Pre­mier should only serve two terms

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AS Le­sotho has held its snap gen­eral elec­tion in the af­ter­math of the failed two-year coali­tion gov­ern­ment con­sist­ing of the All the Ba­sotho Con­ven­tion (ABC), Le­sotho Congress for Democ­racy (LCD) and Ba­sotho Na­tional Party (BNP), a num­ber of crit­i­cal is­sues need to be ad­dressed in the Con­sti­tu­tion and other rel­e­vant laws, I shall at­tempt to enun­ci­ate here­un­der.

The Con­sti­tu­tion is very clear re­gard­ing who is el­i­gi­ble to be ap­pointed prime min­is­ter by King Let­sie III on the ad­vice of the Coun­cil of State. How­ever, a con­sti­tu­tional la­cuna seems to ex­ist in that the terms of of­fice of the pre­mier should be re­stricted to two terms of a max­i­mum of five years each. Th­ese two terms, for clar­ity and speci­ficity, may ei­ther be suc­ces­sive or in­ter­rupted but should nev­er­the­less be re­stricted to two.

In the United King­dom (UK), which has a largely un­writ­ten Con­sti­tu­tion, the terms of of­fice of the prime min­is­ter are un­re­stricted, a sce­nario that has led to many of their premiers, in the coun­try’s re­cent his­tory, hav­ing to be pushed out of of­fice by their own par­ties. I have in mind Tony Blair, Mar­garet Thatcher and Gor­don Brown with re­gards to this is­sue.

All th­ese prime min­is­ters had by the time they left of­fice over­stayed their wel­come in of­fice to the cha­grin of their own par­ties. All of them were great lead­ers at the peak of their pop­u­lar­ity but un­wisely de­cided to over­stay their wel­come in of­fice. They, at the end, be­came cav­a­lier, dis­in­ter­ested and down­right ar­ro­gant to­wards their con­stituen­cies.

Granted, Le­sotho al­most com­pletely fol­lows the above men­tioned West­min­ster type of gov­ern­ment of the UK. How­ever, we need to leg­is­late, through the Con­sti­tu­tion, a re­stricted pe­riod in of­fice for the prime min­is­ter as a de­par­ture from the West­min­ster model.

Le­sotho could in­tro­duce a sec­tion to the Con­sti­tu­tion sim­i­lar in word­ing to the 1951, twenty-sec­ond (XXII) of the Con­sti­tu­tion of the United States of Amer­ica, which reads thus!

“No per­son shall be elected to the of­fice of the Pres­i­dent (read ap­pointed Prime Min­is­ter) more than twice.”

That way, we could cur­tail the term of of­fice of the Prime Min­is­ter in Le­sotho to no more than two terms, and this will be in keep­ing with the rest of the civilised world.

Closer to home in South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, who suc­ceeded the iconic Nel­son Man­dela as pres­i­dent was ad­mit­tedly a great leader, but to use the old cliché, the chink in his ar­mour was his over-zeal­ous­ness to cling to power even when his party and peo­ple no longer needed him at the helm.

In Le­sotho, we have the un­for­tu­nate sce­nario of Pakalitha Mo­sisili who has been in power for al­most 15 years as prime min­is­ter yet he has the temer­ity to seek an­other five years in of­fice and pos­si­bly even be­yond.

If his party man­ages to form a coali­tion gov­ern­ment, Dr Mo­sisili can cu­mu­la­tively amass up to 30 years as Le­sotho’s pre­mier.

It is even more dis­turb­ing be­cause in all the South­ern African Devel­op­ment Com­mu­nity (SADC) coun­tries, of which Le­sotho is a pre­em­i­nent mem­ber, terms of of­fice for premiers and pres­i­dents are limited to two.

Through­out his stay in power, Dr Mo­sisili has been preach­ing the im­por­tance of stick­ing to SADC pro­to­cols. How­ever, he con­ve­niently side-stepped the is­sue of limited terms for heads of state.

I think it is un­fair for Dr Mo­sisili to con­tinue to want to be­come pre­mier again of this im­pov­er­ished na­tion and even now as he con­tin­ues to be a Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment (MP) for Tsoe­like con­stituency. This con­duct you will agree with me, bor­ders on greed.

Al­ready, as a for­mer prime min­is­ter, he gets such benefits as a chauf­feur-driven ve­hi­cle and a body­guard at gov­ern­ment’s ex­pense.

