Picture: Cyril Ramaphosa. (David Harrison, M&G)
Cyril Ramaphosa will have little to show for months of “facilitation” in strife-torn Lesotho when he reports back to the “double troika” summit of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) this week.
In particular, the SADC facilitator will be able to report no progress on two key demands made by the SADC to Lesotho in February this year: the removal of controversial Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) chief Tlali Kamoli and the return of exiled Lesotho opposition leaders who have taken refuge across the border.
A source close to the process said that at a meeting in Maseru last Friday Lesotho Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili asked for an extension of the deadlines to meet the SADC demands, saying he needed to deal with divisions within Lesotho’s ruling Congress Alliance.
The SADC commission of inquiry on Lesotho recommended Kamoli’s immediate removal as LDF head and the return of opposition leaders by the end of this month. Neither has happened.
The source said Ramaphosa told various political actors in Lesotho last week that coalition party leaders – Mothetjoa Metsing of the Lesotho Congress for Democracy, Thulo Mahlakeng of the Basotho Congress Party, Lekhetho Rakuoane of the Popular Front for Democracy, Kimetso Mathaba of the National Independent Party, Moeketsi Malebo of the Morematlou Freedom Party, and Molahlehi Letlotlo of the Lesotho People’s Congress — no longer agree that Kamoli should go.
The source said Mosisili told Ramaphosa that he does not have a problem with removing Kamoli from the army command but has to examine the legal grounds before he can make a move.
“No legal grounds to remove Kamoli”
“Mosisili told Ramaphosa that he needs more time to sort out differences between his coalition allies. According to what Ramaphosa disclosed during his working visit, Mosisili said there are two factions within the coalition government over the Kamoli issue. One says there are no legal grounds to remove Kamoli because he has done nothing wrong, and the other that the SADC recommendation must be implemented as soon as possible.
“He therefore asked Ramaphosa to give him time to deal with his relations between his partners so that they can all reach a common ground on the issue,” the source said.
Mosisili’s spokesman, Motumi Ralejoe, confirmed that Ramaphosa met Mosisili last Friday in pursuit of his SADC mandate to assist Lesotho regain peace and stability.
However, Ralejoe said he “would not be drawn on what was said at that meeting, before the PM makes his report to the SADC. I cannot pre-empt that report”.
He would also not comment on whether Mosisili had asked Ramaphosa for an extension of the deadlines set by the SADC in order to deal with differences in the ruling coalition, saying: “I cannot speak on the assignments of the facilitator [Cyril Ramaphosa] or on what happened at last week’s meeting.”
No comment on progress
He also declined to comment on progress towards the SADC’s recommendation that Kamoli be removed from his position in order to restore public trust in the LDF. “This is one of the most challenging conditions,” he said. “The government has to try and understand what it is that Kamoli has done wrong. The prime minister has engaged him in negotiations and has said that in due course he will make a definitive statement on the matter. Until then I cannot touch the subject.”
On the return to Lesotho of opposition leaders, including former premier Thomas Thabane, Ralejoe said the SADC had assigned Ramaphosa to negotiate with the exiles.
Ramaphosa had met them in Pretoria, but Ralejoe said he did not know the outcome.
When it was put to him that Thabane and other exiled leaders had set the removal of Kamoli as a condition for their return to Lesotho, Ralejoe said their initial demand before they skipped the country was for bodyguards. The demand for Kamoli’s removal came later, he said.
Ralejoe said it was “unfair” to suggest that the SADC commission had achieved nothing since it began work in the 10 months it had been in existence.
He said a start had been made on the SADC’s demand for constitutional and security reforms in Lesotho, the commission’s third recommendation. In July Lesotho’s security forces had met for a two-day security reform workshop facilitated by the African Union and the SADC.
“They were tasked with doing a road map for the reforms,” he said. However, the issue of Kamoli’s removal “was not even on the table”.
Ramaphosa’s spokesman, Ronnie Mamoepa, said the SADC “was doing well” in its intervention over Lesotho problems as far back as 2014.
“The prorogation of parliament was cancelled, the Maseru Security Accord was signed by security chiefs, a political accord was signed by party representatives, there were fair and peaceful elections last year, and a new coalition government was elected,” Mamoepa said.
However, lawlessness and instability continues in Lesotho. Last month a prominent newspaper editor was shot in an apparent assassination attempt, while soldiers accused of mutiny and allegedly tortured remain in jail – despite an SADC recommendation that they be released.
Asked about Ramaphosa’s report to the SADC Summit in Mbabane, Swaziland, this week, Mamoepa said: “I cannot speak about [the] deputy president’s report before he could present it to the people who gave him the assignment.”
Mamoepa also declined to comment on what progress had been achieved towards the safe return of opposition leaders. “Ramaphosa will update SADC about his interaction with leaders of opposition and their return and cannot say anything about the issue because the matter is still in progress.”