Cyril Ramaphosa ‘was right to be careful on Lesotho’

2015-04-23 18:55

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Johannesburg - Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa was right to deal with Lesotho “extremely carefully” in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) mediation process in the country, an ex-electoral commissioner has said.

Fako Likoti, former commissioner of the Lesotho Independent Electoral Commission, told an Institute of Security Studies (ISS) briefing on Lesotho in Pretoria on Thursday that South Africa’s contribution to Lesotho had to be a “calculated one”.

He said South Africa “could not be perceived as a bully in the continent. This Afrophobia has been so pervasive, it has dented its foreign policy.”

He said South Africa would not want to repeat its military intervention in Lesotho’s governance crises like it did in 1998, when, he said, 137 South African soldiers died, and not seven as was claimed at the time.

Ramaphosa has been criticised by some in Lesotho for not having intervened enough when it came to getting rid of those in the military that were blamed for an alleged coup in August last year against then prime minister Tom Tabane. The events forced early elections in the multi-party democracy in February, which saw Pakalitha Mosisili return to power.

General Samuel Makoro, former Lesotho Defence Force official and current Maseru District Administrator, said Ramaphosa should have dealt more decisively with the security element and not left it to Mosisili to deal with.

But Likoti said Ramaphosa left out the security aspect because “he didn’t want to delve too much into that, he wanted to let sleeping dogs lie”.

He said it was important for South Africa that Lesotho was stable, partly because many Basotho lived in SA and the country got its drinking water from Lesotho.

“I don’t think it is in the foreign policy interest of SA to find itself in bad blood with Lesotho. Whether this or the next government, SA will always strive to work with Lesotho.

ISS researcher Dimpho Motsamai said a “huge communications vacuum” and different opinions by Lesotho’s many political parties meant SADC came in for a lot of criticism that was perhaps unfair. “There was a polarisation of the political landscape, and also polarised views concerning SADC mandates and objectives of SADC intervention in Lesotho.”

She said misinformation was often spread by parties and the military about the SADC intervention, while SADC didn’t always communicate clearly enough.

“The SADC office itself was only opened in late September, October,” she said. “From there I feel the office wasn’t given a clear mandate as to interacting with the people and the stakeholders.”

She also said it wasn’t always clear who was communicating on Ramaphosa’s behalf.

She also said the disagreements over whether the events of August last year actually constituted a coup, also made things difficult.

“If the players in the country don’t even agree as to the nature of the problem, it becomes difficult for the mediator to find a middle ground,” she said.

Read more on:    sadc  |  cyril ramaphosa  |  pretoria  |  lesotho  |  southern africa

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