It is said if something is not broken, don’t fix it. But if indeed it is broken, then you should know how to fix it before fixing it.
The Marematlou Freedom Party (MFP) says it wants to push for the restoration of executive powers to King Letsie III (Sunday Express September 18 – 24, 2011).
The party said it is not happy with the current set up where the king is “a ceremonial monarch as set by the Englishmen”.
In other words the MFP says it wants a return to an absolute monarch where King Letsie III will assume absolute power over every aspect of the state.
The party says it finds the current set up highly unsatisfactory. It justifies this position by arguing that “Morena Moshoeshoe I ruled his country independently with customs and traditions, and so should his descendent King Letsie III”.
I find this argument quite disturbing.
Does the MFP soundly believe that we can return to that past?
Do those “customs and traditions” of the past still apply in our modern and post-modern world?
Instead of going forward the MFP wants to drag us back into the primitive past.
I think the party is not serious.
Our country is already highly conservative in social, moral and political aspects mainly because we cannot go beyond cultural and traditional constraints.
This conservatism has spurred a high level of mediocrity because our traditions do not allow people to broaden their horizons and think outside the box.
We are always shackled by traditions. The MFP does not see these things.
They want to take this country back to the primitive way of doing things.
Everywhere else people have fought to ditch absolute monarchies in favour of democratically elected governments.
Is it not surprising that during the same period the MFP thinks a return to the absolute monarchy is the only authentic way forward?
We only need to look next door at Swaziland and what has been happening there with the last absolute monarchy under King Mswati III.
The Swazis have had enough of the monarchy and are now pressing forward seeking political change.
The wayward Mswati III is all over the media due to the way he governs the country and runs his personal affairs.
He also lives in opulence while the majority of his own people wallow in absolute poverty.
The majority of Swazis are poor, jobless and penniless.
The Swazis have had enough and have been staging protests since last year demanding an end to the absolute monarchy.
But since he was not elected they have no constitutional means to remove him from power.
Their only option seems to be to revolt to overthrow the monarchy or, as in Italy, allow the people to vote in a referendum to decide whether to switch to a republic.
These are not easy options.
It is not possible to determine with certainty if a constitutional monarch can always govern the country democratically in the interest of the people and state once he becomes an absolute onarchy.
Only then would an absolute monarchy make sense.
Suppose the country is governed by an incompetent absolute monarchy, people will have to live with his incompetence until he dies.
One wonders if this is some kind of surrender by the MFP. How could the party, all of a sudden, start campaigning for an absolute monarchy?
This is bizarre.
If the MFP feels it can no longer stand in elections why can’t its members quit or join the existing political parties instead of advocating the absolute monarchy?
And again what is it that they find erroneous with the current constitutional monarchy that we have?
Most Basotho are still comfortable and happy with their King. King Letsie III serves as a symbol of continuity and statehood.
He reminds Basotho where they come from and how the nation was formed.
That is why many ceremonial monarchies are constituted by tradition or by codified law so that the monarch has little real political power.
Basotho are still happy with their King not holding absolute power.
This gives Basotho an opportunity to elect an individual who will serve them as their prime minister.
And whose reign can be ended once his/her term is over or the moment he/she displays incompetence in handling national issues.
Lesotho would rather have a king who has an oversight role with checks and balances from the parliament.
This system seems to have worked well for us as a country.
In any case the king’s role is not entirely ceremonial as MFP wants to say.
He’s still the head of this country.
He’s still part of the decision-making process in the government such as appointment of ministers on the advice of the prime minister and other senior positions like the chief justice and the attorney general.
I find the reasons advocated by the MFP quite unconvincing. It would be much better if it demands an improvement in Lesotho’s leadership.
Instead of “seeking to use the Mapoteng meeting to call for an increase in the number of Senate seats”, the MFP should seek to fight the high rate of unemployment, gender inequality, high rate of crime, poor service delivery and the mismanagement of the nation’s resources.
Instead of “using Independence Day celebrations on October 4 to call on Basotho to give King Letsie III administrative powers”, the MFP should seek to empower Basotho youths politically.
They should be given the chance to spell out their concerns as vulnerable members of society.
Unfortunately the MFP is busying itself with unnecessary campaigns.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with Lesotho’s current status.
The MFP should resist the temptation of trying to fix that which is not broken.
Lepeli Moeketsi is a sub-editor on the Lesotho Times and Sunday Express