Lesotho is slowly sliding into anarchy
The Concise Oxford english Dictionary defines anarchy as a state of disorder due to absence or non-recognition of government or other controlling authority. I, under this column, a couple of weeks ago deprecated the utterances of Ntate Mothetjoa Metsing, the Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) and leader of the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) when he reportedly, standing on the grounds of the Maseru Magistrate’s Court, — a division of the judicial arm of government — threatened that his party will never abide by the decisions of the courts that go against his party.
The DPM further uttered words that in effect eroded the rule of law and judicial independence, concepts that are the hallmarks of our nascent democracy and the embodiment of our democratic ideals, principles and identity as a civilized nation.
He impugned the integrity, professionalism and dignity of the judicial arm of government. His utterances bordered on criminal conduct in three (3) major offences, that cry-out for investigation.
These are obstruction of course justice and officially constituted public enquiries. The other possible alleged commission of an offence is bringing judges, prosecutors and othEr juDiCiAl oFfiCErs into DisrEspECt.
I also observe that his utterances border on disrespect for judicial proceedings. He in effect was going against the Constitution, the Supreme Law, from which all other laws derive their legitimacy, in that his utterances were an affront to the constitutional imperative that enjoins government, under Section 118 (3) to accord such assistance as the Courts may require to enable them to protect their independence, dignity and effectiveness, subject to the Constitution and any other law.
I further lamented that these remarks coming from such a high profile public figure, the second-in-command in government, were likely to have a domino effect on every levels of our society.
Hardly a week down the line, the Acting Commander of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF), Major General Khoantle Motsomotso had defied the Government Secretary’s directive to withdraw soldiers assigned to guard fired Communications Minister Selibe Mochoboroane.
For now I beg your indulgence to reserve discussion on this topic. I will return to it at a later stage in my column as it forms the gravamen of my argument that the congress formation of the LCD, has left this country a legacy to the nation that we will find very difficult to restore respect for the law and its institutions.
From the outset let me observe that the moral fibre of any modern nation, its values, aspirations, psyche and integrity lie in its respect for its democratic institutions of governance particularly the courts, parliament, state authorities and above all else, the Constitution.
The Constitution as interpreted by the courts and protected by among others, state institutions like the Army and the Attorney General, reflect and embodies the aspirations, virtues and vision of how such a nation needs to be governed and conduct its affairs within itself as a nation and in relation to other nations of the world.
It governs the relations between various high profile state institutions, inter se and in relation to other institutions. It sets-out the territorial parameters, finances, and very critical arms of government.
The Constitution reflects the heartbeat of any nation. In this regard it is the only legal instrument that gives legitimacy to any other laws. That is, all the other laws and principles of governance, accountability and governance have to fall within the four parameters of the Constitution.
Chief among these principles, yet not limited to good governance and democracy, are the rule of law and judicial independence. If these principles are violated, particularly by high ranking government officials, then the state inevitably slides to anarchy and lawlessness. This is more so in view of the fact that such officials have control of the armed forces, LDF.
The rule of law, on the one hand, is the legal principle that law should govern a nation, and not individual government officials. It primarily refers to the influence and authority of law within society, particularly as a constraint upon behaviour, including behaviour of government officials.
The concept was familiar to ancient philosophers such as Aristotle, who wrote “Law should govern”. Rule of Law implies that every citizen, irrespective of his status, is subject to the law, including the law makers themselves. It stands in contrast to the idea that the ruler is above the law.
Judicial independence, on the other hand, is the concept that the judiciary needs to be kept away from the other branches of government.
That is, the courts, should not be subject to improper influence from other branches of government, that is the executive and the legislature, as well as from other private or partisan interests.
The chief justice of Tasmania, Australia, defined the concept of judicial independence as “the capacity of the courts to perform their constitutional function free from actual or apparent interference by, and to the extent that it is constitutionally possible, free from actual or apparent dependence upon, any person or institutions, including, in particular, the executive arm of government, over which they do not exercise direct control”.
That is why ntate Metsing’s remarks are likely to lead this nation dangerously to anarchy and lawlessness. No one will care to have respect for the law.
Ever since this country was plunged into turmoil by the disagreements within the three (3) coalition partners in government — All Basotho Convention (ABC), Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) and Basotho National Party (BNP) — the LCD has unfortunately been at the forefront of disobedience of all lawful orders emanating from His Majesty, Speaker of National Assembly, courts and every other lawful authority.
A gazette, unless it is reviewed, repealed or set-aside, by a competent authority, has the force of law that emanates from the highest authority in its communication with the public.
Unfortunately, the cancer of disobedience of lawful orders has slowly but irretrievably permeated the whole fabric of our society.
When his Majesty by a government gazette, on the advice of the Prime Minister, as stipulated by law, dismissed the then Commander of LDF, Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli, from the helm of the army, the general, under the active influence of ntate Metsing, declared he will not obey the gazette.
Both the DPM and the Lieutenant General declared he will remain at the helm of the LDF, contrary to the relevant legislation. Indeed the general continued to forcefully and through unprecedented intimidation to minister still continues to access all those perks, barring the financial ones and continues passing himself off as a government minister.
In the same ministry of Communications Mr. Tseliso Khomari continues passing himself off as the Principal Secretary despite a legitimate Court of Appeal order and appointment by the Prime Minister, as the constitutionally competent authority, re-instating Ms Nonkululeko Zaly as the Ministry’s Principal Secretary. Mr. Khomari can’t wait for a legitimate court order declaring his occupation of the post lawful, he continues to pass himself off as the legitimate principal secretary.
Recently, Major General Khoantle Motsomotso, the acting commander of the LDF, is reported to have defied a directive from the Government Secretary, instructing him to withdraw army soldiers from former minister Mochoboroane.
Those in the know will tell you that the Prime Minister as the minister of defence and therefore as the boss of General Motsomotso. The general was therefore defying the orders of his boss, the Prime Minister.
With hindsight, readers will also remember that the Prime Minister dissolved the Court Martial to determine the case of Lieutenant General Mahao. However, retired general Tlali Kamoli, as then Commander of LDF, nevertheless, contrary to his boss, continued with the Court Martial.
The common thread that runs through all these episodes of insubordination of lawful authority is that they were actively instigated by ntate Metsing or he acquiesced to them.
Now if this is not testimony to a nation or rather a party or government institutions slowly but irretrievably degenerating into anarchy you tell me what it is. You will remember anarchy is defined as a state of disorder due to absence or non-recognition of government or other controlling authority.
The LCD, army and other institutions of state under the LCD, have become a law unto themselves, obeying no authority except only themselves.
I am wondering what sort of legacy ntate Metsing and his Lieutenants want to leave for this nation. A disobedient nation that does not obey lawful authority.
I reckon this is a precursor to a more horrible and dangerous scenario come March, 2015. The LCD and their ilk will not recognize the outcome of the snap general election, if it comes out against them. As they have warned before, there will be bloodbath. The consequences are too ghastly to contemplate.
I pity this strife-torn nation. Ntate Metsing will never recognize the election result. “Batla ema ka mali a bona”.
That is, they will resist the result until the last man standing. Watch this space come March, 2015. That is congress for you. They do not mind showing anyone the middle finger, with the army in tow. Phew!
Deputy prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing