Justice presupposes peace

Justice presupposes peace

LAST week, the media announced that the Head of the SADC Facilitation Team, Justice Dikgang Moseneke, had proposed that Lesotho should establish a Transitional Justice Commission (TJC).

It was also revealed that SADC has said Lesotho must consider deferring high-profile cases of politicians and politically motivated trials to enable the country to face the truth of what happened during the conflict and turmoil as the basis for a healing process that will lead to national reconciliation. This proposal reminds one of Animal Farm, George Orwell’s classic novel, wherein it is said “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

In this case, SADC is proposing a systematic abuse of language and logic of democracy to control Basotho. This article seeks to understand the SADC proposal in Lesotho’s context.
First, it must be made clear that the TJC is not a new concept. SADC appears to believe that the TJC that worked for South Africa could be an ideal solution to Lesotho’s efforts to resolve its political problems.
History however shows that Lesotho’s attempt to adopt foreign systems to deal with local problems have often ended in dismal failure. Now Lesotho seems to have yet again failed to learn from history.

Everyone is equal before the Law. This is encapsulated in the principle that says ‘without fear, favour or prejudice.’ The constitution of Lesotho enshrines this simple principle, particularly item 19 of Chapter 2’, whose title is: ‘Protection of Fundamental Human Rights and freedom’.
It says: “Every person shall be entitled to equality before the law and the equal protection of the law.”
In other words, all Basotho are equal before the law. But the SADC proposal deliberately ignores this part of the constitution. The law must protect citizens equally. The fact that they label some cases as ‘high-profile’ clearly implies that there are, at least, two kinds of citizens, the electorate, ‘them’ and the politicians, ‘us’.

The proposed TJC is similar to the post-1994 South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). South Africa said that TRC would help heal the wounds of apartheid and its atrocities.
There is no evidence that TRC achieved that lofty mission.
Instead, we still hear the news that white farmers shoot and kill people claiming they shot at monkeys. The recent racial spats at a Free State town of Senekal is a clear example that nothing much has changed since the TRC.

Some claim that the TRC helped to avoid a possible civil war.
The victims of apartheid did not receive any reparations as settlement for the atrocities they suffered.
The context in South Africa before 1994 is completely different from those in Lesotho post-1993. The former was institutionalised apartheid – a white supremacist regime. The United Nations declared apartheid a crime against humanity. The state institutionalised the system by law. It was deep hatred of the other purely because they have different pigmentation.

The Italian philosopher, Doria, called this a vice. The laws of the country enforced this vice. Their children were stereotyped from birth to a belief that they were superior to the other. Children went to different schools based on race. This was nationalism of the Nazi ilk.
Good parenting mandates that parents instil responsibility and accountability in their children. Parents must teach their children that there are consequences for their actions.

When university students trash campuses, there must be consequences. The SADC proposal negates this fundamental principle of natural law and life. It trashes the principle that law-abiding citizens live by.
Post-1993 Lesotho cannot compare to apartheid, South Africa. In post-independent Lesotho, corruption, murder and political abuse of power are not institutionalised and enforced by law.

They are criminal offences. The proposal by SADC seeks to equate post-independence Lesotho to the apartheid, South Africa. These are motivated by monetary greed. Politicians feel entitled to grab government resources willy-nilly. They own state resources. They are elites, ‘us’, the law unto themselves. Their political entitlement emboldens them to avoid accountability.

The Basotho electorate does not force politicians to account. The electorate must arrange quid pro quo deals with the candidates and hold them accountable. The electorate gives their vote for a mandate that their candidate commits to.

Constituency MPs represent the electorate. The electorate sends them to parliament or government to fulfil specific mandates. The representatives will achieve real glory through true love and sacrifices for their constituencies and Basotho. They do not achieve glory by looting the nation’s resources, give tenders and jobs to family and pals through patronage and nepotism. They cannot achieve true glory through demagogic populism.

A true MP is an epitome of the words of President JF Kennedy, where he said: “Ask not what your country can do for you … ask what you can do for your country,” [sic].
In South Africa, the late singer Hugh Masekela echoes Kennedy in his song: ‘Thuma Mina – Send Me’. MPs must display the zeal to break the vicious cycle of the triple challenges of hunger, poverty and unemployment that traps the majority of Basotho and leads their country to prosperity. They must serve, not receive.

The proposal for a TJC sounds appealing, but it will not enable Lesotho to attain sustainable peace and prosperity is the essence of Basotho motto: Khotso, Pula, Nala.
As I wrote elsewhere, the construct ‘peace’ presupposes ‘justice’. There can be no ‘peace’ without ‘justice’. The overarching construct is true ‘love’ and ‘patriotism.’

In 1986, some military personnel carried out gruesome murders of former ministers and their families. One of the military personnel was an executive in the government. The law did not defer the crime. These individuals bore the consequences of their deeds. The system implemented the law without fear, favour or prejudice. Even though the loved ones could not return, there was justice.

This time innocent lives have been lost. The general public saw a mourning widow of one of the victims at the Phumaphi Judicial Commission. The commission recommended criminal investigations and full implementation of the law. Justice must prevail.
Who will benefit from these deflections of justice? It is not Basotho. It is not peace. Justice presupposes peace. The beneficiaries are politicians, negotiators and lawmakers.

They claim to engage in the reforms on behalf of Basotho, and yet they represent themselves.
The beneficiaries are both the players and the referees in the same match.
So, Basotho, ethics and justice are the losers.
We therefore should not be shocked that some politicians are staunchly suggesting SADC’s proposal.

This is a continuation of the marginalisation of Basotho.
You see this is in the inequality in the country.
Recently, the MPs have been clamouring for an increase to their fuel allowances. We now hear that they are likely to get M5000 per month for fuel.

These are the same MPs who mocked Basotho musicians’ pleas for help. The artists received 5 kg beans and 12.5 kg of maize meal. On the other hand, civil servants and old-age social grants did not receive increments. Teachers are still awaiting their arrears.
The urgent issues that the MPs should address have been put on a backburner as they fight for more money and benefits. Covid 19 pandemic posed challenges to global health systems. Lesotho’s ailing public healthcare system needs urgent attention.

Most Basotho live in rural areas where they survive on subsistence farming. Basotho produce less than 30 percent of their cereal needs. Lesotho imports over 60 percent of her food requirements. Therefore, Lesotho is a food deficit country.
Every year Lesotho loses millions to corruption, fraud and tenderpreneurship. Money was looted even during the pandemic. Lesotho remains under a lockdown that has destroyed livelihoods and pushed thousands into poverty. Unemployment is rampant. We are grappling with the HIV pandemic. TB is wreaking havoc. We cannot get enough Covid-19 vaccines.

The reforms should help Basotho to find meaningful solutions to their real problems. They must give meaning to the lives of Basotho.
SADC’s proposal is ludicrous. It seeks to glorify crime. A crime is a crime, no matter what adjective one uses to describe it. Glorifying crime as ‘politically motivated’ is politically motivated.
It is yet another crime of defeating the ends of justice, only this time the state is committing the crime. The perpetrators must face the law like other suspects.

Lesotho’s legal system must reject SADC’s proposal with the contempt it deserves. The proposal does not tick all the boxes of good governance. Perceptions are important in law. Citizens will not trust the law they perceive to favour, fear or prejudice others. The use of words like ‘high-profile’ cases or people is problematic.
Granting amnesty and deferring crimes committed by politicians is not a solution. This is a product of outsourcing interventions of Basotho problems.

Dr Tholang Maqutu

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