Time for some introspection
IN the democratic evolution of every nation, there comes a time when deep introspection not only becomes imperative but inescapable. If there has ever been need for such time in this Kingdom, it is now. Every nation should regularly define and refine its value system and reflect on its institutional capacities to protect its values.
Like them or loath them, the Americans have come far in perfecting their democracy; essentially one of the best democracies in the world. Their system has evolved from slave ownership to the new age of inalienable civil liberties.
Once upon a time, America presidents served umpteen terms until conventional American wisdom decided that democracy is best protected by limiting each president terms of office to a maximum of two fouryear terms.
Scrutator would surely have wanted the remarkable Barack Obama to continue in office. But calling for a constitutional change to extend terms of office of an American president beyond the allowed two terms — something that is so frequent in Africa — is almost treason in America.
The values of liberty, equality and fraternity that underpinned the 1789 French revolution are indeed interred in the American value system. They are almost visible in the universal gaze of the Statue of Liberty, a worthy donation from the French to the Americans, perched in upmarket Manhattan.
Of course America’s democracy is still riddled with imperfections like unequal access to economic opportunities for minority groups, racism against blacks, unequal access to justice, the long negative legacy of slavery, among other imperfections.
But what makes Uncle Sam’s democracy admirable is the ability of citizens to reflect and introspect and strive constantly to improve the institutional capacities required to protect American values. There are many things that American politicians can never do because of strong institutions of democracy which protect citizens. Just ask Donald Trump.
After this week’s mayhem at Makoanyane Barracks, surely isn’t it time Basotho took a deep breath and begin a deep process of introspection of our perennially troubled democratic evolution process with a view of foisting basic sanity onto His Majesty’s Kingdom.
What institutions do we really need to safeguard and promote democratic governance? What institutions do we have and which ones do we lack for democracy’s sake?
Which of our institutions are essential for democratic development but cannot perform because they are weak? Which ones of them need strengthening and how? Which ones do we need but don’t have?
Above all else, do we really need the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF)?
Whom does the LDF defend us from? Whom has it ever defended us from? What role has the LDF been playing since its inception in fostering democratic governance? Is it an essential tool for promoting democracy or is it an albatross around democracy’s neck? What are the values of the LDF? Are these consistent with the generality of our values as a nation?
Armies exist to protect nations from external threats? Has the LDF ever defended Lesotho from any external threat? In fact, does Lesotho face any external threats? If so, from where?
Does the LDF have the capacity to defend us from such external threats? So much has been made of the need to implement the reforms recommended by SADC to depoliticise the LDF and make it a professional force. But is it ever possible to depoliticise the LDF? Is it possible to mould it into a professional force?
Let’s imagine a life without the LDF. Wouldn’t life in the Kingdom be more fun? Maaparankoe Mahao would surely still be alive raising his children? So would be Sub Inspector Mokheseng Ramahloko. So would be other dear departed Basotho, too many to mention?
The time for Basotho to reflect on our value system, our mores and institutions has come. It is inescapable. The elephant in the room of our democratic values remains the unmighty Lesotho Defence Force. With all due respect, we don’t need this institution? Because its men and women have never fought a war and will never fight one because none will ever arise, they will always find reason to wedge war against fellow citizens? If they don’t fight citizens, they will be at war with one another in the barracks?
Just imagine what would happen if Ntate Mosisili or Ntate Metsing return to power and — against all reason — decide to reinstate Ntate Kamoli at the helm of the LDF. Just imagine the mayhem that will follow?
How many schools, clinics and hospitals could have been built from all the resources that have been invested in the LDF thus far? Imagine if every salary of a soldier was instead invested in a teacher, nurse or doctor? Just like Dubai, Lesotho would now be a world renowned centre for medical tourism?
Ntate Khoantle Motšomotšo was a long-term deputy of Kamoli. He immediately changed course after Ntate Thabane’s return to power. He seems to have jettisoned his former boss Kamoli.
He submitted himself to civilian rule. It was early days but Ntate Motšomotšo seemed to have undergone a complete damascene conversion. That was the right thing to do. For that reason his slaying is tragic. May Ntate Motšomotšo’s soul rest in eternal peace.
The same cannot be said of his murderers in the persons of Tefo Hashatsi and Bulane Sechele. It had become common cause that Hashatsi — in his capacity as the head of the special forces section of the LDF — executed the actual murder of Mahao in pursuance of the instructions of the then high command. The adage that if you live by the sword, you die by the sword must now ring true in the mind of every LDF member.
Death must never be celebrated. Death must never be cherished. Death is never a nice thing. But not in the case of these two scoundrels. They were a shame not only to the LDF, but to the entirety of the Basotho nation.
Unfortunately, they have taken with them a man who had realised his mistake. A man who had re-discovered his honour. A man who had recognised his errors and was redeeming himself.
Of course, there are many decent men and women in the LDF. There are many good, trained and experienced soldiers who will be useful in crime fighting in Lesotho. The abolishment of the LDF does not mean all these good men and women should be jettisoned and rendered jobless.
They can be redeployed in a new paramilitary police force — modelled along the lines of the Mauritian police — with the sole responsibility of fighting internal crime. Mauritius is isolated in the middle of nowhere. It is more vulnerable to invasion — not only by UFOS (unidentified flying objects) — but by real enemies.
Yet its government made a conscious decision to abolish its army and maintain a well-motivated and well trained police force to fight internal crime.
That is the way Lesotho should go. In the event that we discover oil and Donald Trump decides to invade, we can then all become soldiers and fight with spears, picks and bows. RIP Ntate Motšomotšo. Ache!!!!
The late Brigadier Bulane Sechele
The late Colonel Tefo hashatsi.
The late Lt-gen Khoantle Motšomotšo.