Radical political, security reform needed
IN THE absence of deep and radical political and security sector reforms as well as social healing, Lesotho’s fragile and unstable political architecture will continue to feed lawlessness and ultimately violent conflict.
The failure by political leaders to reassess their roles and recommit to advancing Lesotho’s long-term interests at the expense of their own short-term ambitions is adding fuel to the current volatile political and security situation.
Furthermore, these short-term vested interests, which can never be equated to national interest, derive from entrenched corruption and other serious crimes.
Lesotho faces a daunting humanitarian crisis, which past governments have failed to address over the entire post-independence period. The crisis has manifested in high incidences of:
Poverty (57 percent); Hunger (39 percent) and malnutrition (40 percent);
An HIV/AIDS prevalence of 23 percent, second highest in the world, and the related orphaning of children;
One of the highest maternal and infant mortality rates in Africa; and
Unemployment (25 percent).
The recently announced work programme of Lesotho’s coalition government to reverse these crisis indicators and create thousands of jobs for Basotho was seen as the only credible and innovative plan to finally transform the social and economic fabric of the country.
The proposed transformation programme, now held hostage by this political impasse, is not only inclusive and comprehensive, it is also founded on sound diagnostics and fresh ideas and principles.
The need for the transformation of Lesotho is urgent and must succeed, but this will require total focus and concerted efforts on the work programme by political parties, legis- lators, government, civil society, the private sector and international co-operating partners.
The programme, covering critical humanitarian interventions, a job strategy and investment climate reforms, demonstrates an emerging acknowledgement of past policy failures and the need to take a totally different direction.
It is deeply disappointing that some leaders are preoccupied with other interests rather than implementing or supporting this programme.
The successful implementation of the work programme requires permanent and entrenched political stability and, more desperately, the rule of law.
The conflict has dramatically weakened the national commitment to constitutionalism, democracy and the rule of law.
It has also as sown seeds for lawlessness, defiance of constitutional order, selectivity in abiding by the law and ultimately civil conflict.
The polarisation of society through the false division of Basotho into being either “congress” or “nationalist” coupled with false “victim” complex could ultimately feed the violence that some political leaders have openly advocated.
Lesotho’s political leaders have a responsibility to walk back from this dangerous precipice and must begin the difficult process of social healing and recommitment to constitutionality and genuine democracy.
No one else can restore the maturity, selflessness and the loyalty to country.
The Southern African Development Community (SADC) has its limitations.
It cannot fully comprehend the true depth of this crisis. Worse, continually making a mess with the hope that SADC will intervene does not help Lesotho to mature.
We must fix this, and once and for all. The humiliation imposed on the proud nation of Moshoeshoe is undeserved.
Other leaders, including those of business, need to find the courage to exert influence on this situation rather than wait in the wings and hope for a better situation.
I appreciate that it is difficult for other leaders to speak out, but Lesotho belongs to all of us and not the few looking out for their own interests.
Equally, the wider international community needs to be keener on the re-stabilisation process that is under way in Lesotho.
The 2015 election must take place because there is no alternative. However, it will not bring about a lasting solution in the current environment of divisions, lawlessness, political opportunism and defiance.
To prepare Lesotho for a lasting settlement, the criminal motivations for the current environment must be acknowledged, openly discussed and addressed.
Furthermore, the national competency to negotiate and manage coalition governments must be developed before, and not after, the election.
It is vital to implement the recently adopted New Zealand reforms about how coalition governments are supposed to work. At the very least, the set of reforms dealing with negotiating and de-politicising the public service must be implemented.
In his BDlive column on 25 September , (former South African Reserve Bank governor) Tito Mboweni opines that given deep poverty and a small economy, the loss of power (and by contrast the thirst for power) drive “even the best of men and women to go absolutely berserk”.
If he is right, the behaviour he describes must create a vicious cycle and not the virtuous cycle implied in the work programme referred to above.
Those who seek political power do so to enrich themselves and, if they get in, they will not have the time to enrich the national economy, which in turn will ensure that those who seek power do so to enrich themselves.
Is a poor country by definition doomed to have weak, divisive and self-interested political leadership and to fragility and civil conflict? Yes and no.
Rwanda and Ethiopia are the most recent examples of how countries pull themselves from the brink and chart a new vision of prosperity built on the rule of law and human rights.
But these same examples show that this requires new leaders who embrace that new vision and destiny.
For its part, SADC needs to create the space for that new thinking to take root. Leaving Lesotho in shackles and to the mercies of the old ways of entitlement, of visionfree leadership and of state patronage will lead to lasting conflict.
A lasting settlement should bring out patriotic leaders committed to the transformation of Lesotho and this should be the singleminded objective of regional facilitation in Lesotho.
That said, no outside mediation will succeed without a change of hearts by the present protagonists and by the voters.
The latter must elect parties that embrace transformation and reform and that recognise the errors of the past.
Majoro is Minister of Development Planning