual who, rightly so, ex­er­cised his right to seek the court’s in­ter­ven­tion?

“Th­ese must be the same peo­ple ad­vo­cat­ing and hop­ing for regime-change in Le­sotho. They are feed­ing the rest of the na­tion with false hope that the Sadc re­port will bring about is­sues which will ef­fect regime-change in this coun­try.

“They must re­mem­ber this is just a Com­mis­sion of In­quiry, not a court of law. The com­mis­sion can only make rec­om­men­da­tions not or­ders, un­like a court of law. Sadc, like any other or­di­nary or­gan­i­sa­tion that is not a court of law, can­not force or im­pose any­thing on Le­sotho. So there is ab­so­lutely no rea­son for the govern­ment to stall the re­port which can­not im­pose any­thing on us.”

dr Likoti ac­cused the an­a­lysts of be­ing “too lo­cal” in their think­ing.

“The main prob­lem with our an­a­lysts is that they are too lo­cal. They do not ob­serve how is­sues are ad­dressed in other coun­tries. Take what hap­pened in Zim­babwe, for ex­am­ple. Pres­i­dent robert Mu­gabe once put Sadc in its place af­ter the re­gional body tried to in­ter­fere in his coun­try’s in­ter­nal affairs.

“He with­drew from the re­gional body and told them he was the pres­i­dent of Zim­babwe and no one else. The same with dr Pakalitha Mo­sisili; he is the prime min­is­ter of Le­sotho and no one else and Sadc can­not force dr Mo­sisili to do any­thing that he does not want to do,” dr Likoti said.

“The Le­sotho sit­u­a­tion is made to look as if it is worse than what is hap­pen­ing in other re­gional coun­tries. But that is wrong.

“If Sadc de­cides to be harsh on us, what would it do to Zim­babwe, or an­gola where Pres­i­dent José ed­uardo dos Santos has per­sis­tently re­fused to com­ply with demo­cratic prin­ci­ples?

“What would Sadc do to Swazi­land where King Mswati has stuck to tra­di­tional rule and re­fused to adopt Western mod­els that came with democ­racy?” asked dr Likoti.

de­spite con­clud­ing its in­ves­ti­ga­tion on 23 Oc­to­ber 2015, the Phumaphi Com­mis­sion’s re­port has not been made pub­lic due to LtCol Hashatsi’s court chal­lenge in which the of­fi­cer wants the in­quiry de­clared un­law­ful be­cause some of its mem­bers were not “legally com­mis­sioned”.

Lt-col Hashes also wants the High Court to rule that the com­mis­sion acted be­yond its pow­ers when it con­ducted hear­ings in Thaba ‘Nchu, South africa, from 1-7 Oc­to­ber where ex­iled op­po­si­tion lead­ers and mem­bers of the army gave tes­ti­monies. He also wants the com­mis­sion to sur­ren­der to the reg­is­trar of the High Court, ev­i­dence it gath­ered about him and have the en­tire ev­i­dence and facts re­lat­ing to him ex­punged from the record of its pro­ceed­ings.

The top sol­dier also wants the com­mis­sion “re­strained and in­ter­dicted” from mak­ing any find­ings re­lat­ing to him.

Lt-col Hashatsi’s court case has since been post­poned to 18-19 Jan­uary 2016. The case and Sadc’s dis­ap­point­ment over the lit­i­ga­tion, have be­come ma­jor talk­ing points with an­a­lysts and op­po­si­tion lead­ers in­sist­ing that the govern­ment is com­plicit in Lt-col Hashatsi’s court chal­lenge. They cite the Prime Min­is­ter’s fail­ure to op­pose the law­suit, de­spite be­ing cited as one of the re­spon­dents, as “proof” of the govern­ment’s al­leged col­lu­sion with Lt-col Hashatsi. But dr Likoti is adamant that this is not the case, and said the se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion in Le­sotho was be­ing de­lib­er­ately ex­ag­ger­ated as there was no cri­sis in the coun­try.

He said a per­son was “likely to be hit by light­ning than a bul­let from a sol­dier’s ri­fle” in Le­sotho, which he said was a clear in­di­ca­tion that there were no se­ri­ous se­cu­rity is­sues in the coun­try.

“Un­like in other coun­tries, here in Le­sotho, we only see a sol­dier car­ry­ing a ri­fle when at­tend­ing his guard du­ties. We live in ab­so­lute peace in this coun­try.

“We should be cel­e­brat­ing 50 years of in­de­pen­dence and recog­nis­ing de­vel­op­ments made by our lead­ers, not get­ting con­fused by some peo­ple who sen­sa­tion­alise Le­sotho is­sues.”

de­spite his strong lan­guage and the con­cerns raised by Sadc against Le­sotho, dr Likoti said the govern­ment was not yet at odds with Sadc and would still seek co­op­er­a­tion rather than con­fronta­tion with the re­gional body

“So far, we are not ag­grieved by Sadc to the ex­tent that we can con­sider do­ing what those lead­ers from the three re­gional coun­tries I have men­tioned, have done……,”he said.

He fur­ther said the Mo­sisili govern­ment was as ea­ger as any­body else to know the con­tents of the Phumaphi re­port and had no rea­son to sab­o­tage it.

“We also want to know what the re­port says be­cause it (may) come with rec­om­men­da­tions which are go­ing to be very use­ful to us as far as se­cu­rity and con­sti­tu­tional re­forms are con­cerned. Th­ese re­forms, as you might be aware, are in the pipe­line.”

. . . Other staff mem­bers con­trib­uted to this re­port.

Prime Min­is­ter’s Political Ad­vi­sor Fako Likoti

PRIME Min­is­ter’s Political Ad­vi­sor Fako Likoti.

SADC Fa­cil­i­ta­tor to Le­sotho Cyril Ramaphosa.

JUS­TICE Mpa­phi Phumaphi.

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