Reforms process in danger

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  • as SADC Oversight Committee, facilitation team tenures expire

Herbert Moyo/ Pascalinah Kabi

LESOTHO’S faltering multi-sector reforms process as well as the overall political and security situation in the country could be in danger amid revelations that the tenures of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Oversight Committee and the Justice Dikgang Moseneke-led SADC facilitation team expire on 31 March and 19 May 2019 respectively.

The SADC Oversight Committee was established by an Extraordinary Summit of the SADC Double Troika on 3 July 2015 in Pretoria, South Africa with a brief to “intervene as appropriate in consultation with the SADC facilitator” (South African President Cyril Ramaphosa).

The Oversight Committee acts as an early warning mechanism on the political and security situation in Lesotho on behalf of the regional body and it has assumed an even greater importance after the expiry of the tenure of the SADC Preventive Mission in Lesotho (SAPMIL) last November.

Without the committee there is a real danger that any threats to the political and security situation could go undetected and unreported to SADC.

The Justice Moseneke-led SADC facilitation team – appointed by Mr Ramaphosa on 15 June 2018 with a mandate to facilitate and oversee the multi-sector reforms processes – is also a critical component in ensuring stability and timely completion of the reforms process in Lesotho.

SADC gave Lesotho until May 2019 to have fully implemented constitutional and security sector reforms.

However, the reforms processes have stalled largely as a result of the previous bickering between the government and the opposition over the latter’s demands for the establishment of a government of national unity and an end to the prosecutions of army officers suspected of human rights violations among other things.

And while the reforms will certainly not have been implemented by May which is only two months away, the processes could even be further delayed amid revelations that the tenures of the two critical SADC organs are expiring soon.

Government and SADC sources this week told the Lesotho Times that the tenure of the Oversight Committee will expire in just over a week on 31 March while that of the SADC facilitation team will expire on 19 May 2019.

“The Oversight Committee’s tenure will expire on 31 March and the chairperson (Retired Chief Justice Matthew Ngulube of Zambia) has already submitted a request for its extension to the chair of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security (Zambian President Edgar Lungu),” a source told this publication.

“The Oversight Committee plays a significant role in the early detection of threats to stability in Lesotho and its significance increased after the expiry of the tenure of the SAPMIL in November. For this reason, SADC cannot afford any risks to the stability of Lesotho by failing to extend the mandate of the Oversight Committee. The committee’s chair has already written to the chair of the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security who must in turn write to the SADC chairperson (Namibian President Hage Geingob) who will also consult fellow SADC heads of state on the issue,” the source added.

Another source said that the expiry of the SADC facilitation team’s mandate on 19 May “although not fatal, will leave the SADC facilitator (Mr Ramaphosa) on his own without a supporting team to drive forward the processes aimed at ensuring the implementation of the multi-sector reforms in Lesotho”.

“The Moseneke-led team was appointed to ease the burden on Mr Ramaphosa who already has other duties as South African and ruling African National Congress (ANC) president. It will be even more difficult for Mr Ramaphosa to go alone in Lesotho particularly in May which is the same month for the general elections in South Africa.

“Even after the holding of South Africa’s elections on 8 May, Mr Ramaphosa will still need time to attend to ANC and national governance issues in South Africa in the event that his party wins as expected. The SADC facilitation team therefore remains critical in ensuring the processes aimed at ensuring lasting peace and stability in Lesotho do not stall,” the source said.

Yesterday, the Foreign Affairs and International Relations Minister, Lesego Makgothi, confirmed to the Lesotho Times that the Oversight Committee’s tenure was set to end soon and it had been “made clear to the government that they (Oversight Committee) will have to leave the country”.

He however, said due to the delays in the reforms process, the government had already requested for a four-month extension which was also supported by the Oversight Committee.

“We have requested up to four months extension and (the SADC Chair of the Organ on Politics) President Lungu will have a meeting with the SADC secretariat to look into the matter.

“Though there are only two of them on a full basis, the oversight committee is a big team with huge cost implications on SADC. We recently approved the SADC annual budget during our recent SADC ministerial meeting,” Mr Makgothi said.

The minister further said the SADC facilitation team’s contract will only end after the second Multi-Stakeholder National Dialogue on the reforms has been held. The date for the dialogue has not been set as yet as Lesotho is struggling to meet its timelines for the reforms process.

“As per the agreements that have been made, I would not say their (SADC facilitation team’s) tenure will end in May but rather that their tenure will expire after we have held the stakeholders’ dialogue. Once the dialogue has been concluded, they have to submit their report to the SADC Chair of the Organ for Politics, Defence and Security Corporation President Edgar Lungu.

“It does not necessary mean that the facilitation team’s tenure ends in May, rather it is dependent on the successful holding of the second Multi-Stakeholder National Dialogue whose date has not yet been set. We are behind on timeframes for events like the dialogue,” Mr Makgothi said.

Mr Makgothi said the SADC had given Lesotho until end of May to legislate clauses in the constitution which still cause the country serious “heartburns” as well as to kick-start the security sector reforms process. He however, said the deadlines have not been met due to delays in putting in place guidelines for in-district consultations.

He added that it has since been realised that everything concerning the reforms process, was behind by two months and they planned to hold the stakeholders’ dialogue by the end of May.

 

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