A LACK of discipline, and not the missing coalition agreement, could be the biggest threat to the four-party government’s serving its five-year term.
This is the view of analysts who spoke to the Lesotho Times this week as the Prime Minister Thomas Thabane-led government marks two months in power.
Dr Thabane returned to the premiership on 16 June 2017 after his All Basotho Convention (ABC) cobbled together parliamentary seats with the Alliance of Democrats (AD), Basotho National Party (BNP) and Reformed Congress of Lesotho.
This was after the 3 June 2017 National Assembly elections resulted in a hung parliament for the third consecutive time since the May 2012 elections.
While the two previous governments unveiled their coalition agreements soon after assuming power, the new administration is yet to reveal its governance blueprint.
The dearth of a coalition agreement has come under the spotlight in light of seemingly uncoordinated messages coming out of various government officials.
BNP spokesperson and Home Affairs Deputy Minister Machesetsa Mofomobe recently vowed to quit his government position if the killers of former Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) commander Lt-Gen Maaparankoe Mahao were not prosecuted.
Lt-Gen Mahao was fatally shot by his erstwhile LDF colleagues on 25 June 2015 who claimed he had resisted arrest for suspected mutiny. However, a SADC Commission of Inquiry into the incidents surrounding the former army chief’s killing concluded that the LDF’s case against Lt-Gen Mahao and other alleged mutineers was “highly suspecios”.
The commission recommended that government should investigate the killing and prosecute those found to be responsible. It also recommended constitutional, security and public sector reforms to bring lasting peace and stability.
AD leader and Deputy Prime Minister Monyane Moleleki has previously called for a blanket amnesty for offences committed between January 2007 and December 2015, saying it was imperative to ensure lasting peace.
Political analyst, Kopano Makoa, said the governing parties needed to have a coordinated governance and communication approach to nip any contradictions in the bud.
He said a coalition agreement was mostly for the public’s consumption, so that they know what to expect from the government.
“For any government to be stable and show a united front to the public, discipline has to be maintained at all times,” Prof Makoa said.
“Incidents of contradictions are not a result of the absence of the coalition agreement but rather lack of discipline by some government officials.”
Indiscipline could have dire consequences for the government if left unattended, he said.
“Ministers and other senior government officials should now understand that cabinet decisions are not a reflection of individual parties but that of the government.
“Hence, they should not be making pronouncements without consultations and agreements.
“Doing the opposite is breaking the oath of allegiance which they took when they were sworn in as ministers. Breaking this oath is not only a matter of indiscipline but has criminal implications.”
Prof Makoa said government officials needed to bear in mind the fact that Basotho desperately needed stability and predictability.
“Those can be destroyed through indiscipline.
“We need to bear in mind the fact that some of the new ministers had not served in government or bureaucratic institutions like banks with hierarchical structures. “Hence, some may find it difficult to fit into the government system.”
He added that political parties and civil society organisations should play a watchdog role to ensure the government did not deviate from its mandate.
National University of Lesotho (NUL) Political Science lecturer Motlamelle Kapa said King Letsie III’s Speech from the Throne during the opening of the National Assembly last month encapsulated the agenda of the government in the absence of a coalition agreement.
“We don’t know why they have not issued the coalition agreement as has been the practice for other administrations,” he said.
“But for me, the Speech from the Throne delivered by His Majesty during the opening of the 10th parliament should be regarded as a coalition agreement because it highlighted the critical issues this government intends to address.”
Dr Kapa said the absence of a coalition agreement did not necessarily mean that the four parties didn’t have an operational framework since the Speech from the Throne committed to implementing wide ranging reforms.
The government has already started delivering on its commitments, he said, especially in the security sector.
Police Commissioner Molahlehi Letsoepa is currently negotiating exit terms with the government after being sent on an involuntary 90-day leave by Dr Thabane last month.
Dr Thabane also ended the tenure of Colonel Tumo Lekhooa as National Security Service director-general and dispatched him to his old job as Military Intelligence director at the LDF. Lesotho Correctional Service Commissioner, ‘Matefo Makhalemele, has also been sent on a 57-day forced leave which is usually a precursor to dismissal.
These developments were intimated in the Speech from the Throne and show that the government is already implementing.
Asked what the government needed to do to fully serve its five-year tenure, Dr Kapa said it was imperative for the coalition to come up with a clear roadmap for implementing the reforms as stipulated in the Speech from the Throne.
He warned against rushing into the reforms without clarity on the process, saying it should ultimately serve Basotho and not just the international community.
“The key thing is that the government should undertake these reforms with a clear understanding of the process and objectives. The reforms should bode well for Basotho and Lesotho and not for SADC or other stakeholders. What we need from SADC is the support for the process and ensuring it is done for Basotho,” Dr Kapa said.
“Failure to implement the SADC decisions raised the risk of international isolation much like the previous government.”
On what the government needed to do to avoid collapsing midterm, Dr Kapa said there was a need to regulate parliamentary floor-crossings which made successive governments “highly vulnerable”.
“I am not saying the floor-crossing process should be stopped, as that would be undemocratic, but it needs to be regulated.
“Regulating the process would entail declaring a parliamentary seat vacant and calling for a by-election in the constituency when a legislator wants to cross the floor.”
Such a regulation, he said, would stabilise the government and enable it to deliver on its mandate.