Holistic political analysis lacking
IN the 1980s, the National University of Lesotho (NUL) was abuzz with life. It had students from all countries of the SADC region and others from places as far away as Uganda and Sudan.
Those were the heydays of NUL. Of course, even as Lesotho was attracting those who wanted to learn, the country was also exporting unskilled labour especially to South Africa’s mines.
The post 1990s era saw Lesotho exporting an increasing number of its educated people to South Africa and the region.
For the Basotho in the diaspora, especially in South Africa, and all the foreigners who used to study at NUL in the late 1980s to early 1990s, Lesotho Times is increasingly becoming an important source of information on political, economic and cultural developments in the country.
This newspaper is widely available in the Gauteng province. Every Friday, we have a chance to keep in touch by picking up the latest copy of this newspaper.
Thus reading columns such as the “Cutting Edge”, “Big Interview”, “Opinion”, “Feature”, “National Agenda”, and even the irreverent “Scrutator” is always a time to think about personalities we knew way back then.
For example, when I see names such as those of the famous lawyer and now President of the Court of Appeal, Kananelo Mosito, and Lieutenant General Maaparankoe Mahao, I always remember a speech at our graduation ceremony in the early 1990s.
During that graduation ceremony, Advocate Mosito who was then the president of the student union gave a speech in which he asked why a country like Lesotho needs an army.
Messrs Mosito and Mahao were birds of a feather and flocked together. In other words, I feel convinced that Lt Gen Mahao ascribed to that line of thinking. Messrs Mosito and Mahao were part of the group of students who referred to the Lesotho government of the time as the “military junta in Maseru”.
But guess what, who today is fighting to lead an army he wished did not exist but was rather incorporated into a strong, efficient professional police service? People change!
I have followed columnists such as Sofonea Shale over a long time and I have found his columns educational. With a little bit of editorial support, Mr Shale’s opinion pieces will become masterpieces.
I cannot believe that this is the same young man I was in class with from Standard 1 to Standard 7 at Nazareth Primary School in Machache between the late 1970s and the early 1980s.
I wonder if Mr Shale remembers that during that time he was known as Ntja Selome. Columnists like Mr Shale provide an impartial, non-partisan and educational analysis of current affairs in Lesotho. Keep it up Ntja Selome!
Of course there are other columnists in the Lesotho Times that catch my attention. Mahao Mahao is one such columnist. He is a thoughtful, smart and incisive columnist. However, I have to mention that I am becoming increasingly disillusioned by how Mr Mahao is fast becoming politically biased in his praise or criticism of events and personalities behind events in Lesotho.
He is increasingly becoming a de facto spokesperson of a certain political school of thought in Lesotho instead of educating the readers of his columns by critically and dispassionately analysing and explaining emerging trends in Lesotho to the readers of his columns.
Mr Mahao occupies an influential position in Lesotho simply because he is a lecturer in my almer mater, NUL. Mr Mahao may not be aware of his influence in Lesotho but he should become aware that he is.
He is a shaper of future decision makers and thinkers in Lesotho. As a former student at NUL, my economic and political ideology was shaped by such intellectuals as Khabele Matlosa, Sehoai Santho, Nqosa Mahao, Mafa Sejanamane, Leketekete Ketso just to mention a few.
These people used to stand for hours with us trying to correct our misconceptions. I am sure these people never went out of their way to try to influence me as a person but because they had a critical and dispassionate analysis of what was happening in Lesotho in the late 1980s and early 1990s when I was a student at NUL, they have shaped my economic and political analysis of Lesotho.
I am sure these giants had their political inclinations but when analysing the Lesotho experience, they became dispassionate and detached.
By virtue of holding a lecturing position at NUL, Mr Mahao is a powerful person in Lesotho because he is also in the process of shaping the thinking of future leaders of the country.
In the 2030s and 2040s , many adults who went through NUL will not be Marxists, Leninists, or Maoist but they will be Mahao-its. Today I am more of a Matlosa-ist, Santho-ist, Sejanamane-ist, Mahaoist than I am any other.
When he chooses to be dispassionate and non-partisan, Mr Mahao is a beautiful columnist. Which reader of his columns, for example, can forget his sensitive and touching eulogy “Cut in his Prime: Berea’s Tragic Loss” which he wrote in November 2013 about one of his fallen former students.
As I read that column I could feel tears welling up in my eyes. But in his recent columns, especially the last three mentioned below, Mr Mahao is becoming more like a young man he wrote about in February 2014 under the title “Political Stone Age Still a Reality”.
In that column, he was critical of one young man he met at what he called “a joint” in Khubetsoana who was so much captured by ideology that he rejected reconsidering his views even in the light of stark evidence.
Why do I say this? Consider Mr Mahao’s recent article “Who I Cannot Vote for” and a two-part series titled “Lesotho’s Smelly Politics” which he penned in September 2014.
It was after reading the “Who I Cannot Vote for” column that I went back to the two-part series he wrote in September last year.
This last column forced me to comment on the “Lesotho’s Smelly Politics” column of 2014. There are good reasons for doing so.
I am doing this because I feel Mr Mahao has not looked at all the facts about coalition governments. I also feel he spares the rod when it comes to the prime minister.
