‘We keep fu­el­ing un­nec­es­sary fights’

Lesotho Times - - Big Interview -

The govern­ment has fi­nally re­ceived the South­ern African De­vel­op­ment Com­mu­nity (SADC) Com­mis­sion of In­quiry re­port into Le­sotho’s in­sta­bil­ity. The re­port was com­piled by a team of re­gional le­gal and se­cu­rity ex­perts, led by Jus­tice Mpa­phi Phumaphi of Botswana.

The com­mis­sion was ini­ti­ated fol­low­ing the fa­tal shoot­ing of for­mer Le­sotho De­fence Force (LDF) com­man­der, Maa­parankoe Ma­hao on 25 June 2015. Lt-gen Ma­hao was gunned down by LDF mem­bers al­legedly as he re­sisted ar­rest for sus­pected mutiny.

How­ever, the govern­ment had said it would not re­ceive the re­port be­cause the com­mis­sion’s le­git­i­macy was be­ing chal­lenged in the High Court by LDF Spe­cial Forces Com­man­der Lt-col Tefo Hashatsi.

But on Tues­day this week, Prime Min­is­ter Pakalitha Mo­sisili re­ceived the re­port at the end of a SADC Dou­ble Troika sum­mit held in Gaborone, Botswana.

The change of heart ap­par­ently fol­lowed a res­o­lu­tion by the Dou­ble Troika to im­me­di­ately sus­pend SADC ac­tiv­i­ties in Le­sotho, pend­ing a full meet­ing of all 15 mem­bers of the re­gional bloc.

But af­ter Le­sotho agreed to re­ceive the re­port, the is­sue was sus­pen­sion was taken off the ta­ble but the sum­mit said Le­sotho should “pro­vide feed­back to the Chair of the Or­gan on Pol­i­tics, De­fence and Se­cu­rity Co­op­er­a­tion (Mr Nyusi), and pub­lish the re­port within 14 days (by 1 Fe­bru­ary 2016).

The Dou­ble Troika sum­mit was at­tended by Botswana pres­i­dent Ian Khama (SADC chair), South Africa Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma, Swazi­land Prime Min­is­ter Barn­abas Sibu­siso Dlamini, Mozam­bique Pres­i­dent Filipe Jac­into Nyusi, Tan­za­nia Prime Min­is­ter Ma­jaliwa Ma­jaliwa, and Zim­babwe For­eign Affairs Min­is­ter Sim­barashe Mum­bengegwi who was stand­ing in for Pres­i­dent Robert Mu­gabe.

Na­tional Univer­sity of Le­sotho Political Econ­o­mist, Dr Letete Maluke, speaks with Le­sotho Times (LT) reporter, Lekhetho Nt­sukun­yane, about the SADC Dou­ble Troika res­o­lu­tions and their im­pli­ca­tions for Le­sotho.

LT: Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma of South Africa on Mon­day an­nounced that SADC Dou­ble Troika sum­mit in Botswana had re­solved to im­me­di­ately sus­pend the re­gional bloc’s ac­tiv­i­ties in Le­sotho be­cause of govern­ment’s re­fusal to re­ceive the Phumaphi re­port. How­ever, a day later, an of­fi­cial state­ment from SADC did not talk about the sus­pen­sion but only that the Le­sotho govern­ment was now re­quired to pub­li­cise the re­port by 1 Fe­bru­ary this year. What could the sum­mit’s de­vel­op­ments mean for Le­sotho?

Maluke: Af­ter the an­nounce­ment that Le­sotho was fac­ing sus­pen­sion from SADC, we have heard so many is­sues in which peo­ple have been talk­ing about how Le­sotho is go­ing to be neg­a­tively af­fected.

Peo­ple ended up con­fus­ing the roles played by SADC with those of other re­gional bod­ies such as the South­ern African Cus­toms Union (SACU) of which Le­sotho is a mem­ber.

