The presence of SADC and other observers is expected to ensure free and fair democratic polls in Lesotho this weekend, writes Ronnie Mamoepa.
Johannesburg - South Africa has over the past few months been seized with efforts to stabilise the political and security situation in the neighbouring Kingdom of Lesotho. South Africa has done so in conjunction with other neighbouring countries and on behalf of the SADC heads of states and government and the SADC Troika Organ on Politics, Defence and Security.
These heads of states and government met several times in Windhoek, Victoria Falls and Pretoria to consider developments and a roadmap towards the restoration of political and security stability in the Kingdom of Lesotho.
This was occasioned by the events of August 30 last year which resulted in the destabilisation of governance, the prorogation of Parliament and the deterioration of the security situation with members of the Lesotho Defence Force and Lesotho Mounted Police Services arraigned against each.
The SADC Troika of Heads of States, which included the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Tanzania, decided on the appointment of the SADC Facilitation Mission, led by South Africa’s Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa. This is the second time since 1998 that South Africa has been mandated by the regional body to help find peace and stability in the kingdom.
It is only natural that South Africa be part of finding a solution to Lesotho, given the historic, cultural, economic as well as the geographic location of the country, in the heart of South Africa.
The future of the two countries is inextricably linked
For South Africans, the history of our own struggle against apartheid will not be complete without reference to the role the people of Lesotho played. This included providing moral, political and material support to the liberation movement.
The formation of South Africa’s premier liberation movement, the ANC, was not only an initiative of South Africans but included representatives of other Southern African countries – including Lesotho. The democratic South Africa has always been grateful to the contributions of the people of Lesotho to our liberation.
Lesotho is defined by the UN as one of the least developed countries in Southern Africa. Consequently, South Africa has a natural interest in the maintenance of peace, stability, economic development and the reconstruction and development of Lesotho. Any destabilisation in Lesotho will have a negative impact on South Africa.
The events of August 30 last year were thus of significant interest for the SADC region in general and South Africa in particular.
At the heart of the conflict in Lesotho lay the dysfunctionality of the coalition government that came into power through democratic elections a mere two years ago. This conflict has resulted in the lack of unity and cohesion among the three coalition partners in government.
It is critical to note, however, that there are no fundamental political or ideological differences among these coalition partners in government. An additional factor is the politicisation of the security forces over the years. This has resulted in both the Lesotho’s Defence Force and Lesotho Mounted Police Services paying allegiance to and serving interests of different political parties rather than national interests.
The consequence is that exercising civilian control over security forces has inappropriately become a function of the political party the security forces may support at a particular moment in history. This has had a negative impact on the capacity of the security forces to discharge their constitutional mandate of maintaining law and order without fear, favour or prejudice.
The timely intervention by the SADC heads of states and government in appointing the facilitation mission has thus assisted in arresting a further decline in the political and security situation in Lesotho.
This intervention by the SADC helped create a climate in which all Lesotho’s political parties could sign the Maseru Facilitation Declaration under the leadership of the facilitator, Deputy President Ramaphosa. The Maseru Facilitation Declaration laid a basis for the reopening of Parliament by His Majesty King Letsie III and the promulgation of tomorrow as a date for elections.
Critical, however, was the need to ensure that the security forces play their part in the creation of a peaceful climate for the holding of democratic elections. This found an expression in the signing of the Maseru Security Accord.
Today, due to these concerted efforts by the SADC regional leadership and the Facilitation Mission, the people of Lesotho are poised to shape the destiny of their country through this weekend’s democratic elections.
A total of 23 political parties are registered to contest these elections, which demonstrates a rich, vibrant and competitive democratic culture in Lesotho. It is a culture that the SADC seeks to entrench and consolidate.
The presence of election observers from the SADC, AU and EU as well as the deployment of police force members from other SADC countries has helped create confidence among the Basotho that the elections will be held under conditions of peace and stability.
* Ronnie Mamoepa is spokesman for Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, who has been brokering the deals which made the election possible.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.