Lesotho’s political strife to cost SADC millions

Lesotho’s political troubles will cost the Southern African Development Community (SADC) more than R89.1m in the next few months as the region prepares to send in a standby force of military, security, intelligence and civilian experts to support the government.

Six SADC member states and Lesotho decided in Pretoria on Friday that there was an “urgent need” to help the country restore law and order, and create a peaceful environment conducive to implementing SADC-sanctioned reforms.

The meeting came after the assassination of army chief Lieutenant General Khoantle Motšomotšo by two senior Lesotho Defence Force officers on September 5.

His bodyguards retaliated, shooting dead Brigadier Bulane Sechele and Colonel Tefo Hashatsi.

According to a 12-page document distributed at the meeting and seen by City Press, the two officers were implicated in the killing of former army commander Lieutenant General Maaparankoe Mahao in June 2015.

Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula on Friday said there was no decision on when the contingent force would be deployed.

The date recommended in the briefing document is November 1.

SADC leaders have, however, directed the heads of defence and security “to assess the requirements, determine the appropriate size of the contingent force and prepare the modalities for the deployment”.

They will then advise how many troops should be deployed, and where.

According to the document, the budget for the battalion strength force is R77.7m.

It would consist of about 1 000 personnel, including military, police and civilian experts.

There is a detailed budget for the extended oversight committee that will make the recommendations for the deployment.

It will cost the SADC R11.4m to send eight political, 10 military, eight intelligence, five police and three SADC secretariat officials to Lesotho for a month to advise on the contingent force.

According to an official who was at Friday’s meeting, Angola, which is currently chairing the SADC’s Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation plan, unusually played a leading role in pushing for the standby force.

“Perhaps it has something to do with their change of president,” he speculated.

Following elections in August, Angolan President José Eduardo dos Santos was recently replaced, after 38 years in power, by former defence minister João Lourenço.

Angolan Foreign Minister Georges Rebelo Chikoti, who represented his country at the meeting, said the government needed the SADC’s help because “you have the military assassinating themselves”.

Current SADC chair, President Jacob Zuma, urged action and said the SADC could not remain in Lesotho forever.

After Motšomotšo’s assassination, leaders of opposition political parties told the SADC’s fact-finding mission that there was “an uncertain and tense political atmosphere” in the country.

According to the briefing document, they complained about police brutality, and asked for a truth and reconciliation commission to help the national healing process.

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