For in­stance, peo­ple started say­ing rev­enue Le­sotho re­ceives from SACU was go­ing to be af­fected should Le­sotho be sus­pended from SADC. Peo­ple went fur­ther to say the Loti would no longer be pegged on the South African Rand in the event of sus­pen­sion. But all this was wrong.

LT: Why do you say this? You sound as if the sus­pen­sion, had it been ef­fected, would have meant lit­tle to Le­sotho.

Maluke: You see, SACU is made up of five coun­tries, namely Le­sotho, Swazi­land, South Africa, Namibia and Botswana. De­ci­sions made within SACU af­fect those five coun­tries only.

At the same time, is­sues dis­cussed within SADC af­fect mem­ber coun­tries (An­gola, Botswana, Demo­cratic Re­pub­lic of Congo (DRC), Le­sotho, Mada­gas­car, Malawi, Mau­ri­tius, Mozam­bique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swazi­land, Tan­za­nia, Zam­bia and Zim­babwe). SADC does not have ju­ris­dic­tion to su­per­im­pose its de­ci­sions on SACU coun­tries.

SADC can­not also su­per­im­pose its de­ci­sions on mem­bers of the Com­mon Mon­e­tary Area (CMA), which are Le­sotho, Swazi­land, Namibia and South Africa. All th­ese re­gional bod­ies have dif­fer­ent man­dates and func­tions.

Each op­er­ates on its own. In prin­ci­ple, it is not true that SADC de­ci­sions will af­fect Le­sotho’s po­si­tion in SACU and CMA. I think this was just a hype. This is our coun­try, all of us, but some­times it seems we are re­ally not sure what we want out of it.

We keep fu­el­ing fights even where it is not nec­es­sary. We do not know when to start a fight and when to set­tle for peace. We know we have is­sues in the coun­try, but how we deal with th­ese is­sues is what mat­ters.

LT: Could you elab­o­rate on that?

Maluke: Peo­ple seem to be so ex­cited about the sanc­tions as if they would also not be vic­tims them­selves, yet they would af­fect the en­tire so­ci­ety, should they be ap­plied. And be­lieve me, that is not go­ing to be a good ex­pe­ri­ence at all.

It does not mat­ter which political party is in govern­ment, but come the sanc­tions which the peo­ple are so ex­cited about, we are all af­fected.

Most im­por­tantly, what peo­ple should un­der­stand is that all th­ese re­gional agree­ments are like part­ner­ships; they are agree­ments of co­op­er­a­tion.

We want to co­op­er­ate in as far as peace, de­fence and se­cu­rity are con­cerned. SADC coun­tries want to work to­gether in part­ner­ship to as­sist each other to es­tab­lish peace, de­fence and se­cu­rity.

And that is sim­ply be­cause is­sues of peace and se­cu­rity have sig­nif­i­cant im­pli­ca­tions on na­tional de­vel­op­ment — de­vel­op­ment gen­er­ally con­strued as change in the liv­ing con­di­tions of the peo­ple.

Co­op­er­a­tion, by def­i­ni­tion in the SADC Pro­to­col on Pol­i­tics, De­fence and Se­cu­rity Co­op­er­a­tion, means a mem­ber state re­mains in con­trol of its sov­er­eign sta­tus. This means the re­gional body can­not force any­thing on any of its mem­ber states.

Even where such a mem­ber state has prob­lems, the re­gional body can­not force its de­ci­sions on that coun­try even where it be­lieves its de­ci­sions are a so­lu­tion to that coun­try.

SADC can only make rec­om­men­da­tions and sug­ges­tions; SADC can only sug­gest cer­tain re­forms for Ntate Pakalitha Mo­sisili and his govern­ment to im­ple­ment.

It is not a pun­ish­ment. No coun­try can be pun­ished by SADC un­der this con­text. As you read SADC pro­to­cols, there is no clause that says if mem­ber states don’t do this, they will be pun­ished in any way.

The other im­por­tant is­sue Ba­sotho should re­mem­ber is SADC is in­vited to in­ter­vene by any mem­ber-state be­cause, among other rea­sons, such a coun­try may not have enough ex­per­tise and re­sources to solve its prob­lems.

