SADC forces Lesotho to back down

iol news pic Lesotho flag

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 Lesotho’s 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.

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.

Foreign Service

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