SADC orders inquiry, oversight committee on Lesotho

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Pretoria – SADC leaders who sit in the Troika of Heads of State and Government have approved the establishment of an oversight committee to assess political stability in Lesotho.

The oversight committee will act “as an early warning mechanism” in the event of signs of instability, and would intervene when appropriate in consultation with the SADC facilitator Cyril Ramaphosa.

The decision was made after the SADC Double Troika Extraordinary Summit – attended by presidents from South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana as well as representatives from Malawi, Lesotho and Namibia on Friday evening. The meeting was held in Pretoria to discuss the political and security situation in Lesotho. 

The extraordinary summit comes in the wake of the alleged assassination of the former Lesotho Defence Force Commander Brigadier Maaparankoe Mahao. His killing has sparked fears that Lesotho could plunge into another political crisis.

Mahao’s shooting has seen political leaders including the main opposition and former Prime Minister Tom Thabane fleeing the country fearing for their lives.  

President Jacob Zuma in his capacity as the Chairperson of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation and Zimbabwean President and SADC Chairperson Robert Mugabe co-chaired the meeting which was also attend by Lesotho's Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili.

“We felt that we should gather to discuss the political and security challenges in the Kingdom of Lesotho," President Zuma said.

Zuma said the latest events in the tiny Kingdom only served to derail the process towards normalisation of the political and security situation in that country.

As a matter of urgency, the summit resolved to establish an independent Commission of Inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the death of Brigadier Mahao.

"We express our concern about the death of Brigadier Mahao, an incident that has plunged the country into a serious security crisis,” said President Zuma.

The terms of reference of the commission of inquiry would, among others, include the question of whether the current army commander General Tlali Kamoli should have been reappointed to his position earlier this year.

This as Lesotho opposition parties and many members of civil society have pointed fingers at Kamoli as being responsible for the death of Mahao and other violent incidents.

Commission to give feedback within two months

The commission is expected to report its finding to SADC within 60 days.

The summit requested full collaboration and cooperation of government of the Kingdom of Lesotho in facilitating the work of the Commission of Enquiry.

To help with the investigation of Mahao’s death, independent pathologist will conduct an examination, as requested by the Prime Minister of Lesotho within a period of 72 hours.

According to the communique, the summit was briefed on the security situation in Lesotho following a fact-finding mission led by Deputy President Ramaphosa.

Deputy President Ramaphosa on Monday travelled to Maseru to consult with Mosisili following fears of more political instability in Lesotho.

On Friday, the summit called for urgent security and constitutional reforms to restore political stability in Lesotho.

Without giving time frames, the summit said SADC would help in this process.

The 14-member regional body has in the past reaffirmed its  commitment to assist Lesotho develop long-term security sector reforms to address the challenges with the view to ensuring all Basotho live in a secure, stable and democratic environment.

The security challenges where first noted during the signature of the Maseru Security Accord in October last year when challenges manifested themselves through the reported tensions, lack of trust and lack of co-operation between the Lesotho Defence Force and the Lesotho Mounted Police Services.

Lesotho has been battling to restore stability since an attempted coup last year which led to an early election in February this year.

The elections were later declared transparent, credible, free and fair by SADC and subsequently a coalition government of seven parties was formed despite it still battling with divisions.

Speaking to the media after the summit, Lesotho's Prime Minister Mosisili said he was happy that the summit provided the way forward for his country.

"They have assured us of support as we embark on the reform program. The summit has indeed addressed the issues with a lot of understanding and they have been very gracious and magnanimous in the structures they have set up to give confidence and security to the people of Lesotho," Mosisili said.



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