SADC consulting on Ramaphosa replacement

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Pascalinah Kabi

ANGOLAN president, Joao Lourenco, says Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries are currently locked in consultations regarding the replacement of South African president, Cyril Ramaphosa, as the regional grouping’s mediator in Lesotho.

Mr Lourenco said this when he met with Prime Minister Thomas Thabane in the Angolan capital, Luanda, on Monday.

Dr Thabane was on a one-day official visit to Angola to brief his counterpart on the current political situation in Lesotho as well as the country’s progress towards the implementation of the multi-sector reforms that were recommended by SADC in 2016.

Mr Lourenco is the chairperson of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security and his country has contributed the bulk of the regional forces in the SADC Preventive Mission in Lesotho (SAPMIL).

SAPMIL was officially unveiled in Lesotho on 2 December 2017 as part of regional efforts to foster a conducive environment for the implementation of constitutional, security sector, public service, media and governance reforms in line with the recommendations of the regional body.

Commenting on this week’s meeting between the two leaders, the Prime Minister’s Office Press Attaché, Thabo Thakalekoala, told the Lesotho Times that  Mr Lourenco informed Dr Thabane that SADC countries were in discussions about replacing Mr Ramaphosa who has served in that capacity since 2014.

“President Lourenco said Angola was 100 percent committed to bringing peace and stability to Lesotho since his country had witnessed and tasted the bitter fruits of conflict in the past,” Mr Thakalekoala said.

“He (President Lourenco) said SADC countries were consulting each other on who would become the next mediator in Lesotho since Cyril Ramaphosa has become the President of South Africa and the decision on that would be made very soon.”

Mr Ramaphosa was appointed to facilitate the restoration of peace and stability in Lesotho after the 30 August 2014 attempted coup against the first government of Dr Thabane.

During that event, the Lesotho Defence Force stormed various police stations and seized arms they claimed were to be used against civilians at a Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) rally that same weekend.

The raids claimed the life of Police Sub-inspector Mokheseng Ramahloko. Former LDF commander, Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli, is in court over the killing.

Mr Ramaphosa also facilitated the Maseru Security Accord in 2014 which led to external deployments of Lt-Gen Kamoli his then successor, Maaparankoe Mahao, and former Police Commissioner, Khothatso Tṧoana, pending the holding of the February 2015 snap elections. The move was aimed at fostering the restoration of cordial relations between the army and the police.

Lt-Gen Mahao was assassinated shortly after those elections. The All Basotho Convention (ABC) and Basotho National Party (BNP), who had been booted out of power, complained that the killing was a result of Mr Ramaphosa’s failure to address serious security concerns in the country. The leaders of the two parties had by then already fled into exile fearing for their lives.

A confidential SADC document prepared ahead of the December 2017 deployment of the SAPMIL to Lesotho revealed that Dr Thabane’s government was unhappy with Mr Ramaphosa continuing as the SADC facilitator to Lesotho and wanted him replaced.

The report also noted that the opposition were in favour of retaining him as facilitator.

“There have also been divergent views regarding the continued role of the facilitator in that the government expressed the need to find a replacement while the opposition is in favour of retaining the current facilitator but to be assisted by a mediator preferably a Basotho national,” reads part of the document titled ‘Draft Integrated Mission Plan for the Deployment of the Contingent Mission to the Kingdom of Lesotho’.

And while the SADC document does not elaborate on the reasons for the government’s position, sources have claimed that the governing parties believe Mr Ramaphosa has previously sided with the parties now in opposition by allegedly overlooking serious security threats posed by the army in the past.

His continued facilitation has, however, increasingly come under the spotlight given his elevation to the South African presidency last month following the decision by the ruling African National Congress (ANC) to recall former president, Jacob Zuma.

Mr Ramaphosa also assumed the leadership of SADC as well as the presidency of the ANC and all these roles are likely to be onerous and impact negatively on his ability to continue as SADC facilitator to Lesotho.

Meanwhile, Dr Thabane paid tribute to Angola for its starring role in the reforms process in Lesotho where it has contributed 80 percent of the personnel in the 248-member SAMPIL.

“The Prime Minister appreciated the role Angola is playing in the peace and reform process in Lesotho,” Mr Thakalekoala said, adding Dr Thabane had also informed Mr Lourenco that the situation in Lesotho was stable and peaceful as a result of the presence of the SADC Standby Force.

Mr Thakalekoala also said the two leaders also discussed the bilateral cooperation and the need to strengthen economic ties.

He said Dr Thabane requested Angola to seriously consider opening a consulate in Lesotho and promised Lesotho’s support for Angola in all its international affairs.

In response, President Lourenco said he would direct his minister of foreign affairs to start the process leading to the establishment of the Angolan consulate in Lesotho.

 

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