What is women’s place in 2015 elections?
A NEW year has dawned. We wish you all a happy and prosperous 2015. In Lesotho, we are beginning the New Year with universal focus on the 28 February 2015 general elections which will see the curtain falling on the tragic chapter of the coalition government.
Because of the frenetic and hectic nature of elections, holding a general plebiscite is hardly the most soothing way to begin a new year. Moreso after the tedium and inertia that we all incur after our festive indulgences. For Lesotho, however, there is no other way this time round.
We must welcome the fact that we are beginning the year with snap general elections and we must all endure the rigors thereof. After starting with so much promise in 2012, it became a heavy burden that this impoverished nation could no longer carry. Feuding among coalition partners, sometimes bordering on pettiness and political childishness, had become the order of the day. Consequently, important matters of governance took a back seat. The country virtually ground to a halt as Messrs Thabane, Metsing, Maseribane et all performed what came to define their nexus; feuding.
of course it will be naive to dismiss the coalition government as a total failure. Notable things, never seen before, were born out of the coalition. The most significant being the anti-corruption drive that saw high profile crooks, for the first time ever, being hauled to the courts to answer for their shameless self-aggrandizement at the expense of this impoverished nation.
The decision to return the widely respected Advocate Barotho Matsoso to the helm of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic offences (the DCEO) was in itself a good indicator of the coalition government’s attempts to deal with the endemic graft that the previous government allowed to pervade this Kingdom like a most diabolic form of cancer.
For the first ever time in our history, we saw a vigorous attempt to get high profile figures to account. Of course in any high profile prosecutions, claims abound that processes are selective and targeted at political adversaries. But as the South African Supreme Court of Appeal has noted in one precedent setting judgment, a prosecution is not wrongful because it is driven by improper motives only. In addition, there must also be no credible or reasonable grounds to prosecute. This was hardly the case in most of the cases brought against these high profile individuals as they involved legitimate prima facie issues. We all know how the country was sold out by those who prostituted every principle in the guide book to give a gigantic contract to Nikuv. It raises legitimate questions if a poorly paid politician rakes in hundreds of thousands of maloti into his account from obscure sources amid reports of shady deals under his portfolio.
The country now badly needs a government that will focus on the business of governance without being saddled by perpetual internal strife. unfortunately, because of our complex electoral system, which seeks to accommodate every small voice, we are unlikely to emerge out of 28 February 2018 with one winner with the simple majority required to form the next government. Another coalition government is likely. But tragically, such a coalition is unlikely to be driven by principles and values to take this country forward.
Equally, the voting patterns by the general population are unlikely to be dependent on which party (or coalition) has the best policies to carry the country forward. Lesotho suffers from the same debilitating disease which afflicts most African countries of ignorant and unenlightened electorates. Voting patterns are made on silly considerations such as tribal affiliations or in the case of Lesotho, with mainly one big tribe, on the basis of regionalism or other crass misconceptions. Clueless politicians, who have no idea about how to run a government always have a fighting chance.
our radio stations, which reach the most masses, are highly compromised and each shamelessly aligns itself to a particular party. As a result, there is no intelligible debate through this critical medium of communication. Basotho should thus seek for themselves the critical need to understand the plethora of policies and promises of the various parties and determine which party has the realistic policies to put food on their tables.
In the end, we can only hope for a new dispensation that will advance the national interest of this country regardless of whether or not it will include any members of the current coalition. otherwise, as we reminisce the life of the outgoing coalition, we may also end up firmly living in the curse of the familiar French proverb; plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose (the more things change, the more they stay the same). Though the question whether women will be king makers in the boardrooms and activists on the drawing boards for party manifestoes and governance preparations or largely remain on the dance floor is most relevant if not critical, it may not be asked in the upcoming National Assembly Elections.
The upcoming elections will highly likely be on the definition of the collapse of the coalition government and which partners to blame for this. This means that parties will have little if any attention to the real policy issues unless civil society and interests groups force politicians to go beyond blame game on who is guilty and why for the collapse of combined government.
Though women form large number of people who cast their vote and therefore put government in office, their issues remain in the margins of the main party manifestoes and the party governance agendas.
Now that political parties present their offers to the electorate to be in office, a number of questions are important in particular, but for now focus is on women.
Will women use their presence, role and positions strategically to influence what their parties put on the agenda or will they just ride on the existing political party divide?
Are women in different political parties able to read their issues beyond what their political parties are defining as their areas of contention? Will women electors’ votes come as cheap as mere party loyalty or are they going to put a price tag on their vote?
Assuming that one wants to know whether women are active in the board rooms or are just artist on the floor dance is there a marking memo?
When political parties pronounce their conception of political party youth and women leagues one may realise that women make their voices heard at the strategic levels.
Though political party youth and women leagues are regarded by some as empowerment efforts to ensure that their issues inform the main party agenda, others see them as perpetuation of these sectors marginali- sation.
Whether it is the argument for or against the leagues which makes sense is a subject of debate but what matters most is what parties make of them.
The leagues could either be progressive within the party and be used as double opportunity for the sectors.
however, they may as well be used to keep women and youth under the control of the party leadership lest they destabilise it.
When parties do not make their own conception of this part of campaign content, it might be that women in such parties have chosen to remain at the dance floor, blow whistles, dress to kill and outshine others in the party attire colours, and struggle for frontlines and proximity with leaders during the party mass choirs performance at the rallies with either their fuku-fuku long dresses or miniskirts.
Though local government reservation of one third seats for women is a good provision, the fact that it is the political parties which determine which women occupy such seats curtails the women empowerment.
There are strong views that who occupy Special Women Seats should be determined by the electorate so that women with qualities not necessarily those favoured for party structures and leadership sometimes for the reasons ironical to the cause of women emancipation can be given the positions.
When parties do not tell in their campaign content whether they are willing to change or keep this, it might be that women in such parties have chosen to remain at the dance floor, blow whistles, dress to kill and outshine others in the party attire colours, and struggle for frontlines and proximity with leaders during party mass choirs performance at the rallies with either their fuku-fuku long dresses or miniskirts.
Lesotho constitution section 18(4) (b) and (c) respectively insulate discrimination in the application of the customary law of Lesotho. In 1995 Lesotho made reservation on the article 2 of the International Convention on Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) which read: The Government of the Kingdom of Lesotho does not consider itself bound by Article 2 to the extent that it conflicts with Lesotho’s constitutional stipulation relative to succession to the Throne of the kingdom of Lesotho and the law relating to chieftainship. The Lesotho government’s ratification is subject to the understanding that none of its obligations under the convention especially in Article 2(c) shall be treated as extending to the affairs of religious denominations. Furthermore, the Lesotho government declares that it shall not take any legislative measures under the Convention where those measures would be incompatible with the Constitution of Lesotho.
In 2004, the reservation was relaxed to only apply to the extent that it affects the succession to the throne and chieftainship. The case of Senate David gabashane Masopha immediately comes to mind.
Some human rights and women ac-