By Kelebone Lekunya*
Since independence in 1966, Lesotho has experienced political disturbances which are relatively more than its tiny geographical size. There coups, attempted coups and political kidnappings and assassinations. Several social commentators have attributed these political challenges to the control of the armed forces by the politicians. They also argue that if the Lesotho Defence Forces (LDF) and the Lesotho Mounted Police Services (LMPS) could be depoliticised, there would be political salvation in the Mountain Kingdom. I tend to partly agree with these assertions but I propose what I think would be the panacea to our socio-political ills. When there are political disturbances in any capitalist economy, markets suffer and investors pull out their investments and capital and inject them elsewhere where they think that their properties are in safe hands. These leave much to be desired in the abandoned economy. People lose jobs, budgets are left strained and development partners prescribe dictatorial terms and conditions for their development grants and loans.
What has happened in Lesotho in the recent past is not as a result of an unprofessional defence force or police service or rather their insubordination. It is as a result of a systematic failure to prescribe term limits in our respective political parties for our leaders. Our population depends too much on patronage to survive and the longer we help our leaders to cling to power in the parties is the more we encourage political intolerance on the part of others who want to put their hands in the national fiscus cookie jar. We have a system where our national resources are so scarce that a ticket of the ruling party in any particular time is a ticket to a job or a government tender. These days we do not expect service delivery from the ruling elites per se, but we need them to return favours because we claim that we have put them where they are. Whoever is in opposition benches would also cause political disturbances so that the ruling kleptocrats would fall and he/she would take the levers of power for their benefit too. We have become a nation so lacking of morals that were it possible for our founding fathers to see our state as a nation, they would turn in their graves. My main argument is that we usually find ourselves in the wrong side of good governance because of our entrenched bad culture of not removing our political leaders who stay in power in our parties even after they outlive their welcome.
I know I am going to make more enemies than friends in penning this commentary, but let’s talk frankly, were it not because of old men and women at the helm of our political parties, Lesotho would be on the right road towards its Vision 2020. The old boys club have no interest in the future of this country because they are already living on their extra time. They are only interested in themselves and their cronies. It is high time that we, the youth, join these political parties and wage a revolution to take over from the old stock. Some people have argued that this culture of leaders who occupy party senior positions until death do them part was created by the two most esteem fathers of Lesotho’s modern political trajectory viz Morena Leabua Jonathan and Dr Ntsu Mokhehle (meea ea bona e phomole ka Khotso). Many arguments could be made about them about this issue of clinging to power till death; it does not matter, at least to me. We would do our country a great disservice and injustice if we concentrated on what who did when and not consider making right their wrongs. It is time that we stand up and correct this practice.
Let’s look at the top four political parties in Lesotho in terms of the number of votes each got in 2015 general elections and look at how many leader they have had since their formation.
- Democratic Congress: – The DC was formed in 2012 under its current president, Dr. Pakalitha Mosisili. In 2015 elections, it got 218 573 national votes and it was the highest party. It has only had one leader whose term expires somewhere around 2017/2018. While we cannot conclude that Dr Mosisili has stayed for long in the leadership of the DC, we all know that he stayed for some 14 long years as the leader of the LCD from 1997 to 2012. Although it might sound unfair to him, I think he should consider leaving active politics to fresh blood at the expiration of his current term as leader of the party. Founders are not eternal fathers nor life leaders.
- All Basotho Convention: – The ABC was formed in 2006 under the leadership of its current president Dr Motsoahae Thabane. The ABC was the second highest party in terms of the number of votes in 2015 elections. It garnered 215 022 votes nationally. It has had only one leader since its formation nearly 10 years ago. Maybe we could say that 10 years is only 2 five year terms, but looking at his age, I think he should call it a day and go and enjoy old age.
- Lesotho Congress for Democracy: – The LCD was formed in 1997 by the late Dr Ntsu Mokhehle. He passed the baton to Dr Mosisili who jumped ship and the baton was taken by Mr Mothetjoa Metsing since 2012. By comparison to the above two leaders, Mr Metsing is fairly young and has only 4 years at the helm of any political party. Let’s give him another chance maybe he will perform well in garnering support for this party which saw its worst performance ever in the last general election.
- Basotho National Party: – the BNP was formed by the late Dr Leabua Jonathan in 1959. He led it till his death in 1987. It was then led by Morena Retšelisitsoe Sekhonyana who passed the baton to Major General Metsing Lekhanya who then passed it to Morena Thesele ‘Maseribane. Morena Thesele is fairly young too and he has not led the party for too long. Let’s give him a fair chance to prove himself. He has done some commendable work of increasing the party’s electorate for the past two national elections. The BNP got 31 508 national votes in the last 2015 elections.
Looking at the above information, it is clear that members of the DC and the ABC should change their horses’ jockeys and elect new younger leaders. The current ones are old and should pass leadership wisdom to fresh blood. This could generally lead to stable parties which in turn lead to a stable country. The national resources would then be distributed fairly across the board and benefit more people than few connected individuals. It would assist in deepening democracy in our political parties where potential successors would be groomed in time for stable transitions both in the parties and in the country. Stable and peaceful political transitions are good for market or investor confidence in an economy.
In conclusion, let’s be the champions of our political future for the stability of our country. Let’s change the old guard with the new boys and girls in our political parties and ultimately in our country. This would contribute in a significant way in making our country politically stable and enhance investor confidence in in our economic stability. The LDF and the LMPS are not our problems, old guys disinterested in our future affairs are. Let there be peace, let there be rain, let there be prosperity for Lesotho. God bless Lesotho. God bless Basotho.
*Kelebone Lekunya is a Ngoajane based social commentator.