Time Le­sotho formed a na­tional unity govt

Lesotho Times - - Opinion & Analysis - Peete Mo­lapo

“PO­LIT­I­CAL set­tle­ments have been a fea­ture of state build­ing in all states. Ev­ery state is based on a po­lit­i­cal set­tle­ment that rep­re­sents the out­come (but also on-go­ing pro­cesses) of con­tention and bar­gain­ing be­tween elites, and be­tween so­cial groups and those who oc­cupy author­ity within the state and so­ci­ety more widely.” (Ed­ward Laws Au­gust 2012).

This ar­ti­cle was writ­ten last year just af­ter the pro­ro­ga­tion of Par­lia­ment, ef­fected on 10 June 2014, and the Le­sotho gov­ern­ment’s re­quest for South­ern African Devel­op­ment Com­mu­nity (SADC) in­ter­ven­tion.

It has not been changed at all, as an in­di­ca­tion that its mes­sage is as rel­e­vant now as it was then. The only thing that has been cut out is the rec­om­mended model which can be the sub­ject of a later de­bate.

The po­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion in Le­sotho is at a cross­roads and de­mands Ba­sotho to take se­ri­ous de­ci­sions and con­trive a po­lit­i­cal set­tle­ment that will de­ter­mine and de­fine the di­rec­tion and fu­ture of their state­hood and na­tion­hood.

It is a sit­u­a­tion that needs Ba­sotho across the po­lit­i­cal divide, re­li­gious be­liefs, and totems to put their nar­row in­ter­ests aside and fo­cus on the big­ger pic­ture; Le­sotho and its pos­ter­ity.

Although po­ten­tially ex­plo­sive and thus danger­ous if not han­dled prop­erly, the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion presents a for­tu­itous op­por­tu­nity for Ba­sotho to prove to the re­gion and the world at large that they are ca­pa­ble of solv­ing their own prob­lems and de­ter­min­ing their des­tiny.

More im­por­tantly, it could be a gamechanger by pre­sent­ing an op­por­tu­nity for Ba­sotho to re-in­vent Le­sotho to achieve the ideals of Vi­sion 2020.

Ad­di­tion­ally, Le­sotho’s po­lit­i­cal prob­lems must be solved by Ba­sotho and not for­eign­ers. Any for­eign so­lu­tion will not work as it will lack lo­cal own­er­ship.

For­eign po­lit­i­cal in­ter­ven­tion is, by its na­ture, in­tru­sive, hu­mil­i­at­ing and em­bar­rass­ing as we have to wash our dirty linen in public.

Com­mon sense dic­tates that for one to pro­pose any so­lu­tion, the prob­lem must be known and well de­fined. The prob­lem of Le­sotho is sys­temic po­lit­i­cal in­sta­bil­ity and the so­lu­tion is right within the sys­tem.

The risk of po­lit­i­cal in­sta­bil­ity is in­her­ent to any demo­cratic sys­tem and Le­sotho is no ex­cep­tion.

The main chal­lenge about po­lit­i­cal in­sta­bil­ity is how it is han­dled by the po­lit­i­cal elite and so­ci­ety at large. Its mis­han­dling can lead to the col­lapse of gov­er­nance and so­cio-eco­nomic chaos.

At the very ex­treme, it can lead to civil war. Th­ese pos­si­ble con­se­quences of po­lit­i­cal in­sta­bil­ity once ig­nited are usu­ally self-re­in­forc­ing and can drown a coun­try into a “failed state” sta­tus.

To plunge a coun­try into a failed state can take a very short time but to rid it of that stigma is a long term project.

Le­sotho is al­ready in­fa­mous for po­lit­i­cal in­sta­bil­ity and this per­cep­tion needs to be ur­gently reversed.

Any am­i­ca­ble res­o­lu­tion to the cur­rent po­lit­i­cal im­passe can go a very long way to­wards the restora­tion of the im­age of Le­sotho as a “sta­ble democ­racy, united and pros­per­ous na- tion at peace with it­self and neigh­bour”.

Im­ma­nently, pol­i­tics is a zero-sum game. There has to be a win­ner and a loser. Un­for­tu­nately, it is this in­her­ent char­ac­ter­is­tic of pol­i­tics that makes it such an emo­tion­ally con­tentious is­sue.

The Le­sotho po­lit­i­cal land­scape has since 1993 to 2012 been dom­i­nated by one party. It is com­mon cause that the losers never ac­cepted the out­comes with­out dis­pute on the pro­cesses fol­lowed and the cul­mi­na­tion of that was the 1998 dis­as­ter.

It was not un­til the 2002 elec­tions that a new sys­tem of pro­por­tional rep­re­sen­ta­tion was in­tro­duced to make al­lowance for broader po­lit­i­cal in­clu­sion.

It was pre­sumed that post-elec­tion dis­putes were mainly caused by the ex­clu­sion of smaller par­ties and their vot­ers.

This was in­deed a demo­cratic and eq­ui­table move and it re­sulted in some sem­blance of sta­bil­ity.

How­ever, it did not re­move the win­ner/ loser char­ac­ter­is­tic of typ­i­cal pol­i­tics. In­ter­est­ingly, what pre­cip­i­tated or ac­cel­er­ated a sig­nif­i­cant change in the po­lit­i­cal land­scape of the coun­try was the po­lit­i­cal strug­gle that en­sued within the then rul­ing Le­sotho Congress for Democ­racy (LCD) party which ul­ti­mately led to its split of the party. That split was a gamechanger in the pol­i­tics of Le­sotho.

