Trust es­sen­tial to coali­tion govts

Lesotho Times - - Election 2015 -

THE elec­toral agree­ments made by po­lit­i­cal par­ties and the con­sti­tu­tion have been con­stantly jux­ta­posed so much in analysing the col­lapse of the All Ba­sotho Con­ven­tion-led coali­tion govern­ment that many peo­ple are be­gin­ning to think the word agree­ment is the op­po­site of con­sti­tu­tion.

The tiff be­tween ABC leader, Prime Min­is­ter Thomas Tha­bane, and his deputy Mo­thetjoa Mets­ing mainly re­volves around the lat­ter ac­cus­ing the premier of al­leged dic­ta­to­rial ten­den­cies and dis­hon­our­ing agree­ments. On the other hand, Dr Tha­bane has main­tained a firm stance on fol­low­ing the dic­tates of the con­sti­tu­tion.

It then begs the ques­tion of whether the agree­ments con­tra­dict the con­sti­tu­tion. Can a breach of signed agree­ments on the part of one leader and con­spic­u­ous ab­sence of af­fir­ma­tion of the con­sti­tu­tion on the other be ex­plained be­yond the usual stereo­types?

This ar­ti­cle seeks to in­ter­ro­gate whether po­lit­i­cal lead­ers in Le­sotho have learned any­thing or done bet­ter if they were still in a coali­tion govern­ment. or they have just seen this coali­tion as a means of tak­ing them to early elec­tions?

When the Mr Mets­ing an­nounced he was join­ing forces with the Demo­cratic Congress (DC) and ex­pressed his wish to leave the Abc-led coali­tion govern­ment, there was a marked in­ter­est by many in find­ing out the tenets of “Agree­ment to Form a Coali­tion Govern­ment of Po­lit­i­cal Par­ties”.

The over­rid­ing theme of Mr Mets­ing’s al­le­ga­tions was that Dr Tha­bane had been in­ces­santly breach­ing the agree­ment and he had enough of it.

The or­di­nary ad­journ­ment of par­lia­ment in sine die was fol­lowed by the pro­ro­ga­tion. When the for­mer Namibia Pres­i­dent Hi­fikepunye Po­hamba who was in­cum­bent then, in­ter­vened, agree­ments were made and the Le­sotho case for­mally tabled at a Southern African Devel­op­ment Com­mu­nity (SADC) Sum­mit in Vic­to­ria Falls, Zim­babwe.

The sub­se­quent meet­ings led to the ap­point­ment of South African Deputy Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa as fa­cil­i­ta­tor of a process that will take Le­sotho to the early polls, sta­bilise and re­turn to po­lit­i­cal and se­cu­rity nor­malcy in Le­sotho as agreed by the coali­tion lead­ers and SADC.

Sev­eral agree­ments have been signed, no­tably, the Maseru Fa­cil­i­ta­tion Dec­la­ra­tion, Maseru Se­cu­rity Ac­cord and Elec­toral Pledge. Mr Mets­ing has cried foul that the prime min­is­ter un­der­mines the agree­ments in their let­ter and spirit.

Though sev­eral is­sues have been raised, the most press­ing has been Dr Tha­bane’s ap­point­ments, fir­ing, pro­mo­tion and de­mo­tion of govern­ment of­fi­cials.

The change of lead­er­ship within the Le­sotho Mounted Po­lice Ser­vice (LMPS) and the re­cent ap­point­ment of the pres­i­dent of the Court of Ap­peal are used as ex­am­ples of how the premier has been un­able to up­hold the agree­ is note­wor­thy that the two lead­ers have vested in­ter­ests in the man­ner in which po­lice han­dle sen­si­tive doc­u­men­ta­tion re­lat­ing to, among oth­ers, charges laid against Mr Mets­ing.

