The Southern African Development Community (SADC) has the capacity to bury political and security tensions in the Kingdom of Lesotho, South Africa Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said on Friday at the opening of a ministerial summit in Pretoria, amidst instability and fears of fears of renewed turmoil in the small mountain kingdom.
“As a region, our determination to accompany the people of the Kingdom of Lesotho in their quest to lay to rest their political and security challenges should not be doubted. Our region has the capacity, and the political will to ensure that Lesotho gets out of the siege of rogue army elements and other security renegades,” Mapisa-Nqakula said at the SADC ministers’ summit, which will be followed by a Double Troika Summit of Heads of State and Government.
“We must commend His Excellency President Eduardo Dos Santos [President of Angola who is also chairperson of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security] for his prompt response to the prevailing situation in the Kingdom by dispatching a ministerial fact finding mission to Lesotho. We thus look forward to receiving the report of the fact-finding mission, as well as the recommendations of the defence sub-committee which met on 12 and 13 September.”
Mapisa-Nqakula said the SADC leaders are meeting “under a dark cloud” to discuss the way forward in Lesotho.
“You will recall that not long ago we were meeting in this building, deliberating on the situation in the Kingdom of Lesotho, during which we received a clear commitment of the new government in Lesotho to implement all SADC decisions and the recommendations of the SADC commission of inquiry. Little did we know that we would have to meet so soon after that and once more to discuss the political and security situation in the Kingdom,” South Africa’s Defence Minister said as she addressed delegates at a SADC ministerial meeting in Pretoria.
“We meet here under a dark cloud following the brutal assassination of Lieutenant-General Khoantle Motsomotso, Commander of the Lesotho Defence Force. On behalf of the chairperson of this summit, His Excellency President Jacob Zuma, and His Excellency President Jose Eduardo Dos Santos and the leadership of our beloved region, I wish to convey sincere condolences to the family of the General Motsomotso, the government and the people of Lesotho.”
She said the “untimely death” of Motsomotso has underscored the importance of dealing effectively with the persistent political challenges bedeviling Lesotho.
Security was heightened at the OR Tambo Building – the headquarters of the Department of International Relations in Pretoria – on Friday as President Jacob Zuma, as the Chairperson of the SADC, convened the regional bloc’s Double Troika Summit of Heads of State and Government.
Numerous police vehicles, including Nyalas, were on the premises. Vehicles entering the OR Tambo building had to go through thorough security checks first, including police dogs sniffing around them.
Inside the premises, full body scanners manned by numerous police officers had been placed at different points leading to the conference rooms. At one point, waiters from a catering company were queuing to have their packages of food and drinks scanned.
The Extraordinary Summit is in line with the functioning of SADC where the chairperson, this time Zuma, becomes the host of meetings during the period of chairmanship.
Zuma is expected to be joined by Heads of State and Government from the Kingdom of Swaziland, the Republic of Angola, the Republic of Tanzania and the the Republic of Namibia.
Motsomotso was killed earlier this month, while two senior officers who were allegedly responsible for the murder, were also killed in a shoot-out at a barracks in Lesotho’s capital Maseru.
Eyewitnesses said the officers burst into the army chief’s office and shot him, before being killed by guards.