Parly open­ing: No more busi­ness as usual

Lesotho Times - - Leader - Makha­bane maluke

AS South­ern African Devel­op­ment Com­mu­nity (SADC) heads of state and gov­ern­ment, in­clud­ing Prime Min­is­ter Pakalitha Mo­sisili, met for an ex­tra­or­di­nary meet­ing yes­ter­day, the ele­phant of xeno­pho­bia over­shad­owed the pala­tial con­fer­ence cen­tre in Harare, Zim­babwe.

South African Pres­i­dent, Ja­cob Zuma, was ex­pected to take flak from other SADC lead­ers at the one-day sum­mit for not quickly ar­rest­ing the xeno­pho­bic at­tacks which saw seven peo­ple dy­ing and thou­sands dis­placed in Africa’s most ad­vanced econ­omy. The tele­vised images of armed gangs at­tack­ing im­mi­grants and loot­ing for­eign-owned stores have un­der­stand­ably sparked a back­lash from the rest of the con­ti­nent con­sid­er­ing the price Africa paid to en­sure South Africa’s free­dom from apartheid.

While Africans may want to chas­tise South Africa for at­tack­ing their brethren, there is no deny­ing that the con­ti­nent is be­set with a se­ri­ous im­mi­gra­tion cri­sis.

At one end of the African con­ti­nent, thou­sands are risk­ing life and limb by em­bark­ing on a per­ilous jour­ney on ram­shackle ves­sels from Libya in search of a bet­ter life in Europe. At the other end, the ten­sion be­tween African mi­grants and South Africans reached fever pitch last week as the com­pe­ti­tion for ever scarcer re­sources in­ten­si­fies.

As Mr Zuma said re­cently, in a not so diplo­matic man­ner fol­low­ing a bar­rage of crit­i­cisms from home and abroad, there is a need to in­ter­ro­gate the rea­sons for the mod­ern day ex­o­dus on the African con­ti­nent.

“We can­not shy away from dis­cussing the rea­sons that forced mi­grants to flee to South Africa,” he said.

Un­der­ly­ing this migration cri­sis is the un­avoid­able fact of mi­grants flee­ing their homes be­cause of acute poverty and re­pres­sion.

Who can blame any­one flee­ing the throes of Boko Haram, ISIS and the other Is­lamic fun­da­men­tal­ists wreak­ing havoc in north and west Africa?

Coun­tries such as Libya, So­ma­lia and the Cen­tral African Repub­lic have be­come failed states while the African Union (AU), and the con­ti­nent’s re­gional blocs sit idly by.

Fur­ther south, Zim­bab­wean Pres­i­dent Robert Mu­gabe, who is poignantly the cur­rent AU and SADC chair­man, has man­aged to run down one of the most ad­vanced and promis­ing coun­tries on the con­ti­nent.

De­spite con­tin­u­ous hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions and bla­tant elec­tion rig­ging, which have earned him Euro­pean Union and United States sanc­tions, Mr Mu­gabe’s poll “vic­to­ries” have been met with tacit ap­proval by SADC and the AU.

To its credit, Botswana has re­fused to toe the line of other African coun­tries by call­ing a spade a spade, much to the cha­grin of the Zim­bab­wean leader.

South Africa has also been com­plicit in Mr Mu­gabe’s fraud, with the Kham­pepe re­port by two South African High Court judges at the re­quest of ex-south African Pres­i­dent Thabo Mbeki on the 2002 Zim­babwe pres­i­den­tial elec­tions hav­ing re­vealed that the polls were nei­ther free nor fair.

The re­port was re­leased last Novem­ber fol­low­ing a pro­tracted six-year legal battle be­tween the Mail & Guardian and suc­ces­sive South African gov­ern­ments over its re­lease.

By tol­er­at­ing re­pres­sion and al­low­ing the award­ing of the ro­ta­tional AU and SADC chair­man­ship to the likes of Mr Mu­gabe, the African Union and SADC are re­ward­ing delin­quency and giv­ing hostage to for­tune.

They should not be sur­prised when the suf­fer­ing masses stam­pede to coun­tries they per­ceive to be bet­ter, thereby cre­at­ing an im­mi­gra­tion cri­sis.

