Lesotho’s democracy zigzags along
WORDS may encourage, embarrass or annoy. Media may convey valuable or unpopular messages. Articles I penned until now will selectively be serialised to relate them with what goes on in Lesotho; its political history repeats itself endlessly. This is done just to sell ideas, to encourage constructive thinking and a positive attitude on national issues. The purpose is not to blame or point a finger. The format of each series will be: Date of each article; title used; an extract from each and how it relates to the present/future events:
A- JAN. 17, 2014: “Constituencies determine voter turnout” Basotho are not politically apathetic… An apathetic population does not care who gets elected and how he rules.
Basotho care. Some trend may be traced from 1993 to the present era of coalition rule. Voting patterns in some constituencies change with circumstances of each election. Numbers of votes reflect the prevailing public opinion(s). This poses a challenge to both the IEC and the government. Polling stations have to be closest possible to settlements; particularly in rural areas and migrant voters in South Africa (where registration of voters is at times decentralized to. In the 2017 election, only one voter came from Carletonville goldfields, at a cost of R500, to cast a single vote at Molumong polling station, while colleagues, this time, only gave him encouragement to mobiles those at home to vote wisely).
Government has to ensure easy access to villages for swift shuttle to cast votes and return to distant work places. Locally organized conveyance of the elderly/weak: some no longer attend church services and have holy sacrament brought to their homes. There are those voters who send their relatives to receive their monthly old age pensions. Provision of voluntary transport should not be an offence. Such infirm voters have to be back home in time. Otherwise voting by proxy could be another way to ensure high turnout.
Quality of the Independent Electoral Commission input may be another contributing factor to numbers which actually vote. A number of Bobatsi #80 DC voter card carrying members were turned away in 2015 because their names did not show in the final voters lists at their polling stations. A separate article will be featured, detailing how at three other polling stations where the final lists were amended in the late afternoon on polling day, 28-2-2015, through delivery of additional lists/names from the District Electoral Officer, resulting in voting continuing into the night at one polling station and voting continuing on the second day (1st March,2015) at another. A complaints Form on this and other alleged irregularities was never responded to.
Re-consideration of voting as a single day event could probably be more rewarding as Lesotho is unlike the UK, USA or France. There are seasons when herd boys and livestock farmers have to be at cattle posts and have to be released by those who have voted.
The 85% estimated turnout for the 3 June election was only a good wish. Without a conducive environment, turnout will always be within the limitation and endowment of respective constituencies.
B. FEB.13 2014 : “Coalition shooting in the dark” “The kind of opposition which Lesotho currently [8th Parly] has is a resource [to parliament]… which could not destabilize the government and opposes constructively…” :
A sizable number of former 8th Parliament MPS, i.e. the then opposition, are back in the 10th Parliament; except being in different camps because of intra-party conflicts which regrettably spilled over into parliament. Either by design or default, the former Speaker of the 8th Parliament is also back in the saddle of the 10th Parliament which has more political parties than any other before it. How the House of this composition will fare remains to be seen. Wish and hope being that this 10th term should not remind the nation of the 8th and 9th Parliaments; God willing!
C. MAR. 23 2014: “Lesotho must stop dancing the polka!” “Parliaments… have modernized…. In some progressive democratic parliaments, a Speaker from the majority party is deputized by an MP from the opposition.”
While examples of Westminster type parliaments can be counted, some of them have out—grown that traditional model to suit their unique political environments. Can it be confidently said that the Speaker of the 10th Parliament is not a member of any of the four ruling coalition parties? If yes, that would be a wonderful display of a beginning to grow out of the old ways e.g. that at the controls should be one of our own. Another expectation is that at some stage, invitation of any interested and qualified persons should be endorsed by a number of MPS to contest to be Speaker with all MPS being availed their CVS. That would be a considerable improvement.
The innovation to have the opposition to deputize could be a matter for good Standing Orders (SOS): to recognize the essential role of the opposition, and to formally empower it. This would enable an otherwise traditionally hostile opposition (Congress vs Nationalists) to develop a feel of belonging and adopt a “Loyal opposition” attitude as a government in waiting. The relevant Standing Order could be worded to provide for the discharge/replacement of such a deputy through a motion, in the event of need.
This could further extend to committees. Presently, SOS do not even provide for Deputy Chairpersons. There may have been good reasons for that; but times have changed and old practices have to give way. The Speaker becomes Chairperson whenever the House goes into committee and has to revert to be Speaker when the House resumes, to receive a report from a committee he/she chaired.
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