The Southern African Development Community (SADC) has condemned the recent violence in Lesotho which saw General Khoantle Motsomotso, Commander of the mountain kingdom’s defence force, assassinated, and will send a contingent force to the troubled country.
Motsomotso was killed on September 5 and the regional bloc immediately called for calm and said it was despatching as ministerial task team to the landlocked country. This was followed by an SADC Double Troika Summit of Heads of State in Pretoria last Friday.
It approved deployment of an initial assessment contingent comprising 34 military, security, intelligence and civilian personnel.
This deployment will, according to SADC Executive Secretary Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax, last for a month.
The SADC summit, chaired by South African President Jacob Zuma, urged Lesotho to expedite investigations into the assassinations of Lieutenant General Motsomotso as well as former Commander of the Lesotho Defence Force, Brigadier Maaparankoe Mahao, killed in June 2015.
Zuma is reported by SAnews as saying: “The tragic death of Motsomotso should not be allowed to pass by unnoticed by our regional organisation, especially because it happened two years after the killing of Mahao”.
“The prevailing situation in this sister country should not be allowed to continue forever as if it is business as usual. There is a need for decisive action by the region,” Zuma said adding: “As a region, we are committed to assist the government and people of Lesotho to implement all SADC decisions including the required constitutional, security sector, parliamentary, public sector and judicial reforms.
Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said Lesotho is under a dark cloud following the death of Motsomotso and that the SADC has the capacity and the political will to beat rogue elements in Lesotho.
“We believe the Kingdom can only achieve lasting and sustainable stability once these reforms are implemented,” she said.
“We must commend His Excellency President Eduardo Dos Santos [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 mission, as well as the recommendations of the defence subcommittee which met on 12 and 13 September,” Mapisa-Nqakula said.
On Friday she said there was no decision on when a contingent force will be deployed to Lesotho, but the date recommended in Friday’s briefing document is 1 November.
At the moment SADC leaders are assessing the requirements of the contingent and determining how big it needs to be, and where it needs to be deployed. Defence and security chiefs will then advise on how many troops should be deployed.
According to Friday’s briefing document, seen by City Press, the budget for the battalion strength force is R77.7 million. It would consist of about 1 000 personnel, including military, police and civilian experts.
It will cost the SADC R11.4 million 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 City Press.