THE Southern African Development Community (SADC) and its so-called Organ on Politics Defence and Security have once again proven what ineffectual, inconsequential and comatose institutions they are.
In fact, SADC has taken two fatal decisions in the last two weeks that have proven beyond doubt that the regional body is out of sync with reality and cannot be trusted to act as a custodian of regional peace, security and democracy.
Firstly after a long spell, SADC decided to elevate Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe to become its chairman. Here is a brutal, murderous dictator who has clung to power through systematic murder, torture and destruction of his once prosperous country. The mayhem Mr Mugabe has inflicted on his own country has made him an international pariah. He is one of only a few African leaders omitted from President Barack Obama’s recent venerable US-Africa summit.
But despite Mr Mugabe’s ignoble record, SADC saw it fit to elevate him to the bloc’s leadership. In fact, if it were not for South Africa and SADC’s support, Mr Mugabe would long have been history. The 90-year old dictator, who has made it clear he wants to rule till he is 100, is in line to become the next chairman of the African Union (AU).
Wind-back to 1975 when the AU’s forerunner, the Organisation of Africa Unity (OAU), saw it fit to award its chairmanship to the buffoonish Ugandan butcher, Idi Dada Amin, whilst he was on a killing spree of thousands of his people and expelling successful Asian business people. What does this all make of Africa’s regional and continental bodies? Ordinary Africans cannot look up to them as custodians of their much elusive prosperity and democracy.
Enter Lesotho this week with its coup problems and we again see evidence of SADC’s fashionable languid approach and persistent fumbling.
Here is a small country with an army commander who has made it clear, in both words and actions, that he will not hesitate to kill to secure his seat. The army commander’s dismissal has been gazetted in line with the law but he has made it clear that he will not go. Here is an army commander who brazenly led a putsch, attacking and causing bloodshed in a counterpart security cluster, with whom he should be working to foster peace and security in the country. Here is a commander who has basically evolved into a law unto himself and is effectively holding this country to ransom. “Fire me and I will cause unprecedented bloodshed,” is the message Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli is essentially sending out to King Letsie III, Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, and the whole world.
Sensing danger, the Americans have closed their embassy in Maseru and associated American agencies. They have also sent their citizens into South Africa and let their local workers work from home. When the Americans take such drastic steps, inevitably informed by their excellent and unparalleled intelligence networks, then it’s ample evidence that they know something the rest of us don’t. The National University of Lesotho has equally taken precautionary measures and shut down indefinitely. Many Basotho remain with either both or one leg in South Africa, unsure whether they should return or not.
While the situation on the surface in the streets appears calm and normal, the actions of many, including the Americans, rightly suggest that trouble is in the air.
We cannot fathom any other scenario that justifies a peacekeeping force than the one we face in Lesotho. Yet SADC refused outright Dr Thabane’s request for troops, preferring to assist him only with his private security arrangements.
In a nutshell, SADC’s decision is daft and unacceptable. We are not at all suggesting that SADC should have authorised a wholesale military intervention to engage militarily against Lieutenant General Kamoli and secure Dr Thabane’s position. No. But it should be obvious to even the dumbest SADC leader, and the body has quite a few of them, that Lt General Kamoli has effectively created a security vacuum by his attacks and disarming of the police force, many of whose officers have fled the country. It should also be clear that Lt General Kamoli’s declaration that “I am not going anywhere” is a recipe for major disaster.
Will King Letsie III, on the advice of Mr Thabane, have to endure the humiliation of rescinding the notice in the Government Gazette and officially reinstate Lt General Kamoli for the sake of peace in the country? If that happens, what precedent will it set? What will happen if any future commander after Lt General Kamoli takes a similar route and refuses to go upon being fired. The only reasonable and logical step is for the King, on the advice of Dr Thabane, to stick to his guns and to fire Lt General Kamoli.
We couldn’t agree more with Home Affairs Minister Joang Molapo and Mines Minister Tlali Khasu that the legal notice No. 64 of 2014, appointing Brigadier Maaparankoe Mahao, must be respected and Lt General Kamoli must vacate his seat.
While it can be debated on the appropriateness or otherwise of Brigadier Mahao’s appointment in light of his court martial. But the fact that King Letsie has the right to make the appointment, on the advice of the Prime Minister, remains unimpeachable. Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) leader, Mothetjoa Metsing, has every right to complain that he was not consulted by Dr Thabane. But the fact that he was not consulted, again, does not impeach the King’s right to make the appointment on the advice of the premier. We have repeatedly said Mr Metsing’s Coalition Agreement with Dr Thabane is not a legally binding or constitutionally enforceable document. Their Coalition Agreement is a gentlemen’s understanding between them. If Mr Metsing is aggrieved at not being consulted, he must take on Dr Thabane and withdraw from the coalition.
It’s Mr Metsing’s legal right to seek a new partner and form a new coalition toppling Dr Thabane from power if he so wishes. But Mr Metsing cannot stop legal appointments simply because he was not consulted and his party is wrong in saying Brigadier Mahao’s appointment is null and void for lack of consultation. This problem in persistently mixing legal and political issues is not taking us anywhere.
The lame SADC brokered agreement, reported elsewhere in this newspaper, does not resolve the core of the crisis here. We have any army commander who has mobilised the army to fight if he is fired. We have an army commander who has no respect for the rule of law as evidenced by many of his recent actions, not least his refusal to handover suspects implicated in the attempted murders of innocent people. We have an army commander prepared to kill anyone who disagrees with him.
Because of all this and a number of other factors, the appropriate way for SADC to deal with the crisis here would have been to at least authorise a peacekeeping force to, among other things, facilitate the return of police officers to their stations and ensure they resume operations, to guarantee the security of all those vulnerable to Lt General Kamoli, and to protect ordinary citizens should he unleash his army for yet another round of bloodshed.