07 February, 2016

Infrastructure for Peace (I4P): Re-learning the Lessons of the Past

by Willem Ellis

The median temperature in South Africa (SA) has been rising and I am not referring only to the heat wave that had been beleaguering the sub-continent for the past months. 2016 promises a steady rise in the political temperature with a possible forecast of a perfect political storm. Elements like crucial local government elections; ongoing service delivery protests; a crumbling economy; racial tension; a president beset with ethical problems and a restive civil society guarantees that thunder and lightning will be unavoidable!

Twenty-two years after SA’s transformation to democracy it can be argued that the country is still in a phase of state- and peace-building, with its reconciliation process incomplete. This despite the fact that the SA transition was hailed as a “miracle” and the country had been exporting its conflict resolution skills to countries as far afield as Sudan, Ireland and Nepal. Regular resurgence of xenophobic violence, the ongoing race issue and general lack of trust among groups are examples of wrinkles still to be ironed out. Most South Africans are only now realising that the country’s social fabric is rapidly fraying and that peace- and nation building is not only something that happens in other countries!

March against Xenophobia, Johannesburg (Photo by Dyltong)

SA is (in)famous for setting up ad hoc structures to address problems and the current situation is no different. Already there is talk about kick-starting dialogue, organising conferences on race, inequality and the simmering conflict potential within the country. What is to be done? The answer might lie in a fairly recent “trend” in peacebuilding called Infrastructures for Peace (I4P) – the creation of peace- and nation-building initiatives rooted in local dynamics (cultural, historical, structural) and described as the “local turn” by Richmond (2013). Without subtracting from the role played by civil society in such I4P’s, the formalisation of such infrastructures by the state and external actors deserves special attention.

Van Tongeren (2011) states that the idea of peace infrastructure is to develop mechanisms for cooperation among stakeholders, including the government, by promoting co-operative problem-solving and institutionalising response mechanisms to (violent) conflict. Nishanka (2014) posits that organisational elements of such infrastructure can be established at all stages of peace and dialogue processes - during peace-building as well, at all levels of society and with varying degrees of inclusion. Participating parties can be assisted through capacity building, processes of mediation or public participation can be facilitated and agreements’ monitored. I4P’s seem to share the following key characteristics:
1) a domestic foundation;
2) establishment during any stage of peace or dialogue processes;
3) their presence at all levels and peace-building tracks;
4) varying terms of inclusion; and
5) various objectives and functions to be attained and performed through/by those participating. (Nishanka, 2014).

Is this what SA is looking for? If so, we do not have only have to look forward, but also back and relearn the lessons of the past…quickly! SA has flirted with I4P as recently as 1994 on a national basis and 2003 on a provincial basis. Although not as comprehensive as the Accra Declaration of 10 September 2013, envisaging national I4P for all members of ECOWAS, with Ghana taking the lead, some institutional memory of previous efforts remain.

The creation of the National Peace Accord (NPA) in SA in 1991 has received some credit for contributing to a peaceful transition and had a far reaching impact through the establishment of understanding amongst different sections of the SA population – facilitating dialogue, building tolerance and addressing issues of conflict through mediation and problem-solving approaches. The directs and tangible impact of the NPA was seen in the National Peace Secretariat (NPS) with a national secretariat, 1 regional peace committees and 200 local peace committees established country-wide. More than 15 000 peace monitors were trained, international observers hosted and uncounted smaller and larger scale mediation interventions performed. Although not problem free, the NPA did kick-start SA’s first dalliance with I4P – only to be deactivated after the 1994 transition.

In an initiative totally unique in SA, the Free State Centre for Citizenship Education and Conflict Resolution (CCECR) was set up in the Free State province from 1998 – 2003. It was the result of initiatives by ex-NPS members, provincial politicians and international donors. CCECR worked on issues of conflict resolution and human rights as a statutory body of the Free State legislature for five years, doing sterling service – unique for a province in South Africa! Since it closure in 2003, no such initiatives have followed.

Does SA need some form of I4P? I think it definitely does! Does it have to reinvent the wheel in setting it up? Definitely not – just re-learn the lessons from the past.

* Willem Ellis, is based at the Centre for Africa Studies and Department of Political Studies and Governance, University of the Free State, South Africa

06 February, 2016

The Phumaphi Commission Report to Lesotho: South African or SADC Agenda? Personal or Regional Politics?

by M. K. Mahlakeng

There has been ambiguity in the word ‘recommendations’, and it seems the Southern African Development Community (SADC) has also been caught-up in this inexactness. This follows a statement made by SADC during its double troika summit in Gaborone comprising of Botswana, Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. SADC issued a 14-day ultimatum prescribed by the regional body to Lesotho to “implement the Phumaphi Commission Report or face suspension from the regional body”. The Commission was expected to probe the killing of former Lesotho Army Commander Maaparankoe Mahao among other issues.

