Dark cloud hangs over Le­sotho

Lesotho Times - - Leader - AGOA and MCC

THE head­line: “Le­sotho faces AGOA boot” ( Le­sotho Times, 3 Novem­ber 2016) cries out for ur­gent ac­tion by all stake­hold­ers, pri­mar­ily the gov­ern­ment. We have been warn­ing ad nau­seam all con­cerned in­clud­ing pri­mar­ily the gov­ern­ment, that the United States gov­ern­ment as the ma­jor bene­fac­tor to the Ba­sotho un­der the African Growth and Op­por­tu­ni­ties Act (AGOA) and the Mil­len­nium Chal­lenge Cor­po­ra­tion (MCC), is con­cerned that Le­sotho is not meet­ing the bench­marks of democ­racy, hu­man rights, rule of law, press free­dom and free en­ter­prise, among oth­ers, to be el­i­gi­ble for these fa­cil­i­ties. How­ever, and un­for­tu­nately these clar­ion calls ap­pear to have fallen on deaf ears as to date noth­ing is be­ing done to ad­here to these guide­lines.

Phumaphi Com­mis­sion We fur­ther warned that in ad­di­tion that the US gov­ern­ment and other de­vel­op­ment part­ners are in­sist­ing that Le­sotho im­ple­ments the SADC de­ci­sions that em­anate from the Phumaphi Com­mis­sion that was es­tab­lished fol­low­ing the 25 June 2015 killing of for­mer army com­man­der Maa­parankoe Ma­hao by his col­leagues for al­legedly re­sist­ing ar­rest.

Prin­ci­pally, four ma­jor rec­om­men­da­tions emerged from this Com­mis­sion. These were, in no par­tic­u­lar or­der: (a) The re­moval of the in­cum­bent com­man­der of the army as he is per­ceived to be the po­lar­iz­ing per­son­al­ity within the army and the na­tion and as a mea­sure to re­store con­fi­dence of the army among the Ba­sotho. (b) the sus­pen­sion, in­ves­ti­ga­tion and pros­e­cu­tion ac­cord­ing to the best in­ter­na­tional prac­tices of all sol­diers in­volved in the killing of Gen­eral Ma­hao and in other crimes in­clud­ing the 30th Au­gust, 2014 at­tempted coup and other crimes. (c) Amnesty for the de­tained sol­diers for al­leged mutiny as the Com­mis­sion con­cluded that there was no mutiny but only that their con­fes­sions were ob­tained through co­er­cion. The re­turn of all po­lit­i­cal ex­iles back to Le­sotho. (d) Im­ple­men­ta­tion of the con­sti­tu­tional, judicial, press and other re­forms as en­cap­su­lated in the Ramaphosa re­port, the aptly ti­tled, SOMILES RE­PORT.

Amnesty Bill, 2016 Of late, the US has added its weight be­hind calls by op­po­si­tion par­ties and civic or­ga­ni­za­tions for gov­ern­ment not to en­act the Amnesty Bill, 2016 into law as this would pro­mote a cul­ture of im­pu­rity in the coun­try. The Amer­i­cans fur­ther stated that laws of this na­ture re­quire con­sul­ta­tions and di­a­logue with var­i­ous stake­hold­ers. How­ever, gov­ern­ment has done none of these.

This bill seeks to see mem­bers of the army, Le­sotho Mounted Po­lice Ser­vices (LMPS) Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ser­vices (NSS), Le­sotho Cor­rec­tional Ser­vice (LCS), gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials and any other per­son be­ing granted amnesty for of­fences com­mit­ted be­tween Jan­uary 2007 and De­cem­ber 2015.

The amnesty would ex­tend to mem­bers of the army whom the SADC Com­mis­sion rec­om­mended should face pros­e­cu­tion thus ren­der­ing some of the SADC de­ci­sions a nul­lity and emas­cu­lat­ing them.

