Le­sotho at cross­roads

Lesotho Times - - Opinion & Analysis - Prof Mafa M Se­jana­mane

LE­SOTHO’S post-colo­nial his­tory has been dom­i­nated by tur­moil. In­deed for the past 20 years or so, SADC has had more trou­ble in­ter­ven­ing in Le­sotho than in any other state. This re­cur­ring in­sta­bil­ity prob­a­bly ac­counts for the ever de­clin­ing so­cio-eco­nomic per­for­mance of the coun­try in the re­gion.

At the cen­tre of ev­ery cri­sis has been the politi­cised mil­i­tary which sees it­self as govern­ment at best and a power bro­ker at worst. As a re­sult of that, all the weak gov­ern­ments which have emerged post-1986 coup have largely at­tempted to in­gra­ti­ate them­selves with the army as a sur­vival tac­tic. In an apt ob­ser­va­tion about the be­hav­iour of the army in Le­sotho, the SADC Com­mis­sion of In­quiry re­port notes:

“It is worth not­ing that this ap­par­ent dis­re­gard of civil­ian rule by the mil­i­tary in Le­sotho has a long his­tory. The mil­i­tary in Le­sotho has been dogged by con­tro­versy and has a his­tory of seiz­ing power as ev­i­denced by the 1986 MIL­I­TARY COUP, CON­FLICTS OF 1994 AND 1998 AND the political and se­cu­rity un­rest of 2007.”

It is un­der th­ese cir­cum­stances that the Phumaphi Com­mis­sion was set up to deal with the desta­bil­i­sa­tion of the army on the political process over the past two years. The Phumaphi Com­mis­sion of In­quiry in par­tic­u­lar was tasked to in­ves­ti­gate the cir­cum­stances sur­round­ing the mur­der of Lt-gen Maa­parankoe Ma­hao. In 20 years, SADC has in­ter­vened four times in Le­sotho.

The re­cur­ring in­ter­ven­tions of SADC can also be at­trib­uted to the un­fin­ished busi­ness the body has been do­ing. It pam­pered the cracks rather than en­sur­ing that be­fore the end of its mis­sion, se­cu­rity re­forms were im­ple­mented. If any­thing, this demon­strates that Le­sotho needs fun­da­men­tal re­struc­tur­ing which will at the core be an em­pha­sis on ac­count­abil­ity and good gov­er­nance.

The Phumaphi Re­port how­ever is unique in that it is a means by which Le­sotho’s political log­jam is likely to be un­tied. It is so largely be­cause it goes to the heart of the prob­lem; im­punity. The bar­gain­ing chip of the LDF has been to of­fer pro­tec­tion for politi­cians who in turn have left the army alone even when crimes are com­mit­ted. But as will be de­tailed below, chang­ing from a sys­tem con­trolled by the mil­i­tary to one un­der civil­ian con­trol can never be easy and straight for­ward.

This is why sev­eral ob­sta­cles have been put and will con­tinue to be put to de­lay the changes en­vis­aged in the re­port. The suc­cess or fail­ure of the en­vis­aged changes does not only de­pend on the re­solve of SADC, it also de­pends on the mo­bil­i­sa­tion of both the do­mes­tic and in­ter­na­tional pub­lic opin­ion and in­sist­ing on ac­count­abil­ity as well as good gov­er­nance.

Army Re­bel­lion and killing of Ma­hao In an ear­lier ar­ti­cle, I have ar­gued that it is sim­plis­tic to trace the is­sues around the mur­der of Ma­hao and oth­ers like Ramahloko as is­sues which were im­promptu and/or emerg­ing re­cently. I at­tempted to show that the killings men­tioned above were a cul­mi­na­tion of a long-stand­ing re­bel­lion whose hall­marks were first the ut­ter­ances of Hashatsi at the be­gin­ning of 2014 where he pub­licly de­clared that Lt. Gen­eral Kamoli would be re­moved from of­fice on his dead body. When cau­tioned by Bri­gadier Ma­hao about his state­ments, the lat­ter was promptly sus­pended and court mar­shalled for talk­ing out of turn.