Iron­i­cally, the sub­ject of yes­ter­day’s sum­mit was in­dus­tri­al­i­sa­tion, with the lead­ers fail­ing to in­ter­ro­gate why so many of their cit­i­zens head for South Africa, the con­ti­nent’s most so­phis­ti­cated econ­omy, to find work.

As if to but­tress the in­ef­fec­tu­al­ity of the sum­mit, op­po­si­tion ac­tivists pro­test­ers were yes­ter­day de­mand­ing that SADC lead­ers fo­cus on sav­ing Zim­babwe from Mr Mu­gabe whom they said is an evil dic­ta­tor who caused too much suf­fer­ing for or­di­nary peo­ple.

Only un­til African lead­ers ad­dress the un­der­ly­ing causes of migration, which are grind­ing poverty and re­pres­sion, the cri­sis will con­tinue un­abated and in­stances of xeno­pho­bic vi­o­lence could spring up again. BA­SOTHO who have Le­sotho at heart are pray­ing hard for 8 May 2015 open­ing to clean away the dis­grace which the 8th Par­lia­ment and its first coali­tion gov­ern­ment brought to our demo­cratic King­dom.

The pre­ma­ture dis­so­lu­tion of the 8th Par­lia­ment was a dis­grace to our frag­ile par­lia­men­tary democ­racy. The only con­so­la­tion is that there will al­ways be a cause for any even­tu­al­ity. This dis­grace can be pinned on the first coali­tion gov­ern­ment. It had ac­tu­ally failed and been cor­nered. It could not run to hide any­where. It had to dis­solve par­lia­ment as a do or die op­tion to which it had un­wisely drifted.

Even be­fore that, there was that dis­grace­ful pro­ro­ga­tion which was wrong­fully in­voked when par­lia­ment was on re­cess. The nor­mal five-year par­lia­men­tary term, with its sin­gle ses­sion, had been in­ter­rupted. Pro­ro­ga­tion, as en­vis­aged by the 1993 con­sti­tu­tion, is de­signed to per­fect par­lia­men­tary democ­racy and not to be used to run it un­der­ground. A wrong turn was taken just to evade a change of gov­ern­ment in the Na­tional As­sem­bly.

For­mer Prime Min­is­ter Thomas Tha­bane must have en­gi­neered that pro­ro­ga­tion mind­ful of its pos­si­ble ef­fects of that move. He may not have cared about the out­come and only been ad­vised by his team to show that he was in con­trol. That, how­ever, caused mas­sive de­struc­tion such as the un­timely end to all un­fin­ished par­lia­ment busi­ness which can­not be re­vived by the re­open­ing.

Ev­ery tran­si­tion from one ses­sion to the next has to be planned to en­able Houses of par­lia­ment and gov­ern­ment to de­cide on bills pending and when to ta­ble new ones, lest time catches up with them. Some rules of par­lia­ment en­sure this by ac­tu­ally spell­ing when par­lia­men­tary ses­sions start and end. In our sit­u­a­tion, the for­mer gov­ern­ment was in a very high state of fright and fear. It could not even im­pro­vise to give the 17 Oc­to­ber 2014 re­open­ing the dig­nity that rare event de­served.

It was a dis­grace, to both the na­tion and par­lia­men­tary democ­racy, not to give the King of Le­sotho re­spect in the form of a guard of honor and in­spec­tion of a mil­i­tary pa­rade. His Majesty’s mounted es­cort alone could not cover up for the other miss­ing for­mal­i­ties a head of state is en­ti­tled to.

While they may have had their ex­cuses for wish­ing the Le­sotho De­fence Force (LDF) away; why, for heaven’s sake, did they not line up the po­lice for a guard of honor? How the LDF had been por­trayed only made it a house­hold name where oth­ers came to un­der­stand and value it bet­ter, while oth­ers may have de­vel­oped ha­tred.

The depth of that dis­grace can also be de­duced from the Speech from the Throne it­self. The con­spic­u­ous ab­sence of a sig­nif­i­cant fea­ture of such speeches in West­min­ster par­lia­ments comes to no­tice. There was no sin­gle men­tion of “My gov­ern­ment…. or ‘Muso oa ka..”. That omis­sion spoke vol­umes. How the speech winds up equally reg­is­ters how the two years of that coali­tion had been a waste­ful era.

