Holis­tic po­lit­i­cal anal­y­sis lack­ing

Lesotho Times - - Opinion & Analysis -

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

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