19 January 2016

Lesotho: Faced With SADC Suspension, Lesotho Changes Its Mind

Photo: GCIS
Friendlier times: Lesotho's Prime Minister, Pakalitha Mosisili, left, with South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, the regional facilitator of talks with Lesotho, in September 2014.

Maputo — Faced with the threat of suspension from SADC (Southern African Development Community), the government of Lesotho has reversed the position it took on Monday, and now says it will receive the report from a SADC Commission of Inquiry looking into the assassination last June of the former head of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF). Brig Maaparankoe Mahao.

Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi, head of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation, told reporters in Maputo on Tuesday that he had received a phone call from the current SADC chairperson, Botswanan President Ian Khama, informing him of the Lesotho volte-face.

At a meeting of the SADC double troika in Gaborone on Monday, the Prime Minister of Lesotho, Pakalitha Mosisili refused to receive the report. The double troika consists of the leadership of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation (Mozambique, South Africa and Tanzania), and the SADC presidential troika (Botswana, Swaziland and Zimbabwe).

Mosisili claimed he could not receive the report because the commission of inquiry is being sued criminally in the Lesotho High Court.

Nyusi said the SADC leadership "did not receive any collaboration from the Lesotho government".

SADC was surprised when the case was taken to the courts "because the Commission of Inquiry is not under the jurisdiction of the Lesotho courts".

Angered by the attitude of the Lesotho government, the Gaborone meeting decided to propose the suspension of Lesotho from SADC at the next SADC heads of state summit. In the meantime it would push ahead and publish the report from the Commission of Inquiry, which was chaired by Botswana high court judge Mpaphi Phumaphi.

"We were very disappointed with the Lesotho authorities", said Nyusi. "They were refusing to cooperate with SADC in a matter of their own security".

The SADC threat had an almost immediate impact. On Tuesday morning, the Lesotho government contacted Khama and said it would now receive the report, and Khama passed this information on to Nyusi. "Lesotho officials will meet with us again on a couple of weeks", said Nyusi.

With Lesotho now cooperating, the question of suspending the country from SADC no longer arises.

Nyusi confirmed leaks in the South African press that the report recommends the removal of Defence Minister Tšeliso Mokhosi, as well as of Mahao's replacement as army commander, Lt. Gen Tlali Kamoli.

Lesotho needed a constitutional reform and a reform of its armed forces, Nyusi said, to ensure that the latter are under civilian political control. "At future meetings, we shall want to know what they are doing to ensure the reform of the military", he added.

AIM asked Nyusi if he had taken the opportunity of the Gaborone meeting to speak to his South African counterpart, Jacob Zuma, about the call made by Afonso Dhlakama, leader of the former rebel movement Renamo, for Zuma to mediate in future talks between Renamo and the Mozambican government.

But if Zuma had received any letter from Dhlakama, "he did not mention it to me", Nyusi said.

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