US of­fi­cial’s visit The sen­ti­ments of the US gov­ern­ment’s stance re­gard­ing the gov­ern­ment’s non­im­ple­men­ta­tion of the SADC de­ci­sions, its in­ten­tion to en­act the afore­men­tioned Amnesty Bill into law and the dis­as­trous con­se­quences of Le­sotho’s in­el­i­gi­bil­ity for both AGOA and MCC sec­ond com­pact were echoed suc­cinctly by non-other than the US As­sis­tant Sec­re­tary of State for African Af­fairs, Am­bas­sador Linda Thomas-greenfield, on her re­cent two-day trip to Le­sotho, re­cently.

It is per­haps in­struc­tive for me to quote some of her pro­nounce­ments in her ex­ten­sive in­ter­view with the me­dia so that the reader can ap­pre­ci­ate the mag­ni­tude of the dis­as­ter that might be­fall Le­sotho in the event of non-qual­i­fi­ca­tion: “Two of those rec­om­men­da­tions were that Gen­eral Kamoli be re­moved from his po­si­tion and the sec­ond one was that the sol­diers, who are cur­rently im­pris­oned for al­leged mutiny, be re­leased. This is be­cause the com­mis­sion found no ev­i­dence to in­di­cate the sol­diers were in­volved in mutiny.”

“This is­sue of 40 000 tex­tile in­dus­try work­ers in Le­sotho is of great con­cern to us be­cause we have a num­ber of pro­grammes that re­quire the gov­ern­ment to en­sure sta­bil­ity. If these gov­er­nance is­sues are not ad­dressed, the AGOA pro­gramme that pro­vides 40 000 jobs in this coun­try would be jeop­ardy.”

“We are also keen to see im­pu­rity not tak­ing hold in this coun­try. These is­sues we are rais­ing are not new; the AGOA leg­is­la­tion al­ways had bench­marks spell­ing out our re­quire­ments in terms of democ­racy, gov­er­nance, hu­man rights and press free­doms among oth­ers.”

Asked on the var­i­ous ef­forts un­der­taken by the Trade and In­dus­try Min­is­ter and other gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials to lobby us trade rep­re­sen­ta­tives and Con­gress for a favourable vote on the an­nual re­view of Le­sotho’s el­i­gi­bil­ity for AGOA and MCC, Am­bas­sador Thomas-greenfield omi­nously warned, in per­haps the quote that cor­rectly en­cap­su­lates the im­port of this col­umn: “I don’t know what the ver­dict will be, but the writ­ing is on the wall.” I wish to add no fur­ther as this warn­ing is as clear as day and night.

Po­ten­tial con­se­quences That the US is the sim­ply the largest de­vel­op­ment part­ner and bene­fac­tor for Le­sotho is with­out a doubt. Should the US go ahead with its vir­tual fi­nal de­ci­sion to with­draw the AGOA and MCA fa­cil­ity to Le­sotho the con­se­quences for the en­tire coun­try with such a frag­ile economy are too ghastly to con­tem­plate. Here are some of the huge ben­e­fits that Le­sotho gets un­der the un­ri­valled US as­sis­tance.

AGOA pro­vides em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties for over 40 000 Ba­sotho in the gar­ment and tex­tile in­dus­try, as the US en­voy rightly pointed out and to their de­pen­dants. This means that un­em­ploy­ment will dan­ger­ously spi­ral out of con­trol and liveli­hood of hun­dreds of Ba­sotho will be in jeop­ardy.

Un­der the first five-year MCC Com­pact, Le­sotho got as­sis­tance among oth­ers in the field of the con­struc­tive of the Me­to­long Dam that pro­vides wa­ter to Maseru, Roma, Morija and Mazenod.

The MCC pro­vides mit­i­gat­ing as­sis­tance on the eco­nomic and health front in the form of the Pres­i­dent’s Emer­gency Plan for AIDS Re­lief (PEPFAR). In ad­di­tion to mit­i­gat­ing the ef­fects on ma­ter­nal health, tu­ber­cu­lo­sis and other dis­eases. For­tu­nately, the US has in­di­cated it will not stop hu­man­i­tar­ian and health-re­lated aid to Le­sotho, nev­er­the­less.

