De­fend democ­racy or politi­cians?

Lesotho Times - - Leader - So­fonea shale

Democ­racy is by def­i­ni­tion a govern­ment of the peo­ple for the peo­ple by the peo­ple with the peo­ple. Political par­ties and their lead­er­ship are gen­er­ally ac­cepted as agents of democ­racy and their abil­ity to func­tion freely with­out sup­pres­sion is one of the key mea­sures of democ­racy in any given sov­er­eign democ­racy. What should hap­pen when democ­racy, on the one hand and the con­duct of political par­ties and lead­ers on the other, clash? Should cit­i­zens de­fend democ­racy or politi­cians in such a case?

Since its re­turn to con­sti­tu­tional dis­pen­sa­tion in 1993, Le­sotho ex­pe­ri­enced political con­flict that largely rested on weak in­sti­tu­tions of gov­er­nance to deal with con­tend­ing political views. Political ac­tors on the one hand ma­nip­u­lated in­sti­tu­tions to en­trench their power and con­trol over state ap­pa­ra­tus even by means be­yond demo­cratic con­duct though us­ing the of­fices they oth­er­wise le­git­i­mately oc­cu­pied.

On the other hand, the same in­sti­tu­tions were tar­geted, tested and ma­nip­u­lated to desta­bilise sit­ting regimes to ad­vance the in­ter­ests of politi­cians who felt ex­cluded. None had been ready to dis­close but coated real in­ten­tions with glossy party slo­gans to amass sup­port. The 1998 political era rep­re­sents part of great man­i­fes­ta­tion of the prob­lem al­luded to.

Post 1998, the in­ten­sity of in­ter­party con­flict sub­sided but in­tra­party squab­bles were on the rise. This com­par­i­son does not, in any way, in­tend to sug­gest that in­ter­party con­flict reg­is­tered any iden­ti­fi­ably de­clin­ing dy­nam­ics to be read into the en­tire political sys­tem but rather sim­ply marks the point that af­ter the big Set­lamo-lcd storm of 1998, in­tra­party dy­nam­ics be­came more con­spic­u­ous than ever be­fore across the par­ties.

The Ba­sotho Na­tional Party and the main op­po­si­tion as it then was ex­pe­ri­enced a long bat­tle over lead­er­ship, a war that saw some in­clud­ing the cur­rent leader at one point side­lined, for­ma­tion of the Ba­sotho Demo­cratic Na­tional Party, fall­out be­tween the Deputy Leader and the Leader, re­moval of the leader by vote-of-no-con­fi­dence and many other in­ter­nal chal­lenges. The rul­ing Le­sotho Congress for Democ­racy (LCD) was then ex­pe­ri­enc­ing sharp in­ter­nal con­tra­dic­tions which it could never mend hence the for­ma­tion of the Le­sotho Peo­ple’s Congress.

It never stopped for the LCD be­cause in less than five years, the rul­ing fac­tion of the frag­mented Congress had a shock of its life when an ac­tive Min­is­ter, yet a min­now in party ranks, left to form the All Ba­sotho Con­ven­tion (ABC). Per­haps what shocked the LCD was not the de­par­ture of Tom Tha­bane but the na­tional re­sponse. The last to split from LCD were the Demo­cratic Congress (DC) and the Re­formed Congress of Le­sotho (RCL) re­spec­tively. The Mare­mat­lou Free­dom Party (MFP) had in­ter­nal ques­tions to re­spond to which even saw the leader who once de­clared his de­sire to leave chang­ing his mind. It rained cats and dogs for the Ba­su­toland Congress Party that saw Ma­hatam­moho a Boithatelo Bo Bo­tle, for­ma­tion of the Ba­sotho African Congress which also could not hold but ex­pe­ri­ence the for­ma­tion of the Ba­sotho African Na­tional Congress.

In all th­ese splin­ter ac­tions, it has been democ­racy ver­sus named lead­ers. How have cit­i­zens who are mem­bers of th­ese political par­ties re­acted? Have they de­fended democ­racy or politi­cians? Per­haps not only in­sti­tu­tional trans­for­ma­tion is nec­es­sary to en­hance democ­racy in Le­sotho but democrati­sa­tion of in­sti­tu­tions as well, in­clud­ing political par­ties.

Peo­ple take lead­ers to be al­ways cor­rect and al­ways demo­cratic whereas in most oc­ca­sions, those who have power in political par­ties wield it to ad­vance their self-in­ter­ests con­trary to those of the peo­ple they lead or rep­re­sent hence iron­i­cal to democ­racy but they have al­ways en­joyed pop­u­lar sup- port. And the ques­tion is why?