This again means SADC can­not force its in­ter­ven­tion into mem­ber-states. Some­times we seek SADC in­ter­ven­tion just be­cause we need an out­side opin­ion of some­one neu­tral, es­pe­cially in a case where our govern­ment is di­rectly in­volved in the dis­pute.

This was ex­actly the route was taken by Le­sotho in the present case.

The govern­ment in power could have in­sti- tuted its own Com­mis­sion of In­quiry, but it took note that it was some­how in­volved in the mat­ter.

The govern­ment, since it ini­ti­ated the for­ma­tion of the SADC Com­mis­sion of In­quiry, has al­ways ex­pected that rec­om­men­da­tions would come. And the rec­om­men­da­tions, un­like other peo­ple’s ex­pec­ta­tions, will not come in the form of in­struc­tions to Le­sotho.

Much as I have not seen the SADC re­port, I am sure the rec­om­men­da­tions in that doc­u­ment are made in such a way that they build to­wards the re-es­tab­lish­ment of peace and se­cu­rity in the coun­try. The rec­om­men­da­tions must be aligned to peace and se­cu­rity.

Many peo­ple are ex­pect­ing that the SADC rec­om­men­da­tions are go­ing to say who is wrong and who is right; NO. Is­sues of peace and se­cu­rity are very cen­tral be­cause with­out peace, se­cu­rity, sta­bil­ity and well-func­tion­ing in­sti­tu­tions, there is no in­vest­ment. No one will want to in­vest where there is no se­cu­rity and peace.

LT: We had heard about govern­ment’s re­fusal to back down on its stance that the re­port should not be is­sued un­til LtCol Hashatsi’s case had been fi­nalised. What’s your take on that one?

Maluke: The fact is we don’t know to what ex­tent the govern­ment re­fuses the re­port at the SADC sum­mit. We don’t have a good ba­sis for this in­for­ma­tion. In the first in­stance, why would they travel all the way to Botswana just to refuse the re­port? I am try­ing to ap­ply some log­i­cal sense here.

Why did the govern­ment have to set up the com­mis­sion and then at the end of the day refuse its out­come? I wouldn’t agree on their re­fusal of the re­port be­cause they ac­tu­ally in­sti­tuted that re­port them­selves.

The govern­ment signed the gazette to ef­fect the in­quiry for the sake of peace for this na­tion. And where the govern­ment might have sug­gested that the re­port should be with­held pend­ing Mr Hashatsi’s case, that does not mean it re­fused the re­port.

The govern­ment might have felt that the case in the court of law could taint the im­age of the re­port. If we want this re­port to come out as clean as it is, why can’t we wait for this case to be con­cluded? You might find that when this case is con­cluded, the find­ings of this re­port are no longer use­ful.

There should be a le­git­i­mate rea­son for the govern­ment to say ‘why can’t we wait for the case to be fi­nalised?’ And that can­not be mis­in­ter­preted to mean that the govern­ment re­fused the re­port.

Peo­ple have ex­pec­ta­tions. They will al­ways want to in­ter­pret things in their favour. I don’t re­ally think there was any way the govern­ment could have re­fused the re­port. It is im­por­tant to note that the ex­ec­u­tive branch of the whole govern­ment is ac­count­able to par­lia­ment. And so the ex­ec­u­tive knows that if we don’t ac­cept the re­port mem­bers of par­lia­ment are go­ing to grill them.

LT: Now that there is an of­fi­cial com­mu­nique in which the govern­ment is said to have re­ceived the re­port and urged to im­ple­ment its rec­om­men­da­tions, do you think this is go­ing to chap­pen?

Maluke: It is very dif­fi­cult for me to speak on be­half of the govern­ment on this one. But the fact re­mains that th­ese are rec­om­men­da­tions; th­ese are sug­ges­tions that are meant to build last­ing peace and se­cu­rity in this coun­try.

