Has Le­sotho reached its Ru­bi­con?

Lesotho Times - - Opinion & Analysis - Ut­loang Ka­jeno

IN the early 1980s, the world’s at­ten­tion was fixed on the then apartheid South Africa. The world keenly awaited Pres­i­dent PW Botha’s speech in Par­lia­ment that many hoped would have far-reach­ing con­se­quences for the op­pres­sive sys­tem of apartheid. How­ever, as fate would have it, he de­liv­ered a speech that had lit­tle im­pact on the po­lit­i­cal fu­ture of South Africa.

The op­pressed black ma­jor­ity had, since the Na­tional Party’s com­ing to power, been de­nied par­tic­i­pa­tion in the gov­er­nance of their coun­try and there­fore had ex­pe­ri­enced very lit­tle so­cio-eco­nomic devel­op­ment.

The me­dia hype and world­wide at­ten­tion around the speech led it to be called the “Ru­bi­con” speech. How­ever, it never ma­te­ri­alised as the tri­cam­eral par­lia­ment in­cluded, though with se­verely lim­ited leg­isla­tive pow­ers, only the so-called col­ored peo­ple and cit­i­zens of Asian de­scent. The black ma­jor­ity were there­fore ex­cluded from leg­isla­tive par­tic­i­pa­tion in gov­ern­ment. I have nar­rated the SA Ru­bi­con story to draw par­al­lels with what Le­sotho is now fac­ing.

Since his­tory has a strange way of re­peat­ing it­self, Le­sotho on 28th June, will have its own “Ru­bi­con” as the South­ern African Devel­op­ment Com­mu­nity (SADC) has con­vened an Ex­tra-or­di­nary Sum­mit of the Dou­ble Troika in Gaborone, Botswana. The let­ter from the SADC Sec­re­tar­iat ad­dressed to Le­sotho’s Min­is­ter of For­eign Af­fairs and In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions read in part: “Fol­low­ing a di­rec­tive by the Chair­per­son of SADC, I wish to in­form you that a Dou­ble Troika Sum­mit has been con­vened to take place on 28th June, 2016 at 10:00 hours.

“The Dou­ble Troika Sum­mit will con­sider the po­lit­i­cal and se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion on the King­dom of Le­sotho, specif­i­cally the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the SADC De­ci­sions.

“To this ef­fect, you are re­quested to sub­mit a progress re­port that will fa­cil­i­tate prepa­ra­tions of the meet­ing. We will ap­pre­ci­ate re­ceiv­ing the progress re­port by 17 June, 2016”

Clearly from the tone, mag­ni­tude and the flurry of diplo­matic ac­tiv­ity as well as sub­se­quent SADC Com­mu­nique that pre­ceded this in­vi­ta­tion to Le­sotho, one is left in no doubt that 28 June will be a wa­ter­shed mo­ment for Le­sotho. It will be our col­lec­tive Ru­bi­con as a na­tion amongst the com­mu­nity of na­tions.

Why the Ru­bi­con anal­ogy? Wikipedia traces the ori­gin of the word “Ru­bi­con” as de­riv­ing from Latin word “Ru­bico” and “Ru­bi­cone” in Ital­ian. It refers to Julius Cae­sar's army's cross­ing of the Ru­bi­con River (in the north of Italy) in 49 BC, which was con­sid­ered an act of in­sur­rec­tion and trea­son. Julius Cae­sar ut­tered the fa­mous phrase "alea iacta est" — the die is cast — as his army marched through the shal­low river.

It was so named be­cause its wa­ters are coloured red by mud de­posits. The English mean­ing for ru­bi­con is sim­ply point of no re­turn. In ef­fect, this day is our ru­bi­con as a na­tion be­cause it marks a wa­ter­shed mo­ment and, if you like, a turn­ing point, in our so­cioe­co­nomic and po­lit­i­cal devel­op­ment and our re­la­tions in re­gard to SADC in par­tic­u­lar, and the world in gen­eral.

