Where is SADC going with Lesotho?
ON Tuesday, 19 January, 2016, in the main evening South African television news bulletin, a visibly frustrated but nevertheless determined President Jacob Zuma of South Africa, declared on the sidelines of the SADC summit that: “If the government of Lesotho is not going to implement the SADC recommendations, then SADC is going to disengage in all its activities in Lesotho. However, this does not mean that SADC is abandoning the people of Lesotho but rather that in the event of non-implementation, SADC is going to implement these recommendations on behalf of the people of Lesotho”.
This strong message was indeed heartening coming from the leader of arguably the most powerful SADC member both militarily and economically. These words fortified the belief among many Basotho that the time for diplomatic posturing for the then embattled Mosisili government was over. The message even for the rest of the world was that gone are the days when SADC used to treat fellow errant member states with kids’ gloves. SADC meant business.
The very next day at the cusp of the summit Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili was handed the Phumaphi Report, which he had earlier vowed never to receive, for implementation. SADC then released a communique as is its tradition, after every summit, assuring the world that if Lesotho failed or refused to implement the recommendations, then it would be obliged to convene a special Double Troika Summit to force Lesotho to implement.
However, and sadly, what followed was refusal, at least tacitly or by word, as echoed in the words of various government spokespersons, to implement any of the recommendations. Further, what followed was unprec- edented dithering by SADC and ostensibly not knowing what to do to resolve the Lesotho impasse.
Shortly thereafter, there followed the African Union summit held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, which was now attended by Lesotho’s Deputy Prime Minister. At the sidelines of that summit, the DPM met the chairman of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security, President Felipe Nyusu of Mozambique. At these talks the DPM promised the chairman that Lesotho would after all, implement the recommendations. However, still nothing moved.
On his return to Lesotho the DPM again went on a diplomatic charm offensive to both Botswana, as the chair of SADC and Mozambique, as the chair of the Organ. In this whirlwind tour of the two capitals the DPM again assured the two heads of state that the recommendations would be implemented. However, what was apparent, though not evident in all these efforts, and tours was the apparent inertia of the SADC facilitator on Lesotho, South Africa’s Deputy President, Cyril Ramaphosa.
What was even more disturbing was the non-operationalization and non-deployment of the SADC Oversight Committee that had been recommended since the 19th January summit.
My suspicion is that the establishment and operationalization of this Committee were the responsibility of the SADC Executive Secretary and the facilitator, however, no such moves were undertaken by either of the two officials. As a result, the committee whose mandate was to exercise an eagle eye and monitor the situation in Lesotho, was never operationalized.
In the interim, the Executive Secretary paid a brief visit to Lesotho to monitor and take stock of the progress in the implementation of the recommendations of SADC. Surprisingly the said officer said on her departure on being interviewed by the media that she had noticed considerable progress in the implementation. I am saying surprisingly because no Mosotho worth his salt, living in Lesotho, ever realized any tangible progress.
Perhaps noticing that in all honesty, there was no tangible progress to report on and in view also of the looming SADC summit and in addition, to the undertaking to convene a Double Troika Summit in the absence of any implementation, SADC again convened the Double Troika Summit in Gaborone, Botswana, to discuss the security, and political instability in Lesotho, in addition to progress on the implementation of the SADC recommendations.
Therefore, at its summit of 28th June, 2016, the Double Troika Summit of SADC, issued a communique which said I quote, partially: (4) “Summit received a report as presented by the government of the Kingdom of Lesotho regarding progress made on the implementation of Summit Decisions, and ensure that and urged the government of the Kingdom of Lesotho to urgently fulfil her commitments through demonstrable implementation of SADC decisions”. In addition, the communique urged the leaders of the opposition parties still in exile in South Africa, allegedly fearing for their lives, to return to Lesotho, by the end of August.
Ostensibly because he was engaged in his country’s keenly contested municipal elections, the SADC facilitator barely set foot in Lesotho, as mandated by the regional body to facilitate and oversee the implementation of its decisions. He therefore only invited the three leaders to Pretoria on 10th August, 2016, to facilitate their return to Lesotho. He however, hit the proverbial brickwall or rather they insisted they were not returning to Lesotho with the present army commander still at the helm, contrary to SADC decisions.
He also paid a surprise unannounced short visit to Lesotho to take stock of the progress made in implementing the decision.it is appropriate at this juncture to cast one’s mind back to the Phumaphi recommendations that later became SADC decisions that were long supposed to have been implemented together with the SOMILES report on Lesotho.
Briefly the SADC decisions are four-fold, namely; (1) that the Commander of the Army be relieved of his duties in order to ensure the acceptance and engender credibility of the army in the eyes of the Basotho, (2) that all those army personnel that are suspected of having been involved in the murder of former army commander, Lieutenant-general Maaparankoe Mahao and in other crimes be suspended from duty pending a creditable police investigation into their conduct according to acceptable international standards,