Opposition attacks SADC
. . . seethes over exclusion from security reform workshop
THE tripartite opposition bloc has slammed the government for not inviting them to the Security Sector Reform workshop that ended yesterday, saying all stakeholders should be involved in the process from the onset.
The opposition also directed its ire at the Southern African Development Community (SADC) for facilitating the two-day seminar, saying the regional bloc should “retrace its steps and start again on the right footing”.
The workshop was held in Maseru and facilitated by special envoys from SADC. Among the attendees were representatives of security agencies, ministers, members of the Senate and principal chiefs as well as other government officials.
All Basotho Convention (ABC) Secretary-General Samonyane Ntsekele told the Lesotho Times yesterday SADC and the government had started the reform process “on a wrong footing altogether”.
He said it was “surprising” the government invited the opposition for a High-Level Roundtable session on governance reforms held in conjunction with the United Nations (UN) earlier this month, and not the Security Sector Reform workshop.
“It is really surprising that the government managed to call us for a UN meeting and did not invite us to this workshop. SADC knows the sensitivity of the security issue, yet they facilitated a workshop that was not inclusive,” Mr Ntsekele said.
He said the government and the special envoys convened the workshop to give the impression progress was being made in implementing the reforms ahead of the SADC heads of state and government summit scheduled for Swaziland next month.
“We think SADC is just trying to help the government have something positive to report to the upcoming summit, yet in actual fact there is no progress on the reforms. We don’t understand what SADC and the government are doing right now,” said Mr Ntsekele
“We appeal to SADC to retrace their steps and start again on the right footing if they are sincere in helping resolve Lesotho’s security challenges. Otherwise, there will never be progress in Lesotho if they don’t treat this matter with the sensitivity it deserves. That’s our stand as the ABC. They should involve all stakeholders from the onset.”
Basotho National Party (BNP) deputy leader Joang Molapo said the opposition was not invited to the workshop despite being part of the 25-member delegation of politicians, senior civil servants and civil society representatives who visited New Zealand in July 2014 to study the country’s governance system.
“It’s surprising that we all went to New Zealand to learn how reforms are implemented, and some were tasked with constitutional reforms, another group with security sector reforms while others were allocated public sector reforms. All of a sudden we are not part of the reforms, and that is worrisome,” said Chief Molapo.
“From the onset, it was established that all stakeholders should be part of the reform process. We are surprised to see the government doing it on its own. We went to New Zealand together, and all of a sudden they have decided to exclude us.”
The BNP leader said the government’s explanation that the opposition was not invited because the workshop was meant to “empower” government officials did not wash.
“Who was it intended to empower, and against who? What understanding are they being empowered to have, against whose understanding?” Chief Molapo queried.
“There won’t be any positive outcome from this workshop. What the government is trying to do is come up with something positive to report at the SADC summit while pretending progress is being made. They want to later say they engaged us, yet they didn’t.”
Reformed Congress for Lesotho (RCL) deputy leader Motloheloa Phooko echoed his opposition colleagues’ sentiments, saying SADC should not have facilitated a process that was not inclusive.
“I am just surprised to hear there were some SADC representatives at the workshop. From a positive standpoint, I would say the SADC envoys wanted to observe the workshop and hear what was being said.
“However, if I were to be negative I would question how SADC even dared to be a part of such a meeting that was not inclusive,” Mr Phooko said.
Commenting on the opposition’s stance yesterday, Defence and National Security Minister Tšeliso Mokhosi said the workshop had nothing to do with the recommendations of the SADC Commission of Inquiry as some people were suggesting.
Security sector reforms are among recommendations made by the Justice Phumaphi-led Commission of Inquiry into Lesotho’s instability.
The 10-member Commission of legal and security experts probed Lesotho’s security and political challenges following the fatal shooting of former army commander Maaparankoe Mahao on 25 June 2015.
“This was just a workshop meant to empower the public sector and enlighten them on what the security reforms entail. The opposition was deliberately not invited because the workshop had nothing to do with the recommended reforms,” Mokhosi said.
“We are just trying to get our house in order before we can start working on the SADC recommendations on security reforms. Even the civil society members were not invited.”
He added: “We only invited the SADC Secretariat and its envoys to help us get the process right from the word go. There was no malicious intention in excluding the opposition from the workshop.”