Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Khama, Mosisili collide on mighty fallout

Documents passed to Sunday Standard detail how the relationship between President Ian Khama and Lesotho Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili has hit rock bottom with Botswana warning that the region has spent millions of on efforts aimed at restoring stability and peace in the kingdom but to no avail.

Khama responded with furry recently after Mosisili wrote a letter to SADC accusing it of meddling in its domestic affairs following the regional bloc’s instructions that Lesotho should honour a number of recommendations and resolutions.

Sunday Standard is also in possession of a document showing how each SADC member state contributed to an oversight committee that was set up to restore peace and stability in Lesotho.

In a letter dated 18 April 2017 and addressed to SADC Chairman King Mswati III, Khama states that “I have the honour to acknowledge receipt of Prime Minister Mosisili’s letter dated 4 April 2017 regarding the decision of the Extraordinary SADC Summit held 18th March, in Swaziland, pertaining to developments in the Kingdom of Lesotho.”

Khama’s letter which was also copied to SADC’s facilitator South African deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa added that “I wish to express my serious concern that the Prime Minister has interpreted SADC’s involvement in Lesotho as interference in Lesotho’s domestic affairs.”

According to Khama, “Our understanding is that SADC’s involvement in Lesotho is in accordance with the letter and spirit of the SADC’s principles and objectives, as well as an exercise of solidarity and brotherhood.”

He further states that “If Lesotho feels that the collective and relentless efforts by the regional leaders in finding a lasting political and security solution is a direct violation of its sovereignty, then Botswana will consider withdrawing its representatives currently serving in the SADC Oversight Committee on Lesotho.”

Botswana’s representatives are former Speaker of the National Assembly Patrick Balopi and former Chief Executive of Civil Aviation Authority of Botswana (CAAB) Major General Jefferson Tlhokwane.

In a  sign that Khama may be  climbing down on his earlier soft stance and  is now turning against Lesotho, he reminded Mosisili that “it should also be borne in mind that the SADC member states’ unwavering support to Lesotho’s efforts of consolidating democracy, peace and stability has come with huge financial (sic) and costs.”

A document titled “assessed contributions for the oversight committee requirements-Kingdom of Lesotho in US Dollars (USD) shows how all the 15 member states contributed millions towards the setting of the oversight committee and its operations. The members states have thus far spent more than P3 million on other issues relating to the committee. Sunday Standard was unable to establish how much they spent since 2015 up to now.

Another document shows that initially, Khama as the Chairman of SADC in 2016 may have played an important role in turning the regional bloc’s official harsh stance to soft on Lesotho when the Botswana Government secretly made food donations to the Lesotho Government.  

Botswana normally makes its donations public and the donations receive extensive coverage in state run Btv and Daily News but the donation which was made in March 2016 was not publicized.

Leaked documents also suggest that Botswana donated trucks to the Lesotho Government that were used to transport the food aid in question.

It emerges in one of the documents that Lesotho Revenue Authority’s Acting Commissioner Realeboha Mathaba has said that certain requirements have to be met before the trucks could be cleared and registered in Lesotho. “I understand that the trucks are already in Lesotho, but they still need to be cleared for purposes of registration,” stated Mathaba.

In response to a letter from Mathaba, Chief Legal & Policy Officer & Board Secretary at Lesotho Revenue Authority Dr Seth Macheli required “full information as to the specific purposes of the trucks in relation to drought relief.”

“At first blush, it is not easily clear how trucks will be used for drought relief. Schedule II(1)(f) to the VAT Act 2001 does allow exemption from VAT in respect of goods imported for the relief of distressed persons in cases of famine or other national disasters,” he stated.

Botswana was responding to Mosisili’s appeal in 2015 to international community to assist Lesotho with humanitarian aid.

But it appears from Khama’s letter that the two countries are now heading for a diplomatic spat over SADC resolutions and recommendations which the kingdom perceive to be an infringement on its sovereignty.

In his letter, dated 4th May 2017 addressed to Mswati, Mosisili takes issue with a March 18 SADC communiqu├® of the extra-ordinary summit of SADC Heads of State and government calling on Lesotho as matter of urgency to implement a number of resolutions that the regional bloc had recommended.

The Prime Minister’s bone of contention is the communiqu├®’s contents at paragraphs 11, 12 and 13 as well “the procedure followed in the adoption of the communiqu├®.”

The communiqu├®’s paragraph 12 called on the Lesotho government to address the country’s fundamental challenges and bring about political stability, while paragraph 13 mandated Ramaphosa and the oversight committee to closely monitor the political and security situation in the country during the period ahead of the June 3 elections.

Mosisili described the SADC recommendations unrealistic and absurd.  He asked rhetorically “How and where on earth would somebody find time for this multi-stakeholder national dialogue during the elections campaign period?”

He warned that “we cannot in good conscience allow our sovereignty to be sacrificed for whatever reason by a regional body of which we are founding members.”

According to Mosisili “It would be a sad day if indeed we were to allow the SADC to degenerate into a body where might reigns supreme. This is not the SADC we founded. This is not the SADC we would proud to be a part of. This is not the SADC we would like to bequeath unto prosperity.”

He further reminded SADC “that Lesotho, like all SADC member states, has devised sufficient guidelines including SADC principles for holding credible, free and fair elections, and that these guidelines have stood the test of time?”

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