SADC ultimatum triggers storm

SADC ultimatum triggers storm

MASERU – A statement in the SADC communiqué has triggered a debate that illustrates the chasm between the government and the opposition on who is to blame for delaying reform the process. “Summit resolved not to entertain any further delays in the implementation of reforms and national dialogue, and called upon SADC member states to take necessary measures against those with intentions to delay, or threaten to derail the reforms and the national dialogue processes,” the communiqué issued after last week’s summit in Namibia said.
Read with a neutral eye, the statement is vague.

How will SADC member states take “necessary measures” and against whom? What constitutes “intentions to delay, or threaten to derail the reforms and the national dialogue processes”?
Who are “those” who might want to derail the process? And what measures can SADC states take against them?
But these salient questions are crucial to understanding what the regional bloc meant have not stopped the government and the opposition from coming up with their own self-serving interpretations.

Each side is reading the statement to suit its political agenda.
The government thinks this is an ultimatum on the opposition to start playing ball and participate in the reform process. The government has always said the opposition is making flimsy demands to derail the reforms as part of its political strategy.

There are some in the government who believe the SADC statement is pointed at Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) leader, Mothetjoa Metsing, who has refused to end his self-imposed exile in South Africa and return to participate in the reforms until the government guarantees his safety and freedom.
Prime Minister Thomas Thabane seemed to lean towards this reading of the SADC statement during his press conference in Maseru on Monday.
The opposition however believes the statement is targeted at the government it says has delayed the reforms because it refuses to guarantee Metsing’s safe return home.
They see it as a warning to the coalition government to accede to the opposition’s demands and get on with the reforms.

LCD spokesperson, Teboho Sekata, said there is no way SADC could have been talking about individuals because member states have “neither the legal power nor the mandate to punish individuals”.
But while it is that vague statement which has got much of the shine the SADC communiqué mentioned other crucial things that should spur Lesotho into action.
Perhaps the most important observation by the Summit was about the delay in the reforms.
“Summit noted with concern that, despite a number of SADC initiatives in the Kingdom of Lesotho, progress on the implementation of the reforms roadmap, and national dialogue remains very slow,” the Summit said.

That means despite whoever is to blame for the delay the fact remains that nothing much has been achieved and SADC is getting apprehensive.
“Summit urged the Kingdom of Lesotho and all stakeholders to ensure that the National Leaders Forum, scheduled for 23-24 August 2018 takes place as planned, and called upon all stakeholders, including those who reside outside to participate.”

That could indicate that SADC will not tolerate any further delays.
“Summit urged the Government of the Kingdom of Lesotho to put in place a programme with clear milestones for the implementation of priority activities on the Reforms Roadmap and National Dialogue, while recognizing that the SAPMIL (SADC Preventive Mission in Lesotho) tenure ends in November 2018, a report of which, is to be submitted to the Chairperson, of the Organ by 30th October 2018.”

The opposition has already said it will not participate in the National Leaders Forum that begins today.
It wants former army boss Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli, accused of murder and attempted murder, tried in the courts or he should be released from prison.
On August 15, Metsing wrote a letter to SADC facilitator Justice Dikgang Moseneke making an additional demand he said must be met before he agrees to come back home and the opposition participates in the reform process.

His new condition is that fraud-charged ’Makarabo Mojakhomo, who left the country under controversial circumstances, should be allowed to come back home.
The police say Mojakhomo escaped from lawful custody, which is a criminal offence punishable by imprisonment upon conviction, while her lawyer Advocate Letuka Molati claims she was abducted with the help of some identifiable police officers.

Metsing also says his deputy, Tšeliso Mokhosi, who fled the country after he was arrested and allegedly tortured in police custody, should be guaranteed a safe return to the country.
He also says Mokhosi’s driver, Zele Mpheshea, who claims that he was tortured to implicate Mokhosi in the conspiracy to murder Police Constable Mokalekale Khetheng in March 2016, should also have a safe return to the country.

Metsing told Justice Moseneke that he is disappointed after reading a written response by Prime Minister Thomas Thabane regarding the conditions of his return to Lesotho.
“It appears that while the whole world wishes to move forward in the best interests of Lesotho and Lesotho’s future, the current government is not listening to what leaders like myself and other leaders and the people of Lesotho are saying,” Metsing said.

He said that the current government appears unwilling to open doors for true inclusivity and a fair playing field for all.
“It is as if they continue to blindly place their interests above those of Lesotho, thereby perpetuating a climate in which a reform process of integrity can take place.”
Metsing said he was informed that the combined opposition in the Lesotho parliament in a letter to President Ramaphosa dated August 8, has not only effectively rejected the Prime Minister’s response but “they have also withdrawn commitments made to the facilitator on 9 August”.

“They have also advised that they will not participate in the fourthcoming National Leaders Forum.”
“We seem to be trapped in a cyclical behavioural pattern in which the majority wants to move forward in the right manner, and the current government is hindering the process.”
“We need to break this cyclical behaviour if we want to move forward.”

Nkheli Liphoto

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