Di­rect ac­tion and its use­ful­ness

Lesotho Times - - Leader - makha­bane maluke

THERE ex­ists a con­certed ef­fort to brain­wash Ba­sotho into putting their trust and hopes in the power of di­rect ac­tion: toyi-toy­ing, demon­stra­tions, sub­mis­sion of writ­ten pe­ti­tions, stay­aways etc.

These rarely yield ex­pected out­comes. Their un­de­ni­able value is in their abil­ity to re­flect how much in­ter­est, or lack thereof, ex­ists out there.

Of late in Le­sotho, the gov­ern­ment re­mains a pop­u­lar tar­get of all forms of di­rect ac­tion. How­ever, their fre­quency and fail­ure con­tinue to en­lighten many Ba­sotho. One ma­jor les­son from that fail­ure is the re­al­i­sa­tion that it is His Majesty’s gov­ern­ment which gov­erns Le­sotho, and not any­one else, nor does it gov­ern un­der dic­ta­tion or duress.

It is the gov­ern­ment which de­ter­mines what gets done; as well as when and how. The var­i­ous tac­tics only en­able the gov­ern­ment to eval­u­ate its per­for­mance and poli­cies, and de­cides on the course of ac­tion, in ad­di­tion to other de­mands of min­is­te­rial life which in­clude ac­count­abil­ity to par­lia­ment.

The un­de­ni­able truth is that run­ning a gov­ern­ment car­ries con­sid­er­able re­spon­si­bil­ity which ought not to be swayed by any slight­est breeze.

A sit­ting prime min­is­ter and his gov­ern­ment carry heavy re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, in­di­vid­u­ally and col­lec­tively.

A PM may have to call an early elec­tion when there is a clear chal­lenge that his gov­ern­ment is no longer qual­i­fied to rule. A com­pe­tent PM can­not ig­nore such a de­vel­op­ment.

The ex­pe­ri­ence of the first coali­tion gov­ern­ment which ruled for two years and a few months will re­main a very valu­able case study for schol­ars, re­searchers, fu­ture gov­ern­ments of Le­sotho and the elec­torate.

Be­sides all avail­able op­tions, the then PM opted to ex­er­cise his con­sti­tu­tional pre­rog­a­tive to ad­vise the Head of State to pro­rogue the 8th Par­lia­ment, in an ef­fort to shield the gov­ern­ment from an im­pend­ing tum­ble in the Na­tional As­sem­bly.

That gov­ern­ment made a wrong con­sti­tu­tional move as it were. This is why it be­came so easy to arm-twist it to end such a never heard of nine month pro­ro­ga­tion. Pro­ro­ga­tion has to be brief and ex­tend­able.

End­ing it pre­ma­turely only helped to high­light and ex­pose gov­ern­ment blun­ders: e.g. do­ing con­sid­er­able harm to par­lia­men­tary work that was quashed and with­out any gain from that pro­ro­ga­tion.

That was more ev­i­dence that the gov­ern­ment was not in any shape to gov­ern in the pub­lic in­ter­est, but its own. Qual­ity of ad­vice may have not been up to stan­dard; or if it were, it was ill-con­sid­ered.

As if that was not enough, an­other mis­cal­cu­lated wrong turn was the dis­so­lu­tion of that par­lia­ment. The move was wrong, among other more ap­pro­pri­ate con­sti­tu­tional al­ter­na­tives.

It fi­nan­cially cost this na­tion through a snap elec­tion which re­gret­tably achieved what was feared most; change of gov­ern­ment.

If such a change oc­curred in the Na­tional As­sem­bly, it could have demon­strated to the world that Le­sotho was ac­tu­ally ma­tur­ing in the prac­tice of democ­racy and that the gov­ern­ment of the time had pub­lic in­ter­est at heart.

One won­ders if the gov­ern­ment would give in if the op­po­si­tion toyi-toyied to chal­lenge that dis­so­lu­tion in favour of a de­bate of a no con­fi­dence mo­tion.

Lo­cal me­dia houses are partly to blame for their var­i­ous roles in the pro­mo­tion of in­ci­dents of di­rect ac­tion. Some fairly re­flect, while oth­ers dis­tort is­sues. There are some cit­i­zens who are eas­ily duped by what­ever their fa­vorite pa­pers pub­lish.

