‘The new challenges we are confronted with all point to a refusal of certain sections of the population, particularly members of the opposition, to accept the outcome of the February 2015 elections,’ says premier.
Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili has assured the Southern African Development Community (SADC) his government is committed to implementing reforms and spare the regional body the “trouble of dousing the flames in the Mountain Kingdom”.
Dr Mosisili was addressing the 35th Summit of the SADC Double Troika on Monday this week in Gaborone, Botswana where heads of member-states and governments had met to discuss, among others, the region’s economic blueprint and also change the leadership of the regional bloc.
Also on the Summit’s agenda was Lesotho’s political and security crises, which saw three opposition leaders fleeing the country in May this year fearing for their lives. The crisis also resulted in the fatal shooting of former Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) commander Maaparankoe Mahao on 25 June 2015—allegedly as he resisted arrest by fellow soldiers for being the ring-leader of a foiled mutiny.
The premier, who was addressing his fellow leaders for the first time since returning to power in March this year, said Lesotho was determined to ensure it becomes stable nation once again.
Dr Mosisili told the summit: “Once more, I have been democratically elected prime minister of Lesotho after serving more than two years as a member of the opposition in our National Assembly. Before that, as you no doubt recall, I had the honour to serve for some years in the same capacity of prime minister of my country (1998 to 2012).
“I am humbled by the heavy responsibility and the trust which the people of Lesotho have reposed in me to lead them again through these turbulent times, to peace, stability and socioeconomic development.
“This time, I have been further heartened by the trust of six of Lesotho’s political parties (Lesotho Congress for Democracy, Popular Front for Democracy, Marematlou Freedom Party, Lesotho People’s Congress, Basotho Congress Party and National Independent Party) which have formed a coalition government with the party I lead (Democratic Congress).”
Dr Mosisili then reminded the SADC leadership of how Lesotho found itself on the regional body’s agenda “for the wrong reasons”.
“We may recall that Lesotho has been on the agenda of SADC for too long and for the wrong reasons. Our coalition government is, therefore, committed to a reform process that will affect various institutions, and hopefully ensure that SADC is spared the trouble of dousing the flames in the Mountain Kingdom,” the premier said.
He appealed to SADC states “to remain seized with this reform programme and extend the requisite support where necessary. I, and the incoming government of Lesotho, am humbled by the challenging responsibility entrusted to us to ensure our people achieve their legitimate aspirations for sustainable economic and social development, as well as political stability and good governance. I have no doubt that we can count on your support as we have in the past.”
Dr Mosisili said he could not conclude his address without paying a deserving tribute to the countries of the sub-region “for standing with Lesotho through a difficult time and for making sacrifices in order to help us conduct free and fair elections at the beginning of this year. It is a matter of grave concern to me personally and my partners in the coalition government that the tranquility we all yearn for has once more eluded us, even after the peaceful elections engineered by SADC.”
The premier, however, indicated that the “new challenges” facing Lesotho were due to certain groups of Basotho, “particularly members of the opposition”, who refused to accept the outcome of the 28 February 2015 snap elections.
“The new challenges we are confronted with all point to a refusal of certain sections of the population, particularly members of the opposition, to accept the outcome of the February 2015 elections. Clearly, there is a crying need for public education to ensure that there is general acceptance that the electorates are always right; even when they are wrong, they are always right, that “Sechaba ke poho”- the people are sovereign.
“Once again, our regional organisation has risen to the challenge and as we meet here, a SADC mission in the form of a Commission of Inquiry is in Lesotho to assist my country overcome the new challenges. Our hope and prayer is that all Basotho will embrace the outcome of the investigations and ensure we all bury our petty political differences for the good of Lesotho and Basotho.
“We acknowledge, with a profound sense of gratitude the accolades that the four of us, His Excellency Dr Hage Geingob, President of the Republic of Namibia, His Excellency President Edgar Lungu of the Republic of Zambia and His Excellency President Filipe Jacinto Nyusi of the Republic of Mozambique, have received from you, the leaders of our regional body.
“In conclusion, I want to reiterate the unreserved commitment of the new government of Lesotho to the ideals and principles of SADC and to work closely with all member-states of our regional organisation in pursuit of the noble goals of unity, solidarity, and cooperation among our peoples.
“I further commit the coalition government which I lead, to accept the roadmap that SADC will chart with us after the Commission concludes its investigations. Lesotho, under my leadership, will continue to uphold the rule of law, respect our international obligations and spare no effort to embrace those who hold different beliefs in our nation’s political space.”
Meanwhile, due to the prevailing instability in the country, Lesotho was overlooked for the second year running, for the leadership of the SADC Organ for Politics, Defence and Security. The one-year chairmanship was passed to Mozambique instead. Last year, the regional bloc decided to pass the leadership to South Africa when Lesotho was supposed to assume it. The snub came in August at the height of the country’s instability as the then coalition government led by Thomas Thabane was headed for collapse due to infighting.