Should SADC pre­vail over Le­sotho?

Lesotho Times - - Leader - So­fonea shale

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 . . .

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