Congress-nationalist divide: fallacy or reality?
Though the Congress-nationalist divide was rife in the pre-independence politics of Lesotho and indeed reached its height in the 1970 turmoil, manifested in the political history that followed and some think that the contemporary politics have graduated, others argue that present day party political loyalty and wooing of votes in 2015 polls can and will still be based of that divide.
While Congress-nationalist divide song reignited by the leader of DC following lose of office in 2012 seems to be gaining momentum, many voters could not even comprehend what actually makes a difference between a Congress and National party, is it ideological, is it a political reality or just a fallacy?
This article will not respond to whether congress-nationalist divide is a reality or fallacy but look at on what did BCP and BNP differ and the reader will judge whether the consistency or otherwise in the differences can mean anything in the contemporary politics.
The BCP was formed by Ntsu Mokhehle as a liberation organisation destined to be part of the continental liberation movement. In its view, the key social pillars and source of authority in society perpetuated oppression in one way or the other and entrenched their hegemony whether benevolent or selfish.
At the heart of it was the intention to free people from all forms of authority except the one they would create through elections. on the other hand, the BNP was formed to preserve values of Basotho as a society, promote Christianity and seek development within the established authority.
This difference can be elaborated by a number of practical examples. The first one is the attitude of the two to the centres of power in the Basotho society pre independence. Chiefs had tremendous influence on society and bellowed instructions which could not be undermined, some dehumanising while others instilled common discipline and collective.
Liberation and development for BCP meant removal of power from chiefs to the people while BNP felt that chiefs with regulated power and authority can play a necessary leadership role in development. The second powerful sector was church.
Many Basotho greatly believed in church leaders predominantly mis- sionaries at that time and many in the Catholic Church. They preached against communism which BCP was perceived to be. The third centre of power was the whites who were traders and civil servants. The attitude of the BCP and BNP towards these centres illustrates how the two differed.
The second illustration can be found in the pre-independence positions on key clauses of the constitution. The BCP wanted a constitutional monarch, BNP an executive monarch and Maramatlou an absolute monarch.
Logically flowing from these positions was contestations that BCP wanted the military to be under Prime Minister arguing that it is better directed by the elected authority, while the BNP and MFP saw it as well placed under the King. When BCP lost pre-independence elections in 1965 which was won by the BNP, positions swapped.
The BCP said military control should be under the King while the BNP said it should be under the Prime Minister. When BNP did not relinquish power after 1970 and the constitution was suspended, the divide informed the response to the 1970 and its aftermath. True that there was a lot of violent acts by the BCP members and state reacted harshly. Though BCP leader appealed to his followers to refrain from violent activities and distanced the party from such, many could not hit the call because they believed he could be saying that under duress as he was jailed.
Though leaders collectively declared the 1970 polls null and void, the envisaged rerun never came to be. In an attempt to legitimise his rule, Morena Leabua Jonathan tried a representative assembly to among others prepare for elections in 1973 but the BCP did not agree on its representatives to the Interim Assembly and gerad Pokane Ramorebodi, the Deputy Leader of the BCP led the one faction to the Assembly while the Leader Ntsu Mokhehle fled the country after the aborted BCP plan to capture all the police stations, an equiva- lent of coup attempt.
State brutality against the BCP who were thought to be and those who were indeed involved in violent acts defined the divide in its own terms. This situation was manipulated as some BCP members were victims not because they did any wrong simply because, some BNP members felt they should be or they were suspected to be linked to the perpetrators of violence.
This permeated the society and turned Lesotho into a violent country as around the same time the BCP in the exile in collaboration with friends in exile formed a guerrilla war wing, Lesotho Liberation Army. In the war between LLA and government forces, innocent citizens BCP, BNP and nonaligned lost lives let alone the combatants.
The third illustration and the one which helps to respond to the main question is what the two stood for and what they did when in power. BCP believed that liberation from hegemony and creation of people’s governance includes economy. Cooperatives were the buzz word. BCP in power privatised to non-basotho the public enterprises that were established during BNP time.
During the BCP and LCD rule there were bouts of state brutality and many other shorting comings, similar in nature to those seen during the BNP. BNP was once aligned to the Apartheid South Africa in history, BCP has equally been. The BNP has been accused of using military against the people who held different views with the government; the LCD is not spared and the accusation goes further to the invitation of foreign military intervention in 1998 whose history is known.
What is the attitude of the congress to the chiefs today? Listen to what Dr Mosisili and hon Mochoboroane say about their contribution to the institution. Today as the divide is resuscitated people who have clearly denounced it, are forced to sing for it.
Mosisili’s administration assigned people responsibilities some of whom were known to be from different political parties and that growth and graduation made a mark. For purposes of retaining power the LCD, the splinter party from the BCP entered into a controversial coalition with NIP, a breakaway from BNP. Is this divide a reality or fallacy?