PRIME Minister Pakalitha Mosisili has lashed out at the media and civil society organisations for creating “confusion” over Lesotho’s security challenges.
Officially opening a two-day Security Sector Reform workshop in Maseru this week, Dr Mosisili said people who knew “absolutely nothing” about the operations of the security sector were masquerading as experts and making statements they were not qualified to issue.
The workshop was facilitated by special envoys from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and attended by representatives of security agencies, ministers, members of the Senate and principal chiefs among other government officials.
Dr Mosisili said Lesotho’s political challenges were compounded by the “volatile” security situation in the country, compounded by politicians who frequently meddle with the state security sector.
“It is for this reason that we urge all participants at this workshop to realise that this is no ordinary workshop, but the beginning of a mammoth task to normalise the security situation in Lesotho,” he said.
Security sector reforms were among recommendations made by the Justice Mphaphi Phumaphi-led SADC Commission of Inquiry into Lesotho’s instability.
The inquiry, which was launched following the killing of former Lesotho Defence Force commander Maaparankoe Mahao by his army colleagues on 25 June last year, was held between 31 August and 23 October 2015.
The premier said security sector reforms would not be implemented in isolation. A broad spectrum of other reforms were envisaged by the government.
“These include a Constitutional review, reform of Parliament, reform of the public service and review of the judicial system. All these reforms are long overdue, as indeed the majority of the challenges confronting this nation have a direct bearing on one or the other of the sectors identified for reform,” he said.
“We further recognise that while the security establishment may be our current area of focus, politicians are responsible for the current polarisation within the security sector. We, therefore, cannot successfully address meaningful reforms within the sector without addressing the specific challenge of politicians who meddle in security matters.”
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Dr Mosisili said the concept paper on constitutional reform had been finalised and shared with the SADC secretariat.
“We are aware of the limitations of our Constitution and it is for this reason that constitutional review features high on the agenda of the coalition government.”
He said the media and civil society organisations should use the forum to “deepen their understanding” of the security concerns confronting the country.
“We note with grave concern that part of the confusion around current security challenges is caused by the media and some civil society organisations,” Dr Mosisili said.
“We appeal to them as well, to use the opportunity availed by this forum to seek to deepen their understanding of the security concerns confronting this nation.
The premier added: “It is truly unacceptable that people should write whatever they like, whichever way they choose and continue to cause serious misunderstanding between the citizenry and the security establishment.
“Freedom of speech demands that we write the truth about verifiable facts and always accord the other party an opportunity to have a say before we publish anything about them.
“I have often read with shock, some of the information written about the security situation in Lesotho, and really wonder what the reason for such is.”
Dr Mosisili said some people were “masquerading as experts on security issues”.
“People who know absolutely nothing about the operations of the security sector must refrain from masquerading as experts on security issues. By its very nature, security is a highly sensitive sector best left for the initiated,” he said.
Commenting on the premier’s remarks, Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Lesotho Director Tsebo Matšasa said the media’s role was to report on what people would have said or done.
“What is important right now is for people to understand that the media writes or reports about what people do and say. Whatever the leaders decide to say, we will report about it,” he said.
Mr Matšasa advised public figures to refrain from making statements they may end up not wanting the media to report about. It was common for public figures to make inflammatory statements, only to regret later when these are picked up and published in the media. Instead of taking responsibility, these public figures then shifted blame on the media for simply performing their role of reporting.
“I feel the prime minister is being too general and only attracting unwanted problems. He needs to be specific on the issues of concern so we can address them,” he said.
“Our responsibility as the media is to report on issues raised by leaders. If we don’t play our role fearing that we would be labelled, the nation will degenerate into a grave state.”
Mr Matšasa said the government should have invited MISA to participate in the Security Sector Reform workshop. He said participating in the workshop would have helped the media understand the security sector better.
“We would have organised training workshops for journalists had we been invited to workshop. The media should be incorporated into the governance process,” he said.
“Security sector reforms are very important issues in this country, and it is very unfortunate the prime minister decided to attack the media, diverting attention from an important issue at hand.”