‘We are living in a prae­to­rian state’

Lesotho Times - - Big Interview -

Po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst Pro­fes­sor Kopano Fran­cis Makoa says elec­tions are the only so­lu­tion to le­sotho’s cur­rent po­lit­i­cal chal­lenges. le­sotho holds par­lia­men­tary polls two years early on 28 Fe­bru­ary 2015, af­ter last year’s col­lapse of the all Ba­sotho con­ven­tion (abc), Ba­sotho Na­tional Party (BNP) and le­sotho congress for Democ­racy (lcd) al­liance, which gave rise to a coali­tion gov­ern­ment in June 2012. in this wide-rang­ing in­ter­view with Le­sotho Times ( LT) re­porter lekhetho Nt­sukun­yane, Pro­fes­sor Makoa — a Po­lit­i­cal and ad­min­is­tra­tive Stud­ies lec­turer at the Na­tional Uni­ver­sity of le­sotho (Nul)—in­sists le­sotho had no other way out of its cri­sis but the bal­lot.

LT: Le­sotho is cur­rently in po­lit­i­cal tur­moil and the sit­u­a­tion does not ap­pear to be get­ting any bet­ter. How did we come to where we are to­day? Where did it all go wrong?

Makoa: it is com­mon to ev­ery­one now that in­deed, our coun­try is in se­ri­ous po­lit­i­cal in­sta­bil­ity. and one would think, in all hon­esty and sen­si­bil­ity, that this in­sta­bil­ity is a pri­or­ity area for the au­thor­i­ties to ur­gently ad­dress. But it seems it’s not that much of a pri­or­ity to cer­tain sec­tions of the author­ity. Even the Sadc Mission team cur­rently in le­sotho does not seem to se­ri­ously re­gard this state of in­sta­bil­ity as a mat­ter of pri­or­ity. Firstly, they bro­kered a roadmap to the up­com­ing elec­tions and that seems to be their area of pri­or­ity. i, for one, and of-course most Ba­sotho, thought the is­sue of se­cu­rity, even be­fore you think of elec­tions, should be ad­dressed first to sta­bilise the sit­u­a­tion. It is only when we have co­op­er­a­tive se­cu­rity agen­cies and a sta­ble po­lit­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment that we can hope for free and fair elec­tions.

We are where we are to­day be­cause our coali­tion gov­ern­ment was not able to hold. Per­son­ally i have learnt that our coali­tion gov­ern­ment was not able to re­alise an ex­haus­tive def­i­ni­tion of this type of gov­ern­ment. And be­cause they were not able to con­cep­tu­alise the def­i­ni­tion of a coali­tion gov­ern­ment, that on its own re­sulted in them also fail­ing to con­tex­tu­alise it with the con­sti­tu­tion.

a coali­tion gov­ern­ment is like any other gov­ern­ment, and that is what this trio failed to es­tab­lish. in­stead, they adopted lit­eral in­ter­pre­ta­tion of be­ing coali­tion part­ners, mean­ing they were in­de­pen­dent units. it is true they are in­de­pen­dent, but to a cer­tain ex­tent. once they form gov­ern­ment, they be­come a sin­gle whole. they failed to op­er­ate as a sin­gle whole. Even the coali­tion agree­ment recog­nises the leader of gov­ern­ment.

the con­sti­tu­tion fur­ther recog­nises a sin­gle prime min­is­ter. Prob­lems in the coali­tion gov­ern­ment started when one of the three part­ners seemed to have his own con­cep­tion of gov­ern­ment which was to­tally dif­fer­ent. and that very con­cep­tion, when they tried to put it into prac­tice, made the gov­ern­ment fail. at some point, at least in my view, Ntate Mo­thetjoa Mets­ing (Deputy Prime Min­is­ter and lcd leader) still thought him­self as ri­val to the other two par­ties he was in gov­ern­ment with. More im­por­tantly, i need to em­pha­sise this one that their fail­ure to fit the Coali­tion agree­ment into the con­sti­tu­tion and un­der­stand­ing that the lat­ter over­rides the for­mer was the main fac­tor for the fall­out.

LT: Why are we hav­ing this snap elec­tions sched­uled for this month?

Makoa: We are hav­ing elec­tions be­cause the coali­tion gov­ern­ment can no longer gov­ern. Go­ing for elec­tions is a log­i­cal step to cor­rect things. the un­der­stand­ing is that as we go for elec­tions we will be able to pro­duce a gov­ern­ment that will be able to func­tion prop­erly. Whether it will be an­other coali­tion gov­ern­ment or not we are hop­ing that through this elec­tion, a proper gov­ern­ment will emerge. We are go­ing for this elec­tion not so much to seek man­date, but largely be­cause it is a log­i­cal step through which we are seek­ing a le­git­i­mate gov­ern­ment. the gov­ern­ment of the day is no longer le­git­i­mate to a cer­tain ex­tent. its le­git­i­macy has been af­fected.