There are read­ers who get so car­ried away that if the gov­ern­ment does not abide by ex­pressed de­sires, they la­bel it as lack­ing ears to hear.

Not many read­ers of the var­i­ous pa­pers ever know that some di­rect ac­tions are de­vel­oped by some po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship with- out the knowl­edge of many un­sus­pect­ing ac­tivists.

Le­sotho has had many di­rect ac­tions de­signed to pres­sur­ize gov­ern­ment into a de­sired ac­tion. Some or­ga­niz­ers and ac­tivists go to the ex­tent of be­ing of­fended when a PM or a Min­is­ter of the Crown does not show up to re­ceive a writ­ten pe­ti­tion. What dif­fer­ence does it make if it is re­ceived by a proxy?

The in­ten­tion of this ar­ti­cle in not to ridicule or just paint the op­po­si­tion and its sup­port con­stituen­cies with some in­deli­ble and unattrac­tive color or to por­tray their ef­forts as a fu­tile ex­er­cise of their con­sti­tu­tional rights.

No! Hon­estly, the op­po­si­tion de­serves to know that di­rect ac­tion rarely suc­ceeds, ex­cept in ar­eas where the gov­ern­ment plans al­ready re­flect an area of in­ter­est.

Even then, the gov­ern­ment de­ter­mines the pace of ex­e­cu­tion. Ef­fec­tive­ness of di­rect ac­tions shows largely through their abil­ity to keep the in­volved and in­ter­ested ac­tors busy, and re­veals the kind of think­ing in other camps.

All forms of di­rect ac­tion are pre­ferred by mi­nori­ties which feel ne­glected and wish to show that they ex­ist. Such know well that they lack the ca­pa­bil­ity to in­flu­ence po­lit­i­cal de­ci­sions through any con­ven­tional means.

This could be the rea­son why, of late, many group­ings club to­gether with even un­known for­ma­tions, just to ap­pear as a for­mi­da­ble col­lec­tive of amor­phous or­ga­ni­za­tions to de­serve a Se­sotho say­ing that “sechaba se re”(this is the view of the pub­lic).

There is value in the ex­is­tence of an op­po­si­tion in par­lia­ment. How­ever, the hope is to see it play its roles con­struc­tively and fruit­fully. There is only a strong need to change its/their pol­i­tics of con­fronta­tion.

As long as they pur­sue the agenda for which they failed to be elected to power; they can rest as­sured that a gov­ern­ment which was elected on its prom­ises has its out­look and pri­or­i­ties.

Le­sotho is cel­e­brat­ing 50 years of in­de­pen­dence from Bri­tish pro­tec­tion, with sev­eral ac­tiv­i­ties be­ing lined up to mark this Ju­bilee. the coun­try gained in­de­pen­dence on 4 oc­to­ber 1966. the Direc­tor of Lan­guages in the Min­istry of Com­mu­ni­ca­tions, sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy, Mr Ra­tokelo Nkoka, speaks with Le­sotho Times ( LT) re­porter, Lekhetho Nt­sukun­yane, about this oc­ca­sion. Mr Nkoka, who is also a renowned his­to­rian, is a mem­ber of the Na­tional Cel­e­bra­tions Com­mit­tee or­gan­is­ing the cel­e­bra­tions.

LT: Le­sotho is cel­e­brat­ing 50 years of in­de­pen­dence this year, but the coun­try still faces sev­eral po­lit­i­cal and so­cioe­co­nomic chal­lenges which have prompted some peo­ple to ask if there is re­ally some­thing to cel­e­brate. But maybe you could start by tak­ing us through Le­sotho’s po­lit­i­cal jour­ney since in­de­pen­dence in 1966?

