By Sofonea Shale
THE 2015 annual national address by His Majesty the King on the occasion marking festive season generated public discourse necessary for engaging one another at least with the aim of attaining peace that citizens deserve. The main challenge is whether Basotho can rise to the occasion and use His Majesty’s message to define constructive engagement. Since politicians both in and out of government are charged with the responsibility to lead the nation into realising its ideals, ensuring that the national policies are implemented in line with approved plans and that budgetary allocations are appropriately spent, they are bound to listen to His Majesty not only in the speech from the throne. Have politicians heard His Majesty?
His Majesty noted and precisely so that 2015 is remembered differently by individuals depending on the personal circumstances people faced but at the national level, it was mixture of problems, successes, challenges and opportunities. On governance His Majesty indicated that following the fallout between if not among the leaders of the ABC led coalition government, Lesotho had elections two years earlier than expected. His Majesty went further to remind Basotho that SADC was requested to offer a helping hand in the continued post-election challenges in Lesotho and expressed national expectation and hope that the Phumaphi commission will recommend on the measures that will give Basotho sustainable peace. His Majesty once again warned politicians to realise that whenever they stir waters and their contestations spill over into the security agencies, it is the ordinary citizens who suffer. His Majesty lamented over leaders of opposition, members of Lesotho Defence Force, lawyers and media practitioners who fled the country due to the political and military situation in the country. On HIV and AIDS His Majesty expressed dismay that the situation is not improving and that the Kingdom has gone worse in the international rankings. His hope that resuscitation of the National AIDS Commission will improve the situation urges everyone to work hard to bring expected change. He reminded Basotho that he once made a call for a programme to build dams to harness water and he repeated the call.
Taking His Majesty’s message holistically, one can see a basis for a new beginning for a peaceful Lesotho. If Basotho through their leadership can apply their minds not only on the issues His Majesty raised but particularly on the manner of presentation, there is no doubt this country can change. But have politicians heard His Majesty?
It is quite interesting because the bit inward looking narration and tone of the Prime Minister addressing the same governance issues can be tamed and turned accommodative through His Majesty’s perspective. The Prime Minister described reasons precipitating elections as collapse of governance and that after elections things have been brought back to track with the exception of few things that still need to be finalised. The Prime Minister’s account gives impression that things were worse before he came to power and improved as he held reigns. Whether he is correct or wrong is an issue for contestation and common ground may not be easily found from the righteous approach. In political contestations perceptions and intentions and not facts per se shape engagement. In peace work, management if not resolution of conflicts does not rest on facts by one party rather on how they are perceived to be and on how their intentions are perceived by the other. On his announcement of the intention of the government to revive the National AIDS Commission the Prime Minister blamed the previous regime for having caused escalation of HIV and AIDS through its inadequate interventions and recklessness.
Surely this account cannot be accepted by the opposition again not so much because it is factual or not but on the basis of its perceived intended political benefits. If opposition believes that the Prime Minister seeks positive public appraisal at its expense, not only will Prime Minister’s appeal for return home not be seen as a serious call but will invite counter statement. In fact opposition leaders are on record describing their stay out of Lesotho as caused by the post-election political and military situation. On the programmatic inadequacy on HIV and AIDS, the opposition has already backlashed accusing the Prime Minister that the National AIDS Commission was disbanded during his tenure of office. The Prime Minister is blamed for what he blames the previous regime for.
For those in political science and policy studies and lately monitoring and evaluation, intentions are central in any policy direction. If the intention is to consolidate governance and set the country in a path for reforms, the means should reflect the intended end. Though His Majesty’s description may in the ordinary unhelpful political orientation not be regarded high, it actually represents the appropriate beginning for Lesotho politicians if they want to work for peace. It is not the question of what is or not desirable but a fact that the SADC brokered elections facilitated regime not political change, Basotho still have to grapple with governance challenges. Argued fairly, honestly and convincingly, Lesotho‘s situation could not be said to be normal when leaders of opposition are still out of the country, complete the safe return home process. Governance could not justifiably be said to be intact while the post-election era has been so taunting for the Lesotho government. The government has been under pressure to explain the state of rule of law in Lesotho, the extent to which ethos of good governance such as accountability, civil-military relations and many others are upheld, address these issues. Ordinarily good governance goes hand in hand with international acclamation; the message which the then Prime Minister taught well when Lesotho was positively appraised under the US Millennium Challenge Corporation previously, keep the teaching. When Lesotho got assistance, Basotho were made to believe that such is a reward and incentive for good governance under the leadership of Dr Mosisili. Would it be fair to the citizens, tax payers and electors to reorient them that it is US government which is undemocratic when Lesotho is not positively appraised this time? The SADC-Lesotho government stand-off over Phumaphi Commission communicates clearly the intentions involved. The Opposition decision to boycott parliament yet hold press conferences to call for drastic governance measures like putting the Kingdom under SADC administration is equally judged with perceived intentions.
Look at the issues and address them, there is a lot that politicians can give to Basotho without them gaining political mileage at the expense of others. His Majesty’s message gives that induction. Have politicians heard His Majesty?