Ramaphosa’s role needs redefinition


Sofonea Shale

THE conflict over the conduct of Southern African Development Community (SADC) facilitator to Lesotho, Deputy South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, has not only brought to bear the challenges of a fragmented coalition government but also how convenient popular ignorance can be for political leaders. In light of the differing views, the begging question is whether Mr Ramaphosa should be relieved of his facilitator role.

Is his mandate as the facilitator and not the mediator well comprehended? Should his mandate be reviewed or should the leaders be held accountable to their commitments? This article may not be able to respond adequately to all the questions. In fact, its intention is not to foreclose the current debate on the issue but contribute to the debate that should not be prematurely concluded.

Following the SADC Summit decision in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe to acknowledge the work done by the former Namibian President Hifikepunye Pohamba in Lesotho and to include this Kingdom among the countries which needed help, the leaders of coalition government of Lesotho and South African President Jacob Zuma, as the chair of SADC Troika of the Organ on Defence, Politics and Security Cooperation, had several meetings in Pretoria.

The meetings did not only look at the discontent between the two main coalition partners, and the subsequent fallout that threatened the collaborative government, but issues of prorogation of parliament. They also delved into the conspicuously diminishing trust between the coalition parties while taking into consideration the deteriorating levels of cooperation between the security agencies namely the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) and Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) on the other.

The climax of the latter issue had been an attack by the army of the police headquarters and the stations and the fleeing out of the country of Prime Minister Thomas Thabane as well as coalition partner, Gender, Youth Sports and Recreation Minister Thesele ‘Maseribane.

In their deliberations at different levels and various meetings, the leaders agreed that the situation in Lesotho needs immediate and closer attention. Resultantly, it was agreed that the coalition government leaders would go back home to work out the roadmap that will peg back the general elections earlier than the anticipated 2017. Dr Thabane was also to revoke the prorogation of parliament, while parliament was also supposed to deal with the election budget and other related matters before its dissolving in preparation for poll.

The roadmap also entailed ushering the country’s return to political normalcy, respect of the constitution, upholding the principles of democracy and dealing with security situation.

On the basis of this agreement, SADC commissioned Mr Ramaphosa as facilitator. Before assessing whether Mr Ramaphosa delivered on his mandate or otherwise and whether he deserves the boot or to be embraced there is need to establish the difference between a facilitator and a mediator.

A facilitator has a defined mandate in their terms of reference in that they are expected to deliver a specific and predetermined result. This differs with a mediator whose terms of reference entail helping belligerent parties define the problem and explore ways of resolving it.

In the case of Mr Ramaphosa there was no room for wider exploration except to deliver what the coalition leaders and SADC had agreed. Mr Ramaphosa’s predetermined mandate became the first point of contention with civil society which argued that Lesotho should have first opted to institute reforms rather than rushing for elections.

Mr Ramaphosa has facilitated several agreements signed by leaders in Lesotho and the most ground breaking was the Maseru Facilitation Declaration (MFD).  This agreement was signed by all leaders represented in parliament.

Section 5 of the MFD reads:“All political parties represented in parliament are called upon to recognise their responsibility to the people of the Kingdom of Lesotho, to respect the Constitution, uphold democratic principles and secure the restoration of peace and of political stability and security in the kingdom of Lesotho.”

However, Dr Thabane’s All Basotho Convention (ABC) and Chief ‘Maseribane’s Basotho National Party (BNP) hold a strong view that dealing with the security aspect in the facilitation process has lagging behind while the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) does not see any security threat ahead of 28 February 2015 polls.

These divergent positions within a supposedly single government have informed the way in which parties in government view the SADC facilitator. Though the planned march protesting against the facilitator’s perceived incompetence on the security aspect of the process and his alleged connection to the company that will print ballot papers has not come to fruition, LCD leader, Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing, has since declared that he was planning a counter march to affirm their support for Mr Ramaphosa.

The LCD is of the view that the ABC supports the march in which the protestors would then hand over a petition to the regional bloc asking it to withdraw Mr Ramaphosa for his alleged failure to tackle the issue of the security situation and his alleged preoccupation with his business interests in Lesotho.

These party positions are more artificial than substantive, and the reality is that political parties have reached a level in which they either support or oppose whatever is opposed or supported by the other respectively.

Clearly the coalition government parties are just exploiting the current situation of discord amongst themselves. If there can be a gun battle between members of the LDF just outside the Royal Palace in which private security guard was killed, there is absolutely no way that such an incident can be dissociated from the wider perception of tension in the security sector.

While there might be sluggish progress in the implementation of the Maseru Security Accord and perhaps the MoU between the LDF and LMPS, it would be an exaggeration to say the facilitator has done nothing on the security issue.

Of course, it would have been ideal for the coalition government leaders and Mr Ramaphosa to have not paused after Lieutenant General Maaparankoe Mahao and Lt Gen Kamoli of the LDF, as well as LMPS Commissioner Khothatso Tšooana went on their leave of absence leave of absence in line with the MSA signed on 23 October 2014 .

They should have worked on ensuring that all the concerns and issues raised by the contending parties were addressed in line with their magnitude and with immediate, medium and long term objectives.

If today the ABC and BNP have lost hope in Mr Ramaphosa while the LCD trusts him, the best way to comprehend these positions would be to question whether the parties have maintained their current positions consistently.

The response would certainly in the negative. At one point or the other, either side supported the facilitator while the other felt uncomfortable with his modus operandi. This is quite normal in processes of such nature. Perhaps the question that needs to be asked is should our parties in government really create this melodrama where one side supports and the other questions the facilitator or should the aggrieved side articulate how they want the security situation to be addressed.

What is the role that other parties which are signatories to the Maseru Facilitation Declaration playing? Hiding behind the ignorance and playing the game with their cards on the chest and reaping fruits of uncertainty?  What one could clearly see is that since parliament has not worked on the reforms necessary for coalition government, Lesotho still needs assistance beyond the election period.  Should it be facilitation or mediation?  Lesotho certainly needs dialogue on this question before elections.





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