The govern­ment will have to look at th­ese rec­om­men­da­tions with its part­ners and iden­tify which of them can truly bring peace and sta­bil­ity to the na­tion.

The govern­ment un­der­stands the cir­cum­stances of its coun­try bet­ter than SADC. SADC came into Le­sotho just like a con­sul­tant. The SADC com­mis­sion was hardly here for a pe­riod of six months. But the govern­ment will for­ever be here.

The govern­ment and its peo­ple know the true na­ture of the prob­lem in this coun­try. In as far as the SADC Pro­to­col on Pol­i­tics, De­fence and Se­cu­rity Co-op­er­a­tion is con­cerned, it is clear the re­gional body will make rec­om­men­da­tions and that it is upon the mem­ber-state to im­ple­ment such rec­om­men­da­tions at its own dis­cre­tion.

The govern­ment should as­sess the rec­om­men­da­tions for the sake of the na­tion. How the rec­om­men­da­tions will be im­ple­mented by the govern­ment will def­i­nitely not sat­isfy ev­ery­one, but it should at least be in the best in­ter­est of bring­ing last­ing peace and sta­bil­ity. But we know some peo­ple will still com­plain; it is nor­mal.

LT: Some Ba­sotho be­lieve the cur­rent coali­tion govern­ment has done so bad that they are hop­ing the re­port should rec­om­mend regime-change. Do you agree with this as­sess­ment?

Maluke: To be hon­est, regime-change is costly. Al­though peo­ple might wish for a change of govern­ment, they should re­mem­ber that the last regime-change cost this coun­try over M3 mil­lion. Peo­ple some­times wish for things that are un­nec­es­sar­ily costly for them­selves, when in ac­tual fact they don’t have thor­ough jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for any regime-change.

Per­haps I should in­di­cate that the pre­vi­ous com­mu­ni­ca­tion which was passed through var­i­ous me­dia plat­forms and what the peo­ple on the streets were say­ing, dam­aged this na­tion. It might have been com­mu­ni­ca­tion that was not of­fi­cial.

In other words we are not sure whether it was fac­tual or not that Le­sotho faced pro­vi­sional sus­pen­sion from SADC.

LT: But we saw it on tele­vi­sion when South African pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma an­nounced that the Le­sotho govern­ment had re­fused the re­port and that the sum­mit had then rec­om­mended the sus­pen­sion…

Maluke: I was un­for­tu­nate not to have heard him speak. I am not sure whether Pres­i­dent Zuma might have been mis­quoted or not. How­ever, the fact of the mat­ter is the pre­vi­ous com­mu­ni­ca­tion was in­for­mal and with­out doc­u­men­ta­tion to sub­stan­ti­ate it.

That in­for­ma­tion be­comes a threat to the na­tion in the sense that in­vestors are go­ing to pull out fear­ing that there is no peace and sta­bil­ity in Le­sotho. What­ever we speak about our own na­tion, it has im­pli­ca­tions on us.

Whether we think th­ese im­pli­ca­tions will hit some­one who is in power, they hit on us be­fore any­one else. The ques­tion is, who are we pun­ish­ing?

To build peace and sta­bil­ity in any coun­try takes a very long time. It is a long process. I would urge Ba­sotho that as we try to build unity among our­selves and de­velop the coun­try, let us know when to fight and when to set­tle for peace. Let us stop fight­ing for­ever.

There is what is called risk-rat­ing on coun­tries in terms of for­eign in­vest­ment. That talk, per se, about Le­sotho be­ing sus­pended from SADC might have af­fected the coun­try’s risk-rat­ing in the world.

My gen­eral un­der­stand­ing of the of­fi­cial com­mu­niqué is that is­sues have been dealt with and Ba­sotho should re­lax and stop overreacting.

I would urge Ba­sotho to fo­cus on build­ing the econ­omy of this coun­try for the sake of the fu­ture gen­er­a­tion. We should think about build­ing an econ­omy we shall all be proud of in the next 50 years.

NUL Eco­nom­ics Lec­turer Dr Maluke Letete.

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