12 January 2018

Lesotho: In Anticipation of a Better 2018 Focus

Time sets its own pace. Talks: either about talks or reforms, have their timing set by humans. The later have a potential to drift into the future if planners and key actors so wish or are not adequately/properly focused. There is a call of duty for patriots to continuously remind all about what is of public interest. Time never waits. The next election is already on the horizon: five years is too brief for our unstable Kingdom. Meanwhile suggestions/ideas for this voyage of rediscovery will continue to pour in on a regular basis. The following excerpts are ideas likely to enhance our democratic performance:

30 March 30-April 5, 2014: Effects of prorogation of parliament

The truth is that in any match, a referee is a key actor [who has to remain unbiased. In our humble effort to reform our parliament, a chairperson is a key actor. It could be why way back in 2004 the Deputy Prime Minister of the time came all the way down to the House floor to chair or convene with Senate President in attendance, a Joint-Parliamentary Reforms Committee [which is not recognised through Standing Orders]. This [however]reflects a very up-side-down arrangement [from which]we can be sure of a very slow pace of reform.

The challenge: There is more need now [2018] than at any time before, for well-considered reform attitude, structures and actors. Setting of any TOR will be very important, this time around. The 17-22 September, 1995 National Dialogue on Democracy, Stability and Development approach ought to be adopted. As parliament has its own Reforms Committee, the envisaged parliamentary reforms exercise is more of a national voyage than a regular parliamentary introspection. Actually, identification of all reform areas and topics could best be assigned to some Steering Committee of the 1995 National Dialogue model.

JUN.18-24, 2015: You reap what you sow

"What is effected or done [by man]in the present will have direct effect on what happens later (Galatians 6: 7)".

The Challenge: Lesotho displays itself embarrassingly as an unstable democracy. No state is predestined to be stable or unstable. All depends on how its affairs are managed or mismanaged. Even very good managers occasionally take wrong turns. What is of essence is that any mismanagement should be acknowledged. Every nation reaps what its political leadership sows. One only has to look back to establish who did what and when or, to put it mildly, what wrong happened and how best can that be corrected?

14-30 July, 2016: Echoes from old foot prints

"Interestingly, the 17-22 September 1995 National Dialogue recommended that MPs and other people in authority should desist from harassing members of the security forces by calling them names... .government should not interfere with the command structure of the security forces ... " New comers [post 1995 leaders]are invited to look back to when they boarded the democratic train, to review how their roles and inputs have fared, leading to the current state of [security instability]in Lesotho.

The Challenge: Could the current situation of security instability be viewed as comparable to that era which led to the 1995 National Dialogue or as better or worse? Is it an overstatement that Lesotho is actually nurturing a very bad political culture through displays of better-than-thou attitude in the exercise of governance powers? Was the 1995 Dialogue recommendation unsuitable for stable security in a democracy? How do other democracies make do with their security forces? The impending 10th Parliament National Dialogue and its reforms will be another interesting test and indicator of whether or not Lesotho is politically maturing and growing as a democracy.

Our inability to maintain an apolitical security establishment demonstrates our failure in one of the finest traditions of parliamentary democracy. All security agencies are a resource to tap for the benefit of the nation and not a sitting government or the opposition.

13-19 April, 2017: Ninth Parliament doomed from the start

While the boycott of sittings marked the climax of confrontational parliamentary work by MPs, the return to Lesotho by political leaders and MPs from exile marked the anti-climax [of confrontational parliamentary work.

The nation hoped that reform processes would [then]commence in earnest; but the opposition and government continued with their bickering. Bad habits die hard. One wonders what the 3 June 2017 election will usher in.

The Challenge: That election resulted in the current parliament. Within a few months, there already exists another set of exiles. Are these likely to return to Lesotho like their predecessors? If they do, will reforms this time unfold smoothly or will attention shift, probably down the rail for other reasons or causes? Any eventuality is possible in the unstable Lesotho. Our democracy has too many cooks with their equally different tastes and recipes.

25 February- 2 March 2016: The Opposition is awkwardly positioned

Parliaments create Ethics Committee with a hope to protect parliament against MP misconduct or show of tendencies which are likely to bring parliament into disrepute.

The Challenge: When names of members of this committee were announced, what came to mind again is whether parliament will ever find wisdom in appointing members of the opposition to the chairmanship of committees? Why do standing orders not provide for deputy chairpersons of committees? All these could be traced to the 'we-and-they' attitude which characterises the Lesotho parliament. Failure to so recognise the relevance of the opposition in the management of parliament will condition it to always opt for reactionary tendencies to reveal that it indeed exists in parliament. Unfortunately, that is not the way for a healthy parliamentary democracy. A mere thought of how the opposition is likely to respond to a business issue raises temperatures.

Misunderstanding: It has been said that there is a lot to be done to suit the Mixed Member Proportional electoral model. One doubts if everything relating to the model is likely to be respected. Its consequence has been to compulsorily plant an enlarged opposition in parliament: transplanting political instability into parliament. The major problem is the attitudes of both the ruling majority and the opposition. This could be worse than when defeated parties destabilised from outside parliament.

17-23 March, 2016: Truth necessary to achieve healing

"Sometimes, truth hurts. Just like words: it may annoy, irritate, inspire etc."

The Challenge: confrontation in the National Assembly has become a permanent feature. This is likely to continue unless the leadership adopts cues from developed parliamentary practices. One cue which the Lesotho parliament failed to pick way back in 2004 is the device of consultative meetings. It is doubtful a cabinet minister can adopt an idea originated by a backbencher from the opposition. Both sides in the House need each other for a stable democracy.

27 April - 3 MAY 2017: Lesotho's 27-year democracy limps along

Prayers have to be said for the 10th Parliament to take our democracy to higher level. Good parliaments contribute to strong democracies.

The Challenge: We are a few months into this parliament. We witness dramatic incidents in the House. There are loud whispers which signal infighting and defections among political parties. Where is Lesotho heading to? Surely it is not to the higher levels of democracy.

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