A week is a long time in pol­i­tics

Lesotho Times - - Scrutator -

HAROLD Wil­son, the twice Prime Min­is­ter of Britain dur­ing one of the great­est pe­ri­ods of so­cial and in­dus­trial changes in the 20th Cen­tury, must surely have had in mind the tu­mul­tuous events of this past week when he, in the lead up to Britain’s 1964 gen­eral elec­tions, which his Labour Party nar­rowly won by a mere four seats, coined the now fa­mous dic­tum that “a week is a long time in pol­i­tics”.

Scru­ta­tor hereby pro­poses a fur­ther adap­ta­tion of Wil­son’s dic­tum to say “A week is eternity in pol­i­tics”.

Who would have pre­dicted the sea of changes that we are see­ing on the in­ter­na­tional and lo­cal po­lit­i­cal scene. For me, it’s al­most sur­real writ­ing this col­umn. Thank God I have lived to see this week. It has been the most mo­men­tous week of both my jour­nal­is­tic and po­lit­i­cal life, the fact that I be­long to nei­ther Lithope nor Liru­rubele notwith­stand­ing,

Just con­sider this new phrase: Pres­i­dent Don­ald J. Trump. These are three words I never imag­ined could ever be­come part of my po­lit­i­cal lex­i­con. These are three worlds I never imag­ined I could ever write in my un­re­lent­ing jour­nal­ism ca­reer. Only last week, and up un­til polling day this Tues­day, no­body gave Trump a chance de­spite the slight tight­en­ing of polls af­ter US Fed­eral Bureau of In­ves­ti­ga­tions (FBI) direc­tor James Comey said he was re-open­ing an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Hil­lary Clin­ton’s il­le­gal use of a pri­vate email server when he worked as Sec­re­tary of State. It’s now clear that I was not alone in this flight of fancy. Hordes of Amer­i­cans and other world cit­i­zens shared my views. We all never imag­ined a Pres­i­dent Trump. How could jour­nal­ists, poll­sters, an­a­lysts, aca­demics, you name them, all get it so wrong.

Trump’s vic­tory is not the only po­lit­i­cal earth­quake of the week. Whom among us could have ever pre­dicted the abrupt end­ing of the reign of Ntate Tlali Kennedy Kamoli at our in­fa­mous LDF?

Who would in turn have pre­dicted that a few days af­ter his tri­umphant re­turn from a trip to Iran and Rus­sia, and af­ter show­ing his grow­ing power by be­ing re­ceived and shep­herded to his home by an en­thu­si­as­tic crowd, we would then have had the leader of Liru­rubele, Monyake Moleleki, be­ing stripped of his pow­er­ful port­fo­lio in charge of the po­lice and be­ing rel­e­gated to ef­fec­tively a Min­is­ter with­out Port­fo­lio. Any­one who knows any­thing about pol­i­tics will know that a port­fo­lio like “Min­is­ter in the Pres­i­dency” or “Min­is­ter in the Prime Min­is­ter’s of­fice” is a very nice way of de­scrib­ing some­one as a pres­i­dent’s or prime min­is­ter’s per­sonal as­sis­tant. Of course the Prime Min­is­ter will say that he has pro­moted Ntate Moleleki. But any­one with a brain the size of a ground­nut will know that that is not the case. More about that later.

Who would have known that, in spite of the blood­let­ting in the Demo­cratic Con­gress (DC), we would wake up to a sig­nif­i­cant reshuf­fle that would claim the four scalps on Liru­rubele, chief among them Ka­belo Mar­ufa (Forestry and Land Recla­ma­tion), Dr Ma­hali Phamotse (Ed­u­ca­tion and Train­ing), Thabiso Litšiba (Small Busi­ness De­vel­op­ment, Co­op­er­a­tives and Mar­ket­ing) and Agri­cul­ture and Food Se­cu­rity Deputy Min­is­ter Dr ‘Mamosa Mo­lapo.

It has been in no doubt a mo­men­tous week, if not a tu­mul­tuous week. And as Harold Wil­son told us; “a week is in­deed a long time in pol­i­tics”. Ev­ery­thing you pre­dict on a Mon­day could as well trans­late into a com­pletely dif­fer­ent story by the Fri­day.