LT: What ex­actly has been the main prob­lem?

Makoa: Since Jan­uary last year, we have been go­ing through a patchy his­tory. We have the most pow­er­ful in­sti­tu­tion of gov­ern­ment which un­for­tu­nately does not recog­nise the gov­ern­ment. it is an in­sti­tu­tion which is most pow­er­ful and danger­ous be­cause it is the core se­cu­rity of the coun­try. it is armed to the teeth. it is the ful­crum of the state. i am talk­ing about the mil­i­tary. if we may look into the­o­ries of the mil­i­tary, you may re­alise that if we have a sys­tem where the army is more pow­er­ful than other forces, we will have what we call a prae­to­rian state. in other words the sol­diers are tak­ing ad­van­tage.

the state of prae­to­rian arises whereby the gov­ern­ment has be­come weak and the mil­i­tary very pow­er­ful. and if you look closely, you may re­alise how all of sud­den, the op­po­si­tion is so much de­pen­dent on the army. Even as they talk, mem­bers of the op­po­si­tion are so ro­man­tic about the army. What­ever they do, they are look­ing up to the army for pro­tec­tion and sup­port. con­se­quently, the army takes ad­van­tage of that. We are living in a prae­to­rian state whereby the army is not only pow­er­ful but also in­flu­enc­ing po­lit­i­cal di­rec­tion.

LT: In a way, are you say­ing the army has taken over gov­ern­ment?

Makoa: Not nec­es­sar­ily. they just want to di­rect the gov­ern­ment with­out tak­ing it over. they are do­ing all sorts of in­tim­i­da­tions to in­flu­ence di­rec­tion. The army can some­times be­have like this not nec­es­sar­ily be­cause they have been in­volved in pol­i­tics, but due to a per­ceived prob­lem that gov­ern­ment au­thor­i­ties are op­pres­sive and threat­en­ing to them. if the sys­tem threat­ens them, they start all sorts of things to desta­bilise it. in a typ­i­cal prae­to­rian state, the gov­ern­ment be­comes pup­pets of the army. if not that, then it will be a war of at­tri­tion be­tween the army and gov­ern­ment.

LT: So what is the way for­ward in such a sit­u­a­tion?

Makoa: it de­pends on whether we have any other choices con­sid­er­ing our cri­sis. in my ob­ser­va­tion, we have no op­tions. We are in a danger­ous sit­u­a­tion where com­mon sense dic­tates that we should find a so­lu­tion. The elec­tions be­come a so­lu­tion now be­cause through them, the en­tire na­tion is given a chance to par­tic­i­pate by vot­ing for a le­git­i­mate gov­ern­ment. Hon­estly, elec­tions solve a po­lit­i­cal im­passe pre­cisely be­cause the peo­ple don’t just vote; they de­ter­mine the new gov­ern­ment or en­dorse the present coali­tion gov­ern­ment.

that’s how hope­ful we are with the elec­tions. le­sotho has rapidly drifted to­wards a state whereby there is no ac­count­abil­ity, no rule of law. it is only the rule of the pow­er­ful and the pow­er­ful do not even hold the of­fi­cial power. in a typ­i­cal sit­u­a­tion like this one, one does not even know where the of­fi­cial power re­sides. Peo­ple have rapidly lost their cit­i­zen­ship rights be­cause of the sit­u­a­tion. We have the whole sys­tem dis­torted. if you have a gov­ern­ment that has lost con­trol of the army you have prob­lems. The first prob­lem is that even as you in­tend to hold elec­tions, you are not guar­an­teed the se­cu­rity and pro­tec­tion of the re­sources you are go­ing to use for the polls. Sol­diers and the po­lice play a very crit­i­cal role in elec­tions and un­der the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion, one won­ders whether the army will con­duct its role ef­fec­tively. Who is go­ing to in­struct them to per­form their roles when gov­ern­ment has lost con­trol over them? if they make mis­takes, who is go­ing to ac­count for them and to who?

this is why i men­tioned ear­lier that though elec­tions are im­por­tant, the is­sue of se­cu­rity and sta­bil­ity needed to be ad­dressed first. My fear is that we might end up in a sit­u­a­tion where, if the gov­ern­ment can­not con­trol state in­sti­tu­tions such as the le­sotho De­fence Force and oth­ers, we will not be able to pro­tect the elec­toral process it­self. there is no guar­an­tee that the army, which is cur­rently in a war of at­tri­tion with gov­ern­ment, will be re­li­able in the elec­tions.

LT: Can you high­light key events un­der the coali­tion gov­ern­ment, ac­cord­ing to your as­sess­ment?

