A week is a long time in politics
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.