SADC Oversight Committee in limbo

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Bereng Mpaki

THE operationalisation of a Southern African Development Community (SADC) Oversight Committee meant to act as an early warning mechanism in the event of instability in Lesotho is up in the air due to monetary and manpower constraints.

This is according to Prime Minister Pakalitha who made the remark this week during a press conference to outline Lesotho’s position on the SADC Summit of Heads of State and Government held on 30-31 August 2016 in Mbabane, Swaziland.

He said SADC states were supposed to bankroll and also provide the manpower to operationalise the Oversight Committee, which is also mandated with providing Lesotho assistance in the implementation of    constitutional, security and public sector reforms.

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

According to a draft record of the proceedings at the SADC summit in Swaziland, a copy of which is in the Lesotho Times’ possession, the summit “considered and approved” the terms of reference, composition and budget of US$211 420 (about M2 974 277.7) for the operationalisation of the Oversight Committee.

“The (Oversight) Committee is to be funded by member states based on assessed contributions,” reads part of the draft record.

The summit also directed the SADC secretariat to facilitate the operationalisation of the Oversight Committee “with immediate effect” and consider the need for its tenure to be longer than the originally agreed 45 days.

“(The summit) directed the Secretariat to propose modalities for the extension of the Oversight Committee and report to the Double Troika meeting to be held in October 2016,” states the draft record.

However, Dr Mosisili said there was a “reluctance” on the part of SADC states to provide the needed resources for the committee.

“The ball for the convening of the Oversight Committee is in SADC’s court, and it seems states are reluctant to fork out the manpower and monetary resources needed to make it operational,” he said.

Dr Mosisili’s Press Attaché Motumi Ralejoe also told the Lesotho Times in an interview yesterday the government had no objections to the operationalisation of the Oversight Committee adding it was now up to the bloc to deliver.

“How the cost of the operationalisation of the Oversight Committee is going to be footed is not clear to us, but we have no objections at all to it,” he said.

“Your guess is as good as mine on when the Oversight Committee will actually get off the ground. We wait to hear from SADC.”

Civil society organisations in Lesotho have called on SADC to institute the Oversight Committee to ensure the regional bloc has a presence on the ground and continues dialogue with stakeholders during the implementation of the reforms.

Dr Mosisili said the SADC Summit also underscored the importance of the return of exiled opposition leaders.

“The summit also indicated the importance of the return of the opposition leaders into the country so they can contribute in the important affairs of this country,” he said.

Former premier and All Basotho Convention leader Thomas Thabane, Basotho National Party leader Thesele ‘Maseribane and Reformed Congress of Lesotho leader Keketso Rantšo sought refuge in South Africa in May 2015 saying they feared for their lives after being alerted of a plot to kill them by the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF). However, the LDF has consistently denied the allegations.

The exiled leaders have insisted they would only return if LDF commander Lieutenant-General Tlali Kamoli is relieved of his duties.

Dr Mosisili accused the exiled opposition leaders of “shifting goal posts” in demanding Lt-Gen Kamoli’s ouster.

“We tried to convince them to come back home but we failed, and as far as I am aware SADC has also had enough and the summit was aware that this shifting of the goal posts will never take us anywhere.”

Dr Mosisili said while the government had decided to “engage” Lt-Gen Kamoli “on a mutually agreeable solution” regarding his future in the LDF, they would not be “rushed” by the demands of the opposition.

“As far as General Kamoli is concerned, I still maintain they (opposition leaders) did not even run away from him as they insist. We are taking our time in talking to him; even if it may take a year or more. Ntate Thabane and his colleagues cannot rush us on this matter,” he said.

Dr Mosisili’s sentiments may mean SADC’s intervention in Lesotho might be a protracted process.

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