Failure is not an option

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TALKS between the government and opposition on the disputed proportional representation (PR) seats finally roared into life yesterday.

The talks are being facilitated by the Christian Council of Lesotho and are chaired by retired Anglican bishop Phillip Mokuku. 

It is our fervent hope that the dialogue process will bring finality to this long-running saga that has virtually split the nation into two warring sides.

We remain keen observers of what comes out of the process.

First, we must say we are heartened by the initial commitment from the two sides to resolve the dispute and let the country move forward.

But we realise that much more will be required to haul the country from the edge of the precipice.

Much more is required to secure an outcome that is agreeable to all.

If ever there was a time for our political leaders to show real leadership, this is the time.

For too often we have seen politicians play to the gallery to appease their constituents and project a macho figure.

That time is long gone. We hope common sense will prevail during the discussions.

On the face of it, both sides appear committed to the talks. This can be seen from the calibre of cadres they have seconded to the talks.

We therefore expect level heads in the talks. Both sides must demonstrate political maturity and put the interests of the nation first.

This is why we found it difficult to fathom why the leaders of the two main political parties in Lesotho are making public statements that seem to be at odds with the spirit of dialogue.

Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili and All Basotho Convention leader Thomas Thabane have both passed comments that we felt were unfortunate given the ongoing moves to breathe life into the dialogue process.

We found the statements extremely worrying.

Mosisili told a ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) rally in Teyateyaneng last weekend that his party would not shift an inch from its stance regarding the PR seats.

He said the High Court had already passed its verdict on the matter.

On the other hand Thabane appears as if he does not want to be outdone.

He told his supporters that there will be no peace in Lesotho unless the government relents on the PR seats issue.

The two leaders could have been politicking. But all the same their public statements do little to entrench confidence in the dialogue process.

Both the ruling party and opposition parties agreed to maintain a veil of secrecy around the talks at their initial meeting convened by the Christian Council of Lesotho two weeks ago.

By making these inflammatory remarks at rallies both leaders are in breach of that agreement to maintain confidentiality.

It is important to remember that effective negotiations are never conducted in public.

We are sure that there are hawks on both sides of the political divide that will fight to resist compromise.

These individuals might seek to scuttle the talks for their own selfish reasons.

The hawks must be neutralised.

Retired Bishop Mokuku must find a way of managing the hawkish elements within the two camps.

He must strive to ensure that no single side walks away from the talks with a feeling that it has secured “total victory”.

He must also ensure no single side feels completely vanquished.

This is obviously a difficult assignment for the retired bishop. But we expect him to rise to the challenge and find a solution to the political dispute.

Failure should not be an option.

Retired Bishop Mokuku is a Mosotho. He comes to the talks with no extra baggage. We hope he will not take the “Masire route” by throwing in the towel when the going gets tough.

As a Mosotho, the retired bishop is best placed to ward off the ethnic card that politicians sometimes play by claiming that Masire issued the damning report because he is a foreigner.

The issues at stake are of a grave nature. It is therefore important that we sit down as Basotho and resolve this issue once and for all.

We are aware of our violent past. We want the talks to help chart a fresh start free from the hatred of the past.

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