Op­po­si­tion should end parly boy­cott

Lesotho Times - - Scrutator -

THIS week, Scru­ta­tor was trans­fixed on events un­fold­ing on the African con­ti­nent. As was ex­pected, Ugan­dan strong­man Yow­eri Mu­sev­eni man­aged to get 62 per­cent of the vote in the pres­i­den­tial elec­tions by hook or by crook, ex­tend­ing by five more years his 30-year stay in of­fice.

I must say that I gen­er­ally like Mu­sev­eni as a per­son. Un­like his peren­nial op­po­nent Kizza Be­si­gye, who is unattrac­tive, ugly and un­watch­able, Mu­sev­eni is suave, ar­tic­u­late and gen­er­ally in­tel­li­gent. The only thing he shares with Mu­sev­eni is that they are both not look­ers, though Be­si­gye is much worse. When­ever I see Be­si­gye’s face, it re­minds me of Don­ald Trump’s di­a­tribe against her now fallen op­po­nent for the Repub­li­can Party nom­i­na­tion, Carly Fio­r­ina, the for­mer chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of Hewlett Packard.

“Look at that face!” the real es­tate mogul said. “Would any­one vote for that? Can you imag­ine that face, be­ing the face of our next pres­i­dent?!” com­mented the gar­ru­lous Don­ald Trump. For our many Ba­sotho who live on planet mars, with­out any clue of cur­rent affairs, Trump is the portly and chubby busi­ness­man front-run­ning the race for the Repub­li­can nom­i­na­tion for the 2016 con­test to re­place the im­mensely gifted and hand­some Barack Obama as pres­i­dent of the United States.

How­ever, what I dis­agree with Mu­sev­eni is over his Robert Mu­gabe style lust for power. Af­ter 30 years in of­fice, Mu­sev­eni should have surely long passed the ba­ton to the many gifted peo­ple in his NRM (Na­tional Re­sis­tance Move­ment). But alas, power has cor­rupted him. I also don’t like the way Mu­sev­eni treats Be­si­gye. Even ugly op­po­nents de­serve bet­ter treat­ment, es­pe­cially if they are op­po­si­tion lead­ers.

Uganda’s elec­tion went ac­cord­ing to a well-worn script: ar­rest and ha­rass­ment of op­po­si­tion ri­vals, a chaotic vote, stuffed bal­lot boxes, Face­book and Twit­ter blocked, and the Big Man emerges vic­to­ri­ous.

Since the be­gin­ning of the elec­tion pe­riod, Be­si­gye has faced ubiq­ui­tous ha­rass­ment in­clud­ing count­less ar­rests. Af­ter los­ing the vote to Mu­sev­eni and af­ter call­ing for street protests against the out­come, Be­si­gye has been picked up ev­ery morn­ing by po­lice and taken to a po­lice sta­tion where he is held un­til night fall be­fore be­ing brought back to his res­i­dence with­out be­ing charged for any crime.

Could we see him flee­ing to join Un­cle Thomas (aka Cy­clone Tom) in Ficks­burg, or Ntate Th­e­sele and Aun­tie Keke in Ficks­burg? The jury is still out. But if that is what Mu­sev­eni wants, then he must let the world know. I am not sure if there is a King Kamoli in Kam­pala. But if I were Be­si­gye and think­ing of ex­ile, I would cer­tainly choose Ficks­burg than La­dy­brand. At least Ficks­burg is far flung from Makoanyane bar­racks.

The sad thing about Mu­sev­eni is that he was hailed across Africa in the 1990s as a new kind of lead- er who em­pow­ers rather than im­pov­er­ishes his peo­ple. He re­stored sta­bil­ity af­ter decades of bloody up­heaval and af­ter the lam­en­ta­ble years of the world’s fore­most buf­foon Idi Amin, Mil­ton Obote and Tito Okello. Mu­sev­eni boosted eco­nomic growth af­ter long years of ruin. He beat back a high HIV/ AIDS preva­lence rate. He was hailed in the West as an ar­che­typal ex­am­ple of a new breed of dy­namic and demo­cratic African leader who de­served gen­er­ous aid for de­vel­op­ment. How­ever, like all the lead­ers who over­stay, he has slowly but surely be­come an al­ba­tross on the neck of Uganda’s ad­vance­ment.

Mu­sev­eni is in the ig­no­ble com­pany of Equa­to­rial Guinea’s Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mba­sogo, An­gola’s José Ed­uardo dos Santos and Zim­babwe’s 92-year-old Mu­gabe, the un­ac­cept­able face of hu­man­ity, who have all been in charge for at least 36 years or more and are de­ter­mined to never re­lin­quish power.

Mu­gabe’s gar­ru­lous and un­couth wife Grace re­cently de­clared that the nona­ge­nar­ian dic­ta­tor, who now reg­u­larly stum­bles at pub­lic events and reads the wrong speeches, would not re­tire, say­ing he would be taken to work in a wheel­bar­row if nec­es­sary.