The tone and manner of this statement, in essence, seems to signify that recommendations are binding on member states and that failure to implement such recommendations will ultimately lead to the suspension of a specific member state. Two main issues of concern were the reasons surrounding the delay by government to implement the findings of the report, and these include the court case against SADC by Lieutenant-Colonel Tefo Hashatsi, and the security measures that needed to be taken before making the report public.

Lt-Col Hashatsi’s court case, which sites Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili, Justice Phumaphi, the SADC Commission of Inquiry and Attorney General Tšokolo Makhethe as its respondents, is two-fold. Firstly it aims to nullify the findings of the Commission on the grounds that the commissioners, in particular Justice Phumaphi, was being biased against him noting that he [Hashatsi] is a suspect in the killing of Mahao. Lt-Col Hashatsi was among several people interviewed during the probe. The LDF officer said, in his court application, that “the commissioners’ line of questioning made him appear a suspect in Lt-Gen Mahao’s killing, which he said violated his constitutional right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty by a competent court”. And because of the alleged bias, Lt-Col Hashatsi wanted the respondents to give reasons why the inquiry should not be declared illegal. Secondly, Lt-Col Hashatsi is challenging the legitimacy of the commission for allegedly violating its terms of reference by hearing evidence in South Africa when it had been established by Lesotho laws. However, the SADC reiterated that “any court decision taken against the Commission of Inquiry is of no legal effect and will not bind SADC and its institutions.”

SADC Headquarters

The second issue, concerned a delay due to government’s desire to be given time to go through the report and, if need be, edit out from the report any parts that threatened the country’s peace and security, before making it public. And also paramount to the delay was government's respect for the courts, arguing never to receive the report until the finalization of Lt-Col Hashatsi’s court case.

South African President and an outgoing Chairperson of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation, Jacob Zuma, on 19 January 2016 during the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC)’s Morning Live programme stated that “SADC would unilaterally release the report to the public and push for a complete suspension of Lesotho from the regional body”.

Zuma’s support for Lesotho’s suspension from the regional bloc, and what is viewed as ‘anti-Lesotho remarks’, was met with no surprise. It has been argued that the untimely end of the Thabane-administration and the subsequent sacking of the controversial Guptas, alleged friends of Zuma, in Lesotho serve as ample explanation for Zuma’s harsh stance on Lesotho’s internal politics.

Former Prime Minister Tom Thabane and also alleged close friend of Zuma, appointed the Guptas to be his special advisers, claiming that “these people [the Guptas] are good friends of the ANC and we have good relations with the ANC...I was introduced to them by the ANC president Jacob Zuma and other ANC officials”. However, at the end of the two-and-a-half-years Thabane-led government, the Guptas were fired as special advisers to the Prime Minister’s office and their diplomatic passports revoked.

In reaction to President Zuma’s statements, PM Mosisili claimed that his [Zuma] statement is contradictory. In substantiating his viewpoint, The PM made a comparative scenario of Lesotho’s situation with SADC vis-à-vis that of South Africa with the International Criminal Court (ICC). He reiterated that “this is the same thing that today they [South Africa] are claiming immunity by saying that ICC should hold their horses in this regard (holding SA accountable over the Bashir case), and yet you [Mr Zuma] maintain that it is wrong when we say a regional bloc should hold their horses since we still have a case in court…it is surprising that a bloc [SADC] that believes in democracy and the rule of law can say that courts’ decisions are not binding”.

One ought to ask, are recommendations binding or prescriptive? And, what can force the suspension of a member state from a regional organisation? Firstly, according to the Oxford Dictionary, a recommendation is “an official suggestion about the best thing to do”. They merely act as tools that serve member states to refer to and draw from as desired (with liberty to accept or reject). And secondly, nations get suspended from SADC because of unconstitutional governance (i.e. lack of adherence to the rule of law, negligence on peace and security etc.). However, Lesotho’s position to respect the rule of law by waiting for the case that is currently in court and take necessary steps in tabling the report has left it at the gallows.

It is undoubtedly evident through policy initiatives that South Africa (SA) and SADC are highly committed to regional integration, constitutionalism and stability through peacekeeping diplomatic missions. And these all come down to democracy and the rule of law. However, ignorance by both [SA and SADC] over the proceedings of the courts of Lesotho has marked a fundamental shift of policy against a member state.

And this equally raises the question of their role in the call for the democratization of Swaziland – they have turned a blind-eye to the ban on political parties which has been in place for more than four decades, the prohibition of political protests and the plight of many Swazi dissidents exiled in South Africa and Mozambique. The same applies to their stance regarding politically motivated murder, election rigging and economic pillaging in Zimbabwe.