Lesotho Military Head’s Assassination – A Botswana Water Security Concern

The assassination of Lt Gen Khoantle Motsomotso, and the two officers guarding him at a military barracks in Lesotho’s the capital, Maseru sent shock waves through the SADC community on September 5, 2017.
Lesotho has been plagued by political instability since the 1980’s having suffered military coups and military unrest since 1986. The nation of 2 million inhabitants however plays a vital role in water security for the region, which has seen regional governments anxious to quell the unrest that may negatively impact on their own national security concerns.
In November 2015 Lesotho, Botswana and South Africa entered into a tripartite water agreement that envisaged Lesotho supplying its agreement partners with water. Lesotho has the richest supply of natural water in the region and the export of this natural resource makes up for 3% of its gross domestic product (GDP).
Water Security is increasingly becoming a primary concern for national governments, which are placing greater emphasis on resource security than conventional conflict security expenditure.
According to the 2015, Global Risk Report, the global demand for water is expected to exceed a sustainable supply by 40% in the year 2030. In addition the Report indicates that 4 billion people worldwide will be living in water-scarce areas by 2050.
An African Development Bank, High Level Panel of Fragile States found in 2014 warned that despite 90% of all surface water in Africa is derived from 80 trans-border lakes and rivers, “so far, only a few of these shared water resources have any intergovernmental agreements or institutional agreements for their integrated development and protection.”
The tripartite water purchase sharing agreement announced by Minister Mokaila in 2015 plays a critical role in the developmental objectives for the Botswana Government. The lack of fresh water resource in majority arid landlocked Botswana was highlighted by the drought that saw Gaborone dam reach record low levels that culminated in water rationing. The agreement to supply water to South Africa and Botswana is based on the assumption that Lesotho will not re-experience its past turmoil and descend into a failed state.
Regional organs, such as SADC are acutely aware of the need to ensure Lesotho has a stable government to as not to undermine regional security.
Regional Security experts note instability in Lesotho could cause a disruption of the water supply in terms of the tripartite agreement, creating critical water shortages in Gauteng and Southern Botswana. International Security Experts caution of a greater threat posed by a sudden acute shortage of water resource leading to conflict as people and nations seek to survive by obtaining water by force.
Reacting to the increased political insecurity in Lesotho last year, leaders from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) met in Botswana in June, and imposed conditions for the Lesotho government to meet, including constitutional reform and free and fair elections. In January, 2017 the SADC Double Troika summit noted that Lesotho had not undertaken the constitutional, public sector and security sector reforms it had undertaken to introduce, in line with the SADC recommendations.
Lesotho was called upon, together with all political stakeholders to actively contribute to a conducive environment that would encouraged democracy and allow the safe return of opposition leaders who were at the time in exile.
The SADC called for there to be “consequences” to the then Mosisili government if it failed to implement the recommendations, prompting Mosisili to reply that “It would be a sad day if indeed we were to allow the SADC to degenerate into a body where might reigns supreme,” Mosisili had noted that Lesotho, as a sovereign state, Botswana and other SADC members were interfering with its sovereignty.
According to The African Independent, President Khama in May, 2017 issued a strongly worded letter to the Chairman of SADC King Mswati in reply. In the letter Khama is reported to have stated that “If Lesotho feels that the collective and relentless efforts by the regional leaders in finding a lasting political and security solution is a direct violation of its sovereignty, then Botswana will consider withdrawing its representatives currently serving in the SADC Oversight Committee on Lesotho.” A position Botswana can ill afford to adopt given its water dependence in the tiny nation state.
Khama, while not alluding to the regional security concerns that would prevail in the event of political insecurity in Lesotho, indicated  that it should be borne in mind that the SADC member states’ have given unwavering support to Lesotho’s efforts of consolidating democracy, peace and that such stability has come with huge financial costs.
The election victory on June 3, 2017 by now Prime Minister Thabane’s All Basotho Convention (ABC) party, which won the snap elections was seen as a regional diplomatic success story for SADC. ABC however failed to get an outright majority, leading it to negotiate joint rule with three other parties.
The assassination of of Lt Gen Khoantle Motsomotso has once again raised concerns of the stability in the water rich nation and its ability to supply water resource to its partners, Botswana and South Africa.
Responding to the assassination of Lt Gen Khoantle Motsomotso, President Zuma speaking st the BRICS summit in China stated that “I am hoping that we can have a peaceful Lesotho.”
While Botswana has not issued a formal statement on the current events in Lesotho, Zuma pointed out that “From the SADC point of view, we thought that the Lesotho problem ended and this is what we were promised by the new prime minister who said that now there is going to be peace now in Lesotho.”
There have been no arrests made in connection with the assassination of Lt Gen Khoantle Motsomotso.
The Lesotho, as with Botswana was a British protectorate known as Basutoland before its independence in 1966.
The June election, which saw Thabane being re-elected into office was the third since 2012 as years of political friction have undermined democratic development in the small but regionally significant nation state. AFP