Nkoka: Le­sotho gained in­de­pen­dence from Bri­tish rule or pro­tec­tion on 4 oc­to­ber 1966. We had been un­der Bri­tish pro­tec­tion for 98 years since 1868. that was al­most 100 years. that shows how too long we had not been able to do things for our­selves. so it was high time, in 1966, that we in­tro­spected and start be­ing in­de­pen­dent. It was high time we took re­spon­si­bil­ity, gov­ern­ing and find­ing free­dom. That is my un­der­stand­ing of be­ing in­de­pen­dent. We were not the only ones who wanted to break away from be­ing colonised. Many other African coun­tries also sought in­de­pen­dence around the same time. euro­pean coun­tries could not stop them even if they tried. In other African coun­tries, blood was shed for them to gain in­de­pen­dence. they fought for it. Peo­ple walked over corpses in those coun­tries. An­gola was one them. But with us it was so for­tu­nate that we gained our in­de­pen­dence through sheer ne­go­ti­a­tions. But what peo­ple should know is that Le­sotho, un­like other African coun­tries whose in­de­pen­dence came through blood, man­aged to eas­ily ne­go­ti­ate its in­de­pen­dence be­cause of Ba­sotho’s con­tri­bu­tion in the sec­ond World War. Ba­sotho went to this war in large num­bers to as­sist the English peo­ple. That con­tri­bu­tion in­flu­enced ne­go­ti­a­tions for Le­sotho to gain its in­de­pen­dence.

LT: But do you think Le­sotho has proved ca­pa­ble of gov­ern­ing it­self since then?

Nkoka: Ab­so­lutely. We took over and proved we could gov­ern our­selves. The first gen­eral elec­tions were held in 1965, just a year be­fore in­de­pen­dence. the Ba­sotho Na­tional Party (BNP) won the elec­tion and be­came the first party to take over gov­ern­ment. But the party’s leader, Dr Le­abua Jonathan, was once a Congress man (mem­ber of the then Ba­su­toland Congress Party (BCP). he left when there was a lot of crit­i­cism that Congress mem­bers were com­mu­nists and that their idea was to get rid of the mo­nop­oly en­joyed by chiefs over the rest of the cit­i­zens. For in­stance, the per­cep­tion was that Congress mem­bers, if they got into power, were go­ing to al­low the cit­i­zens’ cat­tle to graze to­gether with those of the chiefs, which was some­thing for­bid­den back then. In other words, the Congress would al­low for things to be shared equally among Ba­sotho, re­gard­less of whether one was a chief or com­moner. But the chiefs, and Dr Le­abua was a chief, were not go­ing to al­low that to eas­ily hap­pen. some church au­thor­i­ties also en­joyed the mo­nop­oly and would not eas­ily agree to the Congress ide­ol­ogy – be­ing Ma­hatam­moho (do­ing things to­gether, shar­ing one vi­sion). to­day, we call that smart part­ner­ship, and that is the same ide­ol­ogy.

LT: So what hap­pened in the 1965 elec­tions, if we could go back to that defin­ing mo­ment?

Nkoka: the BNP won most con­stituen­cies in the moun­tain­ous ru­ral parts of the coun­try, while the BCP won the re­main­ing con­stituen­cies in the ur­ban. the con­stituen­cies were 60 in to­tal. the BNP won 31 and BCP won 29. so you could see it was a small mar­gin. Do you know the rea­son why? there was a per­cep­tion that the BCP, be­ing com­mu­nists, were go­ing to en­force that live­stock, mostly reared by peo­ple in the ru­ral area, should be shared equally among ev­ery Mosotho such that peo­ple in the ru­ral ar­eas felt they were go­ing to lose their an­i­mals once the BCP was in power. the prin­ci­ples of com­mu­nism and cap­i­tal­ism were cen­tral to po­lit­i­cal cam­paigns be­tween the Congress and the Na­tion­al­ists ahead of the 1965 elec­tions.

LT: You men­tioned some­thing about church au­thor­i­ties. How was the church in­volved in pol­i­tics?

Nkoka: the Ro­man Catholic Church (RCC) was aligned to the Na­tion­al­ists be­cause of the way it as­sisted the BNP in its cam­paign. the Congress, on the other hand, were as­so­ci­ated with the Le­sotho evan­gel­i­cal Church (LEC).

LT: From what you said, it is clear Ba­sotho have al­ways been di­vided along po­lit­i­cal lines and re­li­gion. But go­ing back to my orig­i­nal ques­tion-have we been able to gov­ern our­selves as Ba­sotho?

