Nthakeng Pheello Selinyane
A LOT of the things that could have been predicted by a political toddler as poised to trip, and even bring down, our historic first coalition government stuck out like an ugly pimple on the face of that government, but were borne by it with inexplicable forbearance.
Its fate is now legendary, and those factors seem alert to rear their ugly head yet again as the third coalition, which happens in substantial measure to be a return of that first outfit, prepares to take to the high seas and dare navigate what many would regard as familiar waters.
Could the spook of yesteryear return to haunt the groom yet again, and scatter the revellers and newly-weds asunder, with scant hope for a reunion a second time? The fate of that abortive experiment could be explained by six points. First, was a paper-slim coalition shutting out willing and volunteering potential partners that later coagulated into a pro-government opposition bloc of parties commanding nine votes and driving government’s support from 61 to 70 out of 120 seats, in the face of a strong, bitter-loser outgoing prime minister – whose majority party outstripped the incoming prime minister’s main ruling party by no fewer than 15 constituencies and 18 total parliamentary seats – who sought to unseat his successor from the first day.
Second was the government’s feather-touching of the hostile former prime minister and his cohorts as they publicly called on top echelons of the security forces, judiciary, prosecution and general public service to defy the prime minister and his government, labelling them a bunch of pretenders occupying the spaces that in fact belonged to these challengers or detractors.
This soft paddling included the prime minister’s much-cheered-about quarrelling with the army commander, with the civilian blinking first or shutting his eyes when a witch-hunt of upright soldiery began – an unheard-of in modern statecraft. Third was the poverty of propaganda in ”proper” government when the deputy prime minister and former prime minister (being his former party boss) joined forces to fell the coalition, using among others a false interpretation of parliament’s prorogation as imposition of dictatorship, and the army commander’s treasonable public tirades at his prime minister as defence of the constitution, instead of “rounding up” him, the former prime minister and his party secretary for acts of incitement/ subversion, and insubordination up to August 2014 army siege on prime minister. Fourth was the government’s refusal to heed rational analysts’/activists’ and media voices on the foregoing, and submission to distractive contenders of government prerogative who prescribed displacement of the right to steer national affairs from State House and Cabinet to Opposition and South Africa donning the mask of SADC, via the above twisted discourse.
Fifth was refusal or failure of the prime minister and his cohorts to be flexible and reorganise the ruling coalition by incorporating the Bloc and poaching rival formations; and to use the prorogation to stay on the course of the rule of law and broaden its support base of friendly opinion shapers’ groups. Sixth and last was the maximalist posture of the prime minister and his party in prosecuting a war on grand corruption in which many in the captaincy of previous governments were embroiled, including the former prime minister’s main opposition and the serving deputy prime minister’s party, and their own persons to various degrees and in various forms.
Sadly, today the questions and answers seemingly remain the same. Informal reports say the talks towards constitution of the new four-way cabinet of the Thomas Thabane-led ninth parliament opposition complemented by the Alliance of Democrats of Monyane Moleleki who led the undoing of Thabane’s coalition involved quite a hard bargain, with the newcomer supposedly overly emphasising its kingmaker status despite its poor electoral score, just like the 2012 deputy prime minister. The “cross-benchers” tag aside, the government’s margin with total opposition remains slim at potential maximum of 66 seats (currently 63), and could end up with two “swing” parties or king-maker parties, with the AD being reduced to the same level of importance as the MEC if the ABC wins the three “failed” elections later in September. Coalitions are commonly described as either office-seeking or dryly power-focused and therefore presumably easy to cobble and easy to maintain; or policy-seeking and more nuanced in conditions precedent to their formation and palpably more precarious to sustain.
However you classify the first two coalitions, they were certainly not unravelled by wrangling over policy – hence the Bloc parties’ enrolment on both of them; and the Congress ideologues’ appeal to ideological incongruence to explain their torpedoing of the first coalition was sheer balderdash. In an umpteenth de javu, the new opposition has already carved a narrow field of play for the incoming incumbency, swearing bloodshed if the line in the sand is crossed. If in 2012 they cursed the DPM as a sell-out of the Congress dispensation to the MaNazi, only after casting him to the wind as damaged goods – today similar overtures are being toyed with in respect of Mr Moleleki. In place of the non-prosecution of corruption and non-shedding of previous regime’s top executives, Moleleki as prospective deputy prime minister is held out as an ambassador conveying the olive branch of a national truth and reconciliation commission reaching back nearly 50 years ago in its scope, in place of the prosecution of crimes of treason, murder and attempted murder involving elements of the army command and ranks, as part of SADC decisions following an international inquiry. Thabane’s premiership is up for a stern test yet again, because while the prospect of this prosecution of army crimes could be the centrepiece of his party’s wildfire growth in attraction of voter sympathy, his incoming deputy was reputed as the central pillar of the ancient regime, and initially came out as bulwark against this visitation of justice, championing a universal amnesty and later climbing down to universal arraignment of culprits and their victims whom they falsely accused of mutiny. The catalogue of criminal acts in which army members have been involved or cited, lately in complicity with the police, since the army acts which prompted the Phumaphi SADC commission, and the top-heavy mass promotions of suspects in both organs, bode for the forces’ mutation into a citadel of criminality which require a bold near-overhaul with resonating condemnation and instigation of extreme forms of resistance from outgoing prime minister’s main opposition quarters as already threatened as back in 2012.
Unlike the unenviable precedent of the first tour of 2012, the rulers will from the outset have to be firm and resolute in bringing to heel those who would pose as parallel state protecting these spheres against the rightful bearers of national mandate. Lesotho certainly does not have scenes of a glaring chasm like the post-election Zimbabwe and Kenya of 2007 and 2008, nor the broadly drawn lines of cut-throat enormity of politically motivated, mutually assured destruction of apartheid South Africa to warrant either a Government of National Unity or a TRC that are being half-coyly and half-threateningly put forward for SADC prescription as “transition” institutions by the just-ousted government. This latter-day internationalisation of the challenges of rule of law, which the outgoing rulers have always described as fitting the confines of the kingdom, while also perennially ruling out as an apocalyptic red herring the citizens’ claims of instability and insecurity in the past, can only entrench a culture of impunity and deepening national bitterness which outgoing regime has always vowed to uproot. The incoming coalition can only put these challenges behind the nation, and embark unrestrained on the agenda of moral regeneration and reconstruction a common national identity by submitting to a commonly woven, multi-stakeholder consensus driven only by the experience and preferences of the broad majorities of our communities – the only viable cure to intermittent regime collapse occasioned by short-sighted, vengeful elite pacts and bargains.