The is­sue is that Hashatsi was not his own man but rep­re­sented the gen­eral agree­ment of the LDF Com­mand as was later con­firmed in a press con­fer­ence at Makoanyane bar­racks, where Lt. Gen­eral Kamoli de­clared that he was not go­ing to ac­cept any dis­missal. Thus Hashatsi, then cap­tain was not dis­ci­plined for his ac­tions. Civil­ian con­trol over the mil­i­tary was thus pub­licly re­pu­di­ated. This was the first pub­lic an­nounce­ment of the loom­ing coup.

Se­condly, the re­fusal by the army Com­mand to hand over sus­pects in sev­eral crimes in­clud­ing mur­der and the bomb­ing of the res­i­dence of the then Prime Min­is­ter Tha­bane’s part­ner where chil­dren were in­jured was a clear sign that the mil­i­tary was out of con­trol. It was a re­bel­lious act which in all ju­ris­dic­tions would have landed per­pe­tra­tors in prison. Not only was this re­bel­lious, but it was an in­di­ca­tion that LDF mem­bers were out of con­trol.

Fi­nally the dra­matic climb-down by then Prime Min­is­ter Tha­bane from can­celling Ma­hao’s court mar­tial re­vealed all. Kamoli later ar­gued that Prime Min­is­ter had been ill-ad­vised and had apol­o­gised. If true, this would be an amaz­ing turn of events where the Prime Min­is­ter has to apol­o­gise to his Com­man­der This was cli­max of the re­bel­lion. When there­fore, then Prime Min­is­ter Tha­bane dis­missed Kamoli, it was al­ready too late.

The re­bel­lion had gath­ered pace for more than seven months. It was just a ques­tion of time be­fore the army would take con­trol. That the coup did not suc­ceed in Au­gust 2015 was a re­sult of other ex­tra­ne­ous cir­cum­stanc- es which are not part of this ar­ti­cle.

The at­tempt to elim­i­nate Ma­hao in Au­gust 2014 shortly af­ter he was ap­pointed Com­man­der of the LDF, and later to kill him in July 2015 was thus part of a con­tin­u­ing strug­gle to quash any at­tempt to bring civil­ian con­trol over the mil­i­tary. The ar­gu­ment here is that killing Ramahloko, and later Ma­hao was not a per­sonal mat­ter be­tween them on the one hand and the LDF Com­mand on the other.

It was geared to ex­tin­guish ac­count­abil­ity and civil­ian con­trol of over the army. In th­ese cir­cum­stances there­fore, the set­ting up of the Phumaphi Com­mis­sion was bound to be seen as a ma­jor threat to those in both the army and the politi­cians whose sur­vival was de­pen­dent on the for­mer. Ac­cord­ingly, the at­tempts to de­rail the out­come of the Phumaphi Com­mis­sion should have been ex­pected. Those were how­ever bound to fail.

The Dou­ble Troika Sum­mit In its Sum­mit of the 18th Jan­uary 2016 the SADC Dou­ble Troika in Gaborone, Botswana re­ceived and en­dorsed the Re­port of the Com­mis­sion of In­quiry, and urged the Govern­ment of the King­dom of Le­sotho to im­ple­ment its rec­om­men­da­tions.

Three sig­nif­i­cant mile­stones can be iden­ti­fied about that Sum­mit. The first is that SADC op­er­ates largely on the ba­sis of con­sen­sus, but in this case the Le­sotho Govern­ment was not in agree­ment with the de­ci­sion of the Dou­ble Troika. It had stead­fastly at­tempted to stop the pub­li­ca­tion of the Re­port. By en­dors­ing the Re­port the Dou­ble Troika had now taken re­spon­si­bil­ity over its rec­om­men­da­tions.

IT just can’t be easy be­ing Pakalitha Bethuel Mo­sisili. At least for now. Try putting your­self in the Prime Min­is­ter’s shoes and you will inevitably feel the in­vid­i­ous and un­en­vi­able po­si­tion he is in now.

The Phumaphi Com­mis­sion Re­port has just con­cluded what ev­ery­one among us, even those with pea sized brains had pre­dicted: That our very own Paramount King of the Le­sotho De­fence Force (LDF) must be re­lieved off his du­ties be­cause his ac­tions are at the core of the cri­sis in Le­sotho.

Let’s imag­ine for once that Ntate Mo­sisili de­cides to im­ple­ment this rec­om­men­da­tion as the only way to win the hearts and minds of vast swathes of Ba­sotho who have been alien­ated by King Kamoli’s ac­tions and the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity which had con­demned the Paramount King’s re­turn. The ques­tion is how will Ntate Mo­sisili im­ple­ment such a tough de­ci­sion?

