Should SADC prevail over Lesotho?
PRIME Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s declaration of a state of emergency this week because of the drought currently ravaging the country was the right and responsible thing for any leader to do.such a declaration authorises the government to speed state assistance to vulnerable communities even if this requires circumventing normal legalistic procurement and implementation routines. We congratulate the Prime Minister for his move in acknowledging the scale of the disaster and the need for external help. What we find ironic is Dr Mosisili’s increasingly belligerent public remarks against some of those very development partners that he has now asked for help, especially over their rule of law and human rights concerns. In declaring the state of emergency the Prime Minister remarked; “….. government requires more assistance from our development partners and friends of Lesotho to supplement our own national efforts and translate into action, plans for addressing the prevailing drought situation in the country robustly.”
This acknowledgement of increased assistance from development partners is very important. As we are a very poor country which routinely fares badly on the united Nations Development Programme (UNDP)’S human Index Development report, there is no denying that we need more assistance from donor partners not only this time round, but at all times as we seek to acquire the necessary infrastructure support for human advancement. It’s thus hugely worrying that the Prime Minister’s declaration of a state of emergency was preceded by the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC’S) decision to effectively suspend aid to Lesotho over the rule of law and human rights concerns in the country. It does not need the wisdom of a rocket scientist to see that the Americans and other donors are now closely watching the government’s handling of the report of the Southern African Development Community (SADC)’S Phumaphi commission into the death of former Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) commander Maaparankoe Mahao before making any further moves. The Americans have specifically alluded to that fact.
We have said it in the past and we will repeat it again. The government and this nation are better off knowing the outcomes of the Phumaphi commission. The current legal effort to try and suppress its findings at the behest of a man who fears that its findings might not favour him are not in the national interest. Neither is the Prime Minister’s failure to respond to the court papers in that litigation despite being cited as the first respondent. Let’s have the Phumaphi commission’s findings made public whatever they are. Let the government pronounce on whether it accepts or rejects the findings wholly or partially. This is the transparency that the world and many Basotho are asking for.
The government has been steadfast in maintaining that it won’t be bound by the findings of the Phumaphi commission as the findings don’t equate to law. But the question is: What are these findings? The fact that the Prime Minister has not elected to respond to the papers filed against the commission yet he is cited as a first respondent has further raised suspicions that the whole legal action is somewhat orchestrated to forestall the Phumaphi commission. Let’s hypothetically speculate that the legal action by Lieutenant-colonel Tefo Hashatsi succeeds and the Phumaphi commission is nullified after all the work it did at the behest of a regional organization comprising 13 other heads of state and government. Will that help Lesotho or it will further enhance divisions in the country and throw us in more limbo? We believe that any outcome that suppresses the Phumaphi commission will not help heal the divisions among Basotho. The best way of resolving a challenge many a time is to deal with it openly and transparently. The government might not see this but the best way forward is to get the Phumaphi commission out of the way one way or the other. The government does not even need to raise a finger to persuade Lt-col Hashatsi to drop his court bid. The fact that SADC has expressed its concerns over the legal action should in itself be a cause to worry. This was an international commission of inquiry which must not be impeded.
After all is said and done, we urge all donors to answer positively to the Prime Minister’s call for drought relief. human rights and rule of law concerns can never trump the need to save human lives in an emergency situation caused by a natural disaster. Lesotho also needs all the aid it can get to build the infrastructure required to deal with any future natural disasters. In light of that, we also urge the Prime Minister to be less belligerent against development partners who have assisted us many times before and deal with some legitimate concerns they raise. A win-win formula is what both Lesotho and development partners must seek. Let’s rally all our friends particularly those with the financial wherewithal to assist us in our greatest time of need.
Let’s rally all our friends…..
Though state sovereignty has been a major focus of discussion between government of the Kingdom of Lesotho and the SADC on one hand and among Basotho on the other, the solution lies in the common interest.
The adapted position of the government on the inquiry in the circumstances surrounding the death of the former Commander of Lesotho Defence Force in the hands of the institution that was supposed to protect him, has not only angered SADC as it is reported but also initiated a divisive debate among citizens.
