OVER the years, the Christian Council of Lesotho (CCL) has been playing an influential role in Lesotho’s social and political arenas. Ahead of the 3 June 2017 National Assembly elections, the ecclesiastical body invited the leaders of the contesting political parties to sign a pledge to accept the results of the polls, as part of efforts to foster peace after the plebiscite.
In this wide-ranging interview, CCL Secretary-General Khosi Makubakube talks to Lesotho Times (LT) Reporter Pascalinah Kabi on the role of the CCL in Lesotho’s body politic and other related matters.
LT: Briefly tell us about the CCL?
Makubakube: Established on 7 August 1965, the council was established to address social issues in Lesotho. Therefore, the CCL is an ecumenical organisation whose prophetic voice focuses on three things – integral human development, peace and national unity or cohesion.
Integral human development is a vast subject which entails human security – not the army but everything that a human being has to have in order to have good health. We talk of shelter, good health, food and other basic needs. If one of these basic needs is excluded from the rest, we do not have a healthy nation and without this there is no peace or national cohesion.
Without peace there is no development and these three things are seriously interlinked; you cannot exclude one of the three. The council was very clear and clever by concentrating on the three things that summarise a person’s life.
LT: Some people have accused members of the CCL of meddling in party politics.
Makubakube: You are absolutely right, many people continue to question the role of the church in national politics and I would like to address this matter by giving you examples. Jesus Christ came into this world, and being a revolutionary leader, he challenged the Pharisees with the kind of laws they had put in place. While the Pharisees had put these laws in place, the same laws were burdening the people and they themselves (Pharisees) did not observe the same laws that were meant for national cohesion.
This simply shows that one cannot separate a human being from the politics. By nature, a person is a religious and political being because he or she is a social or relational being. You cannot become a social being and not become a political being.
By nature, you have to relate with another person, and once you do that, you engage in a political life. But the tricky part is that the same people attacking the church’s involvement in politics fail to differentiate between party politics and politics as a way of life.
Tomas Hoops talks of something called a social contract. To establish a national cohesion, we have to enact laws that will govern us, detailing whom we will respect as they guide us towards prosperity and national unity. We are just establishing a social contract to ensure there is respect, who rules who and why we should respect them.
Remember that when God created Adam, existing only with animals, there was no need for a social contract but God realised that a human person was so bored with the animals around him, beautiful as they were but due to the rationality, the human being was above and God had to create another social person in order to complement, not to compete, and make a social life.
We read that in Genesis 1:21 and the minute God created the second person that is when politics came into play because they have to sit down and plan their lives together. People need to understand that you cannot exclude social life from political life.
But people do not make a distinction between being a political being and becoming affiliated with party politics. By nature, I am a political being but I may not necessarily be affiliated to a political party.
People should bear in mind the fact that the role of the church is to come hard on political leaders and tell them they are making a mistake when they are. The church has to play an oversight role and reprimand leaders in clear terms.
Another role the church plays is to pray with the people when we realise our own weaknesses and sinful ways. The third role is that the church is a symbol of hope. A church should always give people hope regardless of circumstances.
So when the church functions in these models, it is actually balanced. But sometimes the church has the tendency of trying to become diplomatic and being reluctant to speak truth to power.
There was a time the measles and rubella vaccination had caused a problem in the country and we had to come up as a church and say “look it is our responsibility to ensure that our children get vaccinated and that whatever method went wrong cannot prevent us from doing what is right for our children.”
So the fact that we are mostly heard when we talk about politics makes many people think that we only focus on political issues alone and that it is not the case. We have got Gender and Justice; Good Governance and Human Rights; Food Security, Livelihood, Climate Change and Justice; as well as Extractive Industries commissions to ensure that the needs of the people are catered for.
You can see how broad this is but many people are always focusing on the political sphere because perhaps that is where they always hear us focusing on. But then the question is, why are we always focusing on the political sphere? It is a clear indication that the country has been experiencing political crises since independence. If you were to look back in history, you would realise that the CCL has always been involved in efforts to address the political crises of this country.
LT: There must be a very thin line between the role of the church in Lesotho’s political landscape or crisis and being seen as actively participating in party politics. Where do you draw the line as the church?
