King applauds SADC intervention

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His Majesty King Letsie III
His Majesty King Letsie III

Lekhetho Ntsukunyane

KING Letsie III has expressed heartfelt gratitude to the Southern African Development Community (SADC) for “always” intervening at “critical moments” in Lesotho’s political journey.

King Letsie III said this while addressing thousands of Basotho at Setsoto Stadium to celebrate Lesotho’s 50th independence anniversary on Tuesday which was attended by presidents Ian Khama (Botswana), Robert Mugabe (Zimbabwe) and Swaziland’s King Mswati III.

South Africa was represented by its Justice Minister Jeff Radebe at the function which was also attended by foreign diplomats.

In 1998, SADC brought in units of the South African and Botswana armies, later joined by Mozambican forces to quell a rebellion which had started off as a protest against the 1998 election results.

After an army raid on three key Maseru police stations which left one police officer dead, then premier Thomas Thabane and several other senior officials fled to South Africa, with SADC bringing them back into the country under its security detail. However, Dr Thabane has since fled again to the neighbouring country.

After the killing of former army commander, Maaparankoe Mahao, Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili asked SADC to help establish the circumstances surrounding the tragedy, resulting in a Commission of Inquiry led by Justice Mpaphi Phumaphi of Botswana. The 10-member commission carried out its investigations between 31 August and 23 October 2015.

King Letsie said: “Your Majesty King Mswati III, through you as chairman of SADC, I would also like to send a special word of gratitude to our regional organisation for always coming to our assistance at critical moments in our political journey. That unshakable friendship and solidarity will always be appreciated by our people.”

“I am glad to celebrate with you this momentous occasion in history of the Basotho nation. Today, with pride, we commemorate 50 years of Lesotho’s independence from Britain and we will again be commemorating 200 years since the Basotho nation was founded.”

He said the commemorations were also a time to reflect on the successes, mistakes and problems the nation had encountered, adding, the country should celebrate great strides it had made “because we started this journey with nothing at all”.

“The economy was very small when the journey started. We even had to ask for assistance from the British to run our governmental affairs.

“There was only one tarred road in this country from the Maseru border up to main circle in the heart of the capital. Lesotho started its independence crawling. It took us some time to stand up and walk to where we are today.

“We should never forfeit lessons we have learnt from the challenges we encountered along the journey. We should use the lessons to overcome challenges in the next 50 years of our journey.”

He implored Basotho to honour those who had sacrificed everything to protect the country, adding that they should unite and build on the “good foundation on issues of governance, administration of justice and parliament. These are pillars of democracy”.

He however, said some of the pillars of democracy like the national constitution needed to be revisited and reviewed to meet today’s demands.

“The current coalition government has undertaken to conduct reforms in line with its reform agenda policy. It is on the verge of launching a review of the constitution and it is my utmost wish that every Basotho stakeholder will be afforded opportunity to participate in the reforms process so that the outcome is welcomed by very Mosotho.”

His Majesty said the country deserved praise for successfully holding elections every five years since the restoration of democracy in 1993 that had been declared free and fair by the civil society groups and international observers.

“We have, however, learnt that where there are turbulences the development of this country is affected negatively, health services deteriorate and Basotho are impoverished. We should have learnt from this and avoid finding ourselves in similar situation again,” he said.

He said over the next 50 years, people should stop blaming political leaders for the nation’s failures and start shouldering responsibility to work for the country’s development wherever they were deployed as “the future of this country is in our hands”.

“Lesotho, like most if not all post-colonial Africa, has faced a myriad of challenges since independence. But through hard work, tenacity and perseverance we have been able to overcome many of those challenges and many achievements and successes have been recorded throughout this journey of independence.

“It is an undeniable fact that some of these achievements would not have been realised were it not for the generous and unwavering support of our development partners and international community,” he said.

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