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Fix constitution, electoral law: Sadc

by Lesotho Times

MASERU — A troika of the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) has called for the adoption of a roadmap that will see Lesotho amend the constitution and electoral law to end the country’s bitter electoral disputes.
The troika, made up of Mozambican President Armando Guebuza, Swaziland’s King Mswati III and Zambia’s Defence Minister Dr Kalombo Mwanza, was in Lesotho to breathe life into the stalled dialogue between the government and opposition parties.
The government and opposition parties have been locked in a bitter stand-off since 2007 over the allocation of proportional representation seats in parliament.
In a statement to the media after the end of their two-day visit on Monday, Sadc executive secretary Dr Tomaz Salomao urged the Basotho people themselves to “come up with a lasting solution for the challenges faced by the country”.
“The Christian Council of Lesotho, assisted by the Sadc team of facilitators, will bring together the stakeholders to agree through an inclusive and participatory process, on a roadmap comprising the following issues: list of major contentious issues and how to handle them, including, among others, the allocation of responsibilities for what needs to be done among different stakeholders.
“Timeframe to review the constitution and timeframe to review the electoral law,” said the statement.
Salomao said the proposed roadmap “will form the basis for the monitoring of the progress achieved in the post-electoral political dialogue”.
The troika urged stakeholders to the post-electoral dialogue to participate in the process to find a lasting solution to the challenges facing the country.
“Sadc and its institutions will be available to support the Basotho in finding a lasting solution to the problems they are facing,” said the statement.
But the mood was volatile outside the summit venue at ‘Manthabiseng Convention Centre on Monday night with angry opposition supporters shouting obscenities at the Sadc delegation.
“The Sadc troika is bringing s*** to Lesotho,” shouted about 100 opposition supporters who were milling outside the summit venue wearing main opposition All Basotho Convention (ABC) party regalia.
The opposition supporters had to be physically ejected from the conference hall during the stakeholders-only session.
The police shoved the opposition supporters aside to make way for the Sadc delegation. The opposition supporters began shouting obscenities that the Sadc troika was “bringing masepa (human waste) to Lesotho”.
“This meeting cannot discuss issues affecting us while pushing for our exclusion,” said an angry voice from the crowd.
Outside the convention centre, some opposition supporters sang in Sesotho saying “the sun will shine on Pakalitha’s (Mosisili) ministers”.
The shining golden sun is the official symbol of the ABC.
When the media was finally allowed to enter the conference venue for a briefing, there was even more drama when ABC committee member and former journalist, Thabo Thakalekoana, quizzed the Sadc delegation on the proportional representation seats issue.
But Salomao who was chairing the press conference barred Thakalekoana from raising questions after he identified himself as a former journalist. Salomao said only journalists from recognised media houses were allowed to ask questions.
The troika, which avoided pronouncing its position on whether the Independent Electoral Commission was correct or wrong in its interpretation of the allocation of the proportional representation seats, pledged to remain seized with the Lesotho political dialogue.
The troika also refrained from expressing its views on the report of its envoy, former Botswana president Sir Ketumile Masire, who quit the mediation process in a huff last July.
Masire blamed the collapse of the dialogue process on government intransigence.
Salomao said the troika expected Basotho to solve their own problems.
“The organ summit troika emphasised the need for the Basotho people themselves to come up with a lasting solution for the challenges faced by the country using the dialogue to overcome them, however difficult they may be, which requires tolerance and openness,” Salomao said.
He said Sadc would be available to support Basotho in finding a lasting solution to their political problems by appointing a team of facilitators to assist the CCL in the mediation process.
“Sadc will also assist in mobilising financial resources to support the process,” he said.
ABC leader Thomas Thabane told the Lesotho Times that he was satisfied with the troika’s intervention.
“We have not planned a revolutionary change where the government is expected to be unseated by force,” Thabane said.
“We will remove the LCD (ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy) from power through peaceful and legal means.
“I am happy because the Sadc troika has put a timeframe for submission of the roadmap to its chairman before the end of March.
“The Sadc troika has gone beyond Sir Ketumile Masire’s mediation in this way and I am hopeful that things will be alright this time.”
Thabane said the anger among ABC supporters was justifiable “because it had taken us a long time for us to drive in the right direction”.
“It is not always expected that people will understand immediately when things are not OK and their anger was justified in the circumstances,” he said.
“There is hope because Sadc at the heads of state level is guaranteeing to help Lesotho solve the problem.”

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