Makubakube: One cannot stop the perceptions of the people. What we always cherish as the CCL is integrity. Everything that we do is driven by that value and we always ensure that whatever effort we make does not compromise the integrity of the CCL.
When there is a drought, people say “where is CCL”, when there is a political crisis people say “where is CCL” precisely because CCL is still enjoying a space of objectivity in the country. Generally, people know that we are always driven by objectivity and love for the nation. Even those people who do not appreciate our efforts now, later on they will. So we make sure that one of the values that we uphold is integrity and never to compromise on it.
LT: Can you confidently say that since its establishment, the CCL has always upheld that integrity as it played a mediator role in Lesotho’s political crises?
Makubakube: Yes, and that can be substantiated by the fact that when this council was founded, the main churches – Lesotho Evangelical Church of Southern Africa and Roman Catholic Church – were fighting on the sidelines. Divided as they were, this council managed to transcend that division until we were seen as one church with one voice.
It has managed to bring together a divided church which one way or the other contributed towards dividing people along party politics lines. Catholics were perceived to be aligned with the Basotho National Party, while the congress parties were associated with the Protestants. The CCL managed to transcend that division and ensure that we all speak with one voice for the sake of the country and the people. That is a great success story that we can share with other people. On that basis, we are also able to say to Basotho that they should not be divided along political party lines.
LT: Is it possible for Basotho to stop being divided along political party lines and speak with one voice for the sake of developing this country?
Makubakube: It is very much possible. Take it from us. We managed to do that through the help of God and Basotho can do that as well. You can agree to be affiliated with different political parties but do not allow that to divide you as human beings and sow hatred among you.
There is unity in diversity and that should not divide you. Imagine if all of us were like a five cent coin, life would be boring. We may be different in terms of party political affiliations, but ultimately we are one nation.
LT: What is the council doing to ensure that Basotho understand its role in helping address political intolerance and the political crisis that has resulted in the country holding elections for three times in five years?
Makubakube: Earlier this year, we visited various parts of the country to ensure people understood the CCL’s role in Lesotho politics. This initiative was held as part of our programme of good governance and human rights. Recently, we were in Mokhotlong and held a discussion on the pillars of the good governance. Now people appreciate our efforts so much that they asking us where we have been all along.
LT: Do you not think people are asking the council this because of the entanglement in party politics instead of playing your role of being a beacon of hope to the nation?
Makubakube: Democracy is still new in our country, we need to deepen and consolidate democracy through civic education and it is the responsibility of the CCL as a faith-based organisation to go to the people and educate them about the pillars of good governance. Now they understand that and this will be directly linked with the kind of leadership that we need as specified in the Vision 2020.
If people understand the pillars of good governance, they know who can be able to drive this country to prosperity instead of choosing people on the basis of liking them but on capacity and ability to deliver.
The formation of coalition governments is also an indication that the work that the civil society and faith-based organisations have been doing is now bearing fruits. Objectively looking at the many times we went for elections in five years, we must also acknowledge that our politics are maturing gradually. People are starting to ask proper questions and expecting proper answers and now politicians cannot lie to people anymore because once you lie, they know what decisions to make. We are playing our part of deepening and consolidating democracy in Lesotho because it is for the good of the people. What has also challenged us is the kind of parliamentarians that we have. Do parliamentarians have the capacity to play the role of overseeing the executive? No because we choose them according to whether we like them or not and not the capabilities to do their job.
LT: What is the church’s advice to the new government in light of the pressure from the international community to prioritise the national reform agenda?
Makubakube: Prior to elections, we invited all political leaders to sign a pledge to say that they were going to prioritise the reforms agenda should they become government. Now that the new government has been formed, the council will continue to play its role of ensuring that the national reform process is initiated and becomes a success.
We are going to hold a meeting with the new government to discuss a national reform process time-frame because we cannot continue to postpone and say we are going to consider it. A time-frame and clear time-table are very important, otherwise the postponement will also lead us into another political crisis. This is the third coalition government we are having and it does not have a legal framework through which it is going to conduct its own business. We are still using the 1993 constitution and we cannot continue to operate like that in this dynamic political landscape.