Whether this case is real or a fab­ri­ca­tion, these two lead­ers would have an in­ter­est in its doc­u­men­ta­tion, some­thing that makes the po­si­tion of act­ing com­mis­sioner very sig­nif­i­cant, not only in its own right as a key se­cu­rity in­sti­tu­tion but also for the po­lit­i­cal tug of war be­tween Dr Tha­bane and Mr Mets­ing who have turned into bel­liger­ent par­ties.

Maybe to the de­gree that the cir­cum­stances are not made clear, the re­moval of the act­ing com­mis­sioner may be seen as con­tribut­ing to the desta­bil­i­sa­tion of the in­sti­tu­tion.

If the sen­si­tiv­ity of this of­fice un­der the cir­cum­stances is well con­cep­tu­alised what would hap­pen when the prime min­is­ter or the deputy per­ceives the in­cum­bent to be sid­ing with the other?

Clearly, the re­ac­tion would be akin to a man who is de­ter­mined to get out to of a locked house and re­sorts to break­ing the win­dow. As­sum­ing that this is the case, it would there­fore be a mat­ter of sur­vival of the fittest be­tween the two lead­ers.

The ap­point­ment of the Court of Ap­peal pres­i­dent is also seen as a breach. The ques­tion then be­comes does the ap­point­ment desta­bilise the or­gan or the res­ig­na­tion of the full bench upon King’s Coun­sel (KC) Kananelo Mos­ito ap­point­ment.

It is also yet to be dis­cov­ered whether the desta­bil­i­sa­tion of in­sti­tu­tions has been equally and sim­i­larly un­der­stood. But this can­not be in­ter­preted to mean that it suits one or the other be­tween Dr Tha­bane and Mr Mets­ing.

Though the prime min­is­ter him­self is not the fo­cal point on the mat­ter, he main­tains that what­ever he is do­ing is within the pa­ram­e­ters of the con­sti­tu­tion and other laws of Le­sotho.

This is­sue, up to now, has been used to char­ac­terise Dr Tha­bane as un­trust­wor­thy, as the list of ac­tions un­der­min­ing agree­ments is made, while on the other hand Mr Mets­ing is seen as a dif­fi­cult char­ac­ter who al­ways com­plains for not be­ing con­sulted and who rates his con­sul­ta­tion way above the con­sti­tu­tion and there­fore is called an an­ar­chist.

What Ba­sotho have not done, ei­ther by de­sign or de­fault, but surely for naïve par­ti­san po­lit­i­cal gains, is to look at why agree­ments are not kept.from a peace and con­flict man­age­ment per­spec­tive, the point of de­par­ture is on what the par­ties agreed on, the cir­cum­stances un­der which it was agreed and the man­ner in which it was agreed are also sig­nif­i­cant. Do par­ties agree that the agree­ment and, there­fore, keep­ing to it will change the sit­u­a­tion that they are in and one that they both or all do not want?

While this ar­ti­cle is fo­cus­ing on the 2015 snap elec­tions in per­spec­tive, it may be help­ful to re­fer back to 1998 when dis­con­tent over the Na­tional Assem­bly polls led to the protests that paral­ysed then Prime Min­is­ter Pakalitha Mo­sisili’s govern­ment, a sit­u­a­tion that re­sulted in the South African mil­i­tary in­ter­ven­tion in Le­sotho by in­vi­ta­tion of govern­ment.

The con­se­quences of that to the econ­omy, Ba­sotho and to un­der­min­ing gov­er­nance in­stru­ments are not the sub­ject of this ar­ti­cle. Be­sides, South Africa had a very ef­fec­tive diplo­matic in­ter­ven­tion. In fact the un­der­ly­ing cause for the suc­cess of that in­ter­ven­tion was the splen­did ap­pli­ca­tion of dif­fer­ent for­eign pol­icy in­stru­ments, the com­bi­na­tion of the mil­i­tary as­pect and diplomacy.

It was this diplo­matic in­ter­ven­tion which es­tab­lished the In­terim Po­lit­i­cal Author­ity (IPA) giv­ing all po­lit­i­cal par­ties that con­tested elec­tions an equal plat­form. The IPA was, among other things, man­dated to re­view the elec­toral model and its de­ci­sion would be bind­ing on the Cab­i­net.

