Analysis of: ‘Ramaphosa brought down Lesotho government’
Beware the ides of March, is an adage from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, I heard my late dad quote from time to time. It is the soothsayer’s message to Julius Caesar warning of his death. I involuntarily thought of this when the news broke of Lesotho’s Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili today losing a vote of no-confidence. It perhaps attests the political demise of Mosisili.
This literally means the Prime Minister has three days to do one of two things. He either resigns or he consults the King advising of his resignation to pave the way for a new election. According to reports, another election could be as expensive as R200-million, clearly money Lesotho simply does not have as its economy struggles like most in Africa to evidence growth.
This news broke early Wednesday evening March 1, 2017 when Weekly Xposé, much earlier ran a story with a a headline “Ramaphosa brought down Lesotho.” Weekly Xposé, it can be confirmed, was the first to lead in breaking the news of a collapsing Lesotho government, even before the vote of no-confidence.
The allegations we are told centre on the role the SADC facilitator Cyril Ramaphosa may have played in securing a multi-billion rand contract for Bidvest with the Lesotho government.
According to Weekly Xposé, the claims levelled do not emanate from within SA but they extend beyond the borders of SA. Lesotho is a sovereign State as recognized by all. The context for SADC involvement in the internal Lesotho affairs is borne from the fact that Lesotho in particular for the period 2013-2016 experienced on-going tensions and discomfort at a political leadership level.
We all know that there were claims of a coup-de-tat, incidents of violence that resulted in killings of people and the fleeing of former prime minister Thomas Thabane to South Africa following assassination attempts.
The aim here is not to give an analysis on the Lesotho internal political situation that is perhaps for the respected specialists on Lesotho’s internal dynamics.
We, in this opinion piece, attempt restricting ourselves to appreciate why such claims may be levelled and what the potential impact of it may hold for SADC, SA, and Ramaphosa. He as recent as last month paid Lesotho a courtesy visit probably to assess how the process he led as mandated was unfolding.
Some may, ask how did Lesotho arrive in its current state? While many answers may be offered, perhaps the words of the longest-serving cabinet minister Monyane Moleleki who according to the Weekly Xposé article is emphatic that “the Bidvest deal effectively collapsed the Lesotho government” proves instructive, as a guide to find the answers.
From the words of Moleleki the umbilical chord for the collapse of a Lesotho government is traced to a South African company, namely Bidvest. This link is drawn narrower to bring the SADC facilitator, Cyril Ramaphosa, into the epicentre of the Lesotho crisis.
It is challenging that key leaders in Lesotho in this season implicitly question a SADC process as they level claims against a company and the mandated SADC facilitator. The claims levelled emanate from Ramaphosa’s association as director and shareholder in a past of shareholding in Bidvest that is at the centre of a claimed dispute of having attained a multi-billion rand tender allegedly influenced by the SADC facilitator.
These accusations against Bidvest, beyond being made by politicians and students, are also the base of a current court case in Lesotho as registered by a joint-venture company, which was shortlisted for the tender.
It is important to note that while the merits of the case against Bidvest are yet to be tested in a court of law, the events of today surpasses the former as of less importance at this juncture, for as I pen this analysis the Prime Minister Mosisili is in the first of his three-day period as prescribed by the constitution to give effect to the undeniable sanction served on him immanent in a vote of no-confidence.
If the claims are true, we are indeed confronted with the reality of the role of business as it takes centre stage where and when political solutions are sought.
In the US, the Donald Trump presidency is causing discomfort at many levels, including the ethical sphere as he is challenged by those who claim his business interests interfere with his functionary role of president of the US.
We have also previously during flares of xenophobic violence incidents heard how fellow Africans residing in SA level claims of South Africa taking their diamond and mineral mines etc. There is until now no evidence for these claims yet the perceptions exist and need managing.
What is cause for grave concern is the fact that yesterday’s vote of no-confidence in Prime Minister Mosisili’s leadership has as base a lucrative fleet management contract issued to Bidvest with naturally dotted lines drawn to the SADC facilitator Ramaphosa, the SA deputy president.
As we witness what unfolds today in Lesotho SADC’s concern must be the fact that perhaps the entire mandated facilitation process aimed at finding lasting political solutions for the Kingdom of Lesotho today stands naked and rendered as suspect.
