Le­sotho is slowly slid­ing into an­ar­chy

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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

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