In other words, who will he send with the let­ter of dis­missal? Re­mem­ber, we are talk­ing of a Paramount King of the LDF who is vir­tu­ally above the law. Who can pitch up at your house blow your nasty brains off with no con­se­quences? Who can defy any court or­der and get away with it. Who can com­mit any kind of atroc­ity and not be held ac­count­able. So which mes­sen­ger will dare as­sume the task of de­liv­er­ing the dis­missal let­ter to the King’s Makoanyane bar­racks should the Prime Min­is­ter choose the noble route of ef­fect­ing the SADC rec­om­men­da­tion?

Who will dare face the paramount King of not only the LDF, but the en­tire Ba­sotho na­tion in­clud­ing all its flora and fauna, its fishes of Katse and Mo­hale Dam, all the King­dom’s an­i­mals (in­clud­ing all the goats and sheep of Qacha and Mokhot­long) in ad­di­tion to all the King­dom’s plant life? Who will dare do that?

This partly ex­plains why Ntate Mo­sisili had been at pains to pre-empt the Phumaphi com­mis­sion re­port by re­peat­edly in­sist­ing that he would not be bound by its rec­om­men­da­tions. I surely don’t envy the Prime Min­is­ter’s po­si­tion right now. It’s not a good mo­ment in lit­eral terms to be a Size Two. Even though Ntate Mo­sisili is work­ing in a coali­tion and he is bound to con­sult his col­leagues, let us re­mem­ber Pres­i­dent Harry Tru­man’s peren­nial wis­dom am­pli­fied on a sign board on his pres­i­den­tial desk declar­ing that: “The Buck Stops Here”. In our case the buck squarely stops on the Prime Min­is­ter’s desk. What­ever Ntate Mo­sisili chooses to do with the SADC re­port will surely de­fine his legacy. Not that of the coali­tion govern­ment. Ntate Mo­sisili is al­ready the King­dom’s se­cond long­est serv­ing Prime Min­is­ter af­ter Le­abua Jonathan. I have no doubt that Ntate Mo­sisili cares a lot about his legacy. The longer you serve in power, the greater your chances of cre­at­ing a good legacy. Un­like Le­abua, Ntate Mo­sisili can cre­ate a huge legacy for him­self.

Let’s imag­ine again that Ntate Mo­sisili de­cides to fire Ntate Kamoli as per SADC rec­om­men­da­tion and pitches up at Makoanyane bar­racks him­self to de­liver the dis­missal let­ter? I would not opt for that route? The spectre of an­other premier be­ing forced to run across the bor­ders like dear old Un­cle Thomas Mot­soa­hae, is too galling to con­tem­plate. It surely will make us a much more laugh­ing stock of the world?

My per­sonal po­si­tion on the SADC rec­om­men­da­tions are clear as I ar­gued last week. I would want to see all the rec­om­men­da­tions in the Phumaphi re­port im­ple­mented. That’s the only sure way of re-unit­ing the Ba­sotho na­tion. If Ntate Mo­sisili can be that brave, he would have made a last­ing im­pact on his legacy. He will win back the vast swathes of Ba­sotho who have de­fected to Ntate Mot­soa­hae. He will prob­a­bly win over all those en­raged by the bru­tal mur­der of Maa­parankoe. The only way for Ntate Mo­sisili to cre­ate a last- ing legacy for him­self is to put the na­tional in­ter­ests first ahead of those of in­di­vid­u­als or an in­di­vid­ual. If he does that, Ntate Mo­sisili would not even have to bother about a coali­tion at the next elec­tions. He will win hand­somely on his own. If he im­ple­ments the Phumaphi com­mis­sion res­o­lu­tions in full, there is even a real pos­si­bil­ity that Ntate Mosa­hae may de­fect from far flung Ficks­burg to the Demo­cratic Congress (DC). So will Ntate Maserib­ane, Aun­tie Keke and my most ar­tic­u­late and favoured op­po­si­tion politi­cian, young Joang Mo­lapo. With all th­ese peo­ple in the DC we will be­come a one party state.