When this was in­tro­duced by for­mer South African Min­is­ter Syd­ney Mufamadi and contact per­son for for­mer SA Pres­i­dent Thabo Mbeki, the then Deputy Pres­i­dent of South Africa and the Me­di­a­tor in the Le­sotho de­ba­cle, Kele­bone Maope, then Deputy Prime Min­is­ter took him head on ar­gu­ing that such would be un­con­sti­tu­tional.

Though Mr Maope was fur­ther in­fu­ri­ated when Mr Mufamadi asked him “where was that con­sti­tu­tion, when South Africa was called in?” to­day he refers to that mat­ter as a les­son.

Un­til it had care­fully stud­ied the agree­ment, the Mo­sisili ad­min­is­tra- tion which was a mi­nor­ity in the IPA made up of liked-minded op­po­si­tion par­ties and ma­jor­ity in par­lia­ment abused the “de­ci­sion by Con­sen­sus” clause in the IPA law and other agree­ments to block progress.

Hav­ing stud­ied the law care­fully, the Mo­sisili-led and highly Tha­bane­in­flu­enced LCD, used par­lia­ment to undo IPA agree­ments.

In its as­sumed cul­ture of reneg­ing on agree­ments Dr Mo­sisili’s govern­ment at­tempted to make Le­sotho’s new elec­toral sys­tem a par­al­lel sys­tem against the agreed mixed mem­ber pro­por­tional ( MMP) sys­tem. How­ever, it did not suc­ceed.

The un­scrupu­lous 2007 pre­elec­tions al­liances by the LCD and Na­tional In­de­pen­dent Party (NIP) on the one hand and ABC and Le­sotho Work­ers Party (LWP) on the other are at­trib­uted by some to the sus­tained de­sire of the LCD to make Le­sotho’s model a par­al­lel as op­posed to the MMP.

The govern­ment used its par­lia­men­tary ma­jor­ity to al­ter the agree­ment of par­ties which said that there shall be 50 PR and 80 con­stituency seats and in the sub­se­quent elec­tions there shall be 50-50 share of the two mod­els to the to­tal mem­ber­ship of Na­tional Assem­bly.

Looked at crit­i­cally, it would be seen that as the po­lit­i­cal dust started to sub­side, the LCD re­claimed con­fi­dence, per­ceived it­self to be tech­ni­cally turned into mi­nor­ity in the IPA and be­gun to feel frus­trated and looked for way out.

The sim­i­lar dif­fi­culty was ob­served when Em­i­nent Per­son, for­mer Botswana Pres­i­dent Sir Ke­tu­mile Masire re­tired his mis­sion pre­ma­turely be­cause govern­ment had sum­m­er­saulted.

In the 2015 Elec­toral Pledge, par­ties com­mit to “Re­frain from un­der­tak­ing any ac­tions that may un­der­mine the sta­bil­ity of the in­sti­tu­tions of the state, in­clud­ing the re­moval, ap­point­ment, de­mo­tion or pro­mo­tion of key of­fi­cials within the state dur­ing the pe­riod prior to the elec­tions, sub­ject to due and le­gal process be­ing fol­lowed”.

The ques­tion then be­comes is this well un­der­stood and what the agree­ment means by let­ter and spirit?

Can the two ma­jor is­sues; re­moval of act­ing po­lice head and ap­point­ment of Court of Ap­peal pres­i­dent against which com­plaints are lev­elled fit for the in­ter­pre­ta­tion that this agree­ment is be­ing un­der­mined? What were the par­ties re­ally pledg­ing to re­frain from here?

Did the par­ties here re­gard re­movals, de­mo­tions and pro­mo­tions as syn­ony­mous to desta­bil­is­ing in­sti­tu­tions? Or do they take them to be desta­bil­is­ing as long as they are done out­side the law pro­vi­sions?