Makoa: The first high­light was when for­mer En­ergy Min­is­ter ti­mothy tha­hane was dis­missed from cabi­net (last year) fol­low­ing a cor­rup­tion-re­lated case pending fi­nal­i­sa­tion be­fore the courts. We will also re­mem­ber the in­ci­dent of 27 Jan­uary 2014 when house­holds of three fam­i­lies were bombed. Strangely, when the sol­diers be­came aware the po­lice had ev­i­dence that they were in­volved in the in­ci­dent, sud­denly there was a strat­egy to cre­ate ten­sion be­tween the two se­cu­rity and law-en­force­ment agen­cies so that there is shift of fo­cus from the 27 Jan­uary in­ci­dent. the nar­ra­tive, as we speak, is that there is a fall­out be­tween the army and the po­lice. Even as the Sadc mission in­ter­vened, among oth­ers, it was un­der the pre­text that the un­der­ly­ing prob­lem is that the two agen­cies are fight­ing.

But all the po­lice wanted was for a few mem­bers of the army to go and ac­count or as­sist them con­cern­ing the events of 27 Jan­uary 2014. But the army was not in­ter­ested. They were sup­posed to be the first peo­ple to abide by the law but they chose not to do so. they ba­si­cally started ma­raud­ing. they were seen mount­ing road blocks, which is not their man­date but that of the po­lice. they have no power to ar­rest. they have no power on their own to even stop some­body on the way and in­ter­ro­gate him. they can only do that dur­ing state of emer­gen­cies. they can only ar­rest you if they find you tres­pass­ing in their own premises. the cul­mi­na­tion of this high­light was when the army at­tacked the po­lice on 30 au­gust 2014.

LT: So in your view, how has the army fig­ured in Le­sotho pol­i­tics?

Makoa: they have al­ready played a very neg­a­tive role whereby they held the gov­ern­ment hostage. they were sup­posed to pro­tect the gov­ern­ment, as a pos­i­tive role, but they are not. they are as­sertively push­ing their way into con­trol­ling the gov­ern­ment and in­flu­enc­ing the gov­er­nance. Other roles in­clude cast­ing a shadow that if we have the army there will au­to­mat­i­cally be sta­bil­ity. that is the im­por­tant role.

they should main­tain peace and sta­bil­ity. their duty should in­clude as­sist­ing the po­lice by the lat­ter’s in­vi­ta­tion. cer­e­mo­ni­ally, the army plays an­other pos­i­tive role of of­fi­ci­at­ing and en­ter­tain­ing at most im­por­tant func­tions of the gov­ern­ment in­clud­ing the ju­di­cial year open­ing cer­e­mony and oth­ers. When there is no war, the army’s du­ties are largely cer­e­mo­nial.

LT: Briefly can you give us the his­tory of the monarch in Le­sotho’s po­lit­i­cal sys­tem?

Makoa: the chief­tain­ship has been part of our his­tor­i­cal devel­op­ment. it is not just em­bed­ded in our cul­ture. it is the epit­ome of the Ba­sotho cul­ture. the whole his­tory of the monarch in le­sotho is the same his­tory of Ba­sotho and our own cul­tural devel­op­ment. Now coloni­sa­tion, as an agent of mod­erni­sa­tion, came and trans­formed our cul­ture into mod­ern pol­i­tics.

\and then came our in­de­pen­dence in 1966. as we got in­de­pen­dent from col­o­niza­tion, we had to move along with mod­ern pol­i­tics on the way we were go­ing to gov­ern our­selves. We could not then go back to pre-coloni­sa­tion where we were only gov­erned by the monarch. But at the same time, we could not let go of our monar­chy. We have al­ways had the King as head of state and for­tu­nately the coloni­sa­tion did not change that.

But now it was ar­ranged that much as the King is head of state, he would not gov­ern the na­tion di­rectly. if you ask whether the monarch is po­lit­i­cal, then my an­swer is yes.

the monarch be­ing the apex author­ity makes it po­lit­i­cal. it is the in­sti­tute of gov­ern­ment and as such, can­not be apo­lit­i­cal. Any public in­sti­tu­tion, not fig­ure, is po­lit­i­cal be­cause it has author­ity. But we can­not say the King, as a per­son, is po­lit­i­cal. Now as we em­barked on this new sys­tem of mod­ern pol­i­tics, it has been a tur­bu­lent his­tory for the monarch in that the func­tions of the King were not well set out. So since in­de­pen­dence there has al­ways been a stale­mate. there has never been an un­equiv­o­cal ac­cep­tance of the monarch by the mod­ern po­lit­i­cal sys­tem.

Po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst Pro­fes­sor Kopano Fran­cis Makoa.

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