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SADC elders to oversee reforms

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as regional body once again prods govt to complete the reforms process

Bongiwe Zihlangu

THE Southern African Development Community (SADC) has once again told Lesotho to expedite the completion of the much-delayed reforms process aimed at achieving durable peace and stability in the Kingdom.

The regional body has also established an oversight committee made up of mainly retired regional leaders to help Lesotho oversee the completion of the reforms process.

A communique issued at the end of the regional body’s 42nd heads of state summit in Kinshasa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, on Friday said an oversight committee comprising of a new Panel of Elders (PoE) and a Mediation Reference Group (MRG), would help Lesotho complete its reforms process.

Former Tanzania President Jakaya Kikwete, and former Mauritian Vice-President Paramasivum Pillay Vyapoory, were appointed chair and deputy of the PoE respectively. They will be aided by former Zimbabwean Justice Minister, Patrick Chinamasa and ex-Botswana Foreign Affairs Minister, Charles Tibone.

Apart from immediately helping Lesotho resolve its problems, the POE would generally be tasked with facilitating the prevention, management and resolution of inter and intra-state conflicts in the 16-member SADC region. It would be assisted by the MRG.

Lesotho’s oversight committee – comprising of the POE and MRG – would help “to ensure continuity and oversight on the implementation of reforms in Lesotho”, the SADC communique read.  Details on how the oversight committee will aim to drive SADC’s agenda in Lesotho are still sketchy.

Nonetheless, the SADC leaders’ summit which ran under the theme: ‘‘Promoting industrialisation through agro-processing, mineral beneficiation, and regional value chains for inclusive and resilient economic growth’’ urged Lesotho to expeditiously complete its reforms process after getting a progress report from the regional body’s facilitator to Lesotho, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa.

“While noting the progress Lesotho has made, the summit urges the government to expedite completion of the ongoing reforms, and to continue with the peace, transitional justice and reconciliation process to engender national unity, and bring about national healing and cohesion,” the SADC leaders exhorted in their joint communique.

They commended Mr Ramaphosa and his facilitation team for the “excellent leadership and role” in supporting Lesotho in the reforms process.

King Letsie 111 had even dissolved parliament last month without the reforms having been concluded.

Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro has since declared a state of emergency to enable the recalling of parliament to pass the bills giving effect to the reforms.

In his address to the SADC summit last week, Dr Majoro explained why he had to declare the state of emergency to get the reforms process back on track.

He said other necessary legal procedures  were now being effected to recall parliament – after the emergency declaration – and let it move on with the reforms.

The reforms were initially recommended by SADC in 2016 after it had deployed militarily to help quell the instability in the country. They are aimed at achieving lasting peace and stability and deal with other governance issues which have plagued the country since the 1960s.  Successive coalition governments have failed to complete the reforms since then.

At a meeting of the SADC Council of Ministers in South Africa last month, Lesotho was berated over the delays. The latest exhortation by SADC – albeit couched in diplomatic language – for the expedition of the reforms process is yet another indication of the regional body’s impatience with Lesotho.

It remains to be seen whether its new institution – the PoE – comprising of the region’s elder statesmen would be able to implore the country to move and finally close the reforms chapter, particularly after the recall of parliament.