To­day, op­po­si­tion par­ties have re­solved to boy­cott par­lia­ment as an­other way of pres­suris­ing govern­ment to yield to its de­mands. Many peo­ple in op­po­si­tion par­ties who are able to ap­pear in the me­dia sup­port this po­si­tion. It is how­ever not yet clear whether those who do not ap­pear in the me­dia con­cur or just opt to save them­selves from po­ten­tial vic­tim­i­sa­tion of speak­ing the truth to politi­cians who con­trol political par­ties.

It is re­ported that one Hon ‘Makhotso Matšu­mun­yane of the BNP felt duty bound to go to par­lia­ment and ask an ur­gent ques­tion for oral re­sponse, a ques­tion on per­ti­nent is­sues in the con­stituency that she is as­pir­ing to rep­re­sent in par­lia­ment. This earned her the wrath of her col­leagues and party lead­er­ship but cer­tainly favour with the peo­ple. Given the po­si­tion taken by op­po­si­tion par­ties ‘Makhotso acted dis­hon­estly to the party but what about to the peo­ple she will at one point ask to vote for her? Where is democ­racy here, in the ar­tic­u­la­tion of the party in terms of party line or in the prac­ti­cal political im­per­a­tive of an MP who is des­per­ate for de­liv­ery and there­fore pos­i­tive appraisal?

If ‘Ma­matšu­mun­yane is on the side of democ­racy, what should the peo­ple do if other politi­cians, be they her lead­ers or col­leagues, use their power to rep­ri­mand her for be­ing on the side of democ­racy, de­fend democ­racy or politi­cians? Are all MPS un­der the tute­lage of the ABC con­vinced that boy­cotting par­lia­ment is the strat­egy or are they co­erced by the party line?

If MPS are given the man­date to rep­re­sent peo­ple in par­lia­ment and politi­cians col­lec­tively within political par­ties de­cide to boy­cott par­lia­ment but in­di­vid­ual MPS feel not com­fort­able and there­fore chal­lenge the stance, will they be on the side of democ­racy or not? When politi­cians, ei­ther as col­leagues or lead­ers or both want

to rep­ri­mand them, what should cit­i­zens and per­haps party mem­bers do, de­fend democ­racy or politi­cians? Surely politi­cians cap­i­talise on the weak­nesses of oth­ers all at the ex­pense of democ­racy it­self and the peo­ple.

Re­cently the LCD an­nounced its de­sire to launch a political chal­lenge to op­po­si­tion MPS who boy­cott par­lia­ment. The LCD says it will be do­ing this to de­fend the peo­ple and pro­tect pub­lic funds from be­ing squan­dered by MPS who do not work. Cer­tainly this is good talk but for this and the sis­ter col­umn in the sis­ter news­pa­per and per­haps the like-minded, political talk is not an end into it­self but the in­ten­tions should be ques­tioned.

If the LCD suc­cess­fully lob­bies for a cut of the MPS’ emol­u­ments, that may, at the face of it, ap­pear log­i­cal but would that re­ally rep­re­sent gen­uine de­fence for democ­racy or yet an­other at­tempt to ex­ploit mis­placed pub­lic trust on politi­cians for the pro­tec­tion of democ­racy? When gov- ern­ment de­cided to pay for loans for peo­ple who qual­ify and in­deed are tak­ing other loans, where was this LCD vig­i­lance and the pub­lic funds pro­tec­tor role? Per­haps the LCD ex­pects to be sup­ported be­cause its work is sup­posed to be in de­fence of democ­racy.

Re­cently, the Na­tional As­sem­bly passed the Na­tional Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion Bill hastily where the port­fo­lio com­mit­tee re­spon­si­ble de­lib­er­ately and un­apolo­get­i­cally de­nied civil so­ci­ety the right to ad­dress it. So if the LCD is so much wor­ried and gen­uine that cit­i­zens are not rep­re­sented, how has it used its pres­ence in par­lia­ment to pro­tect cit­i­zens’ right to par­tic­i­pa­tion en­shrined in Sec­tion 20(1) of the Le­sotho con­sti­tu­tion elab­o­rated in Sec­tion 76 of the Na­tional Stand­ing Or­ders? Is the LCD re­ally on the side of democ­racy here or on self-en­hanc­ing cam­paign for politi­cians un­der the guise of democ­racy? What should cit­i­zens then do: de­fend democ­racy or politi­cians?

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