Civil society incise NZ report
Published on August 15, 2014 · No Comments
Calls for local remedies to current political problems
MASERU – Civil society organisations have cut into the report of the Commonwealth Special Envoy to Lesotho Dr Rajen Prasad, following a Commonwealth-sponsored Lesotho delegation’s study tour of New Zealand and South African President Jacob Zuma’s mediatory visit.
They further seek to influence Lesotho’s contribution and decisions that will be reached pertaining to the country’s current political hitches in the upcoming Southern African Development Community (SADC) Summit to be held in Zimbabwe.
The Zimbabwe summit will be the 34th SADC Heads of State and Government Summit, and will be at the Victoria Falls on August 17 and 18.
A civil society forum hosted by the Development for Peace Education (DPE) and Actionaid in Maseru on Monday made an undertaking to understand prevalent political issues, thrash them out and then present a concerted opinion for inclusion in Lesotho’s Victoria Falls submissions.
DPE programme coordinator Sofonea Shale said: “We anticipate that this meeting is bound to discuss issues of Lesotho and make decisions.”
“We have to combine our opinions as civil society, and find channels of how our views could be embodied at this summit so that when the leaders make decisions, they know very well what the civil society thinks about the current situation in Lesotho.”
He warned that the exclusion of their concerns and issues at the Summit spelled disaster, because “…the problems will still be there after Victoria Falls.”
The civil society organisations were also adamant that local remedies should be exhausted to find solutions to Lesotho’s problems before resorting to foreign intervention.
On the same note, the director of the Transformation Resource Centre (TRC), Tšoeu Petlane, questioned whether local processes were exhausted in finding a solution to Lesotho political problems, adding “…because we will have a problem of owning and sustaining these foreign remedies, as they will remain Zuma’s and New Zealand solutions”.
He indicated local initiatives and processes should first be employed before calling for foreign assistance, highlighting that if employed solutions do not come from Basotho themselves “…we will have problems.”
Organisations present agreed that the Victoria Falls Summit should not appoint President Zuma as mediator in Lesotho’s political unrest, arguing that should Zuma be forced on Lesotho his role should be extended to address the many maladies his country has burdened Basotho with.
These problems include free cross-border movement and the ill-treatment of Basotho workers in South Africa.
Shale echoed: “We don’t want him, but if he comes, his mission should be extended to address practical issues facing our nation.”
Some were of the view that South Africa enjoyed Lesotho’s consumer economy and that Zuma’s intervention would be to maintain the status quo, hence his mandate should be extended if SADC proposed his intervention.
Actionaid governance advisor, Olivia Gumbo, pointed out they were aware of the existence of Joint Bilateral Commission of Cooperation (JBCC), “…but it needs to be strengthened as it is ineffective.”
“We are unable to use the JBCC as the two governments and South Africa doesn’t see that as a platform, we acknowledge the platform is there but should be strengthened.”
The JBCC was launched in May, 2002, by then Lesotho’s foreign affairs minister, Motsoahae Thabane, and his counterpart, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma of South Africa to, in five years, uplift Lesotho from its current status of a least developed country.
The civil society expressed fear that unlike Namibian President, Hifikepunye Pohamba, Zuma was likely to prioritise his country’s interests over those of Lesotho.
Sekonyela Mapetja, the Lesotho Council of Non-governmental Organisation (LCN) Economic Justice Coordinator, lambasted Dr Prasad’s report, refuting mainly his proposed public service reforms.
He said the New Zealand report should not be viewed as “a magic solution to all problems”, adding he had earlier met with Prasad when he was in Lesotho to observe the May 26, 2012, elections.
Mapetja said in that encounter Prasad had mentioned the entire Lesotho public service needed to be dismantled for this country to develop; according to Mapetja, Prasad has used the New Zealand platform to advance his own interests.
Catholic Archbishop Tlali Gerard Lerotholi, who is also the head of the Christian Council of Lesotho, was insistent that there had to be someone knowledgeable with authority and mandate to interpret a crucial report like the one at hand.
“This has been the problem of this country. Is the interpretation now the opinion of ntate Rakuoane who can be refuted by anyone?”, Archbishop Lerotholi questioned.
Speaking at the same event as an invited guest, the Deputy Prime Minister, Mothetjoa Metsing observed the demanding nature of a coalition government, called for in-depth deliberations before its setup.
He noted it took other countries six months or more to put together a coalition government while deliberations were being made, noting the haste with which Lesotho’s coalition was set up created gaps that had the potential to impact negatively on its sustenance.
“This attracted the Commonwealth to immediately partner with the government after elections. It is a pity that the New Zealand tour did not happen sooner; taking place only now when there has already been a prorogation and the impasse.”
As the report was made by the Commonwealth, Metsing believed to some extent, it did not reflect opinions of the Lesotho team, urging such opinions should be taken on board before it could be implemented.
“The New Zealand report has been adopted by government as a working document, not that everything in it would be adhered to. We cannot say this is binding, it’s just a road map, it has to be internalised to the Lesotho context.”
He concluded there must still be an umbrella body that put up as a structure to facilitate the implementation of this report, “…if things are driven by government, they would be considered to be from a certain influence.”
Speaking in his personal capacity the Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly, Lekhetho Rakuoane, said the report entailed, amongst others, the proposed parliamentary, constitutional and public service reforms.
Rakuoane commended the report for proposing the casting of party votes by party whips, adding this would eliminate the threat of absenteeism when major decisions are supposed to be voted for in parliament.
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