A one party state is of course never the best sce­nario. But it will at least give us peace of mind and let us fo­cus on is­sues of na­tional de­vel­op­ment at the ex­pense of our most favoured na­tional pas­time; pol­i­tics and pol­i­tick­ing. We will learn to love one an­other again as Ba­sotho. Of course be­ing Ba­sotho, we will splin­ter again at a later stage and be­come a multi-party democ­racy. The good thing about it all then is that we won’t be plagued by the Paramount King and his ra­pa­cious mil­i­taris­tic shenani­gans.

So to that end, Scru­ta­tor is of­fer­ing her­self as a vol­un­teer to be­come the mes­sen­ger to de­liver the dis­missal let­ter to the Paramount King on be­half of Ntate Mo­sisili should the Premier de­cide on the wise route of im­ple­ment­ing the key Phumaphi com­mis­sion rec­om­men­da­tion to fire Ntate Kamoli.

Scru­ta­tor al­ways puts her mouth where her money is and vice versa. So I don’t mind get­ting my brains blown out upon de­liv­er­ing the let­ter. Any slay­ing of Scru­ta­tor may also be the cat­a­lyst to cage the Paramount King. My friends, the Amer­i­cans, will most likely de­ploy their mil­i­tary Iraq-style to deal with the prob­lem once and for all. I bet, the Paramount King’s col­lec­tion of old North Korean and Soviet style weaponry, as­sisted by a few di­lap­i­dated tanks, will stand no chance against the in­fantry of Un­cle Sam’s.

But let’s not take things that far? Af­ter all, we don’t have any oil. It might be too am­bi­tious for me to think that, even though they like me and would in­vade for my sake, my Amer­i­can friends can de­ploy only to get dis­ap­pointed at find­ing no oil and gas but only sheep and goats.

What can­not be dis­puted is the vi­tal im­por­tance of as­sist­ing Ntate Mo­sisili find the best for­mula of im­ple­ment­ing the SADC res­o­lu­tion to jet­ti­son the Paramount King.

Again to that end, there is an­other al­ter­na­tive if the Premier does not see it fit to send Scru­ta­tor to de­liver the Paramount King’s dis­missal let­ter.

“What if the Paramount King him­self em­braces the re­port and acts in the na­tional in­ter­est by quit­ting vol­un­tar­ily? Just imag­ine Ntate Kamoli mak­ing the fol­low­ing an­nounce­ment on na­tional ra­dio and tele­vi­sion.

“I have re­ceived and read the Phumaphi Com­mis­sion Re­port. I have fully un­der­stood it even though it was not writ­ten in Se­sotho as you all know that I don’t like the Queen’s lan­guage…..

“Cen­tral to the re­port is its rec­om­men­da­tion that I be re­lieved of all my du­ties at the helm of the LDF. In the in­ter­ests of this na­tion that I love so much, I have de­cided to re­sign vol­un­tar­ily. I don’t want to bur­den Ntate Mo­sisili and his coali­tion part­ners with the bur­den of try­ing to fire me. I know this is not an op­tion that they will eas­ily con­sider be­cause they know I can hack the shit out of them.

“Af­ter all they are ben­e­fi­cia­ries of my ac­tions. I put them back to power. If I had not sent Ntate Mot­soa­hae and Li­a­biloe across the bor­der only, then there will never have been 28 Fe­bru­ary 2015 elec­tions in the first place and the DC led coali­tion will never have come back into power. So I want to thank Ntate Mo­sisili and his coali­tion part­ners for ac­knowl­edg­ing my ef­forts and re­turn­ing me to the helm of the LDF.

“In Africa we say one good turn de­serves an­other. But in the in­ter­ests of this na­tion and be­cause of the grav­ity of my ac­tions which prompted the un­prece­dented Phumaphi com­mis­sion of in­quiry, I want to take re­spon­si­bil­ity of all that has gone wrong and re­sign with im­me­di­ate ef­fect. I thank you all for ei­ther sup­port­ing me or op­pos­ing me dur­ing my most ex­cit­ing ten­ure as Paramount King of the LDF and this King­dom at large. But I think to save this na­tion from any fur­ther chaos and to en­able Ntate Mo­sisili to per­form the gi­gan­tic task of re-unit­ing all Ba­sotho so we can fo­cus on real na­tional de­vel­op­ment is­sues (in­stead of be­ing con­stantly at each other’s throat), I have de­cided to re­sign from my post vol­un­tar­ily in lieu of the Phumaphi com­mis­sion rec­om­men­da­tion.”

