Windhoek - Lesotho has said that its failure to host the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) summit last year has nothing to do with the current political turmoil engulfing the country.
Lesotho held the SACU chairmanship for the past 12 months but failed to host the SACU Summit during its tenure. The Southern Times was reliably informed that the smaller southern African nation could not host the summit because of the political crisis, which has engulfed the country since 2014.
Lesotho has been battling political instability since 2014, brought upon by two main rivals, current Prime Minister, Thomas Thabane, and former Prime Minister, Pakalitha Mosisili.
After more than five years in opposition, Thabane built a coalition of 12 parties in the wake of the May 2012 parliamentary election and was appointed Prime Minister.
In the February 2015 parliamentary election, the All Basotho Convention (ABC) was democratically removed from power by a seven-party coalition led by his rival and predecessor, Mosisili, although the ABC did win the highest number of constituencies.
Two months later, Thabane fled to South Africa with two other opposition leaders, claiming that their lives were in danger, subsequently leading to major problems for the southern African kingdom.
Prime Minister Thabane, having initially been premier from 2012-2015, assumed his current post in 2017.
Several people belonging to Mosisili’s faction are still in exile or hiding in mountains but the government has denied that it couldn’t host the summit because of the political unrest.
Its Finance Minister, Dr Moeketsi Majoro, said that the failure to host the summit was because several Heads of State were not available as several national elections took place in the SADC region last year.
“The summit could not be convened during our term of office due to the unavailability of some of the Heads of State or Government and also because of the need to undertake bilateral consultations among the member states. There is therefore an urgency now to conclude the consultation process to ensure that we facilitate the implementation of the agreed work,” he said.
It is worth mentioning, however, that only one country, Swaziland, out of five SACU member states, held national and parliamentary elections last year.
Majoro, however, said despite that only one country held elections, several heads of state were not available for the summit to take place.
Majoro was in Namibia last week to handover the SACU chairpersonship to Namibia. At the handover ceremony, Namibia was represented by Finance Minister, Calle Schlettwein, who became the chairperson of the SACU Council of Ministers, taking over from Majoro.
Dr Hage Geingob is the new SACU chairperson, taking over from Lesotho PM, Thabane. Executive director in Namibia’s Ministry of Finance, Ericah Shafudah, takes over as chairperson of the SACU Commission.
The chairmanship of SACU rotates among the member states in alphabetical order over a period of 12 months. Effective from 15 July 2019, Namibia has assumed the chairmanship of the SACU Heads of State and Government, the SACU Council of Ministers and the SACU Commission up to 14 July 2020.
“The role of SACU as a Customs Union is to bring this about, that is, to accelerate economic gains in member states through economic integration on many fronts such as the ease of doing business across the customs area, free trade, unhindered movement of goods across borders, free movement of people and harmonisation of relevant policies. This is what we should gear ourselves to achieve as a customs union,” Schlettwein told The Southern Times when asked what he would like to achieve during the country’s chairship.