The 2012 elec­tions re­turned a coali­tion gov­ern­ment and the first of its kind in Le­sotho.

For the first time, the elec­toral pro­cesses and sys­tems were not dis­puted.

How­ever, it is note­wor­thy that three par­ties de­cided to form a coali­tion to pre­clude the party that had won most con­stituen­cies to form gov­ern­ment.

The coali­tion was not formed be­cause of any com­mon ide­o­log­i­cal lean­ings but to es­tab­lish an al­ter­na­tive gov­ern­ment.

Right from the be­gin­ning, the ma­jor weak­ness of the coali­tion gov­ern­ment has been its poor in­ter­nal gov­er­nance, it­self a con­se­quence of a rather lop-sided power shar­ing. The coali­tion par­ties de­cided to al­lo­cate min­is­te­rial port­fo­lios along party lines.

De­void of a com­mon thread link­ing them to the cen­tre of power, gov­ern­ment min­istries op­er­ated as po­lit­i­cal si­los and the politi­ci­sa­tion of the civil ser­vice be­came the or­der of the day.

The lack of or poor con­sul­ta­tion among the coali­tion gov­ern­ment mem­bers be­came the root cause of con­flict as some de­ci­sions, os­ten­si­bly taken at party level, could not be sup­ported by other coali­tion mem­bers.

The main rea­son for the col­lapse of gov­er­nance by the coali­tion par­ties has been a lack of un­der­stand­ing on how to share po­lit­i­cal and ex­ec­u­tive power.

Now that Le­sotho’s pol­i­tics seem to have taken a new di­rec­tion of elec­tions that can re­sult in a hung par­lia­ment, there is an ur­gent need to de­velop a gov­er­nance frame­work for a coali­tion gov­ern­ment as it is now ev­i­dent that its modus operandi is dis­tinctly dif­fer­ent from the sin­gle party ma­jor­ity sys­tem.

In­deed, the coali­tion gov­ern­ment un­der­took an im­por­tant trip to New Zealand with the pur­pose of do­ing just that, though be­lat­edly.

It is very note­wor­thy that be­fore a new op­er­a­tional frame­work for coali­tion gov­ern­ments is put in place, the mooted new coali­tion be­tween one of the coali­tion par­ties (the LCD) and the main op­po­si­tion party (Demo­cratic Congress) can­not be a so­lu­tion to the cur­rent po­lit­i­cal prob­lem but likely to be its per­pet­u­a­tion for the fol­low­ing two rea­sons:

Such a coali­tion would sim­ply take the same risk of mud­dling through as the cur­rent one and the coun­try can­not af­ford to know­ingly take the same risk for the sec­ond time.

Sec­ond, the col­lapse of the cur­rent coali- tion gov­ern­ment from the likely mo­tion of no con­fi­dence in Par­lia­ment — even though legal in terms of the con­sti­tu­tion — could fo­ment fur­ther po­lit­i­cal in­sta­bil­ity and that needs to be avoided. In other words, it is not a so­lu­tion to the cur­rent cri­sis.

The coup de grace to the coali­tion gov­ern­ment has been the re­cent raid by the army on po­lice sta­tions that also had the hall­marks of a coup d’etat and saw the prime min­is­ter and other gov­ern­ment of­fi­cers flee­ing the coun­try.

This in­ci­dence shook the very foun­da­tions of gov­ern­ment i.e. peace and se­cu­rity. One of the fun­da­men­tal func­tions of any gov­ern­ment is to pro­vide po­lit­i­cal sta­bil­ity.

With­out po­lit­i­cal sta­bil­ity, gov­er­nance de­te­ri­o­rates, the econ­omy suf­fers, for­eign in­vest­ment dries up, donor sup­port is lost, the coun­try be­comes a pariah and ac­quires the failed state sta­tus.

Le­sotho does not de­serve to sink that low, hence it is im­per­a­tive for the lead­er­ship of gov­ern­ment and po­lit­i­cal par­ties to re­verse this un­ten­able sit­u­a­tion as quickly as pos­si­ble be­fore get­ting out of to­tal con­trol.

To this end, it is pro­posed that in the in­ter­est of na­tional peace and sta­bil­ity, a gov­ern­ment of na­tional unity be es­tab­lished that will pro­vide an in­clu­sive plat­form for a long last­ing na­tion­ally-owned po­lit­i­cal so­lu­tion.

Usu­ally the rea­sons for the for­ma­tion GNUS are:

Dif­fus­ing ten­sions be­tween po­lit­i­cal par­ties;

Ac­com­mo­dat­ing de­feated par­ties by vic­to­ri­ous par­ties when such de­feat threat­ens na­tional peace and sta­bil­ity, and/or

Man­ag­ing a na­tional dis­as­ter, emer­gency or war.

Le­sotho is not at war but des­per­ately needs space to re­duce the sim­mer­ing po­lit­i­cal and so­cial ten­sions and get things right for the com­mon good of all.

Com­mon sense dic­tates that for one to pro­pose any so­lu­tion, the prob­lem must be known and well de­fined. The prob­lem of Le­sotho is sys­temic po­lit­i­cal in­sta­bil­ity and the so­lu­tion is right within the sys­tem. The risk of po­lit­i­cal in­sta­bil­ity is in­her­ent to any demo­cratic sys­tem and Le­sotho is no ex­cep­tion.

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