Liveli­hoods un­der at­tack

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

THE Le­sotho cri­sis has been rum­bling now for over three years with sev­eral in­di­vid­u­als ru­in­ing their rep­u­ta­tions in the process. A con­certed process how­ever was be­gun by SADC in July 2015 when it de­cided to set up a Com­mis­sion of In­quiry to in­ves­ti­gate among other things the driv­ers of the Le­sotho in­sta­bil­ity in gen­eral and the mur­der of for­mer army com­man­der, Lieu­tenant-gen­eral Maa­parankoe Ma­hao, by mem­bers of the Le­sotho De­fence Force (LDF) in par­tic­u­lar.

The Com­mis­sion led by a re­spected Botswana judge, Jus­tice Mphaphi Phumaphi sub­mit­ted its re­port to SADC in Novem­ber 2015 and that was en­dorsed by the SADC Dou­ble Troika in Jan­uary 2016 in its Sum­mit in Gaborone, Botswana.

The Phumaphi re­port, as it has come to be known, has now be­come the ba­sis upon which Le­sotho’s in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions with its re­gional and in­ter­na­tional part­ners re­volves. In­deed the Phumaphi re­port rec­om­men­da­tions pro­vide the tem­plate which is used for judg­ing whether to pro­vide as­sis­tance and trade in those ar­eas where ac­count­abil­ity and rule of law are con­di­tions for sup­port.

Even be­fore we ven­ture into the key is­sues of the Phumaphi re­port and the con­di­tion­al­i­ties, we must re­mem­ber that in th­ese days of po­lit­i­cal and se­cu­rity cri­sis in Le­sotho, the coun­try is per­haps at its most vul­ner­a­ble.

There is a huge un­em­ploy­ment cri­sis which peo­ple hardly talk about, but if not dealt with, will ex­plode sooner rather than later. While in the past, the largest com­po­nent of that un­em­ploy­ment rate was largely the un­skilled work­ers, lately it has also bal­looned to un­em­ployed grad­u­ates.

Se­condly, statistics have re­cently in­di­cated that Le­sotho has the sec­ond high­est HIV/AIDS preva­lence in the world. That is a phe­nom­e­nal chal­lenge for a poverty stricken coun­try which also has no cred­i­ble health fa­cil­i­ties to talk about. Thirdly, as things are, the coun­try is fac­ing a huge food short­age as a re­sult of not only unimag­i­na­tive po­lices, but also the worst draught we have ex­pe­ri­enced for decades. Prime Min­is­ter Pakalitha Mo­sisili in De­cem­ber 2015 de­clared a food emer­gency and called for food aid from in­ter­na­tional part­ners. Th­ese are hard times.

Sev­eral point­ers of our per­for­mance in­di­cate that dark days are not far-off un­less there is a change in di­rec­tion. Im­ple­ment­ing the Phumaphi com­mis­sion re­port rec­om­men­da­tions has an added ur­gency since the broader in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity is now us­ing that as a yard­stick on which Le­sotho will be judged.

As pointed out in an ear­lier post­ing, both the African Union and United Na­tions peace struc­tures have now joined the cam­paign to have the Le­sotho cri­sis re­solved on the ba­sis of the Phumaphi Re­port rec­om­men­da­tions. Those are ap­ply­ing po­lit­i­cal and di­plo­matic pres­sure. The United States on the other hand is turn­ing in the screws on the eco­nomic front. This is most un­com­fort­able in the con­text of the fragility of both the eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal struc­tures of Le­sotho.

Key is­sues of the Phumaphi re­port As men­tioned ear­lier, SADC en­dorsed the rec­om­men­da­tions from its Com­mis­sion in Jan­uary as per its Com­mu­nique is­sued on 19 Jan­uary 2016. This was re­it­er­ated by a sub­se­quent let­ter to Dr Mo­sisili in March 2016 where he was given time­lines for im­ple­ment­ing the de­ci­sions. The most sig­nif­i­cant of those de­ci­sions are es­sen­tially four:

1. Relieve Lieu­tenant-gen­eral Tlali Kamoli of the com­mand of the LDF be­cause of his al­leged in­volve­ment in crimes such as high trea­son, mur­der and vi­o­la­tions of rule of law in other in­stances but also the per­cep­tion that he is a di­vi­sive char­ac­ter within the force. A pre­con­di­tion for se­cu­rity re­view re­quires that the per­son who is at the cen­tre of the cri­sis must give way lest he frus­trates and in­ter­feres with the process;

2. Re­store the rule of law by sus­pend­ing all those in the LDF who have cases rang­ing from high trea­son to mur­der while their cases are be­ing fur­ther in­ves­ti­gated. The phys­i­cal ev­i­dence which they have must be handed over to in­ves­ti­ga­tors. It is nor­mal in any demo­cratic sys­tem that while in­ves­ti­ga­tions are on­go­ing, those who can de­stroy or con­tam­i­nate ev­i­dence must be re­moved from their po­si­tions;

3. En­sure the re­turn of the ex­iled op­po­si­tion po­lit­i­cal lead­ers in con­di­tions of se­cu­rity. In ad­di­tion en­sure that all ex­iled Ba­sotho are pro­vided with a safe re­turn to the coun­try;

4. Un­der­take con­sti­tu­tional, public sec­tor and se­cu­rity re­forms in or­der to min­imise the re­cur­rence of the sit­u­a­tion in the fu­ture.

