Why DPE was formed

Lesotho Times - - Opinion & Analysis - So­fonea Shale

THE Devel­op­ment for Peace Ed­u­ca­tion (DPE), one of the civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tions in Le­sotho re­mem­bered its founder, the late Sr Veron­ica ‘ Ma­paseka Phafoli last week. Though the de­bate con­cen­trated on the ideas of this Mosotho peace philoso­pher, crit­i­cal ques­tions and re­flec­tions went be­yond DPE to civil so­ci­ety as the sec­tor as some peo­ple looked at other or­gan­i­sa­tions as well.

Th­ese re­flec­tions ba­si­cally led to the fun­da­men­tal ques­tion’ why was the DPE formed? This ar­ti­cle seeks to re­spond to this ques­tion in few sen­tences which may be lim­it­ing the dis­cus­sion and raise ques­tions that in­formed this de­bate and lo­cate DPE in con­text. The lat­ter ap­proach is cho­sen be­cause it will fur­ther the de­bate on whether DPE has lived to the ex­pec­ta­tion and the ex­tent to which its ex­is­tence is rel­e­vant to con­tem­po­rary chal­lenges.

The role of civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tions in Le­sotho has been per­ceived dif­fer­ently by dif­fer­ent peo­ple depend­ing largely on the level of aware­ness and the po­lit­i­cal af­fil­i­a­tion. Civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tions have cat­e­gories; ser­vice de­liv­ery, ca­pac­ity build­ing and ad­vo­cacy. The first two are nor­mally ac­cepted by the gov­ern­ment and those who sup­port po­lit­i­cal par­ties that lead such gov­ern­ment. With­out re­al­is­ing how ad­vo­cacy or­gan­i­sa­tions help gov­ern­ment in its op­er­a­tions, gov­ern­ment and the rank and file in the po­lit­i­cal par­ties that form such ad­min­is­tra­tions find it easy to de­spise them.

Although there are many names which are used in­ter­change­ably; non-gov­ern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tions, so­cial move­ments, non-state ac­tors and vol­un­tary as­so­ci­a­tions for those in­volved closely ei­ther as in­tel­lec­tu­als or ac­tivists, there is a marked dif­fer­ence.

The in­tel­lec­tu­als and ac­tivists be­lieve that while they may all sub­scribe to the idea that sol­i­dar­ity is a re­la­tion­ship forged through po­lit­i­cal strug­gle which seeks to chal­lenge forms of op­pres­sion, they may fun­da­men­tally dif­fer in ap­proaches.

With­out in­dulging in any the­o­ret­i­cal con­tours of this sec­tor, ex­pos­ing how po­lit­i­cal sys­tems work and how they may be but- tressed or chal­lenged by groups and ac­tors which are not in state ma­chin­ery may en­able this de­bate. Civil so­ci­ety can ei­ther be hege­monic or counter-hege­monic.

The po­lit­i­cal regime is sus­tained by the in­tel­lec­tu­als and other dom­i­nant groups ex­er­cis­ing some func­tions of so­cial hege­mony and po­lit­i­cal gov­ern­ment. Civil so­ci­ety, in its var­i­ous forms, will take care of main­tain­ing the sys­tem. In this way, the po­lit­i­cal regime may not only use co­er­cion, alien­ation and fear to de­ter masses from re­volt­ing against it but ma­nip­u­la­tion.

In a democ­racy, overt vi­o­lence may not be ad­e­quate to re­tain a cap­i­tal­ist dom­i­na­tion. The dom­i­na­tion is per­pet­u­ated by the co­er­cive state ma­chin­ery by re­wards and sanc­tions, the in­tel­lec­tual and moral lead­er­ship moulds per­sonal con­vic­tions of cit­i­zens into a car­bon copy of the norms set by the leader. This lat­ter di­men­sion of dom­i­na­tion is pushed by civil so­ci­ety groups which may ei­ther be co­er­cive or non-co­er­cive. The use of the term “hege­mony” de­notes not only dom­i­na­tion by ex­pres­sion of overt force, but a re­cip­ro­cal logic be­tween that co­er­cion and con­sent in­duced by state in­di­rectly.

