WAS PARLIAMENT DIVIDED OVER INDEPENDENCE IN 1966?

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By Sofonea Shale

Lesotho marks the 49th anniversary of independence this year by launching sectoral preparations for national celebrations for the golden jubilee next year. One of several questions youth ask about independence is whether it is true or not that Lesotho parliament was divided over the independence motion in 1966?

The Minister of Home Affairs, Advocate Lekhetho Rakuaooane has called upon Basotho through their different formations to come up with proposals and ways through which they will to mark the 50th Anniversary of independence of Lesotho.  This challenge provides opportunity for Basotho to reflect on the past 50 years and define their kingdom in the next five decades. Depending on how government handles this, Basotho may have opportunity to enhance collaboration, strengthen peaceful co-existence and perhaps adopt the culture of peace as the way to go. If the national celebration held in Mafeteng is used as illustrious example on the government approach, the pronouncement by Hon Temeki Tšolo MP for Mafeteng constituency where celebration was held that he was not invited would raise eye brows. If Tšolo is correct then that is a big flop for government, in order to mobilise Basotho to take this as their initiative, government should be embracing. In various policy expressions in this Kingdom, Basotho have said what Lesotho they want, but leaders both in government and opposition have chosen to turn this Kingdom into a battle ground for bare-power contestations for self-actualisation.  The best way to put politicians to order is for people take the lead and direct politicians and abandon the culture of being submissive.  This ambitious approach may be possible with youth involvement and part of their orientation is on independence. In some discussions, youth asked a question is true or not that Lesotho parliament was divided over the independence motion in 1966? While this was addressed there and then, it might be necessary for purposes of sharpening youth appetite on national issues to further engage this at the wider level.

On Monday, 18th April 1966, in the National Assembly of Basutoland, the then Prime Minister, Morena Leabua Jonathan and the leader of Basuto National Party (BNP) proposed the motion “that Her Majesty’s Government do grant Independence to Lesotho in terms of the Agreement reached in London in 1964 and in terms of the White paper presented to both Houses of Parliament on the 8th March 1966”.  This was aimed at formally ending the century long arrangement where Basotho were for all intends and purposes treated as a colony despite their formal status of being a British Protectorate. This followed the 1963 Constitutional Commission, the Constitutional Conference in London in 1964 and the National Assembly Elections of 1965.  In London, Basotho were represented by J.T Mapetla, C.T.L Chakela, R.G Lerotholi, G.P Ramoreboli, C.K Nkuebe, E. Leanya, S.S Matete, B.M Khaketla, Leabua Jonathan and Ntsu Mokhehle.  Speaking on this motion, the leader of Opposition and the leader of Basuto Congress Party (BCP) made his submission continuously from 18th April to 21st April 1966 in the National Assembly.  The leader of Opposition raised a number of issues and concluded his submission by proposing an amendment to the motion that “there be a Select Committee to establish whether all conditions referred to  in the London Agreement have been satisfied, that motion to Her Majesty to grant independence not be made unless two thirds majority is obtained in both houses, reservation of Bills, foreign affairs, public service, defence and internal security be under the King and be administered as advised by National Security Council to be composed of the King or His nominee, Prime Minister, nominee of Opposition leader, retired judge appointed by Judicial Service Commission and Commissioner of Police Force, that major national or international matters like treaties be agreed by two thirds majority of both houses of parliament, that ordinary bills and motions not affect parliament and that draft constitution form basis for independence talks and before then be passed by two thirds majority of both Houses of Parliament”.

The proposed amendment was not granted and the final voting on the substantive motion got 32 “Ayes” which represents “yes” and 28 “Noes” which represents “no”.

This article provides an answer to the question asked however, it also becomes a provocation for further inquiry for those who may want to be conversant with the contestations over Lesotho’s independence. If young people want to be relevant in what their country should look like it would be a requirement to engage further to understand why independence motion was not supported by all members of National Assembly in 1966. Wanting to be taken serious in Lesotho politics yet reluctant to engage and seek knowledge beyond information normally provided by politicians is a recipe for disaster.  It would be quite interesting for young people to trace these contestations and see how they have been resolved if they have been and what are the implications if they have not been resolved. These contestations would clearly inform different political orientation for youth with BNP and BCP inclinations respectively. The only way to break that naivety is for youth themselves from both sides of political divide to dig deeper and go further to appreciate the contestations and how if they were resolved if any at any particular time.

This engagement is relevant because youth must understand whether at this time politicians share similar appreciation on the sovereignty of Lesotho and how that is applied and might need to be applied in future. While the conventional definition of sovereignty is malleable to the changing dynamics such as ever complex relations between and among globalising states, it is still relevant to states to appreciate how sovereigns in the contemporary world interact. Failure to appreciate this technically surrenders independence of this nation to other nations who would have spent some time thinking about their independence and interdependence.  Unless Basotho take necessary proactive steps, they would be compelled to re-define identity of their sovereign state in terms and conditions dictated by the others.  May be the starting point could be is true or not that Lesotho parliament was divided over the independence motion in 1966?

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