By Thomas Thabane
Your Excellency Edgar President Lungu, President of the Republic of Zambia and Chairperson of the Organ;
Your Excellency President Emmerson Mnangagwa, President of the Republic of Zimbabwe and incoming Chair of the Organ;
Your Excellency President Joao Lorenco, President of the Republic of Angola and outgoing Chair of the Organ.
Your Excellency President Cyril Ramaphosa, President of the Republic of South Africa and SADC Facilitator on Lesotho.
Your Excellency Executive Secretary of SADC, Dr. Stergomena Lawrence-Tax;
Honourable Ministers, Heads of Delegations here present,
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen,
I wish to, at the outset, express my deepest gratitude for the invitation to participate in this Summit of the Troika and the opportunity to give an update on the political and security situation and the implementation of the SADC decisions on Lesotho.
Allow me first of all to pay tribute to you President Lungu for your wise and outstanding stewardship of the Organ for the past year. A lot has been achieved under your guidance. We thank you personally and the Government of Zambia for the assistance rendered to our country in our quest to find a lasting solution to our current political and security challenges. I equally wish to pay tribute to your predecessor as the Chair of the Organ His Excellency President Joao Lorenco, of the Republic of Angola whose membership of the Troika ends during this summit.
Lesotho will remain eternally indebted to him and his Government for his tireless efforts to help us to achieve political and security normalcy our country. Our gratitude goes to the SADC Facilitator on Lesotho, His Excellency president Ramaphosa and his facilitation team led by the Retired Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke who worked diligently with the other structures of SADC, such as the Oversight Committee, to have achieved the commendable progress we have recorded so far.
We look forward to working with President Mnangagwa when he assumes the chair of the Organ. We are confident that under his able leadership our region will continue to become a beacon of political and security stability in Africa.
I am pleased to inform the Troika that the reforms process in Lesotho has fully taken off. Indeed, just yesterday (Thursday) we reached another milestone with the enactment of legislation establishing the National Reforms Authority (NRA). This Act will indeed safeguard the reforms process and insulate it from any possible disruptions. It is worth noting that this was achieved ahead of schedule. According to the roadmap, the structure that will drive the reform process was supposed to be adopted by Plenary 2 of the Multi-Stakeholder National Dialogue which will be held in the coming months.
Much progress has indeed been recorded since our last meeting including the following:
• First, the approval and implementation of the National Dialogue Stabilisation Project, supported by the United Nations Peace Building Fund;
• The convening of the National Leaders Forum as a confidence building measure to bring political leaders and other leaders to accept and participate in the reforms programme and to prepare for the National Dialogue;
• The Gazettement and establishment of the National Dialogue Planning Committee;
• The holding of Plenary I of the Multi-Stakeholder National Dialogue;
• The holding of Plenary I Extension;
• The in—District Consultations in all the 10 districts of Lesotho and Diaspora Consultations in the Republic of South Africa were held from March until June 2019;
• Agreement has been reached by all stakeholder parties on the structure that will drive the reform process;
• Legislation establishing the National Reforms Authority has just been passed by the National Assembly;
• The National Reforms Authority will carry on the reform process in a transparent and independent manner without any interference by the Government and any other stakeholder.
It is to be noted that the above structure was supposed to be adopted by the Second National Dialogue plenary in the coming months, but in recognition of the urgency and importance of ensuring smooth and timeous implementation of the reforms it was agreed to move it forward.
Preparations for the security sector reforms are advanced, and the SADC Security Sector reform experts have begun their work in Lesotho.
The reform programme is being undertaken in line with the Roadmap on the theme of the “Lesotho We Want”, which was adopted by the Double Troika in Angola in April 2018.
While commendable progress has been achieved, the comprehensive reform process in Lesotho has indeed been a very daunting undertaking. The enormity and complexity of the task greatly surpassed our anticipation. While all stakeholders are unanimous on the need for reforms they are widely opposed on the actual process of implementing the reforms. During Plenary I of the dialogue all stakeholders emphasized the need for all-inclusive consultations and that no Mosotho should be left behind. The underlying principle in the reforms has been inclusivity.
