SADC: Struggle for order and accountability in Lesotho
“The first method for estimating the intelligence of a ruler is to look at the men he has around him.” Niccolo Machiavelli
Overview THE principles and objectives of SADC since its formation are enumerated in the Consolidated Text of the Treaty of the Southern African Development Community. Among the principles are solidarity, peace and security; and human rights, democracy and the rule of law. The objectives are to:
l Promote common political values, systems and other shared values which are transmitted through institutions which are democratic, legitimate and effective;
l Consolidate, defend and maintain democracy, peace, security and stability.
It is in accordance with the SADC principles on solidarity, peace and security and in line with the objectives of the organization to promote democratic values and systems that Lesotho has, for over 20 years, been scrutinized.
For most of that period, SADC has utilized political and diplomatic assets to ensure that this black sheep of the region is brought to order, and to bring to order those who have crossed the democratic line.
In addition to the above, SADC has on two previous occasions used force or the threat of force to ensure order and the rule of law is restored. In 1998, it brought in units of the South African and Botswana armies, later joined by Mozambican forces to quell a rebellion which had started off as a protest against the 1998 election results.
From September 2014 after an attempted coup which led to the fleeing of both the then prime minister and several other senior personnel to South Africa, SADC brought them back into the country under its security detail.
This security cover to key political leaders was provided until the 2015 elections and included increased election security protection by the same.
The crux of the matter is that Lesotho has over 20 years depended on regional solidarity to ensure that remnants of the State remain functional. In both 1994 and 1998, some of those holding political office now know that they were only brought back to office through SADC intervention.
Knowing that, they should have been gratified that SADC has political and diplomatic muscle which our government cannot match. The leadership, however, seems to have taken regional solidarity for granted to the extent that a junior officer can go to the media and virtually dare SADC to do its worst. Solidarity has limits. Political office bearers must read the signs and prepare for the backlash from SADC for a number of provocative actions they have taken against the established norms within the region.
In all those interventions, SADC restricted itself to stopping wrongdoing rather than to make wrongdoers to account for their deeds. As I will try to show below, the current SADC intervention in Lesotho is more focussed on ensuring accountability than merely stopping wrongdoing.
The Phumaphi Commission was primarily established by SADC to gather facts about the murder of Lieutenant-general Maaparankoe Mahao and the alleged mutiny within the Lesotho Defence Force.
It was specifically meant to find the facts and to identify those implicated in the nefarious activities which continue to destabilise the country.
It was meant to bring to an end its neverending interventions in Lesotho. Setting up the Commission was unprecedented and also an indicator that the internal structures had fallen apart.
For purposes of this article, I will only outline and analyse the issues related to the latest developments around the Phumaphi Commission and the collapse of the rule of law in Lesotho.
Now that the Commission has reported to the Troika, the critical question is not whether there will be accountability, but what structures have been established to enforce accountability.
Obstructing the SADC Commission It must, for purposes of record, be pointed out that the Double Troika meeting which formed the Phumaphi Commission was preceded by a discussion of the MapisaNqagula Fact Finding Mission Report which clearly spelt out the deteriorating security environment in Lesotho.
It is for the same reasons that the Lesotho government was requested to cooperate with the Commission to ensure that it is able to do its work.
From the beginning, however, there were extraordinary measures taken by government to obstruct the work of the Commission. While there have been many attempts, the following are the most significant:
a) The initial government attempt to emasculate the Commission began with the publication of the Terms of Reference (Tors) of the Commission of Inquiry under the auspices of the Public Inquiries Act 1994. SADC had issued clear Tors which were focused on dealing with the security issues and also the murder of Lt-gen Mahao. The first batch of Tors in a government gazette in July 2015 was unambiguous.
They were meant to dilute the focus of the Commission by redirecting its efforts into broader governance issues i.e. whether increasing police salaries in the middle of the financial year was legal.
The SADC Summit in Gaborone in August 2015 rejected the bid and insisted that the Tors should be published as approved by the Double Troika in July 2015.
b) The second attempt to frustrate the work of the Commission was made by Colonel Bulane Sechele, representing the LDF in the first day of the sitting of the Commission.
Col Sechele first demanded that the Commission must not investigate any matter related to the alleged mutiny since that fell within the competence of the court-martial.
The Commission rightly rejected that since it could not amend its own mandate. Second, Col Sechele refused to reveal the names of people who were involved in an operation which he conceded he headed on the alleged mutiny using both what he called operational rules and also the principle of self-incrimination.
This was however a futile excise since he had already conceded that he headed the operation. In terms of the common purpose principle, it is irrelevant who pulled the trigger, what matters is that a group of people had a common purpose to commit a crime.
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