.. . . Foreign Affairs Minister Makgothi says PM has busy schedule

Ramaphosa visit postponed

BONGIWE ZHLANGU

MASERU – SADC point man to Lesotho South African President Cyril Ramaphosa’s visit to the country was called off at the eleventh hour yesterday because Prime Minister Thomas Thabane is attending a cancer awareness campaign in Matsieng. Ramaphosa was scheduled to visit Maseru today to present new Facilitator Justice Dikgang Moseneke and his team.

But government pushed the visit to tentatively the 26th or 27th July due to “government having prior commitments that we couldn’t just abandon”. Former Deputy Chief Justice Moseneke is the new facilitator to Lesotho and was appointed to help drive the country’s reform process, which has been marred by wrangling between government and the opposition, who have imposed a slew of demands as preconditions for participation in the reforms.

Justice Moseneke’s team for the Lesotho assignment that Ramaphosa planned to introduce to the government also comprises Reginah M. Haule, Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Dr Enver M. Surty, Deputy Minister of Basic Education, South Africa and Ellen N.N. Molekane, Deputy Minister of State Security, South Africa.

However, Foreign Affairs and International Relations Minister Lesego Makgothi told Public Eye yesterday that due to government’s busy schedule owing to prior commitments, they could not host Ramaphosa and his team at short notice. Thabane and First Lady ‘MaIsaiah Thabane, accompanied by several cabinet ministers, have been on a three-week district-to-district tour promoting the 12th Stop cervical, breast and prostate cancers in Africa conference (SCCA) and exhibition expected to attract several African leaders.

‘MaIsaiah will host the conference between 22 and 25 July. Makgothi yesterday confirmed the meeting with Ramaphosa had been postponed due to government’s busy schedule as result of the cancer conference at the weekend, and that he had already communicated with South Africa’s High Commissioner to Lesotho Sello Moloto over the cancellation.

According to Makgothi he only learnt of the planned visit this week when he called the SA High Commissioner to enquire when Moseneke would come for introductions and to kick off his mission. “After two months had passed after President Ramaphosa had appointed the facilitation team, I thought it was only prudent to contact my South African colleague and enquire about what might be causing the delay,” Makgothi said.

“I then called the South African High Commissioner in Lesotho asking for the minister’s contact details, the high commissioner did not give me the number but however promised to communicate with the team that is working on this issue and get back to me later. “He called me back on Sunday and proposed we set Tuesday for the introduction of the facilitation team, but I told him that Tuesday was the King’s birthday. He then proposed Thursday, but I told him that the Prime Minister would be in Qacha’s Nek for the cancer awareness road-show.”

Makgothi further told this paper that Moloto suggested that Ramaphosa’s visit be today July 20, but that he (Makgothi) turned him (Moloto) down, as he could not guarantee the King’s availability. “He suggested Friday, but I told him that I would not commit whether His Majesty would be available on Friday. I promised to check with the office of the King whether he would be available on that day.

“The high commissioner then told me that he was going to go ahead and write a formal notice indicating that the mission would come to Lesotho on July 20, Friday as I suggested,” Makgothi said. “It must be clear that it was after I had called the Commissioner expressing my anxiety that we had waited in vain for almost two months for the introduction of the facilitation team.”

Sources who were also invited to represent their respective organisations as in stakeholders’ meetings with Ramaphosa told this publication yesterday that they learnt of Ramaphosa’s planned visit to Lesotho last week Thursday (July 12). Makgothi however insisted he only received a formal notification of the visit on Wednesday this week.

“On Wednesday I indeed received a formal notice that the ‘mediation team’ will be in the country this Friday. I was uncomfortable with the use of the words ‘mediation team’. I expected it to be a facilitation team. These are two different things. The mistake was later rectified, and I went to discuss the notice with Prime Minister,” Makgothi said.

“Prime Minister indicated that this was a short notice and said the visit will mess with his busy schedule. He said he was supposed to be in Matsieng on Friday for the final cancer awareness roadshow ahead of the cancer conference,” Makgothi noted. “We then agreed with the Prime Minister that the mission can come on July 26 or 27 as he already has enough on his schedule until then. I communicated this with the commissioner.”

But, Makgothi also unequivocally stated that he could not commit himself to “whether the Facilitator will visit Lesotho to introduce the mission”, on the basis that since his February inauguration as South Africa’s president “he has never visited Lesotho” but instead embarked on other missions.

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