Lesotho’s isolation a death knell for economy
ON Monday, 18th January, 2016, the Double Troika Summit of Southern African Development Community (SADC) held in Gaborone, Botswana, issued a communiqué that stopped short at the eleventh hour, of suspending Lesotho from the regional block, faced with the threat of suspension from SADC the government of Lesotho reversed the position it earlier took against receiving the report from the SADC Commission of Enquiry looking into assassination last June of the former head of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) Lieutenant General Maaparankoe Mahao, among others.
Government of Lesotho reversed its position well aware of the disastrous consequences that could befall this impoverished nation had it refused to take and implement the said report. This is a huge new standpoint adopted by the government as it takes into account the vulnerable position of the majority of the Basotho, mostly the innocent rural poor.
The volte face was therefore welcome. Government agreed to have implemented the recommendations of the Report by 1st February.
However, at the African Union (AU) Summit held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on the sidelines of the AU Summit on 29th January Government asked the chairperson of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation, President Jacinto Felipe Nyusu, of the Republic of Mozambique, after a consultative meeting, to allow the government to reconvene Parliament on Monday, 8th February, to receive the report. SADC agreed to this extension of time for the release of the Report until 8th February.
However, amid all this “time buying” excuses by government, as some in the opposition members labelled the delay, suspension particularly by SADC, still looms large over Lesotho. In the words of South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma immediately after the Gaborone Summit, echoed by the Chairperson of the Organ in Maputo, Mozambique, SADC would “disengage” Lesotho from the regional bloc. Zuma went on to announce that SADC was not abandoning the Basotho but was going to, nevertheless, publish the report and implement the recommendations, which by now had become resolutions and therefore binding on Lesotho according to Article 10 of the SADC treaty, on behalf of the people of Lesotho.
It is our collective fervent hope as the nation that the Lesotho Government will have wisdom to implement all the unadulterated recommendations of the Report to obviate the need for economic sanctions as so succinctly bandied about by SADC.
Equally important as well, the United States (US) government and Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) have also made it clear that if government does not release certain segments of the report or the report, then economic sanctions will inevitably ensue.
Firstly, since its inception in 2007 the MCC compact injected billions of Maloti into our fragile economy in the following sectors: these included renovating health centres, improving anti-retroviral therapy services and improving management of hospital outpatient services, constructing and equipping a new National Reference laboratory and training staff in Maseru and building dormitories and staff residences at the National Health Training College, constructing a dedicated, central facility for collecting and processing blood, which included a mobile blood collection vehicle that collects and transfers blood to the Centre as well as storage equipment and collection units, increasing capacity for nurse training and improving districtlevel public human health and safety and waste management practices.
The compact also financed the water and sanitation project, justice and private sectors. In the former project is funded the project that supports Lesotho’s vision for secure, adequate, sustainable and clean water supply and waste water resources. It did so through the construction of bulk water conveyance system from Metolong Dam, rehabilitation of existing urban and peri-urban water supply infrastructure and expansion of the distribution network. (Source: local newspaper)
This contributions by the Mcc-compact to Lesotho’s economy and infrastructure are just the tip of the iceberg as there are many others. Under the US’S Africa Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA), the US among others, imports textiles and agri- cultural produce duty-free into the US from developing countries mostly in subSaharan Africa that adhere to principals of governance, rule of law, accountability, respect for human rights and promotion of free enterprise. To this end and as a direct result of this concession by the US, at a conservative estimate, Lesotho’s textile and garments industry now employs over 55,000 Basotho who provide income to hundreds of thousands to dependents and as a result of these exports, government gets the much-needed external revenue to fund the many social and development projects.
Lesotho benefits from its membership of SADC in the form of among others, free-movement of goods and services and traffic within the region, joint policing on illicit drug-trafficking, communications, science and technology as well preservation of water resources. Lesotho is also able to assert its policies internationally with the active support of SADC and therefore can, so to speak, punch beyond its weight. Our proverbial umbilical cords connection to the giant that is South Africa (SA), a senior role player in SADC, cannot be over-emphasized for its strategic, economic, military and social importance.
The oldest regional union on Earth, the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) that binds since 1910, South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, Botswana and lately, Namibia, qualifies us to a huge source of revenue from the giant economy of SA that constitutes more than 70% of our national budget that finances our expenditure.
As a further demonstration of our virtual wholesale reliance on foreign aid for financing its meagre budget and social upliftment programs because sad to admit but true, Lesotho has virtually no economy to speak of, therefore another huge percentage of its national budget is financed by grants and aid from international development partners.
My contention is that on the basis of the above scenario, in the event that as alluded to by the Prime Minister and his Deputy, Lesotho does not implement parts of or the whole report, then economic sanctions and or suspension from SADC and the rest of the world, with a domino effect, will ensue.