Nkoka: It has been a bumpy jour­ney, yes, but there have been still no­table suc­cesses. And to an­swer your ques­tion, yes, we were able gov­ern our­selves af­ter in­de­pen­dence. Dr Le­abua built tarred roads, schools, gov­ern­ment of­fices and other no­table de­vel­op­ments. It was a mile­stone. But again, his gov­er­nance was not go­ing to be an easy jour­ney to travel due to the strong op­po­si­tion. Re­mem­ber he had 31 seats while the BCP had 29 seats in par­lia­ment. elec­tions were held on 29 April 1965. things hap­pened very fast be­tween then and 4 oc­to­ber 1966 so that we could have a solid gov­ern­ment upon in­de­pen­dence.

LT: There was some drama dur­ing the next gen­eral elec­tions of 1970, so his­tory tells us…

Nkoka: Just be­fore the fi­nal re­sults of the 1970 elec­tions were an­nounced, there were al­ready signs that some­thing was go­ing to hap­pen. We had lis­tened to our na­tional ra­dio station where pre­lim­i­nary re­sults were be­ing an­nounced. But Ra­dio Le­sotho stopped an­nounc­ing the re­sults shortly af­ter we heard that both the BNP and BCP had won 23 c on­stituen­cies each, out of the to­tal 60. We had to re­sort to south Africa’s Ra­dio Bantu which con­tin­ued to an­nounce the re­sults be­cause Ra­dio Le­sotho had sud­denly stopped an­nounc­ing the re­sults fol­low­ing the stale­mate. We heard from Ra­dio Bantu that the BCP had now won 36 con­stituen­cies while the BNP was stuck at 23. there was also one con­stituency which was tech­ni­cally al­lo­cated to the Mare­mat­lou Free­dom Party (MFP).BUT from Ra­dio Le­sotho, in­stead of an­nounc­ing the re­sults, we were told Dr Le­abua was go­ing to make an im­por­tant an­nounce­ment. that’s where he an­nounced that the elec­tions had been rigged and he de­clared a state of emer­gency. that was the be­gin­ning of our trou­bles.

LT: What do you mean?

Nkoka: If you could make thor­ough re­search, you will learn that Dr Le­abua ac­tu­ally in­tended to hand over the reins to the Congress au­thor­i­ties, but his cronies were very re­sis­tant. they are the ones who forced him to de­clare the state of emer­gency. It was at this junc­ture that Le­sotho’s de­vel­op­ment progress was ef­fec­tively halted. our econ­omy fell, the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem was ru­ined, and ev­ery­thing fell apart. When Dry Le­abua de­clared the state of emer­gency, mem­bers of the op­po­si­tion, mainly the Congress peo­ple, were ar­rested and de­tained. oth­ers were as­saulted. Peo­ple were ac­cused of keep­ing their hair big be­cause that was as­so­ci­ated with the Congress peo­ple. Where I come from, Mathebe (Mafeteng), houses were burnt. Where I come from, there are still vic­tims of 1970 even to­day; there are traces of blood at some places. Peo­ple were tor­tured and killed in the worst forms of mur­der. they were be­ing dragged be­hind pick-up trucks and left traces of blood be­fore they died. the Congress peo­ple, on the other hand, strate­gised ways to revenge, but their plan to dis­arm the armed forces failed. All in all, as Ba­sotho, we lost 23 years of our in­de­pen­dence fight­ing each other from 1970 un­til democ­racy was re­stored in 1993. We are cel­e­brat­ing 50 years of in­de­pen­dence this year, but in ac­tual fact we lost 23 years along the way. A dark cloud hung over Le­sotho be­tween 1970 and 1993. that pe­riod was wasted po­lit­i­cally, eco­nom­i­cally, and cul­tur­ally. LT: Would you say the church played a role even dur­ing this wasted time as you put it?

Nkoka: Def­i­nitely, yes. There is no way you can sep­a­rate our main churches from pol­i­tics. Priests have played big roles in the pol­i­tics of this coun­try. When Dr Le­abua left the Congress party to form the BNP, he also left the LEC, which had been his pre­vi­ous de­nom­i­na­tion, to join the RCC. this also said a lot about how these two churches dif­fered along po­lit­i­cal lines. some priests were ar­rested and sent to Max­i­mum Prison af­ter 1970. this shows how deep the churches were in­volved in pol­i­tics.

