Tough balancing act for Thabane and partners

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Tom+ThabaneCoalition governments are by nature compromise marriages delicately meant to secure peace in otherwise polarised political environments.

After the bloody 2007 electoral period, a coalition secured peace for Kenya.

After another bloody 2008 poll closer home in Zimbabwe, foes in that country were forced to compromise and cobble an unhappy marriage which lasted about four years.

Here at home the All Basotho Convention (ABC) and its nemesis the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD), together with the Basotho National Party (BNP) had to stitch together a coalition to avert a hung parliament. Of course the situation is in many ways different from the events in Kenya and Zimbabwe in 2007 and 2008, respectively.

In recent years coalition governments have become the easiest way out of complex, sometimes irreconcilable situations for African leaders.

There many examples world over in which different, at times divergent forces with conflicting worldviews are forced into bed both for their own political expedience and for the sake of national peace.

The major down-side to coalition arrangements is that they can potentially alienate political leaders who sign the agreements from their electorate.

The contradictions that arise on a daily basis as leaders try to effect policy changes make it hard to report to their supporters why they handled each and every policy they way they did.

In the end the grassroots might feel they are ineffectual and giving away too many concessions to coalition partners or worse still that their dear leaders in government have sold out.

This is the difficult terrain in which ABC leader Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, LCD leader, Deputy Premier Mothetjoa Metsing and BNP leader, Sports Minister Thesele Maseribane are trying to steer the ship of governance.

The triumvirate was the best direction for Lesotho at the 2012 post-election crossroads.

Unfortunately for the trio, in terms of party politics and sustenance of loyalty, the arrangement is likely to be their political undoing, in the end.

After years in the opposition political wilderness most party faithful in ABC would understandably want to see their voices being heard, in terms of seeing party loyalists securing decision-making positions.

Yet realizing a full satisfaction of their aspirations is impossible because they have to delicately accommodate the desires of both LCD and BNP.

The scourge of corruption which former Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili is on record as having admitted he failed to contain is one area in which Thabane could score points and secure a legacy for both himself and his party.

However, one of his hands is tied by the crucial coalition agreement.

Thabane’s supporters would very much want to see the former government ministers and bureaucrats brought to book wherever corruption is suspected to have occurred. This is understandable.

The trouble is there are former ministers and high ranking civil servants that could be tainted by the sins of the past administration who are also deeply embedded in the present government.

For Thabane, therefore, appeasing such calls for justice without threatening the balance of power inherent in the coalition is a daunting task. It is a task which no textbook can provide guidelines to.

Similar headaches also follow LCD’s Metsing and BNP’s Maseribane.

Our fears, which are genuine, are that after their five-year term comes to a close, the leaders in the present government could rue the very arrangement that saw them ascend to power.

On the national front, they will each be regretting opportunities lost, if only they had had a blank cheque to govern without fearing to alienate coalition partners.

It must be very painful up there in government to let opportunities pass knowing you had ready solutions to take the country forward but there was little chance to change things because this or the other coalition partner would walk out on the marriage.

What is worse for any of the three politicians is that supporters have a short memory. By the time their term expires the restive supporters will forget that these leaders were not having it easy. The possibility of being heavily punished on polling day is an imminent reality as the country trudges slowly but surely towards another polling day.

Not surprising the opposition Democratic Congress is taking the slightest opportunity to lambast government leaders for any error or delay in policy direction. The three leaders have to up their game and adopt fresh skills to fend off the starry-eyed opposition without alienating the crucial partners in the marriage.

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