I have a lot to say about the end of the reign of Ntate Kamoli, a day I had pre­vi­ously pre­dicted would never come. Un­less it coin- cided with the sec­ond com­ing of Christ. I also have a lot to say about Ntate Mo­sisili’s de­ter­mined bid to dec­i­mate Liru­rubele as ex­em­pli­fied in his reshuf­fle this week. These are more ur­gent and clos­est sub­jects re­quir­ing my wis­dom. But please bear with me. As one of very few Ba­sotho with an ex­pan­sive in­ter­na­tional per­spec­tive, I have to first deal ex­ten­sively with Don­ald Trump’s Tri­umphal­ism. This is a po­lit­i­cal earth­quake of the week that none of us had ever an­tic­i­pated. It has se­ri­ous i nter­na­tional ram­i­fi­ca­tions on world pol­i­tics and the in­ter­na­tional po­lit­i­cal economy.

Who in this world would have truly thought that the great coun­try of Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton, Quincy John Adams, Thomas Jef­fer­son, Franklin D, Roo­sevelt, Lyn­don John­son and other an­cient his­tor­i­cal fig­ures would fall into the hands of an un­re­strained dem­a­gogue like Trump?

It does not re­quire the wis­dom of a nu­clear sci­en­tist to know that Trump’s vic­tory will im­pact ev­ery­one from the wealth­i­est elite on the 58th floor of Trump Tower along New York’s Five Av­enue to the sheep and goat herd boy in Mokhot­long, up to the wealth­i­est car wash en­tre­pre­neur in Maseru.

Iam one of those who never gave Trump a chance. I con­sid­ered him mere comic re­lief. None of my Amer­i­can friends gave him a chance? How could such a self-con­sumed nar­cis­sist, misog­y­nist, racist, xeno­phobe, pro­fan­ity prone, vul­gar, lo­qua­cious, gar­ru­lous, ver­bose, pill pop­ping, sex­u­ally de­viant, thrice mar­ried scum­bag ever win an election at the ex­pense of the suave, in­tel­li­gent, elo­quent, saga­cious, im­mensely pretty (even at 69) Hil­lary Clin­ton? I asked my­self of­ten. It turns I was woe­fully wrong.

I also could not stop wan­der­ing what im­pact a Trump vic­tory could have on our own lo­cals. The likes of Bokang Ra­mat­sella, Mophato Monyake, Jere­mane Ra­math­e­bane and many other sim­i­larly des­ig­nated char­ac­ters who as­pire to be Prime Min­is­ters. Will they not be in­spired by a Trump vic­tory into be­liev­ing that their am­bi­tions are achiev­able? For­tu­nately, I take so­lace from the fact that these peo­ple don’t read nor fol­low world events. They are likely not to have Go TV in their homes. They are likely not to know what is hap­pen­ing out­side their nar­row con­fines in Ha Qeme. So the threat of them pur­su­ing their un­re­al­is­tic am­bi­tions re­main nil. For the good of the coun­try of course.

But that does not un­der­mine the new sig­nif­i­cance and the lessons of a Trump vic­tory. The man has re-writ­ten the rules of pol­i­tics. He is an em­bod­i­ment of the Amer­i­can dream. He is an epit­ome that with the right at­ti­tude, ed­u­ca­tion and am­bi­tion, noth­ing is im­pos­si­ble. Ex­cept if you are Ra­mat­sella, Monyake or Ra­math­e­bane.

Imust say I ad­mire fig­ures who up­set the sta­tus quo and achieve the unimag­in­able. We have had few such fig­ures in his­tory. Barack Obama is him­self a good ex­am­ple. Who could, in their wildest dreams have imag­ined that Se­ri­a­long Qoo, would land the com­mu­ni­ca­tions port­fo­lio in the Le­sotho Gov­ern­ment. But there he is, he is now our min­is­ter of Com­mu­ni­ca­tions, re­plac­ing the nice guy, Khotso Let­satsi.

There are many lessons we can take from a Trump vic­tory: Hard work is the key to suc­cess. If you are a car-wash en­tre­pre­neur to­day, you can to­mor­row own your own Mercedes pro­duc­ing fran­chise if you set your mind to work­ing hard to achieve that. If you are a veg­etable ven­dor, you can one day grad­u­ate into sell­ing Vo­da­com and Econet sim cards. If you are a politi­cian, you must as­pire to be­come Prime Min­is­ter or Pres­i­dent. We all have un­bri­dled am­bi­tions.