There was a need for meticulous consultations, confidence building, transparency and a buy-in of all sectors of the Basotho society before the country could embark on the reforms. During the consultations, stakeholders expressed the need to first bridge the deep political divide and cultivate ownership of the process. Hence, the resultant extensive consultations that have been undertaken.
It is expected that after this very laborious process of consultations the process of legislating the reforms and the implementation of the actual reforms will be less onerous.
The process is now in full swing and has now taken full hold. It is now proceeding in a smooth and orderly fashion and has reached an irreversible stage. I am reminded of a time in the history of my country when we were transitioning from the Military Rule to democracy.
The then Head of the Military Government, Major General Ramaema was asked by a very skeptical press whether the Military would not renege on its promise to hand over power to a civilian government and he famously replied that ” this vehicle that we are driving towards elections and democracy has no reverse gear and it can only move forward”.
I also stand here before this Troika Summit and declare that this vehicle that we are driving towards reforms and lasting peace in Lesotho has no reverse gear. We are on a one-way highway to reforms with no off ramps. We have now reached a new phase in the political and security journey that we are embarked on. The political and security situation has stabilised. We are now at the stage where we need to embark on the process of nation-building and reconciliation.
There is a need for cohesion among all the political parties to ensure that indeed the reforms will deliver the Lesotho that we want. It is in this context that we strongly support and appeal to the Troika to approve the deployment of the SADC Mediation and Conflict Resolution Structure. This is an existing SADC mechanism that was created to deal with the challenges such as the ones that we are facing now in Lesotho.
Our support on the mediation structure is premised on the principles governing the activities of the mediation structure, among others, the pursuit of solutions that will ultimately lead to a restoration of relationships among all the parties to the conflict; the inclusion of all the parties to the conflict and not just the main ones; and the fact that the interventions will address both the root causes of the conflict as well as the present issues.
I must also inform this august Summit that, with regard to the Implementation of the recommendations of the SADC Commission of Inquiry, three of the five Judges seconded by SADC member states, and funded by the European Union, have arrived in Maseru and have been sworn in. This will expedite the hearing of the cases. The dates for the hearing of the cases have been set and from the end of August. I should add here that part of the reasons for the delay in the hearing of the cases was the legal challenge by some of the accused on the appointment of the foreign judges. At last justice will be served for both the victims and the accused.
The SADC family has been engaged in the Kingdom for more than two decades and we need to guarantee that this time around we shall find a lasting and sustainable solution to our recurring political challenges. It is therefore imperative not to rush the process but to ensure that we come up with a product that will have the support and ownership of the Basotho and not only the Government and the political elite. We look forward to a time in the very near future where the political and security situation in Lesotho will no longer be a subject of discussion in SADC.
It is also important to mention that our commitment to the implementation of the reforms is not due only to the desire to implement the decisions of SADC but because we as Basotho have realized the need for the reforms as the only path to peace and prosperity of our country. It should be recalled that the first coalition Government following the 2012 elections in which my party was the main partner, had reforms as one of its top priorities.
I wish to conclude by once again assuring this august Summit that the process in Lesotho has now begun in earnest and reached a point of no return. The Government of the Kingdom of Lesotho remains committed to implement all SADC Decisions on Lesotho particularly on the reforms and the recommendations of the SADC Commission of Inquiry. We are riding on a roller coaster, with no reverse gear..!
I THANK YOU EXCELLENCIES!!
*Remarks by Prime Minister Thomas Thabane at the meeting of the Troika for the Sadc organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation on Friday ahead of the 39th Ordinary Summit of the Heads of State and Government of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) that was held at Julius Nyerere International Convention Centre in Dar es Salaam, United Republic of Tanzania, on the 17th and 18th August 2019 .