Interrogating the Third Coalition Agreement
warded to the co-operators and others that have interest in the changes; and further that Parties may strike bilateral agreements — some of which already exist - for cabinet and senior officers’ appointments, which shall form annexes to the main agreement.
I don’t know what to make of this ambiguous feature that, like an international trade negotiations proposal, it retains this unexplained obligation to “other parties” that might be interested.
While this could be an unconsciously dragged vestige of the abortive ABC-DC pact; it could come in handy for government expansion to forestall a catastrophe like the March-june 2014 watershed disintegration of government.
Conversely, it could also be exploited to “smuggle” other four-plus-one parties into the compact to neutralise existing partner(s) or shore up an obstructive partner in an unpopular manoeuvre.
The best way to understand motivation for a man’s actions is perhaps simply to ask him what he thinks he is doing.
The Coalition Agreement says it grapples with a weak democratic culture and a weak economy which have left Lesotho with political instability, weak institutions and polarisation of society — producing self-serving political behaviour incapable of evolving socio-economic policies that build a strong, shared economy and foster national consensus. Nice words that don’t mean much.
It simply says our fate placed us here. As a political/strategy consultant, you wouldn’t be surprised if your client government presented you with this stuff - whereas they had to speak to both agency and structure, man and his environment, the potential drivers of change, and obstacles thereto.
But to be pragmatic, and avoid a charge of being academic, let us just assume the co-operators as disinterested contractors have defined weak economy, institutions, and emaciated democracy and public policy capacity as deficiencies they want to attack.
The absence of agency in this statement of the problem, i.e failure or conscious refusal to name actors responsible for degeneration of democratic culture, naturally leaves the Agreement largely preserving the status quo, shy in current commitments and hazy on future scenarios.
Those who thought it was going to be a roadmap on state-society relations over the next one year and going into the 60th month of this regime’s mandate will be disappointed; but unlike the overreaching Khokanyan’a Phiri agreement which promised heaven on earth and went on to instantly rubbish all that, any agreement is really not anything more than a referee’s manual for partners’ intercourse.
Besides the four objectives of national unity, reconciliation, peace and stability that give the Agreement its name; there are (i) commitment to independent and inclusive reforms, though I don’t quite understand what independence of reforms means, and find it fascinating that it says reforms of Parliament will be led by itself building on the new Zealand reforms proposals; (ii) deepening democracy especially citizen participation, where greater access to Parliament including petitioning will be key; (iii) reintroducing a culture of human rights and civil liberties as enshrined in the Constitution; and (iv) espousing good governance per international standards with emphasis on accountability — where among others focus will be on the Parliament’s real supervision of the government and of the public service and its commissions; (v) and a private sector-based economic transformation.
I have reservation on the wording of “espousing good governance”, which doesn’t quite sound like swearing by it, making it one’s oath.
The delivery of these objectives is supposed to be shepherded by “a fully authorised, implementation, monitoring and evaluation infrastructure”.
The eight-point “priority policy programme” (section 3) commits the partners to a 90-days timeframe, from the date of ef- fectiveness of the Agreement (not given, but presumably the signature date), to (i) produce an economic reform blueprint to stop economic stagnation; (ii) pass new procurement legislation, and public procurement policy for “politically exposed” persons including ministers and officers; (iii) strengthen investigative and judicial branches and implement a revamped assets declaration policy.
All these will take place under the canopy of implementation of all the decisions of SADC intervention (Phumaphi Commission Report), the SOMILES and Commonwealth / New Zealand reforms recommendations. The Government will also review and implement the 2014 Decentralisation Policy before September 30 local government elections.
The agreement importantly expresses the urgency of accelerating certain reform measures to “limit abuse of office” and safeguard the compact and public confidence in the Coalition government. Call me maximalist or naïve, but I cringe at phrasing that seeks to lessen rot, and not declare it public enemy.
The section (4) on General Principles speaks more to modalities of collaboration, being named as (1) good faith, collaborative engagement and no surprises, (2) proportional allocation of cabinet, Senate, senior official, ambassadorial, statutory corporations’ and commissions’, and district administration executive positions; (3) sustaining partners’ individual identities; (4) establishment of a Leaders’ Caucus, to convene regularly and urgently at any leader’s request; (5) freedom of parties to openly air disagreements / alternative views publicly and in Parliament.
This last one contradicts the article (8.1) which commits the parties to voting in support of the government at all times in confidence, supply (i.e budgetary), and procedural motions in Parliament and in portfolio committees.
In respect of the Cabinet (section 5), the Agreement considers the current size too large and sectorally fragmented at 34, being 26 ministers and eight (8) deputy ministers; and commits to review and realignment of ministries’ responsibilities by next financial year — with consideration for a slim and focused cabinet in future.
It is provided that all cabinet will be appointed, in consultation with Coalition partners, by the prime minister who will also be responsible for their performance and discipline; be dismissing or reshuffling a minister the prime minister shall first consult the Coalition Partner affected.
Cabinet in enjoined to meet regularly, as the sole place for formal decisions on critical issues prescribed by the constitution, to which decisions all ministers shall be committed, “unless Cabinet gives approval for a Minister to take a different position”. Now, this one sounds quite an outlier on the graph grid! They might wish to explain it.
In relation to top public servants in government, corporations, and diplomacy, the partners commit to revisiting the definition of “political appointments”; with a view to “depoliticising and accelerating professionalism in the public service”.
To this end it is pledged that hiring practices in the corporations will be reviewed and corrective measures taken, and fit-for-purpose assessment of boards undertaken. This isn’t promise of anything at all.
The drafters of the Agreement should be aware of state-of-the-art precepts of corporate governance including the New Public Management discourse, the King processes etc —and I think they could be at least implicitly (descriptively) alluded to!
There is promised an acceleration of “measures to prevent abuse of office by any Party in the Coalition Government”, and injection of transparency in the appointment of security chiefs and heads of Constitutional oversight institutions like Ombudsman, Auditor General, etc.
All in all, this Agreement is a index of positive things in motion. It is overly cautious in its positive-sounding undertakings, and is shy of committing to time limits in even those areas it highlights as executable without constraints of legislative reforms, but it is still; and a good reference point.
l Mr Selinyane’s views do not necessariLy reflect THE views of THE Lesotho Times.