Lesotho political crisis …SADC’s lasting solution

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Recently in Pretoria, South Africa

THE media has been awash with reports about Lesotho’s political crisis.
In spite of the vast coverage, the populace in Lesotho and in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) bloc seem not to understand the political dynamics behind the turmoil in the mountainous kingdom.
Lesotho is a constitutional monarch ruled by King Letsie III, born David Mohato Bereng Seeiso, who under the constitution is the Head of State but does not actively participate in politics.
The country, a tiny mountainous surrounded by South Africa, with a population of about two million people and 20 political parties, has experienced coups and political instabilities in 1966, 1970, 1974, 1986, 1991, 1994 and 1998.
Three months ago, the Prime Minister of Lesotho and leader of the All Basotho Congress (ABC), Dr Tom Thabane suspended the parliament to counter plans of a vote-of-no-confidence
Last month, the Premier fled and sought refuge in neighbouring South Africa, which completely surrounds the tiny country and is the kingdom’s major source of revenue, alleging a coup d’état.
Lesotho’s major export is water from its Highlands Water Project to South Africa provinces of the Free State and Gauteng.
On fleeing to South Africa, Thabane claimed the army wanted to oust him after it had ‘attacked’ key police stations and surrounded his official residence.
Since then, SADC has been making efforts to bring the country’s political leaders together.
However, to understand what is happening in Lesotho one needs to wind back to 2012.
Two years ago, the country’s general elections failed to produce an outright winner, no party amassed the required 61 out of 120 seats in the National Assembly to form a government.
In the elections outcome the newly created Democratic Congress (DC) led by Pakalitha Mosisili won 48 seats, the All Basotho Convection (ABC) led by Tom Thabane won 30 seats while Lesotho for Democracy (LCD) led by Mothetjoa Metsing won 26 seats and the Basotho National Party (BNP) led by Chief Thesele Maseribane won five seats.
With no outright winner, three political parties: Thabane’s ABC (a break away from LCD), Metsing’s LCD and Chief Maseribane’s BNP cobbled up their numbers to come up with the 61 seats required.
With the ABC as the strongest party in the three-way alliance, Thabane became the Prime Minister deputised by Metsing.
Out in the cold was Mosisili, despite the fact that his party had won more votes than anyone else.
It is also important to note that a few months before the elections, Mosisili who had for 14 years governed the Kingdom as Prime Minister and leader of the same LCD that Metsing now leads, amid criticism that he had clung to power for long, broke away from the LCD to form the DC.
The coalition it appears was formed to get rid of the common ‘enemy’; Mosisili.
However, two years into the coalition, Metsing is still not happy.
He had problems with Mosisili, but working with Thabane has proved difficult.
His contention has been that his partner is not consulting him in the running of the country.
In June this year, Metsing contemplated pulling out of the coalition and partnering with Mosisili and push for a vote of no confidence against Thabane.
To forestall the attempt, Thabane responded by suspending Parliament for nine months.
The continued jockeying for position between Thabane and Mosisili, and the intense infighting within Thabane’s ruling coalition, has effectively hamstrung the Lesotho government.
To make matters worse the security forces are not immune from all this partisan politicking either.
The police, allegedly, are on Thabane’s side, while the army apparently would love to see Mosisili in charge again.
It is also alleged that army chief Tlali Kamoli holds allegiance to Mosisili, as the former Prime Minister appointed him to the role just before he was ousted in the 2012 elections.
It is alleged on August 30, general Kamoli assaulted several police stations that left one police officer dead and several others injured.
Hence the coup accusations: when Thabane saw that the soldiers taking on the police, he thought that they were coming after him next, prompting the Prime Minister to flee the country.
In an effort to restore political order, in the last three months SADC sent envoys through Namibian President Hifikepunye Pohamba and South African President Jacob Zuma who tried several times to speak to the leaders of the fragile governing coalition.
The talks had little effect in changing the fundamental breakdown of the relationship between Metsing, Thabane and Chief Maseribane.
On numerous occasions, mediators were assured that they would iron out their differences.
The Basotho politicians recommitted themselves to the Windhoek and Pretoria declarations.
Metsing agreed to abandon his earlier decision to leave Thabane’s coalition and rescind his affair with Mosisili.
In exchange, Thabane made a ‘solemn commitment’ to reconvene Parliament by August 14.
The date came and went, however, Thabane reneged on the promise to recall parliament.
Analysts opine that the characteristic of the Lesotho crisis is the unwillingness of the political partners to negotiate in good faith.
They say the relationship between Thabane and Metsing will not be repaired as long as they fail to patch up their differences.
After weeks of failed talks, South Africa this week hosted an emergency meeting of regional leaders to negotiate a peace deal for Lesotho.
SADC Chair President Robert Mugabe, South Africa President, Jacob Zuma, Botswana President Ian Khama, Malawi Vice President Saulos Chilima, Ministers from Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo and Namibia sat down with Lesotho leaders to come up with a lasting solution.
The double troika summit resolved that early elections will restore political order in the mountainous kingdom.
“Summit urged the Leaders of the Coalition Government in Lesotho to uphold their commitments towards restoration of constitutional normalcy in the Kingdom,” reads the communique.
“In this regard, the Summit noted that the Leaders of the Coalition Government have agreed to bring forward the date of the elections from 2017 to the date to be agreed upon after consultations between the coalition leaders of the coalition Government and other political stakeholders.”
The summit also resolved that the SADC organ Troika plus Zimbabwe deploy an observation mission in Lesotho for three months, after which it could be reviewed to ensure peace and stability within the Defence and Security establishments.
The question that remains is whether or not the SADC Troika prescription for an early election is the remedy to the Lesotho crisis.

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