The Context

Lesotho politics in recent times has been before and after the Phumaphi Commission Report. The Report which was commissioned by SADC after the horrendous developments of detention and torture of over sixty  LDF members; exile of over twenty others and all opposition political leaders; and the murder of Lt. General Mahao by members of the LDF, has set the tone for politics in Lesotho. The report sets out certain accountability standards which the Lesotho government is unwillingly being forced to adhere to.

The Phumaphi Commission as already pointed out in earlier posts investigated roots of instability in Lesotho in general, and the murder of Mahao in particular. Amongst the key issues which the Commission recommended are the following:

  1. a) Removal of Lt. General Kamoli as Commander of the LDF;
  2. b) Suspension of all those officers in the LDF suspected of involvement in High Treason and other cases of murder, while their cases are being further investigated;
  3. c) All physical evidence held by the LDF in criminal cases including that of the murder of Mahao be surrendered to the police who should be capacitated.

These recommendations are straight forward but from the beginning observers could see that  the government would find it difficult to implement them since it meant that it is being pushed to separate itself from those of its allies above who have been identified as the key cogs in making Lesotho ungovernable and using the army as a refuge for committing crimes. The Report identifies several cases ranging from High Treason to murder for well over twenty of the most senior officers in the LDF.

It has been the central message of this blog that accountability and rule of law are no longer optional in view of the broad international consensus that those standards should be national norms. A contrary perspective has been put forth by Lesotho government propagandists that adherence to those norms is a matter of choice. Thus some have made hay of the fact that Lesotho is a sovereign state with the ability to make its decisions independently. At the beginning the argument ran this blandly, but as more developments took place whereby their case became ever more tenuous, they began to steer clear of the central issues, but viciously attacked anybody who argues that the only open route is the one in the SADC decision of January 2016.

In the recent past however, key Lesotho international partners have had their say on the direction they would expect if Lesotho were not to suffer international isolation and probably worse consequences.  We have had the withdrawal of budget support by the EU because of accountability issues. The MCC has recently suspended consideration of a new multi-million dollar compact to the country because of concerns about accountability and rule of law concerns. Again the US has now indicated that Lesotho’s 2017 eligibility for AGOA will be dependent on the implementation of the Phumaphi Report Recommendations.

These recommendations are about accountability and the rule of law. In a country which operates within the law these should not be a matter of debate. But they have become central in discussions in Lesotho with those allied to the government attempting to minimise the impact of SADC decisions on those recommendations.

 When Denial is Idiocy

Like Tariq Aziz, former Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister, who denied the presence of U.S. troops in the capital while all could see them five hundred metres from where he was speaking, there continues to be a futile attempt to portray the situation in Lesotho as peaceful and stable and with the government in control of the situation.  The propagandists have however not been able to explain why there has been a Phumaphi Commission of Inquiry in Lesotho. They have equally not been able to explain why both AU and UN Peace structures have had a say in recent weeks about the situation in Lesotho leading them to decide to establish a liaison and support for SADC in its endeavours to bring about peace and stability in Lesotho. They have equally been unable to explain why two structures of the US government, MCC and the Trade Section in the President’s office dealing with AGOA have all been insisting on implementation of the SADC decisions arising from the Phumaphi Report. The only thing that one increasingly hears is the mumbo-jumbo about sovereignty and ill-thought-out aspersions about some of the regional leaders who are handling the Lesotho case.

State propagandists are however increasingly finding that what they publicly say and what happens on the ground are completely different. Three examples will suffice to illustrate what they have been going through.

They vowed that the Phumaphi Report would not be accepted and published until the Hashatsi case, was finalised in the Lesotho courts. Prime Minister Mosisili brought the Report from Gaborone on the 19th January 2016 and had it published soon after;

They vowed that they are not bound to implement the recommendations of the Phumaphi Report. After one week of a futile shuttle diplomacy by Deputy Prime Minister Metsing to Botswana and Mozambique, Metsing ended up telling the media that the government will implement the recommendations.

Ø  After declaring that opposition political party leaders in exile had no credible reason for fleeing the country, the government has been feverishly negotiating for the return of those leaders with security in line with the letter by Mozambican President Nyusi to Prime Minister Mosisili. Incidentally, the propagandists have at the same time argued that Nyusi has no credibility in the Lesotho matter since Mozambique has its own internal difficulties leading to some people taking refuge in Malawi.

What this essentially means is that state propaganda points to the opposite direction to what reality is. But as this divergence increases, the shriller becomes their attacks against whomever they see as disagreeing with their delusional perspectives. But for misinformation to be effective, it must be intelligently driven rather than to concoct facts and hope that what one puts in the media will be taken as the truth. It is important to emphasise putting out information to the public arena requires a bit of intelligence and skill. These are not the attributes which some of the government propagandists have. Theirs is merely to say what they believe their employers would like to hear. It is this what makes it difficult to have sensible conversations about Lesotho politics with those who see their job as defending positions rather than providing credible information.

The conversation which has emerged in the past few months or so on Lesotho politics, has been marred by people who mean to deceive rather than to inform. It is a conversation which goes beyond talking to the wall. It is one where ignorance and deceit predominate. For some, the important thing is to parrot whatever they think will please their employers. It is a conversation with idiots and parrots rather than a discussion with peers.