LESOTHO is at the point of its 9th Parliament after the 2015 snap election. Its few months’ old opposition is already on a prolonged stay-away as a protest over what could best be left to the protesters to explain. They did not even bother to attend the presentation of the 2016/2017 budget. That is highly saddening because parliament is viewed as the highest repository of the hopes and aspirations of the citizens. The opposition remained less concerned with the event.
The prolonged stay-away has developed to a stage where it reflects on parliament itself. Constituents are likely to wonder if there is any value in going to polling stations to elect MPs only to come to parliament and stay-away. Parliaments created Ethics Committees with a hope to protect parliament against MP misconduct or show of tendencies which are likely to bring parliament into disrepute. The expectation is for all MPs to avoid bringing parliament into disrepute. The Lesotho opposition appears set to do just that.
Parliamentary rules and set procedures cannot be a guarantee to achieve decorum. The best overseer of individual MPs’ ways is their conscience. Parliaments have another common phenomenon of towing the party line. This can be effective but has limits. At times, one has to choose between following the party line or the leader blindly. That is when the call of conscience becomes handy. The ability to be guided by one’s conscience distinguishes men and women from mere followers. Humans distinguish themselves from animals by being rational.
The on-going stay-away has revealed that parliament has the potential to have MPs who can be guided by their conscience. One opposition PR MP showed that her conscience actually guided her. She chose to attend one sitting because she was concerned about predicaments which had befallen her community back home. She was aware that observance of party line to stay-away could not help her community. One is first an MP, then follows the role of backbencher or occupier of a front seat and finally a member of one team in the House.
In our kind of MMP electoral model, one has to choose whether he/she puts the party before constituents. The model tends to put a potential MP at the mercy of the party which determines where one is ranked on the Party List if ever one gets that chance. One sanction a party may mete against an individual may be to omit one`s name if she/he was guided more by Call of Conscience against party line.
The recent outcry by some civil society organisations against the opposition is another interesting development. Some of these CSOs have elsewhere been portrayed as extras or extensions of some political parties. This unexpected outcry may be indicative of the amount of pressure felt by these CSOs: they probably feel betrayed by their principals on the on-going stay away. The nation only has to watch whether or not the opposition will oblige. Seeing government sail uninterrupted in the House may be unbearable to some CSOs. If the opposition gives this a deaf ear, that would be in furtherance of bringing parliament into disrepute; at least in the eyes of the nation. Where a parliament does not move in the right direction, the nation will be the loser. No nation with good leadership may choose to be a loser.