Most importantly, Mr Mahao is a teacher at the apex of the educational system in Lesotho and must try by all means to protect that great privilege bestowed upon him.
When I read his latest column and the two columns from 2014, I thought Mr Mahao is an uncritical sympathiser of the All Basotho Convention (ABC) and Basotho National Party (BNP).
In “Who I Cannot Vote for”, Mr Mahao elects to tell us he would not vote for the LCD and the DC. Unfortunately, he does not inform us who he will vote for.
I am left to think he will most probably vote for the ABC because of the apology the leader of that party issued concerning “the Mercedes Benz and Toyota Camry vehicles devaluated” in 2006.
In the two part-series, Mr Mahao seemed to apportion all the blame for the failure of the coalition government to the LCD/DC politicians without pointing a figure of blame at the prime minister and his close associates.
In that series, Mr Mahao failed to educate us but rather preached to us about how former rulers are working hard to unseat the prime minister so as to “re-occupy” his lofty seat.
He failed to mention, for the record, that in the history of Lesotho, no prime minister, monarch or military leader before the current prime minister had ever attempted to fire or suspend so many ministers, high ranking civil servants or executives of state agencies and institutions.
No prime minister, monarch or military leader had ever fired his ministers in such a humiliating manner. Under no prime minister, monarch or military leader have the courts been used in the manner they are being used today.
To a person from Mars, it would seem as if corruption exists only outside the ABC and BNP. The unfortunate thing has been that the prime minister’s government seems to use prima facie evidence against his political foes in courts and prima facie evidence never wins cases when a country has a relatively independent judiciary as in Lesotho.
Mr Mahao should have remembered what he wrote in October 2013 under the title: “Politicians Plot Their Own Downfall”. He should have applied his theories in that column to the current prime minister.
In opening his column under the title “Lesotho’s Smelly Politics”, Mr Mahao waxed lyrical about how evidently he and others ‘’chanted” and “ululated” “when a new coalition government took control in 2012”.
I would like to say that his chanting and ululations happened against historical evidence which shows that in the past 60 years, coalition governments spelt a disaster for countries with a similar political situation to Lesotho’s.
As an analyst and educator in our premier institution, he should have been wary about the development of a coalition government in Lesotho.
Mr Mahao should have immediately looked at Italy if he wanted to know what will happen to Lesotho and that should have worried him.
As an educator at Lesotho’s premier educational institution, he should have known that since World War II, Italy has had more than 60 governments.
To contextualise the matter, he should have known that between 1980 and 2014, Italy has changed prime ministers at least 22 times. That averages to a prime minister every one and half years!
In the past 50 years, only one Italian government has lasted a full 5-year term. That was a govern- ment led by Silvio Berlusconi between 2001 and 2006.
Alas, even Mr Berlusconi was forced to resign during this time. All this instability in Italy is a result of — you have guessed it — coalition governments!
Italians refuse to overwhelmingly vote for a single party.
Why is the Italian situation a best fit for Lesotho?
First, as in Italy, the Lesotho coalition government was formed by a disparate coalition of political parties that have nothing in common ideologically or even in their economic outlook.
Second, as in Italy, Lesotho politics is dominated by career politicians who use access to state power to accumulate wealth and influence.
Thus, like in Italy, those with access to power build around themselves powerful patronage networks. As in Italy, these patronage networks further ensure the entrenchment of the incumbents in power.
Thus, at the top of both Italy and Lesotho’s two houses of parliament you will see that there is hardly any turnover. The cabinet ministers in Lesotho over the years have been dominated by the 1993 class.
The only difference between Lesotho and Italy is that in the latter, the collapse of coalition governments never results in constitutional crises.
Italy, unlike Lesotho has a wellestablished bureaucracy that has developed the ability to hold the state together during periods of political instability.
Instead of being one sided in his apportioning of blame for the trials of the current coalition government in Lesotho, I would like to ask Mr Mahao to carefully study the Italian experience if he wants to develop his analysis of what is happening in Lesotho.
The sermon Mr Mahao gave in his two-part column seemed to me to be coming from a man similar to the young man he met at “a joint” in Khubetsoana who was so captured by ideology that he rejected to reconsider his views even in the light of evidence.
In 1986 after Major General Justin Metsing Lekhanya overthrew the government of Chief Leabua Jonathan, there was talk in Sesotho: “ho chenchile joki, pere ha e-ea chencha” or something to that effect.
In 2012 when Mr Mahao was ululating and chanting, only the jockey was changed but the horse remained the same! The same set of politicians that came to power in 1993 were brought back to rule. Mr Mahao must be aware that the prime minister was part of the 1993 “democratisation project”.
The prime minister is a career politician and he knows how to frame his message so that to gullible listeners, he sounds as if he is different from the rest of the 1993 class. The ululations and chanting were premature.
Mr Mahao’s analysis in the twopart column rejected the historical evidence that has built up in Lesotho since independence.
For Mr Mahao to contextualise what is happening in Lesotho today, I urge him to go and reconsider the two works produced by L.B.B.J. Machobane (King’s Knights) and Richard F. Weisfelder (Political Contention in Lesotho 1952 – 1965).
appeal Court president Kananelo Mosito
Lieutenant General Maaparankoe Mahao