SADC holds special summit over Lesotho

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New SADC Chaiperson President Ian KhamaKeiso Mohloboli

THE Southern African Development Community (SADC) has called a special summit to discuss Lesotho’s political and security situation, with particular focus on the government’s progress in implementing recommendations made by the regional body’s commission of inquiry led by Justice Mpaphi Phumaphi.

The regional body’s Double Troika Summit is set for Gaborone, Botswana on 28 June 2016. It has also given the government until tomorrow to submit a report detailing the progress it has made in implementing the recommendations aimed at addressing the country’s political and security challenges.

Botswana (SADC chair), Mozambique (SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation chair), South Africa, Tanzania, Swaziland and Zimbabwe heads of state and government will attend the summit.

According to a letter dated 13 June 2016, and written by SADC Executive Secretary Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax to Foreign Affairs and International Relations Minister Tlohang Sekhamane, the summit was convened by SADC chairperson and Botswana President Ian Khama. It will commence at 10 am on 28 June 2016.

Mr Sekhamane yesterday confirmed receiving the letter, telling the Lesotho Times the government was ready to submit the progress report to SADC as requested.

“The report is here and ready to be given to SADC,” Mr Sekhamane said. “On the issue of the actual summit, I am not yet in a position to comment because the government has not made a decision on who is going to attend.”

Dr Tax, who acknowledged writing the letter in an interview with the Lesotho Times, said she could not say more on the letter as it had been written to the government of Lesotho.

But the letter, which is copied to Botswana and Mozambique Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Ministers Dr Pelonomi Venson-Moltol and Oldemiro Jŭlio Marques Balói respectively, clearly states what is expected of Lesotho, and reads: “Following a directive by the Chairperson of SADC, I wish to inform you that a Double Troika Summit has been convened to take place on 28 June 2016 at 10:00 hours.

“The Double Troika Summit will consider the political and security situation in the Kingdom of Lesotho, specifically the implementation of SADC decisions. To this effect, you are requested to submit a progress report that will facilitate preparations of the meeting. We will appreciate receiving the progress report by 17 June 2016.

“The Summit will be preceded by meetings of Senior Officials and Ministers and will be convened as follows: 27 June – Meeting of Senior Officials/ arrival of Ministers. 28 June, 08:00 – 09:00, Meeting of Ministers; 09:00 – 09:30 Preparation of documents; 10:00 – 11:30, Double Troika Summit; 11:45, Adoption of Communiqué.”

Basotho National Party (BNP) spokesperson, Machesetsa Mofomobe, who said he was speaking on behalf of the opposition alliance which also includes the All Basotho Convention (ABC) and the Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL), said the summit would “expose” what he described as the government’s dismal failure to implement the recommendations of the SADC inquiry.

Mr Mofomobe said the opposition would be sending a delegation to Botswana for both tomorrow’s expected handover of the progress report and the 27-28 June summit in Gaborone.

He said the government had not implemented any of the recommendations made by the Phumaphi inquiry. SADC established the Phumaphi commission to probe the fatal shooting of former army commander Maaparankoe Mahao by his colleagues on 25 June 2015 outside Maseru, allegedly while resisting arrest for suspected mutiny.

Among the Phumaphi commission’s key recommendations was the dismissal of Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) commander Lieutenant-Gen Tlali Kamoli “in the interests of restoring trust and acceptance of the LDF to the Basotho nation”, and the suspension of all LDF officers implicated in cases of murder, attempted murder and treason while investigations into their cases proceed “in line with international best practice”.

The Commission also recommended that the government should ensure that criminal investigations into the death of Lt-Gen Mahao are pursued “vigorously” and that the police are empowered and resourced accordingly for the task. The investigations, the Commission added, should be conducted “expeditiously and comprehensively without any hindrance and that all physical evidence be surrendered and the finality of the investigations should lead to a transparent course of justice”.

The Commission also recommended  that the government should ensure the safe return of exiled opposition leaders — former prime minister and ABC leader Thomas Thabane, BNP leader Thesele ‘Maseribane and RCL leader Keketso Rantšo — who fled to South Africa in May 2015 saying they feared assassination by LDF members. The army has since rebuffed the opposition leaders’ claims.

But Mr Mofomobe insisted that “none of the recommendations have been implemented, which is why this government is now in a tight corner”.

He added: “The opposition is currently working on selecting people who will be in Gaborone on Friday to see whether the government will be able to submit the progress report as requested by SADC.

“The same delegation will also go to the Double Troika Summit, not to be part of the officials meetings, but to engage on the side-lines the way we did in previous summits.”

Mr Mofomobe alleged that the government would not meet tomorrow’s deadline to submit a progress report on the recommendations “because the same government failed to do so in March this year after a similar demand by Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi in his capacity as chairperson of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation”.

He continued: “We are certain that the government is going to fail to submit the report because it does not have anything to report on.

“To this day, Kamoli is still commander of the Lesotho Defence Force despite recommendations that he must be removed. Opposition leaders are also still in exile, General Mahao’s murderers have not been put before the courts of law and mutiny suspects have not been released. There has been absolutely no progress regarding those recommendations. So the government has nothing to report and give to SADC.”

The special SADC summit comes after civic groups falling under the umbrella of the “Alliance of Non-State Actors” staged a protest march on 12 May this year demanding the immediate implementation of all the SADC inquiry’s recommendations among other demands.

African Union (AU) chairwoman Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has also weighed in last month, stating that she was concerned about the “the breakdown in the rule of law” in Lesotho.

Lesotho was nearly suspended from SADC during the Double Troika’s last Summit held in Gaborone in January this year with South African President Jacob Zuma announcing that the regional body had tentatively decided to suspend Lesotho from its ranks.

This was after Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili had refused to receive the Phumaphi report citing an ongoing High Court case in which LDF Special Forces Commander Lieutenant-Colonel Tefo Hashatsi was challenging the legitimacy of the inquiry.

However, Dr Mosisili decided to accept the report the following day, effectively muting the threat of suspension.

 

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