In the divided political society like Lesotho it is difficult to identify or use solutions even when they are there because leaders never conceptualise options and solutions but rift and a way of entrenching it so that they either get or retain power at all costs. In the public sphere the debate is coined around the question: Should SADC prevail over Lesotho?
Since it is not impossible for a democracy to degenerate into oppressive and opposition-sensitive Stalinist authoritarianism or a praetorian state for that matter, those who can read beyond the ordinary should help.
Whether for a reason or not, it appears that the significance and relevance of the SADC inquiry has, in the judgement of the Prime Minister, been surpassed by the lawsuit against the Commission.
The political shrewdness that the DC Leader and Prime Minister played by referring this matter to SADC is now challenged in what is called realpolitik.
The adequate domestic and international pressure generated that urged the Khokanyana-phiri coalition to rise up to the occasion and call for SADC inquiry has clearly subsided.
Indeed, the decision to sign up for a SADC inquiry came as a relief measure to the otherwise complicated political-military situation where some soldiers were being abducted by others, torture reported on those in military custody, disrespect of courts of law by soldiers and the fleeing out of the country by opposition leaders saying they feared for their lives.
The government was put under pressure to account for the military acts in a democratic dispensation and the SADC inquiry was indeed a political morale-booster and image-building for the government.
on offering the inquiry, SADC also made a set of decisions including that the government should facilitate the safe return home of the opposition leaders. In terms of the SADC agreement, the inquiry was domesticated to give it practical powers to summon individuals and the right to be reported that is ordinarily bestowed on the Prime Minister in terms of Section 8(1) of the Public Inquiries Act 1994 was given to SADC.
While the Prime Minister assured the nation that the inquiry is a SADC creature and shall not in any way be controlled by the government, it looks like there is a change of gear.
The Commission has completed its work and everyone and assumedly the government should be eager to know whether Phumaphi has been able to establish who killed the astute military stalwart and whether he could have resisted his arrest or whether it could be true that he brought this to himself.
When this has to be delivered the government raises an issue that since Tefo hashatsi, one of the people whom the Commission interviewed, has instituted a lawsuit against the Prime Minister among others and the Commission, reporting should be put to a halt.
Some people see nothing in this other than government’s tactics to undermine the Commission so that truth is concealed. These people believe that the report will vindicate pre-inquiry speculations that there has been conspiracy.
Followed to its logical conclusion, their argument is that government in, its bid to protect soldiers who killed the former Commander invokes the question of state sovereignty, hoping that the courts would dissolve the Commission as hashatsi prays.
The position of the government of Le- sotho is that moving forward with the report without regard to the case undermines the courts and in turn, the sovereignty of the Kingdom.
Though it does not look like government mentions the merits of the case, those who define its stance as a summersault relate the utterances made by the Prime Minster against the Commission and government counsel’s refusal to join the Commission in Thaba-nchu in the Free State in South Africa as a prelude to resist the investigation and the potential outcome.
It is believed that the government, in support of and in a bid to protect soldiers who might be implicated, tries by all means political and legal to exclude from the Commission’s evidence a potentially revealing component given by those in exile.
Other people find the position of the Lesotho government quite in order and indeed in line with the original intent to have an inquiry.
They argue that by disregarding the case against itself, the SADC Commission sends a wrong signal and that would compromise the legitimacy and acceptability of its findings.
They believe that the courts of law in Lesotho should be able to pronounce themselves that they do not have jurisdiction over the matter not any extrajudicial means.
Some extremists on this side, vote with government that it should disregard the Commission report if it is delivered without regard to the court case.
Contrary to the mainstream dichotomous approach seeking to understand this stand-off as given and therefore immutable, this and the sister column in the sister newspaper hold a different view guided by the theory that assumes that any form of social order or reality is a product of history and human interaction.
This is the view that resuscitates Basotho’s human capacity to find alternatives to the defined challenges no matter how entrenched, complicated and immutable they may at first instance appear to be. Continued on Page 14 . . .