Role of SADC in addressing current issues in Lesotho and DRC: Department of International Relations and Cooperation briefing

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Meeting Summary

The Committee met briefly to discuss SADC’s role in the current issues in Lesotho and in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The Department informed Members of Parliament that Lesotho currently has three political parties within a coalition government and its Constitution allows floor-crossing to take place-this has lead to problems in the government. One of the leaders of the three parties decided to leave the coalition and form another political party outside the existing coalition and the Prime Minister of the coalition requested the King of Lesotho to suspend Parliament- this has further contributed to the crisis in Lesotho. The Parliament has been suspended for nine months and without Parliament the new coalition government cannot be legitimised. Due to the instability in the country and with the involvement of the army, some of the political Members fled to SA for safety and this prompted SA’s intervention in the matter. SADC has concluded that the current coalition is unsustainable and has advised the leaders of Lesotho to bring forward their next elections; the next election is slated for 2017 since the coalition of government took place in 2012. At a recent conference, SADC agreed to appoint a facilitator for Lesotho up until its next elections.

On the subject of the DRC, the Department mentioned that SADC’s role was to help with the disbarment of the rebels in the eastern part of that country. SADC was also involved in the process of trying to return the Rwandese people in DRC back to Rwanda.

Members expressed concern on the state of Lesotho’s economy and questioned SA’s involvement in the extracting of blood diamonds in the DRC, the effects of genocide in Rwanda and the possibility of issuing Basotho people with South African identity documents. 

Meeting report

Adoption of Minutes
The Chairperson welcomed Members and indicated that the Committee would first consider and adopt the minutes from the previous meeting.

Mr S Mthimunye (ANC; Mpumalanga) proposed for the adoption of the minutes.

Mr B Nthebe (ANC; North West) seconded the adoption of the minutes.

Briefing by Department of International Relations and Cooperation
Role of SADC in Lesotho
Dr Eddy Maloka, Special Advisor to the Minister, informed the Committee that the presentation will include issues that were brought up by Members in the previous meeting as well as shed some light into what SADC’s role in these issues are. As the role of SADC was too broad, it was more helpful to consider the outcomes of the SADC conference that took place in Pretoria in the past week. SADC has a dual structure; one which is broad, currently chaired by President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, and a mechanism that deals with peace and security, which is chaired by South Africa (SA). The crux of the issues that were discussed at the conference centred on Lesotho and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Lesotho currently has three political parties within a coalition government and their Constitution allows floor-crossing to take place-this has lead to problems in the government. One of the leaders of the three parties decided to leave the coalition and form another political party outside the existing coalition and the Prime Minister of the coalition requested the King of Lesotho to suspend Parliament- this has further contributed to the crisis in Lesotho. The Parliament has been suspended for nine months and without Parliament the new coalition government cannot be legitimised. Due to the instability in the country and with the involvement of the army, some of the political Members fled to SA for safety and this prompted SA’s intervention in the matter. The, SADC has concluded that the current coalition is unsustainable and has advised the leaders of Lesotho to bring forward their next elections; the next election is slated for 2017 since the coalition of government took place in 2012. The conference also considered the possibility of appointing a facilitator for Lesotho during this time up until its next elections; the suggestion was supported by SADC because of the possibility that the leaders may not agree on the date of the elections. It is hoped that the facilitator would try and resolve matters of such nature.

Role of SADC in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)
Dr Maloka continued with the DRC issue and stated that the conference reviewed the disbarment of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) rebels in the eastern part of the DRC. The FDRL is composed entirely of the Hutus who are opposed of Tutsi rule and religion. It was formed after negotiations between the Army for the Liberation of Rwanda (ALiR) and the remnant Hutu military command agreed that the ALiR be dissolved. After the genocide in Rwanda, a group of Rwandese fled to the eastern part of the DRC- this gave rise to an unstable government in DRC because this group felt alienated from the rest of the country. SADC’s role in the matter was to help with the disbarment of the rebels. SADC also had joint ministerial meetings with International Conference on the Great Lake Region (ICGRL) to come to agreements on the terms of disbarment of rebels. SADC also plays a facilitating role over the process of disbarment of the rebels. This is to establish whether FDRL are able to meet the specified dates for process development. SADC will also be involved in the process of trying to return the Rwandese people in DRC back to Rwanda, this of course can only be done once the rebel forces have been disarmed and all leaders involved agreed on the terms of disbarment and provide security to leaders who voluntarily agree to disarm their rebels.

Discussion
The Chairperson invited Members to delebrate on the presentations.

Mr L Mokoena (EFF; Free State) commented that the process of depoliticising Lesotho could be difficult and asked what advice will SA give Lesotho on the matter? The lack of trust between the two countries due to South Africa’s past could hamper the proceedings. It is doubtful whether South Africa will be able to advise DRC’s President Joseph Kabila correctly because of his close relationship with South Africa.

Mr Nthebe asked how the people of Rwanda felt about the reintegration of the citizens who fled to DRC back into the country; were they Hutus or Tutsi and where did the SADC plan on settling them.

Mr L Suka (ANC; Eastern Cape) asked what lessons South Africa will draw from the situations in both Lesotho and the DRC in a bid to advance its democracy and who were the leaders responsible for spearheading these transitions.

Dr Maloka responded that the DRC has been part of SADC for 17 years and was invited by then President Thabo Mbeki. On the issue of floor-crossing in Lesotho, although it had become legal in many Commonwealth countries, it has also been the cause of Lesotho’s problems. SADC does not believe in having commanders or leaders in situations like these but rather a facilitating team that will be able to guide both Lesotho and DRC. The facilitating team will go through each process with the countries, and this will be done in a formative way. The Rwandan people are willing to accept emigrants back as they take the issue of the genocide incident very seriously, hence they know and understand why they chose to flee.

The Chairperson thanked Dr Maloka for the presentation noting that it was informative

Mrs E van Lingen (DA; Eastern Cape) said she was worried about Lesotho’s economy because South Africa had lent money to Lesotho before; to what extent is SA investing in the DRC? Is State fund being given to DRC through the Department?

Mr Mokoena asked if the idea of SA opening its borders to the Basotho people and issuing them with identity documents in order for them to get jobs in SA is still under consideration. A lot of South Africans are involved with the extraction of blood diamonds in DRC - how did South Africa intend to penalize them. What was the role of the King in Lesotho?

The Chairperson cautioned Members to exercise prudence in their assertions as there has been no evidence of South Africans involved in illegal mining of diamonds. South Africa’s involvement with the DRC is beneficial because it offers major development opportunities such as the hydro electric power. The question asked by Mr Mokoena,  had no clear cut answer because Lesotho is within the borders of South Africa  and whatever happened in Lesotho will ultimately affect South Africa as well. It was essential to consider the responses of other neighbouring countries like Namibia and Botswana to review what the situations in those countries were.

Dr Maloka responded that South Africans who have invested in DRC did so in their own capacity and the transactions did not involve the government. The King of Lesotho is a Constitutive monarch and not an Executive monarch; therefore he is not an active member of the government. The idea of opening South Africa’s borders to the Basotho will need to be discussed another time where Members can air their opinions in a closed session. South Africa is a member of the Kimberley Process and is expected to act within the terms of the process.

The Chairperson thanked the representatives from DIRCO for their presentation and commended the accuracy of the presentation. He requested that DIRCO issued the Committee with copies of Agenda 23: The Agenda of the African Union.

The meeting was adjourned.
 

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