Govt reassures SADC

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Mosisili
Prime Minister Pakalitha Bethuel Mosisili

Billy Ntaote

The government is next month expected to write “a detailed report” on the progress it has made in implementing recommendations made by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Commission of Inquiry into Lesotho’s security challenges.

This is according to SADC Executive Secretary, Lawrence Stergomena Tax, who was in Maseru this week to meet Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili on the recommendations, as well as discuss regional development issues.

Dr Tax also met Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing, and Foreign Affairs Minister Tlohang Sekhamane “and other ministers” during her visit and yesterday said the government had reassured SADC of its commitment to implement the Commission’s recommendations.

The government, she added, had pointed out several activities it had undertaken to confirm this commitment.

“The government has made a commitment to furnish SADC, during the course of April, with a detailed written report of the progress it has made so far regarding the recommendations. The government gave its assurance and said a number of activities are ongoing regarding the recommendations and that progress has been recorded in certain areas,” Dr Tax told reporters during a press conference held at Moshoeshoe I International Airport at the conclusion of her one-day visit.

She highlighted some of the progress the government had achieved regarding the recommendations. Among others, the Commission recommended a review of the country’s constitution, the removal of army commander Lieutenant-General Tlali Kamoli “in the interest of restoring trust and acceptance of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) to the Basotho nation”, government ensures criminal investigations into the death of former army commander Lt-Gen Maaparankoe Mahao be pursued vigorously and that the police are empowered and resourced accordingly. The Commission also recommended that the government should ensure the safe return of opposition leaders who fled to South Africa in May last year after claiming some members of the LDF were plotting to kill them. The army has since rejected these claims.

Dr Tax said she had been reassured by the government that work had already started to ensure the recommendations were implemented.

“For instance, as far as constitutional reforms are concerned, the government believes anytime from now, it would be submitting a clear roadmap to SADC showing exactly what would be done and when,” she said.

Dr Tax also said the commitment shown by the government was “reassuring”.

Asked about SADC’s view over the prime minister’s decision to expunge some names from the Commission’s report, Dr Tax said: “That is a very technical issue that the Kingdom of Lesotho explained. That explanation is out there, that they removed certain names because of certain legal technicalities.”

Dr Tax also said the issue had been referred to the Commission of Inquiry, adding: “Once consultations with the Commission of Inquiry are finalised, we will be in a position to say if the expunged report should remain as it is or certain elements that have been removed should be part of the report.”

On the return of All Basotho Convention (ABC) leader Thomas Thabane, Basotho National Party (BNP) leader Thesele ‘Maseribane and Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL) leader Ketso Rantšo who have been living in exile in South Africa since May 2015, Dr Tax said the matter was being attended to by the relevant stakeholders.

“Their return is among the Commission’s recommendations and several meetings have taken place regarding this issue. Offers have been exchanged and discussions have taken place. There are a few issues that need to be finalised which have already been agreed upon.

“Over and above what they have been offered by the Kingdom of Lesotho to have security from the police, the opposition leaders have also requested backup security from SADC. That is another issue that is under consultation and consideration.

“To have external security forces enter a country is not something done just like that. There are legal provisions that need to be observed. So those consultations are ongoing and when they are finalized, they would determine the right way to take,” she said.

However, Dr Tax emphasised what was important was not SADC security for the opposition leaders but their safety once they are back home.

“If that atmosphere is created and these two parties, the government of Lesotho and those who are in exile, come to an agreement, I believe they would come back as they want to return home,” said Dr Tax, adding disagreements over the safety of opposition leaders was not unique to Lesotho.

Dr Tax also said Lesotho needed “confidence-building” between the government and opposition.

“National unity and confidence-building are paramount because the opposition leaders can come but if there is no trust, the situation will remain volatile. Anybody can then take advantage of that volatile situation,” she said.

Asked if the Commission of Inquiry’s recommendations were binding on the government, Dr Tax said this question could only be answered after government’s has submitted its progress report to the regional body.

“Let’s wait until we get the progress report in April from the government because we cannot talk from a uniformed position.

“There was a report by a Commission sent to the Kingdom of Lesotho based on the government of Lesotho’s request. Its recommendations are there and we believe since the request came from the Kingdom of Lesotho, the recommendations would be accepted but we have to wait and hear what the government would be saying in its progress report.

“As I have said, these are technical matters and we have two legal requirements. On the one hand Lesotho has a constitution as a sovereign state and on the other, Lesotho is a member of SADC and has an obligation of understanding its obligation as a member of SADC,” said Dr Tax.

Dr Tax also noted that SADC’s timeframe regarding the Commission were clear but could be changed.

“For the implementation of the Commission of Inquiry’s recommendations, the timeframe is very clear. The overall report was to be submitted on 1 August 2016 but since the Commission of Inquiry’s report was tabled on 8 February 2016, we said let the recommendations be implemented and a progress report submitted.”

Contacted for comment on the issue, the Prime Minister’s spokesperson, Motumi Ralejoe said all he could say was that the government would be working closely with SADC on the matter.

“Constant consultation on any issues that need further clarity will be the way the government and SADC will operate,” said Mr Relejoe.

“The government has also made a commitment to keep SADC informed about developments in implementing the Commission’s recommendations.

“The two parties have agreed to keep each other updated so that they can clear any misconceptions. The government understands that the SADC summit time in August is a clear timeframe to report progress on the implementation of the recommendations.

“As for the government and opposition, they are in constant talks and the latest development is that there was a meeting held at the residence of Roman Catholic Church Archbishop Lerotholi last week.”

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