LT: Could you tell us about the 1993 elec­tions...

Nkoka: the BCP got into power in 1993. this was their op­por­tu­nity to turn things around but they also messed up due to greed­i­ness, dis­loy­alty, ha­tred and jeal­ousy. You would ex­pect the BCP to take ad­van­tage of be­ing the only party rep­re­sented in par­lia­ment and im­ple­ment poli­cies with­out has­sles. how­ever, we un­der­stand it was not easy for them to ad­min­is­ter the na­tion be­cause all the armed forces com­prised mostly Na­tion­al­ists at the time. Def­i­nitely the armed forces re­sisted the Congress ad­min­is­tra­tion. they were en­e­mies. Peo­ple were yet again killed due to that resistance to change.

We still have po­lit­i­cal is­sues that hin­der our eco­nomic progress. As we speak, there are is­sues be­tween the op­po­si­tion and seven parties that form the gov­ern­ment. There are also is­sues of the army and the po­lice. But is it re­ally true that there is no peace in this coun­try like some peo­ple claim? I don’t think so. As a na­tion, I think we some­times un­nec­es­sar­ily pose dan­ger to our­selves.

LT: Would you say we have sim­i­lar chal­lenges even to­day?

Nkoka: We still have po­lit­i­cal is­sues that hin­der our eco­nomic progress. As we speak, there are is­sues be­tween the op­po­si­tion and seven parties that form the gov­ern­ment. there are also is­sues of the army and the po­lice. But is it re­ally true that there is no peace in this coun­try like some peo­ple claim? I don’t think so. As a na­tion, I think we some­times un­nec­es­sar­ily pose dan­ger to our­selves. In my hum­ble opin­ion, there is no valid rea­son why we should be hav­ing some of our op­po­si­tion lead­ers in ex­ile. Peo­ple are rais­ing is­sues of AGOA (African Growth and op­por­tu­nity Act, which is an Amer­i­can leg­is­la­tion that al­lows cer­tain prod­ucts to en­ter the Us duty-free from el­i­gi­ble na­tions whose se­lec­tion is cen­tred around the coun­try’s re­spect for the rule of law) but we have heard how the Min­is­ter of trade and In­dus­try, Joshua setipa, as­sured us of the re­newal of our term.

LT: So what you are ba­si­cally say­ing is that Ba­sotho have some­thing to cel­e­brate de­spite the chal­lenges they might face po­lit­i­cally?

Nkoka: We have so much to cel­e­brate for our 50 years of in­de­pen­dence. For in­stance, we have beau­ti­ful roads to­day. You can now travel to Mokhot­long in a mat­ter of a few hours af­ter road con­struc­tion from Maseru to that district was fi­nalised re­cently. The same con­struc­tion has been made from Maseru to thaba-tseka. short roads within Maseru and other towns have been up­graded. there have been new gov­ern­ment schools built. We are now ex­pe­ri­enc­ing how it feels to be in good re­la­tions with south Africa through the re­cently in­tro­duced Le­sotho spe­cial Per­mits. Maybe we should also cel­e­brate by in­tro­spect­ing. We should check what went wrong such that we hate each other so much. those in ex­ile should come back. We need to cel­e­brate to­gether and plan to­gether how best we can take Le­sotho for­ward.

LT: As a com­mit­tee, how have you or­gan­ised the in­de­pen­dence cel­e­bra­tions?

Nkoka: We have com­piled a pro­posal of cer­e­mo­nial events ahead of the main cel­e­bra­tion on 4 oc­to­ber 2016. our ini­tial plan was to have small cel­e­bra­tions at district level first. But time has lapsed for some of the events we in­tended to hold. this is be­cause the gov­ern­ment has not yet ap­proved our pro­posed bud­get. But dur­ing the main cer­e­mony in oc­to­ber, we have lined up a se­ries of events that will take place at set­soto sta­dium. the events will in­clude speeches by his Majesty King Let­sie III and the Prime Min­is­ter. there will also be an army pa­rade and lec­tures about Le­sotho’s pro­jec­tion for the next 50 years. We have in­vited stake­hold­ers for their in­put.

Min­istry of Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Direc­tor of Lan­guages ra­tokelo nkoka

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