De­spite my strong pref­er­ence of Clin­ton over Trump, I also har­boured a dis­like for Bill Clin­ton’s wife. This is an ob­vi­ous con­tradic- tion. But please al­low me to ex­plain my­self.

There is no doubt that Hil­lary Clin­ton was uniquely qual­i­fied to be Pres­i­dent of the United States. In fact she was the most ex­pe­ri­enced can­di­date to run for Pres­i­dent hav­ing been first lady, Se­na­tor and Sec­re­tary of State, among other ac­co­lades. There is no doubt that Don­ald Trump was the most uniquely un­qual­i­fied per­son to ever run for Pres­i­dent. Trump had never had any ex­ec­u­tive po­lit­i­cal ex­pe­ri­ence. So I nat­u­rally pre­ferred Clin­ton ow­ing to her decades old ex­pe­ri­ence in front­line pol­i­tics, in ad­di­tion to her just sim­ply be­ing a nice per­son.

But I also har­boured re­sent­ment for her. My source of re­sent­ment is easy to un­der­stand. Surely we can­not have a man be­com­ing pres­i­dent (in this case Bill Clin­ton), only to be suc­ceeded by his wife, Hil­lary, and then prob­a­bly by their daugh­ter. It has al­ready hap­pened. Quincy John Adam’s son later be­came Pres­i­dent of the USA. I don’t ex­pect many Ba­sotho to know that. But most of you will know that Ge­orge Her­bert Walker Bush (or sim­ply Bush se­nior) later had his son Ge­orge W. Bush (or sim­ply Bush ju­nior) suc­ceed­ing him. It is very dan­ger­ous to have that ob­tain­ing in the world’s most de­vel­oped democ­racy. It sends wrong sig­nals to Africans, who are still try­ing to grap­ple with the real­i­ties of fos­ter­ing a proper democ­racy.

Let’s imag­ine for a sec­ond that Ms Clin­ton had won and sets a prece­dent. What would we do if Mme Mathato woke up in the mid­dle of the night clad in a her nighty and whis­pered to Ntate Mo­sisili. “Ntante I love you as my man. But I want to tell you some­thing: I also want to be­come Prime Min­is­ter and so, you must pre­pare the ground­work for me to be­come Prime Min­is­ter af­ter you.

I must say I love Mme Mathato a lot. She is a lovely woman, a lovely mother, a lovely grand­mother. If she pres­sured Ntate Mo­sisili to side­line Liru­rubele as we have al­ready seen in this week’s cab­i­net reshuf­fle and she in fact be­came Prime Min­is­ter, the ques­tion is what would it mean for gov­er­nance. It would sim­ply mean that Ntate Mo­sisili’s 15 year reign is ex­tended. That’s is bad for gov­er­nance, Lead­ers must come and go and not seek to rule through prox­ies.

But con­sider this even more galling op­tion; As­sume Ntate Tha­bane re­turns to power. Af­ter a few drinks in his 24th month af­ter his resur­gence, he de­cides he wants to quit. Ntate Tha­bane then sug­gests that ‘Mai­sa­iah will con­tinue his legacy. She will have to be­come Pre­mier.

Just imag­ine ‘ Mai­sa­iah be­com­ing our First Lady. It’s like hav­ing Kim Kar­dashian as the First Lady of Amer­ica. At that stage, I will opt to have a one way ticket to planet Mars as is bring pro­moted by Leon Mask. At least I know I will never come back.

But the most galling of prospects would have been the one of hav­ing Grace Mu­gabe, in­spired by Hil­lary’s vic­tory, want­ing to suc­ceed her nona­ge­nar­ian can­di­date, Robert G Mu­gabe as the pres­i­dent of the great coun­try of Zim­babwe. In­spired by Hil­lary, Grace Mu­gabe could then just claim ti­tle to the crown in Zim­babwe af­ter her hus­band is long gone. Pres­i­dent Grace Mu­gabe. This would not have ended up be­ing right.

For that rea­son and from that per­spec­tive, I would be happy to say that it’s good that Clin­ton lost. A bad prece­dent in the Free World has been cur­tailed. You surely can’t be pres­i­dent to­day, only for your wife or hus­band to be the next in line to take over. We need change. Change is good. Now that Clin­ton has failed, we should never ever have a hus­band be­ing suc­ceeded by his wife or vice versa.


Don­ald Trump

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