The po­lit­i­cal regime le­git­i­mates its power to im­pose its will over peo­ple through in­sti­tu­tions, pro­ce­dures and con­ces­sions, thus win­ning over sub­or­di­nate groups to sup­port ex­ist­ing so­cial struc­tures. If cit­i­zens are pas­sive and ac­cept in­hu­mane treat­ment and are not able to en­gage lead­ers and hold gov­ern­ment accountable, it will be on the ac­count of civil so­ci­ety. The ex­pla­na­tion of non-rev­o­lu­tion­ary if not re­ac­tionary el­e­ments within the po­lit­i­cal so­ci­ety is found in the abil­ity of the state to use re­sources to ap­pease civil so­ci­ety. The rel­a­tive sat­is­fac­tion of civil so­ci­ety means that cit­i­zens could not rise up against the state, although the state may re­main op­pres­sive.

In this scheme of things, there is rec­i­proc­ity where dom­i­nant so­cial forces profit from in­sti­tu­tions that lure the weaker into sub­or­di­na­tion through con­sen­sus build­ing. In this way, the state hege­mony ce­ment­ing dom­i­nant ide­olo­gies in so­ci­ety to the ex­tent that they are ac­cepted as part of self, is fa­cil­i­tated by civil so­ci­ety in­sti­tu­tions, such as the church, me­dia, vol­un­tary or­gan­i­sa­tions and the ed­u­ca­tional sys­tem.

In this way, an op­pres­sive gov­ern­ment may sur­vive with­out nec­es­sar­ily us­ing the po­ten­tial for state co­er­cion. If this is what civil so­ci­ety is ca­pa­ble of do­ing, the ques­tion is, are civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tions in Le­sotho and DPE in par­tic­u­lar part of this?

In prac­tice, civil so­ci­ety can ei­ther work to but­tress or chal­lenge the sta­tus quo and when it chooses the lat­ter route, it is re­ferred to as counter-hege­monic. In the fes­ti­val of ideas in Le­sotho, civil so­ci­ety is seen as many things to many peo­ple. Some see it as an ex­ten­sion of the state, a buf­fer against gov­ern­ment and so­ci­ety, a bro­ker be­tween gov­ern­ment and so­ci­ety, a sym­bol of an ac­tual po­lit­i­cal norm set­ter, an agent of change, reg­u­la­tor of the process of par­tic­i­pa­tion in so­ci­etal norm set­ting, in­te­gra­tor of groups articulating po­lit­i­cal in­ter­ests into a vi­able process for do­ing so, or rep­re­sen­ta­tive and pro­moter of par­tic­u­lar in­ter­ests. For oth­ers, civil so­ci­ety refers to so­cial or­gan­i­sa­tions out­side the state struc­ture, ex­clud­ing in­di­vid­u­ally-owned or cor­po­ra­te­owned busi­ness or en­ter­prises. Still for oth­ers civil so­ci­ety is seen as a mid­wife of regime change.

Th­ese groups mount sol­i­dar­ity cam­paigns with or­gan­i­sa­tions be­yond bor­ders and in­ter­na­tion­ally to fo­cus on chang­ing the poli­cies of their gov­ern­ments, and of mul­ti­lat­eral or­gan­i­sa­tions, which cur­tail their right to con­struct their own world.

In the ori­en­ta­tion of th­ese left­ist or­gan­i­sa­tions, it is counter-rev­o­lu­tion­ary for the so­called north­ern NGOS to be di­rectly in­volved in devel­op­ment ef­forts in south­ern coun­tries. The role of north­ern NGOS should be to sup­port in­dige­nous civil so­ci­ety groups to carry out coun­try level projects oth­er­wise they per­pet­u­ate that which they say they ab­hor.

DPE was formed to em­power com­mu­ni­ties to trans­form their own world. In her found­ing con­cep­tu­al­i­sa­tion, the founder em­pha­sised that for real trans­for­ma­tion to oc­cur, there must be ac­cu­rate anal­y­sis of the prob­lems and their root causes and for it to be ac­cu­rate it has to start with the peo­ple them­selves. DPE is there­fore the peo­ple’s stage for the change they them­selves de­fine and act to­wards achiev­ing.

DPE phi­los­o­phy hands over the stick to the com­mu­ni­ties to do things on their own and de­ter­mine their own des­tiny. Whether DPE is on the right path, is an is­sue for re­flec­tion not only in­ter­nally but in the public sphere as well.

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