Op­po­si­tion at­tacks SADC

Lesotho Times - - Front Page - ’Marafaele Mohloboli

THE tri­par­tite op­po­si­tion bloc has slammed the gov­ern­ment for not invit­ing them to the Se­cu­rity Sec­tor Re­form work­shop that ended yes­ter­day, say­ing all stake­hold­ers should be in­volved in the process from the on­set.

The op­po­si­tion also di­rected its ire at the South­ern African De­vel­op­ment Com­mu­nity (SADC) for fa­cil­i­tat­ing the two-day sem­i­nar, say­ing the re­gional bloc should “re­trace its steps and start again on the right foot­ing”.

The work­shop was held in Maseru and fa­cil­i­tated by spe­cial en­voys from SADC. Among the at­ten­dees were rep­re­sen­ta­tives of se­cu­rity agen­cies, min­is­ters, mem­bers of the Se­nate and prin­ci­pal chiefs as well as other gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials.

All Ba­sotho Con­ven­tion (ABC) Sec­re­tary-gen­eral Sa­monyane Nt­sekele told the Le­sotho Times yes­ter­day SADC and the gov­ern­ment had started the re­form process “on a wrong foot­ing al­to­gether”.

He said it was “sur­pris­ing” the gov­ern­ment in­vited the op­po­si­tion for a High-level Roundtable ses­sion on gover­nance re­forms held in con­junc­tion with the United Na­tions (UN) ear­lier this month, and not the Se­cu­rity Sec­tor Re­form work­shop.

“It is re­ally sur­pris­ing that the gov­ern­ment man­aged to call us for a UN meet­ing and did not in­vite us to this work­shop. SADC knows the sen­si­tiv­ity of the se­cu­rity is­sue, yet they fa­cil­i­tated a work­shop that was not in­clu­sive,” Mr Nt­sekele said.

He said the gov­ern­ment and the spe­cial en­voys con­vened the work­shop to give the im­pres­sion progress was be­ing made in im­ple­ment­ing the re­forms ahead of the SADC heads of state and gov­ern­ment sum­mit sched­uled for Swazi­land next month.

“We think SADC is just try­ing to help the gov­ern­ment have some­thing pos­i­tive to re­port to the up­com­ing sum­mit, yet in ac­tual fact there is no progress on the re­forms. We don’t un­der­stand what SADC and the gov­ern­ment are do­ing right now,” said Mr Nt­sekele

“We ap­peal to SADC to re­trace their steps and start again on the right foot­ing if they are sin­cere in help­ing re­solve Le­sotho’s se­cu­rity chal­lenges. Oth­er­wise, there will never be progress in Le­sotho if they don’t treat this mat­ter with the sen­si­tiv­ity it de­serves. That’s our stand as the ABC. They should in­volve all stake­hold­ers from the on­set.”

Ba­sotho Na­tional Party (BNP) deputy leader Joang Mo­lapo said the op­po­si­tion was not in­vited to the work­shop de­spite be­ing part of the 25-mem­ber del­e­ga­tion of politi­cians, se­nior civil ser­vants and civil so­ci­ety rep­re­sen­ta­tives who vis­ited New Zealand in July 2014 to study the coun­try’s gover­nance sys­tem.

“It’s sur­pris­ing that we all went to New Zealand to learn how re­forms are im­ple­mented, and some were tasked with con­sti­tu­tional re­forms, an­other group with se­cu­rity sec­tor re­forms while oth­ers were al­lo­cated pub­lic sec­tor re­forms. All of a sud­den we are not part of the re­forms, and that is wor­ri­some,” said Chief Mo­lapo.

“From the on­set, it was es­tab­lished that all stake­hold­ers should be part of the re­form process. We are sur­prised to see the gov­ern­ment do­ing it on its own. We went to New Zealand to­gether, and all of a sud­den they have de­cided to ex­clude us.”

The BNP leader said the gov­ern­ment’s ex­pla­na­tion that the op­po­si­tion was not in­vited be­cause the work­shop was meant to “em­power” gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials did not wash.

“Who was it in­tended to em­pow- er, and against who? What un­der­stand­ing are they be­ing em­pow­ered to have, against whose un­der­stand­ing?” Chief Mo­lapo queried.

“There won’t be any pos­i­tive out­come from this work­shop. What the gov­ern­ment is try­ing to do is come up with some­thing pos­i­tive to re­port at the SADC sum­mit while pre­tend­ing progress is be­ing made. They want to later say they en­gaged us, yet they didn’t.”

Re­formed Congress for Le­sotho (RCL) deputy leader Mot­lo­h­eloa Phooko echoed his op­po­si­tion col­leagues’ sen­ti­ments, say­ing SADC should not have fa­cil­i­tated a process that was not in­clu­sive.

“I am just sur­prised to hear there were some SADC rep­re­sen­ta­tives at the work­shop. From a pos­i­tive stand­point, I would say the SADC en­voys wanted to ob­serve the work­shop and hear what was be­ing said.

“How­ever, if I were to be neg­a­tive I would ques­tion how SADC even dared to be a part of such a meet­ing that was not in­clu­sive,” Mr Phooko said.

Com­ment­ing on the op­po­si­tion’s stance yes­ter­day, De­fence and Na­tional Se­cu­rity Min­is­ter Tšeliso Mokhosi said the work­shop had noth­ing to do with the rec­om­men­da­tions of the SADC Com­mis­sion of In­quiry as some peo­ple were sug­gest­ing.

Se­cu­rity sec­tor re­forms are among rec­om­men­da­tions made by the Jus­tice Phumaphi-led Com­mis­sion of In­quiry into Le­sotho’s in­sta­bil­ity.

The 10-mem­ber Com­mis­sion of le­gal and se­cu­rity ex­perts probed Le­sotho’s se­cu­rity and po­lit­i­cal chal­lenges fol­low­ing the fa­tal shoot­ing of for­mer army com­man­der Maa­parankoe Ma­hao on 25 June 2015.

“This was just a work­shop meant to em­power the pub­lic sec­tor and en­lighten them on what the se­cu­rity re­forms en­tail. The op­po­si­tion was de­lib­er­ately not in­vited be­cause the work­shop had noth­ing to do with the rec­om­mended re­forms,” Mokhosi said.

“We are just try­ing to get our house in or­der be­fore we can start work­ing on the SADC rec­om­men­da­tions on se­cu­rity re­forms. Even the civil so­ci­ety mem­bers were not in­vited.”

He added: “We only in­vited the SADC Sec­re­tariat and its en­voys to help us get the process right from the word go.

“There was no ma­li­cious in­ten­tion in ex­clud­ing the op­po­si­tion from the work­shop.”

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