Ma­jor events that led to the sum­mit On 25 June 2015, for­mer Le­sotho De­fence Force (LDF) com­man­der, Lieu­tenant-gen­eral Maa­parankoe Ma­hao, bs shot dead by his own col­leagues while driv­ing from his farm in Mokema, out­side Maseru. The LDF later ad­mits be­fore a packed court­room in a habeas cor­pus ap­pli­ca­tion that its op­er­a­tives killed him as he was al­legedly re­sist­ing ar­rest for sus­pected mutiny.

Spurred by this devel­op­ment and sub­se­quent strong con­dem­na­tion by SADC, African Union (AU) and the United Na­tions, SADC dis­patches a min­is­te­rial ob­server mis­sion to Le­sotho to as­sess the se­cu­rity and po­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion. Hard on its heels, Prime Min­is­ter Pakalitha Mo­sisili re­quests SADC to set up a Com­mis­sion of in­quiry to look into among oth­ers, cir­cum­stances sur­round­ing the killing of the for­mer LDF com­man­der.

SADC Com­mis­sion Starts its Hear­ings. Hav­ing un­der­taken be­fore SADC to do­mes­ti­cate the Com­mis­sion so it can start its hear­ings, the gov­ern­ment of Le­sotho gazetted what one may call dis­torted terms of ref­er­ence, for the Com­mis­sion, that SADC duly re­jected and fi­nally agree­ing to amended terms that were en­cap­su­lated in res­o­lu­tions adopted in Pre­to­ria, South Africa. The Com­mis­sion there­fore started its broad­cast hear­ings at the Na­tional Li­brary in Maseru, on 31 Au­gust 2015.

Hashatsi Court Case Be­cause gov­ern­ment could not guar­an­tee the safety of the Le­sotho soldiers, op­po­si­tion lead­ers and other ex­iles who fled the coun­try to South Africa fear­ing for their lives, the com­mis­sion then re­lo­cated to neigh­bour­ing South Africa in De­cem­ber, 2015 to gather fur­ther ev­i­dence.in a move that landed cre­dence to un­con­firmed spec­u­la­tion that the gov­ern­ment had ac­qui­esced to the lodg­ing of the case, Lieu­tenant-colonel Tefo Hashatsi, lodged a court case that ef­fec­tively sought to deal a fa­tal blow to the en­tire find­ings of the Com­mis­sion and its pro­pri­ety in hear­ing ev­i­dence in South Africa.

De­spite re­peated and de­ter­mined ef­forts by the Le­sotho gov­ern­ment to put a hold to the Com­mis­sion, the lat­ter nev­er­the­less went ahead af­ter con­sul­ta­tions with its par­ent body, SADC.

Govt threat­ens not to ac­cept re­port The gov­ern­ment threat­ened not to ac­cept the Com­mis­sion’s re­port af­ter it had been handed-over to SADC, also ar­gu­ing that the Com­mis­sion was a Le­sotho crea­ture and ought to re­port to the Le­sotho Prime Min­is­ter.af­ter strong-arm tac­tics by SADC that in­cluded threats of dis­en­gag­ing from Le­sotho, at its Dou­ble Troika Sum­mit in Gaborone, Botswana, in 18th Jan­uary 2016, the gov­ern­ment on the last day of the sum­mit fi­nally ac­cepted the re­port. It was at this sum­mit that SADC in line with its pro­to­cols and treaties, adopted the rec­om­men­da­tions of the re­port thereby declar­ing them as res­o­lu­tions which are bind­ing. SADC also re­it­er­ated its im­mu­nity.

SADC in its com­mu­nique urged the gov­ern­ment to pub­lish the re­port and im­ple­ment its rec­om­men­da­tions which were now bind­ing to be im­ple­mented within 14 days. SADC also made a veiled threat to Le­sotho that if it did not im­ple­ment the res­o­lu­tions it would con­sider con­ven­ing an ex­tra-or­di­nary Dou­ble Troika Sum­mit be­fore the full SADC Sum­mit, in Swazi­land in Au­gust.

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