12 August 2017

Lesotho: PM Vows to End Lesotho's 'Bad Boy' Tag

PRIME Minister Thomas Thabane has committed to ensure that Lesotho ceases to be the Southern African Development Community's (SADC) "bad boy" by initiating a national multi-stakeholder dialogue that would frame the mooted multi-sectoral reforms.

Dr Thabane says the country's leadership "in government and leadership in the opposition" have no choice but to implement the regional bloc's recommendations meant to bring lasting peace and stability.

The premier said this yesterday, while addressing the media with SADC Facilitator to Lesotho and South African Vice-President Cyril Ramaphosa during the latter's one-day trip to Maseru to assess the situation in the country following the holding of the 3 June 2017 National Assembly elections.

Mr Ramaphosa also visited Lesotho as part of his preparations for the SADC Double Troika Summit scheduled for Pretoria, South Africa on 17 August 2017 where the Mountain Kingdom is expected to top the agenda.

Lesotho has been the hogging the limelight at SADC summits in recent years owing to bouts of instability that have necessitated the intervention of the regional bloc in one form or another.

Mr Ramaphosa was appointed as SADC facilitator to Lesotho following the escalation of tension and deterioration of the security situation in Lesotho that was described by Dr Thabane as an attempted coup on 30 August 2014.

This was after the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) raided three key Maseru police stations leaving one police officer dead. The raid triggered a chain of unsavoury events that led to the collapse of Dr Thabane's first coalition government and the intervention of SADC and other international bodies to bring back political stability in Lesotho.

The 25 June 2015 killing of former LDF commander Lt-Gen Maaparankoe Mahao by his erstwhile colleagues also resulted in the establishment of a SADC Commission of Inquiry led by Justice Mpaphi Phumaphi of Botswana.

Among its recommendations was that government should investigate the killing and prosecute those found to be responsible. It also recommended constitutional, security and public sector reforms to bring lasting peace and stability.

SADC also established a 10-member Oversight Committee in July 2015 to monitor the implementation of its decisions regarding the political and security situation in Lesotho

The committee was also tasked with providing assistance in the implementation of constitutional, security and public sector reforms in Lesotho.

Lesotho held its third parliamentary elections in five years on 3 June 2017 after the Pakalitha Mosisili-led seven-party coalition government failed to serve its five-year term after losing a 1 March 2017 National Assembly no-confidence vote.

Dr Thabane's All Basotho Convention, the Alliance of Democrats, Basotho National Party and Reformed Congress of Lesotho cobbled together the 63 seats they won in the elections to form government.

The 6 March 2017 dissolution of parliament after the no-confidence vote put on hold the multi-stakeholder reform process the country had started in 2016 at the instigation of SADC.

The envisaged reforms cover governance, security sector and other areas and are aimed at deepening democracy and creating last stability which is conducive to economic growth.

Dr Thabane said the country's leadership, across the political divide, was intent on following through on the SADC recommendations.

"We have no choice now as the leadership in Lesotho; by leadership I mean leadership in government and leadership in the opposition, but to listen to what SADC says and do it because it is the right thing," he said.

"When we have had problems, we have called SADC to help us. When we are doing something that is not quite correct and SADC says it is not correct, we must give them an ear.

"SADC are not children, they are our friends, they are our colleagues, they are our comrades, and they are people with whom we happen to be in the same region and therefore share the same problems, breath the same air, drink the same water."

The premier indicated that the government could not countenance a continuation of Lesotho's making the headlines at SADC summits for the wrong reasons.

"As leader of the government group, I assure you that we will do everything to stop being the bad boy of SADC. Enough is enough.

"We want to assure you that when next you come, you will be coming to celebrate not to worry so much about our problems which as I said, are terribly solvable. We promise to stop being the bad boy of SADC."

Accompanied by SADC Oversight Committee on Lesotho chairperson, Retired Justice Frederick Wereme, Mr Ramaphosa held meetings with members of the government, leaders of opposition parties, the college of chiefs and civil society stakeholders. The meetings were meant to chart a way towards the full implementation of SADC decisions on constitutional and security sector reforms.

Mr Ramaphosa said he discussed the modalities of the holding of the multi-stakeholder dialogue meant to create a framework for implementing security, constitutional, media and public service reforms.

"We are very pleased to have received a report from the honourable prime minister that the government of Lesotho is determined to move ahead with the holding of the multi-party stakeholder dialogue where these issues that have been raised by SADC will be addressed," he said.

"We are very pleased to have heard that it will be as inclusive as possible. And in fact that the process is already underway and the process will be led by Basotho themselves.

"It will be a home-grown process; it will be organic with SADC playing a supportive role."

Mr Ramaphosa added: "That pleases us exceedingly and we will be able to table a very forward-looking and positive report to the SADC summit as both the facilitator as well as the Oversight Committee and inform the leaders of the region that Lesotho is now firmly on the road to embracing stability and that Lesotho is firmly on the road of implementing the Phumaphi Commission recommendations as well as embarking on the constitutional, security reforms, media reforms and public service reforms that were identified by the Double Troika of SADC as key issues that will enable Lesotho to move up the ladder and be a very stable democracy.

"We are very happy with the way things are going now in Lesotho and I think we can look forward to great progress being made as the Multi-Stakeholder Dialogue process moves on."

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