He is fur­ther en­ti­tled to an 80 per­cent pen­sion of his salary while he was pre­mier. On top of that, he gets a dou­ble salary be­cause he also gets a salary and a daily al­lowance as an MP for Tsoe­like.

If in­di­vid­u­als stay too long in one po­si­tion, par­tic­u­larly of author­ity, they end up los­ing fo­cus and di­rec­tion.

Here I am us­ing the phrase, “too long” ob­jec­tively so that it com­plies with ac­cept­able in­ter­na­tional stan­dards.

In­di­vid­u­als who stay too long in po­si­tions of author­ity ad­mit­tedly, gain ex­pe­ri­ence, deeper knowl­edge of the job and can con­trib­ute im­mensely to the job at hand.

How­ever, omi­nously they tend to build an em­pire, a fief­dom and a per­sonal sphere of in­flu­ence in which no­body can, in their flawed per­cep­tion, en­croach. We also need new ideas and to blood-in new faces to re­vamp ser­vice de­liv­ery.

This is pre­cisely the chink in the ar­mour of Dr Mo­sisili and his ilk, who stay too long in power. They tend to be­come delu­sional and er­ro­neously think that they alone can lead a na­tion.

They think they can lead Le­sotho for­ever and that is their des­tiny and fate, that power be­yond hu­man con­trol, dic­tates that it is only them who can lead this coun­try to sta­bil­ity and pros­per­ity.

If they are not a ma­jor role player in the na­tional agenda they er­ro­neously think the na­tion is go­ing down the precipice to obliv­ion.

In­di­vid­u­als who stay too long in po­si­tions of author­ity tend to, be­cause of their in­ti­mate knowl­edge of the sys­tem and the rules, ma­nip­u­late the sys­tem and flout the rules so that ul­ti­mately they do not de­liver. This ar­gu­ment is also based on em­pir­i­cal ev­i­dence.

Dr, Mo­sisili by his own ad­mis­sion, in his elec­tion mes­sage flighted over the me­dia in the months lead­ing up to the snap gen­eral elec­tion, has this say: (I will para­phrase this ad­ver­tise­ment briefly).

“The ea­gle is back as it had ear­lier lost the sting in its claws prob­a­bly due to hav­ing been in power for too long. It had in­evitably slept on the job and taken ev­ery­thing for granted. It had there­fore re­treated atop the high­est hill to sharpen its claws to re­sume its du­ties. It there­fore needs an­other man­date as it has come back re­freshed and stronger”.

What a way to ad­mit in­ep­ti­tude from our most se­nior states­man, who how­ever, needs a fresh man­date from the very peo­ple he failed.

Through­out the world, his­tory is lit­tered with sto­ries of in­di­vid­u­als who have over­stayed their wel­come in po­si­tions of author­ity.

To name a few th­ese are Robert Mu­gabe of Zim­babwe, Julius Ny­erere of Tan­za­nia, Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, Tony Blair, Gor­don Brown and Mar­garet Thatcher, all of the United King­dom and Sil­vio Ber­lus­coni of Italy to name a few. Dr Mo­sisili be­longs to this group, though he won’t ad­mit it.

In­di­vid­u­als who stay too long in power tend to ac­qui­esce, take part in or turn a blind eye to cor­rup­tion to the detri­ment of the so­cio-eco­nomic devel­op­ment of na­tions they are sup­posed to up­lift.

That is why, once they are re­moved from of­fice, as they in­evitably cling to power, the scourge of cor­rup­tion that is un­earthed is dif­fi­cult to un­der­stand how it per­sisted unar­rested.

Be­cause they have a thor­ough and in­ti­mate knowl­edge of the sys­tem, they cir­cum­vent the rules and pro­ce­dures to the ex­tend they tend to build they own mini em­pires and hege­mony that benefits only them and a few in­di­vid­u­als within their in­flu­ence.

A case in point is the Demo­cratic Congress (DC), the party was in power for too long un­der var­i­ous guises of the Congress for­ma­tions.

A quick glance at the list of all the DC’S can­di­dates’ elec­toral list will re­flect that it is the same old faces as op­posed to the other com­pet­ing po­lit­i­cal par­ties.

This is a hege­mony that does not want to let go of their hold on the body poitic and there­fore po­ten­tially gov­ern­ment.

Any­thing be­yond suc­ces­sive or in­ter­rupted terms in of­fice for a leader will lead to prob­lems of in­ep­ti­tude, cor­rup­tion, cre­at­ing a fief­dom or mini em­pire and, above all else, hege­mony.

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