11 May 2018

Lesotho: ABC Must Deal With the Elephant in the Room

editorial

HISTORY is littered with so many examples of once iconic political movements or parties that eventually imploded into complete ignominy. Take for instance the example of once gigantic parties like KANU in Kenya - the party of Mzee Jomo Kenyatta; the once formidable UNIP in Zambia and its successor the MMD; the MCP of Kamuzu Banda in Malawi and many others. These parties once held sway before meeting their tragic Waterloos.

The reasons of their implosions are varied. But it can be argued that deep factionalism; spawned by failure or lack of mechanisms to handle internal differences was a common thread. When the winds of change swept across Africa and it had become obvious that moribund and decadent one party schemes were no longer in sync with prevailing dictates, Kenneth Kaunda foolishly resisted change, causing his long time comrades to walk away and forge the MMD with a bunch of trade unionists.

In our case, there is no doubt that the All Basotho Convention (ABC) has evolved into a political behemoth of sorts from only 17 seats in 2007 to a whopping 40 plus in 2017. Were it not for the vagaries of our political and electoral system, the ABC could be governing alone. However, the ABC needs not look any further than at the once mighty Basotho Congress Party (BCP) and its off-shoots which include the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD), the Democratic Congress (DC), among others, for stern lessons about the failures of managing internal strife.

The BCPs and the LCDs were once behemoths. Now they are pale shadows of themselves. And were it not for our overly generous electoral system, they could long have been wiped off the map. These are salutary lessons for the ABC.

The party has been on a growth trajectory and won the biggest chunk of seats in the 3 June 2017 elections. Its leader Thomas Thabane may be striding the country's political landscape like a colossus. But all of that could well become a Pompeii or even an Atlantis buried underneath the avalanche of destructive in-fighting, if the tensions within the party are not addressed.

While it can be argued that infights and quarrels are inevitable in any political formation, and sometimes even healthy to have them, it is also true that the less the infighting the better. The more the cohesion in any ruling party the better for positive governance outcomes. When the attention of ruling parties get diverted by internal fissures, the governance process and service delivery suffers.

The process of undertaking critical constitutional, security sector and legislative reforms to hopefully end the perennial instability in this Kingdom is now underway. There is no denying that a strong government is a pre-requisite to leading this all important process. Any government is only as strong as its constituent parts, particularly its biggest part which at this moment in time happens to be the ABC.

It is for this reason that reports of infighting in the ABC and its coalition partner, the AD, should be a huge cause for worry.

Only a fortnight ago the increasingly exasperated SADC gave Lesotho until May 2019 to have fully implemented the constitutional and security sector reforms required to foster permanent sanity in this Kingdom.

The biggest impediment, hitherto, to progress of this process has been the opposition with its moronic demands that criminal suspects in some of the most heinous crimes this country has ever seen be released as a pre-condition for its participation. That in itself should not be a problem as an important process cannot be held to ransom by foolishness. It's nonetheless another thing if the centre fails to hold. In other words, if the government that should be leading the process finds itself distracted by infighting and chaos in its constituent parts.

As we report elsewhere in this edition, the chairman of the ABC, Motlohi Maliehe, opened a can of worms via his unprecedented attack on a fellow cabinet minister and the Prime Minister's wife, 'Maesaiah Thabane.

Addressing a rally in his constituency, Mr Maliehe accused the First Lady of undue interference in the party and in government. He also suggested that she had a hand in the appointment of some "undeserving" cabinet ministers. Our role is not to act as an arbiter in determining who is wrong or right or certifying the veracity of Mr Maliehe's allegations or lack thereof.

However, it is now common cause that many in the ABC and government have been complaining about what they perceive as the negative role of the First Lady in the party and the government. Instead of doing so openly with a view of seeking a long lasting solution, they have been doing it in muffled tones. We find that unhelpful. Mr Maliehe has spoken openly of what has now become a common grievance in the ABC.

It is now up to the party to deal with this issue once and for all in the national interest. As a newspaper, we hold immense respect for our First Lady. The fact that she is the woman who cares for the country's Prime Minister and gives her succour and comfort means a lot to us. As she has already demonstrated, she can play a leading role through her charity in transforming the lives of Basotho. Her recent excellent work in helping the disadvantaged in Mokhotlong speaks for itself. Our advice to her is to continue her excellent charity work through her Foundation and live the business of government to government bureaucrats.

She should not give her enemies any opportunity to drag her name into the mud if the ABC and the government fails in service delivery. She must support her husband to ensure he is fit for purpose, but allow him the space to run his government programmes. We say this not because we are saying Mr Maliehe is right. No. We say this because we know as a newspaper that all and sundry in the ABC and in government have been attacking Mme Liabiloe sometimes with gay abandon. She should thus not give them a chance to ruin her good name.

In Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe fell after 38 years in power. Everyone now attributes his fall to his young wife Grace Mugabe. We don't want the same fingers to be pointed at our First Lady should - as is being alleged now - disgruntled ABC MPs move to sabotage the government. We want this government to last so we can focus on the business at hand. Equally AD leader Monyane Moleleki must move to end the strife in his party. Let's have order in this governing coalition for the good of the nation.

Lesotho

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