SADC must do more on Lesotho

In the coming weeks on October 4, the Basotho celebrate more than half of a century of having shaken off the shackles of colonial rule, having been granted independence by Britain on this day in 1966.

This is a national day which must be marked by pomp and ceremony throughout the country. It is a day marked with flag-raising ceremonies, speeches, colourful parades and processions, performances, and other festive events and activities.

Yet this year, as was also the case two years ago, Lesotho is at a cross-roads amid volatility and political uncertainty after the assassination of yet another army commander, Lieutenant-General Khoantle Motšomotšo, by renegade soldiers, namely Brigadier Bulane Sechele and Colonel Tefo Hashatsi. The shooting came at a time the country was still to implement recommendations made by a Commission of Inquiry led by South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa into the shooting in June 2015 of then Lesotho Defence Forces army commander Lieutenant General Maaparankoe Mahao.

The shooting led to fears of a coup and resulted in the then Prime Minister Thomas Thabane fleeing to South Africa to seek refuge.  It is quite telling that Brig Sechele and Col Hashati were also implicated in the shooting of Lt-Gen Mahao and this could point to the underlying problems in the mountain kingdom pitting the politicians and the armed forces.

The regional political leaders must therefore redouble their efforts in resolving problems in Lesotho and we believe it is time to move away from political rhetoric and flowery language.  There is a need to tackle the root causes of the problems that have been simmering for a long time in that country.

SADC has been superintending the situation in Lesotho for a long period and we believe it is up to the political leadership in Maseru to abide by resolutions of the regional bloc for the good of the Basotho people.

While we commend the SADC Double Troika Extraordinary Summit convened last week in Pretoria for approving the deployment of a contingent force comprising military, security, intelligence and civilian experts to support the government of Lesotho, we must however point out that SADC cannot forever be babysitting Lesotho as it has other pressing issues to attend to such as ensuring the implementation of its industrial strategy roadmap and developmental projects for the good of the entire region.

There are also more pressing issues in the eastern parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo where thousands of people are in the middle of civil strife and are thousands of refugees are now flocking into neighbouring Angola and Zambia, which are fellow SADC member states.

It should be recalled that Lesotho has been in perpetual conflict since attaining independence and this situation cannot be allowed to continue.

The starting point is for the political leadership in that country to implement the SADC decisions to the book, as was recommended by the Cyril Ramaphosa-led commission.  While this might be unpalatable to those political and military leaders implicated, we believe this should be a good starting point if lasting peace and political stability is to hold in the tiny kingdom.

We do not want to believe SADC has failed the people of Lesotho.  If anything, it is the meddling in politics by that country’s soldiers that should be a cause for concern.  This must therefore be nipped in the bud before it spirals out of control.

September 2017
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