The MCC has as­sisted in reg­u­lar­iz­ing and reg­is­ter­ing the Le­sotho land ten­ure sys­tem un­der the newly-es­tab­lished Land Ad­min­is­tra­tion Au­thor­ity (LAA), op­er­a­tional­iz­ing the newly-es­tab­lished Com­mer­cial Di­vi­sion of the High Court that seeks to en­gen­der a speed­ier res­o­lu­tion of com­mer­cial dis­putes to cre­ate an in­vestor-friendly environment for Le­sotho’s economy and re­ha­bil­i­tat­ing the Le­sotho nat­u­ral ecosys­tem through preser­va­tion of the wet­lands and sources of our ma­jor rivers as well crit­i­cally re­ha­bil­i­tat­ing and es­tab­lish­ing new health care cen­tres through­out the coun­try and main­te­nance thereof in­clud­ing pro­vid­ing ru­ral san­i­ta­tion fa­cil­i­ties in large ar­eas of the ru­ral ar­eas.

In­deed the as­sis­tance of the US to Le­sotho is im­mea­sur­able and long­stand­ing by any stan­dards. How we will mit­i­gate its huge im­pact should the US with­draw it is in­com­pre­hen­si­ble and makes one to shud­der think of the dis­as­trous con­se­quences.

Shrink­ing of the tax base If these 40 000 plus jobs are lost as a re­sult of the US’S with­drawal of AGOA and MCC Sec­ond Com­pact, then this will have huge dis­as­trous im­pact on the gov­ern­ment’s tax base. This means the num­ber of in­sti­tu­tion and peo­ple pay­ing tax will dwin­dle dras­ti­cally thereby im­pact­ing neg­a­tively on the gov­ern­ment’s rev­enue base.

It trans­lates also to the knock-on ef­fect that the spin-off in­dus­tries such cater­ing, man­u­fac­tur­ing, street ven­dors, trans­port re­tail and mar­ket­ing as well the in­for­mal sec­tor of the economy will suf­fer im­mensely. The gen­eral eco­nomic base of the en­tire coun­try will be knocked-off the perch. This will trans­late to gov­ern­ment and other stake­hold­ers fail­ing or hugely de­creas­ing their so­cial up­lift­ment, ser­vice de­liv­ery and eco­nomic up­lift­ment pro­grams.

This will in­evitably lead to a rest­less and dis­con­tent pop­u­lace that is hos­tile to gov­ern­ment, gov­er­nance and law and other so­cial ser­vices will be over — stretched as too many peo­ple will strug­gle over lim­ited fa­cil­i­ties.

Moral de­gen­er­a­tion The last item above brings me to the hugely moral and so­cial prob­lem of moral de­gen­er­a­tion among the pop­u­lace if these 40 000 plus jobs are lost. Be­cause of this huge num­ber of peo­ple in ur­ban cen­tres will be ren­dered job­less and there­fore with­out a source of in­come, there will be a phe­nom­e­nal in­crease in crime, pros­ti­tu­tion and other vile deeds that will im­pact neg­a­tively on our col­lec­tive moral fi­bre as a na­tion.

Il­le­gal im­mi­grants into SA If these jobs and oth­ers in the spin-off in­dus­tries are lost as a re­sult of dis­qual­i­fi­ca­tion from AGOA and MCA, thou­sands of job­less Ba­sotho will flood into the neigh­bour­ing South Africa that has very pourous borders with Le­sotho. This will put fur­ther strain on SA’S economy and so­cial ser­vices with dis­as­trous con­se­quences.

Con­clu­sion In con­clu­sion as a se­ri­ous clar­ion call to all Ba­sotho, ma­jor stake­hold­ers, gov­ern­ment and in­deed South Africa as our only neigh­bour­ing that has lever­age on Le­sotho and SADC, kindly be warned as the US en­voy puts it if Le­sotho does not im­ple­ment SADC de­ci­sions: “I don’t know what the ver­dict will be, but the writ­ing is on the wall.”

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