Th­ese are straight­for­ward is­sues which any gov­ern­ment which does not have cases to an­swer for should be able to ac­cept un­con­di­tion­ally. The fact, how­ever, is that some in the gov­ern­ment are deeply in­volved in the above trans­gres­sions by those el­e­ments in the LDF who are now the fo­cus. But for oth­ers, there is unimag­in­able fear of Lt-gen Kamoli’s po­ten­tial ret­ri­bu­tion if his care­fully con­structed haven was blown away. They are re­ally afraid! En­ter the Amer­i­cans! As we are aware, the Africa Growth and Op­por­tu­nity Act (AGOA) was en­acted by the US in 2000 for qual­i­fy­ing African states to fa­cil­i­tate and im­prove duty free ac­cess to the US. From the be­gin­ning, AGOA was con­di­tional on states to be com­mit­ted to the ob­ser­vance of the rule of law; make ef­forts to com­bat cor­rup­tion; have eco­nomic poli­cies to re­duce poverty; and pro­tect work­ers’ rights.

It was thus a re­ward for those coun­tries which are fo­cused on im­prov­ing the liveli­hoods of their peo­ple. Mar­ket ac­cess has been a ma­jor rea­son for some of the fac­to­ries which have moved to the dif­fer­ent fac­tory shells in Le­sotho over the past decade.

Statistics in­di­cate that around 40 000 jobs have been cre­ated as a re­sult of mar­ket ac­cess to the US. Granted, those are low wage fac­tory jobs, but in a coun­try be­set by high un­em­ploy­ment and poverty, that is not some­thing that can be sniffed off. The over­all im­pact around the fac­to­ries and in those ar­eas the work­ers come from has been ob­serv­able.

One of the is­sues which is part of the AGOA frame­work is the pe­ri­odic re­views that de­ter­mine con­tin­ued qual­i­fi­ca­tion. This is not an ar­range­ment where once one is in they con­tinue to have ac­cess.

Thus the rel­e­vance of the Phumaphi re­port for Le­sotho’s con­tin­ued qual­i­fi­ca­tion. Even be­fore the re­port was en­dorsed by SADC, an­other US gov­ern­ment in­sti­tu­tion Mil­len­nium

Chal­lenge Cor­po­ra­tion (MCC) which had pre­vi­ously granted Le­sotho $362.5 mil­lion and was con­sid­er­ing a new com­pact, raised the alarm bells about the rule of law in the Moun­tain King­dom. It was clear that it was ex­pect­ing clear progress in im­ple­ment­ing the Phumaphi Re­port rec­om­men­da­tions in is­sues of ac­count­abil­ity and rein­ing in the LDF to be un­der civil­ian con­trol.

When those dis­cus­sions were go­ing on, some in the Le­sotho gov­ern­ment were ar­gu­ing that there is no re­la­tion­ship be­tween that and AGOA.

They seemed to think that now that AGOA had been ex­tended, it would not raise any con­cerns. Le­sotho’s Fi­nance Min­is­ter, Dr ‘Mam­phono Khaketla op­er­at­ing un­der this un­in­formed ba­sis went so far as to tell Par­lia­ment in Fe­bru­ary 2016 that:

“I am happy to re­port that our trade re­la­tion­ship with the US re­mains strong and there is no threat to Le­sotho’s con­tin­ued AGOA el­i­gi­bil­ity.”

She over­did her em­pha­sis be­cause AGOA, as al­ready pointed out, just like MCC are con­di­tional fa­cil­i­ties which can be with­drawn if a party to them fails the re­view.

The ring­ing bells should have sounded to Dr Khaketla, when she re­ceived a let­ter from MCC on Le­sotho’s con­tin­ued par­tic­i­pa­tion in the fa­cil­ity and the is­sues raised about the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Phumaphi re­port.

But she should have trem­bled when on the 19 Jan­uary 2016, the US Am­bas­sador to Botswana be­came the first dig­ni­tary to have vis­ited SADC Sec­re­tariat and re­ceived the re­port. He went fur­ther to state clearly that the US sup­ports SADC on the Le­sotho is­sue.