Imag­ine be­ing ruled by the same ruler for over three decades. We should spare a thought for our African brothers and sis­ters. As Mark Twain said: Politi­cians are like di­a­pers; they need to be changed of­ten and for the same rea­son.

As Ba­sotho, we need to count our bless­ings that, de­spite our many prob­lems, our vote still counts. Power seam­lessly changed hands in Le­sotho fol­low­ing the 2012 and 2015 gen­eral elec­tions. That is cer­tainly some­thing to be proud of.

How­ever, our demo­cratic gains can all go down the drain with­out a vi­brant and ever-present op­po­si­tion to con­tin­u­ously take the govern­ment to task over its pol­icy de­ci­sions.

This is where Scru­ta­tor has a prob­lem with the op­po­si­tion bloc’s con­tin­ued boy­cotting of the Na­tional As­sem­bly. While the rea­sons op­po­si­tion MPS are re­fus­ing to come back to Par­lia­ment are very valid, they none­the­less risk los­ing sight of the big­ger pic­ture. In­deed, the govern­ment should en­sure the safe re­turn of ex­iled op­po­si­tion lead­ers, as de­manded by the lat­ter, given the un­savoury events that have been tak­ing place in this coun­try over the pre­ced­ing years. The govern­ment should also pro­nounce on whether King Kamoli goes or stays.

How­ever, the re­al­ity is that not all of the op­po­si­tion’s de­mands would be agreed to by govern­ment. Ntate Mo­sisili was un­equiv­o­cal in his tabling of the SADC Com­mis­sion re­port that they would “pick and choose” rec­om­men­da­tions such as Ntate Kamoli’s fir­ing “on their merit”.

Ul­ti­mately, the govern­ment and op­po­si­tion will have to meet each other half way in com­ing up with a frame­work for the re­turn of the ex­iled lead­ers and end­ing of the boy­cott. They can also agree on a dig­ni­fied exit for King Kamoli. Mak­ing him the paramount King at Le­sotho’s em­bassy in the United States would for ex­am­ple be a good way to lure him away from the LDF. The op­po­si­tion must ac­cept that there is just no way that King Kamoli will agree to go qui­etly. He will fight to the bit­ter end. And as I have won­dered be­fore, who will be send with his dis­missal let­ter and ac­tu­ally muster the courage to de­liver it?

Boy­cotts can be a good strat­egy as a means to an end. But it all be­comes prob­lem­atic when a boy­cott

Just look at the way Julius Malema is us­ing Par­lia­ment to build his red berets, the EFF. The EFF’S “pay back the money” cam­paign against Zuma over his theft of mil­lions from na­tional trea­sury for his Nkandla pro­ject has not only made Zuma the laugh­ing stock of the world, it has boosted the EFF. Surely, if the SA op­po­si­tion was con­tin­u­ally boy­cotting the au­gust house, Zuma would have got­ten away scot-free with his thiev­ery. The EFF would have never risen the political lad­der so quickly.

Like Thuli Madon­sela’s Nkandla re­port is for the op­po­si­tion in South Africa, the Phumaphi Com­mis­sion re­port should be manna in heaven for Le­sotho’s op­po­si­tion. But how will that hap­pen if the op­po­si­tion is con­stantly out­side Par­lia­ment?

What plat­form will they use to de­bate, the re­port and in­sist on its im­ple­men­ta­tion. What is the best plat­form to con­front the Prime Min­is­ter and tackle him on the is­sues the op­po­si­tion is pas­sion­ate about? It surely ought to be Par­lia­ment. You can be rest as­sured that Mr Size Two would never pitch up in Ficks­burg, or La­dy­brand to dis­cuss this re­port.

Fi­nance Min­is­ter Khaketla has just pre­sented her bud­get. A na­tional bud­get is an­other op­por­tu­nity for the op­po­si­tion to shine. We should be pre­par­ing for the op­po­si­tion to cri­tique the bud­get in an in­tel­li­gent and very in­tel­lec­tual fash­ion. Soon af­ter SA Fi­nance Min­is­ter Pravin Gor­dan pre­sented his bud­get speech, Julius Malema pre­sented his al­ter­na­tive bud­get speech.

The Demo­cratic Al­liance (DA) prof­fered its own cri­tique. I haven’t read or seen any­thing from any op­po­si­tion party cri­tiquing M’e Khaketla’s bud­get other than Joang Mo­lapo’s one liner de­scrib­ing the bud­get as “the most use­less one” with­out of­fer­ing a sin­gle rea­son why he be­lieves the bud­get does not live up to stan­dards.

I am not even sure if Ntate Tha­bane ap­pointed a shadow Fi­nance min­is­ter be­fore shuf­fling off to Ficks­burg. Come elec­tion time, his party then changes the dates on its old elec­tion man­i­festo and re­cy­cles it with­out any new ideas in­formed by cur­rent chal­lenges. Yes the op­po­si­tion has very le­git­i­mate griev­ances. But the best plat­form to fight for them is in the Na­tional As­sem­bly.


THE op­po­si­tion needs to re­turn to Par­lia­ment to take the govern­ment to task over its pol­icy de­ci­sions, opines the writer.

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