The simmering tension in Lesotho with yesterday’s vote of no-confidence brings the Basotho to another knife-edge and precarious moment of instability as possible violent unrest lurks. This situation, if not contained, therefore may exacerbate clearly politically drawn tension-filled lines that may render the citizens of the mountain kingdom vulnerable and unsafe.
We are compelled to ask why these dotted lines can be drawn in this fashion. At surface level it is a given that the SADC facilitator was linked in directorship and shareholding to the Bidvest company in dispute.
On the one hand it may be reduced as purely politically opportunistic and even mischievous on the part of disgruntled fellow Basotho elite who seek to get even with their political counterparts who control levers of power in Lesotho in smearing an innocent SADC facilitator. We know facilitation is never a straightforward issue but very intricate and complex. We therefore may also accept that there could be a political agenda on the part of those in Lesotho who in this season conveniently link the SADC facilitation process as defined and subservient to a business deal in which the facilitator had a hand.
However on the other hand, the fact that Bidvest currently has a multi-billion fleet-management contract for the Lesotho government cannot be denied. The fact that the SADC facilitator was linked to Bidvest in a history of ownership is equally not to be denied. The fact that people like Moleleki can be categorical to claim it’s the Bidvest deal that effectively collapsed the Lesotho government is not to be scoffed at. All these raise red flags that warrant answers on the part of SADC, Bidvest and Ramaphosa.
We also know that Ramaphosa resigned as director in November 2013 and divested his shares in Bidvest in November 2014. Divestment, also known as divesture according to those who know, is the opposite of an investment, and it is the process of selling an asset for financial, social, or political goals. We can comfortably accept that in the case of Ramaphosa, it was his ascending to high office in government of SA as deputy president that propelled this action. We must attempt objectivity and therefore Ramaphosa may genuinely not have played any part in attaining the contract for Bidvest.
It is important to see how closely the lines between politics and business are drawn where claims and allegations can easily be levelled against someone for the wrong or right reasons.
It appears Ramaphosa’s past and present business interests, however defined, seem to follow him like a wet diaper beyond the borders of SA. His case is not helped when he on the very day that Mosisili received a vote of no-confidence fields questions in Parliament to answer on ANCYL claims of his claimed interest in SAA. Of course Ramaphosa’s words “I did not leave business to come into service to come and conduct fraudulent business service in government…” is his attempt to render this ANCYL claim as fake news. This, on the back of the Marikana tragedy which saw the EFF accusing Ramaphosa for his involvement in emails with the executive management of Lonmin, a company he also was a shareholder of. We must hasten to add that the Farlam Commission did not find against Ramaphosa, yet the EFF continues to robe him with this Marikana tragedy of 44 lives lost.
We must equally ask how does the unfolding events in our neighbour country, Lesotho, impact on SA? Particularly out of a history of the military intervention during Mandela’s reign.
What we cannot afford is a perception – or a reality – of SA’s involvement in much-needed solutions of the continent’s many challenges laced with business or self-interest at the centre. As things stand South Africa is already accused by fellow African sister countries as assuming a self-appointed lead role from a sense of arrogance and self-interest in which it shows little regard for equality of fellow Africans countries.
What we cannot afford is for necessary and legitimate processes of interventions for peace and stability, as led by legitimate African structures such as SADC, in the slightest to be labelled in compromise as a contributing role player for instability of a sovereign state.
We must also not forget that we are in an election season in the ANC context. Clearly Ramaphosa is a contender by virtue of a practice in the ANC that sees deputy presidents becoming presidents. He is also a strong contender as some, despite caution from Luthuli House, have taken the liberty to pronounce their preferred choice for Zuma’s succession long before the official opening of the election campaigning process.
The nagging question we must ask is how his business interests – which remain a point of discussion in general – and these Lesotho claims may impact his future political role and our bilateral SA-Lesotho relations, as well as SADC functionality. However, this may be unfair to look at now, and must be left to unfold as time permits.
More important is the fact that South Africa cannot afford to have strained relations with any of its neighbouring countries. SA can less have its deputy president and very possible future president accused of having advanced business interests when he was mandated to facilitate the peace initiatives in Lesotho.
As the sun rises today, paramount for all concerned Africans remains the interest of the Basotho citizenry and its need to have a functional State that delivers for its people in difficult economic times. We dare not afford to let anything or any interest count more than stability and a functional State in Lesotho.
Clyde N. Ramalaine