In­sti­tu­tions which are funded by the US gov­ern­ment may be many but they do not have walls around each other. They com­mu­ni­cate. But more im­por­tantly, they are in­stru­ments of US pol­icy. Let those who don’t know learn!

In a ma­jor blow to Le­sotho re­cently, US Trade Rep­re­sen­ta­tive, Am­bas­sador Michael Fro­man, wrote a let­ter to Trade Min­is­ter Joshua Setipa in which he spelled out that the cur­rent re­view of Le­sotho’s el­i­gi­bil­ity for 2016 is con­firmed.

How­ever, el­i­gi­bil­ity for 2017 would de­pend on the mon­i­tor­ing of the restora­tion of the rule of law and specif­i­cally the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Phumaphi Re­port rec­om­men­da­tions. Lest the point is not clear, Am­bas­sador Fro­man went into specifics.

He pointed out that the US would fo­cus on se­cu­rity sec­tor re­form aimed at trans­form­ing the LDF into a pro­fes­sional army.

“…se­cu­rity sec­tor re­form process that seeks to trans­form the Le­sotho De­fence Force (LDF) into pro­fes­sional and co­he­sive in­sti­tu­tion that is fully sub­ject to civil­ian con­trol, re­spect the rule of law, and en­joys the con­fi­dence of Ba­sotho,” said Am­bas­sador Fro­man.

He goes on to deal with the al­le­ga­tions of tor­ture of the de­tained sol­diers and whether they are ac­ces­si­ble to in­ter­na­tional hu­man­i­tar­ian or­gan­i­sa­tions to ver­ify the con­di­tions of their de­ten­tion in light of the SADC re­port find­ings.

In essence, this let­ter places the ball squarely in the hands of the gov­ern­ment. The fu­ture liveli­hoods of more than 40 000 Ba­sotho are de­pen­dent on a sen­si­ble re­ac­tion by the gov­ern­ment.

The ini­tial re­ac­tion how­ever seems in­com­pre­hen­si­ble. Dr Khaketla was in denial from the be­gin­ning. Mr Setipa’s re­sponses in the press con­fer­ence, if ac­cu­rately cap­tured are plain naïve.

He seems to think that UK re­tail­ers can in a sense sub­sti­tute the big­ger US mar­ket. He should know bet­ter why Chi­nese firms have started pro­duc­tion in Le­sotho and the other South East Asian coun­tries rather than pro­duce from their home coun­try. It’s pro­duc­tion costs.

With­out free tar­iffs they would not be com­pet­i­tive. As for what Deputy Prime Min­is­ter Mo­thetjoa Mets­ing is re­ported to have said one can only marvel at the eva­sive­ness.

It is ob­vi­ous that he has no clue about what this is all about. He is re­ported to have said that there are peo­ple who would rel­ish Le­sotho be­ing re­moved from el­i­gi­bil­ity to AGOA.

This is a simple mat­ter of Mr Mets­ing en­sur­ing that the gov­ern­ment com­plies with its in­ter­na­tional obli­ga­tions and not about peo­ple wish­ing Le­sotho ill.

In his po­si­tion, more than all in those of oth­ers, he should have un­der­stood that he is deal­ing with the liveli­hoods of thou­sands

of Ba­sotho.

He can­not there­fore play the game of blam­ing peo­ple who are sound­ing the alarm that if Mr Mets­ing and his part­ners don’t ful­fil the obli­ga­tions of AGOA, the coun­try would suf­fer ir­repara­ble harm.

It is wor­ry­ing that Mr Mets­ing is re­ported to have said that he will not suf­fer the con­se­quences. It is per­haps in­dica­tive of the cal­lous­ness of the gov­ern­ment that he can ac­tu­ally publicly say that he per­son­ally will not suf­fer.

The last I knew peo­ple in gov­ern­ment don’t take de­ci­sions based on whether they per­son­ally will ben­e­fit or suf­fer.

We may wish to take ex­am­ples from Swaziland, which was re­moved from el­i­gi­bil­ity to AGOA in 2014. As we speak now, sev­eral fac­to­ries which were af­fected have closed down.

They con­tinue to close down and the im­pact in the ar­eas around the fac­tory sites are telling the whole story. Burundi has just been re­moved from AGOA and one hopes that Le­sotho does not fol­low.

The is­sues are very clear, If Le­sotho is to re­main within the AGOA sys­tem of mar­ket ac­cess to the US, then it has to com­ply.

Con­di­tion­al­i­ties are not al­ways good, but when they sup­port cases of the down­trod­den rather than au­thor­i­tar­ian gov­ern­ments, I will al­ways be in the fore­front in their sup­port. Where would this coun­try be if it was left to the whims of this gov­ern­ment?

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