Let SADC get it right with Lesotho

In one of the Namibian languages there is a saying that goes, ‘Omuntu omuntu molwaantu’ (in Shona and Zulu/Ndebele, it’s “munhu munhu nevanhu/umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu) which loosely translates to one cannot exist without other people. The same principle applies to the ‘Ubuntu’ belief system the majority of Africans subscribe to, which also ties into the concept of it taking a village to raise a child.

Now in the context of the Southern African Development Community, the region is the village and its member states exist because of the region.

So serious must the region take its traditional or African belief systems that it should apply them to the way it deals with SADC member states.

Lesotho is in the process of holding elections this week. This will be the third time in less then five years that the mountain kingdom will be conducting the necessary but costly exercise.

This is because the country’s political elite refuse to accept the legitimacy of elections held in their country, in which they partook.

Going back to the African sayings, when we talk about a village raising a child, it has been very clear, to Africans at least, that elders in that particular village have a legitimate right to discipline such a child when found wanting.

SADC therefore not only needs to apply the ‘Ubuntu spirit’ when being in solidarity with its members, but also to apply such principles when it deals with members who are not adhering to the norms set by the regional collective.

We are therefore in agreement with the head of the SADC Electoral Observation Mission (SEOM) to Lesotho, Pombe Mahinga, who warned of an uncompromising approach and dire consequences for those who would reject a free and fair election in that country.

This is because entertaining those trying to delegitimise elections are making a mockery of not only that country’s democracy and governance but that of the entire region.

SADC leaders should realise that any actions of a ‘problem child’ such as Lesotho has a direct impact on how the village is viewed by outsiders.

It is about time the village shows its offspring the heavy hand it can apply should they pose a danger to the collective.

Furthermore tolerating this kind of disrespect to legitimate democratic processes creates the wrong impression. It sends out a message that one can disregard election outcomes with impunity and no consequences.  This especially cannot be allowed to happen in a country were those who lost elections unashamedly decide not to accept the outcomes.

It is imperative that the elections in Lesotho go smoothly, peacefully and fairly.

The region has elections coming up in Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo later this year.

They will be followed by elections in Zimbabwe next year. All four of these elections must be managed properly.

The DRC is especially volatile and need extra care.

But the SADC region also has other pressing developmental goals to fulfil and cannot afford to spend much needed developmental resources in conflict resolution and post election mediation.

This will happen at the expense of the region’s poor who many of those contesting the outcome of elections seem to care little about.

The region has had to intervene in Lesotho several times before.

It is our hope that the Madagascar coup de tat was the last such experience that the region will have to deal with and that those not respecting its ideals should be cast out into the cold.

June 2017
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