If it is the case, did this re­ally have to be singed for, is not a com­mon cause? Ar­ti­cle 7 (c) the Coali­tion Agree­ment pro­vides that as laid down by the con­sti­tu­tion, the leader of the coali­tion shall be the prime min­is­ter.

The du­ties of the prime min­is­ter are not de­fined in the agree­ment ex­cept in Ar­ti­cle 5(g) where it pro­vides the ex­er­cise of ex­ec­u­tive author­ity, par­ties shall have re­gard for the spirit un­der­ly­ing the for­ma­tion of in­clu­sive govern­ment.

In all the cases, agree­ments have been cor­dially af­forded the sub­sidiary level to the con­sti­tu­tion and the laws of Le­sotho. So has Mr Mest­ing for­got­ten this or has Dr Tha­bane abused the orig­i­nal in­tent?

Mr Ramaphosa made con­sid­er­able progress in his en­deav­ours but over­looked a ba­sic ten­ant in any agree­ment. Un­less par­ties get into the agree­ment that comes as a re­sult of di­a­logue over what caused the prob­lems, what is agreed upon is bound to face re­lapse, non-com­pli­ance and many other tricks.

The fall­out be­tween the premier and his deputy should have been first ad­dressed. The agree­ments signed by the bel­liger­ent lead­ers con­test­ing for power, are equally im­ple­mented and re­spected within a frame­work of sus­pi­cion.

When Dr Tha­bane and Mr Mets­ing can no longer com­mu­ni­cate ef­fec­tively yet claim to be lead­ing the same govern­ment, it would not be sur­pris­ing to have an agree­ment signed in the morn­ing which is then un­der­mined by evening. It does not re­ally mat­ter how wide their smiles would be when they sign, as long as is­sues of trust are not re­solved, there will be frus­tra­tions.

When Dr Mo­sisili signed in 1998, he was des­per­ate to re­main in power but when that des­per­a­tion faded, he wanted to fix the op­po­si­tion par­ties whom he felt did him in­jus­tice by not ac­cept­ing de­feat and im­pos­ing re­forms.

In 2007, SADC came when govern­ment was des­per­ate but when the sun shone, govern­ment be­came un­touch­able and SADC left. When Dr Tha­bane, Mr Mets­ing and Chief ‘Maserib­ane signed their Coali­tion Agree­ment, they rushed be­cause they feared that oth­ers may agree sooner than them to form govern­ment.

When their coali­tion govern­ment en­coun­tered prob­lems, they kept on sign­ing many more agree­ments but not hon­our­ing them.

Did they sign out of des­per­a­tion and when they were out of trou­ble saw no sig­nif­i­cance of agree­ments?

Have all the agree­ments cap­tured the as­pi­ra­tions, is­sues, con­cerns and wor­ries of the lead­ers or were there oth­ers left out only to be re­flected later in their ac­tions?

What has been lost be­tween the prime min­is­ter and his deputy can­not just be wished away, it is an im­por­tant in­gre­di­ent in the coali­tion; trust.

There is noth­ing un­con­sti­tu­tional about what has been agreed so there is no need to jux­ta­pose agree­ments with the con­sti­tu­tion. If par­ties have to agree on a coali­tion govern­ment af­ter elec­tions, here is a list of tips. Par­ties should, first and fore­most, de­ter­mine what brings them to­gether.

They should ne­go­ti­ate in­ter­ests, talk about and con­clude on all is­sues raised and select ne­go­ti­at­ing teams.

It is im­por­tant for par­ties to note that, un­less they have agreed on all the is­sues, it would be a recipe for dis­as­ter to sign be­cause the same is­sue may erupt later to cause prob­lems. This is called “all or noth­ing” ne­go­ti­at­ing strat­egy where “noth­ing is agreed un­til ev­ery­thing is agreed”.

LEFT to right: Coali­tion govern­ment lead­ers Deputy Prime Min­is­ter Mo­thetjoa Mets­ing, Prime Min­is­ter Thomas Tha­bane and Sports Min­is­ter Th­e­sele ‘Maserib­ane in this 2012 file pic­ture.

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