You might con­demn the above sce­nario as Scru­ta­tor’s rad­i­cal form of wish­ful think­ing. But let’s just imag­ine that a mir­a­cle in­deed hap­pens and the Paramount King takes this bold step and makes the above sug­gested an­nounce­ment. I don’t know what the rest of you will do but I will rush to his side and of­fer my­self to be­come his se­cond, third, fourth or even fifth wife should Ntate Kamoli de­cide to em­u­late Ja­cob Zuma and pre­pare ad­e­quately for his time out­side the LDF.

There will also be no rea­son why Ntate Mo­sisili can­not then el­e­vate Ntate Kamoli to be­come Le­sotho’s am­bas­sador to Amer­ica, the UK or the Nether­lands. But def­i­nitely not to the wretched South Su­dan where Cyril Ramaphosa had wanted to dump him dur­ing that pe­riod of the Paramount King’s tem­po­rary ex­ile along­side the young man Khothatso and Maa­parankoe. As the Paramount King’s new spouse, I will make the point to Ntate Mo­sisili that we will need to be posted to a safe, clean, El nino free place where we will en­joy life and leave all of you wal­low­ing in the hard­ships of the cur­rent drought.

If the Paramount King does not vol­un­tar­ily step aside and Ntate Mo­sisili flinches at the spectre of send­ing Scru­ta­tor to de­liver the dis­missal let­ter, then we are left with no op­tion but to ac­cept that the Paramount King is in­deed our God.

Most of you who passed through the halls of NUL or al­ter­na­tively flirted with sec­ondary school his­tory would have heard of a man called Idi Amin Dada. But to those who did not have the good for­tune of pass­ing through the gates of any school, Amin was the vile com­man­der in the Ugan­dan army who top­pled Mil­ton Obote, and ruled Uganda with an iron fist for about nine years un­til 1979.

Amin be­came so drunk with power and put him­self above the law. He then be­stowed on him­self the most glo­ri­ous of ti­tles and be­came: “His Ex­cel­lency, Pres­i­dent for Life, Field Mar­shal Al Hadji Doc­tor, Pro­fes­sor, Idi Amin, VC, DSO, MC, Lord of All the Beasts of the earth and Fishes of the Seas and Con­querer of the Bri­tish Em­pire in Africa in Gen­eral and Uganda in Par­tic­u­lar.” In ad­di­tion Amin sent a unit of his so called spe­cial forces to drag the Vice Chan­cel­lor of the once pres­ti­gious Mak­erere Univer­sity to State House. Amin then forced the Vice Chan­cel­lor to be­stow on him a doc­tor­ate of laws de­gree while also send­ing a tele­gram to Queen El­iz­a­beth claim­ing that he (Amin) was the un­crowned King of Scot­land.

If Ntate Kamoli re­mains at the helm of the LDF af­ter the damn­ing ver­dict of the Phumaphi com­mis­sion re­port, I equally sug­gest an adap­tion of his ti­tle to be­come: “His Ex­cel­lency Tlali Kennedy Kamoli, Pro­fes­sor, Doc­tor, Paramount King, Lord of the High Heav­ens; The Ever Un­touch­able Com­man­der of the LDF, Lord of all the Beasts of Le­sotho and all the fishes of Katse and Mo­hale Dams, Con­queror of the South­ern African De­vel­op­ment Com­mu­nity (SADC) in gen­eral and its Phumaphi Com­mis­sion in par­tic­u­lar, Un­crowned King of Africa.”

I would also sup­port Ntate Kamoli dis­patch­ing Tefo Hashatsi to sum­mon the Vice Chan­cel­lor of NUL, who also hap­pens to be Maa­parankoe’s brother, to be­stow a doc­tor­ate of Good Laws and Eth­i­cal Prac­tices on the LDF com­man­der.

Any Mosotho who will not ad­dress Ntate Kamoli with the full ti­tle as sug­gested above would need to be sum­mar­ily ex­e­cuted for Ntate’s high sta­tus and rein over the King­dom would have be­come un­con­testable. Aren’t th­ese in­ter­est­ing times?

Ache!!!

Prime min­is­ter Pakalitha mo­sisili

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