The speech ought to have at least cited one achieve­ment of the gov­ern­ment in the two years of its rule. The tran­si­tion to the next ses­sion has to show how much work has been done in the pre­vi­ous ses­sion, in re­la­tion to what had been an­tic­i­pated in the pre­vi­ous open­ing speech. Mid-term open­ing speeches are an eval­u­a­tion and an op­por­tu­nity to an­nounce ad­just­ments.

His Majesty’s speech ends up as fol­lows: “…..This Agree­ment (Maseru Fa­cil­i­ta­tion Ac­cord) should be re­garded by all of us as a gen­uine op­por­tu­nity which en­ables us to start the new process of cre­at­ing a stronger and some demo­cratic po­lit­i­cal frame­work for our na­tion’s fu­ture. Let us not waste it!”

That 17th Oc­to­ber 2014 speech took the na­tion to the 28 Fe­bru­ary 2015 gen­eral elec­tion whose out­come is the cur­rent coali­tion gov­ern­ment. Could “stronger” and “some demo­cratic po­lit­i­cal frame­work” in the speech have im­plied the in­clu­sion of the most popular po­lit­i­cal party and broader rep­re­sen­ta­tion in the coali­tion gov­ern­ment? Along with that is a le­git­i­mate ex­pec­ta­tion on gov­ern­ment to ap­proach is­sues of gov­er­nance dif­fer­ently. The pre­vi­ous coali­tion did not prac­tice what it preached, notwith­stand­ing a dilemma of coali­tions where a puppy may opt to hold a bull­dog hostage.

Po­lit­i­cal com­men­ta­tors are ea­gerly wait­ing to see the open­ing of the 9th Par­lia­ment. The hope of some is, this time around, the LDF will oc­cupy its right­ful po­si­tion and add the nec­es­sary pomp to the oc­ca­sion. There are also those who are wait­ing to count the num­ber of times a men­tion of “My gov­ern­ment ….’ Muso oa ka …” will fea­ture in the speech from the throne. To some, the size of the cabi­net ought to dic­tate that such men­tion be fre­quent. In the event those familiar words do not come out, like it hap­pened in the 17 May, 2014 open­ing, that would be an­other mat­ter of in­ter­est.

The 8 May 2015 speech will be a chal­lenge to the new gov­ern­ment. Men­tion of “My gov­ern­ment” has to send a mes­sage to jeal­ously re­main loyal and give hon­est and well con­sid­ered con­sti­tu­tional ad­vice to the high of­fice of the King. Oth­er­wise, any men­tion of th­ese words will have been wasted ammunition.

A new gov­ern­ment has to re­call Wil­liam Shake­speare’s no­tion of the world be­ing a stage, with its var­i­ous ex­its. The 9th par­lia­ment has climbed onto this stage. A good ac­tor or per­former has to know that it is not his/her body move­ments and ut­ter­ances from the stage which mat­ter. It is the re­ac­tion or re­sponse from the au­di­ence which the ac­tor has to read prop­erly. This is cited to be a chal­lenge to work hard enough to be re-elected again in the next gen­eral elec­tion.

In­ter­est­ingly, the very first “Broad Ob­jec­tive” of the Coali­tion Agree­ment is “to be a re­formist gov­ern­ment…” One won­ders whether the new re­forms will open up for any left handed passersby to feed it with sug­ges­tions of ar­eas of re­form? If it has to be a mat­ter for the usual grand com­mit­tees alone, five years of the 9th Par­lia­ment may ap­pear too short. Le­sotho has a record of be­ing slow in re­forms: ex­cept when pressed for quick fixes by po­lit­i­cal crises. Busi­ness as usual will not take us any­where.

Af­ter His Majesty’s Speech from the Throne, all the cor­ners of the stage, in the name of Le­sotho, will be at the dis­posal of His sec­ond coali­tion gov­ern­ment. The ques­tion re­mains whether the 9th Par­lia­ment will be up to the task? The 8th Par­lia­ment thought it would.

God bless Le­sotho, and long live our King!

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