‘GNU a brilliant concept but . . .’
THE Democratic Congress (DC) faction aligned to deputy leader Monyane Moleleki last week signed a coalition pact with the tripartite opposition bloc meant to oust the current seven-party governing coalition and form a government of national unity (GNU).
Under the pact titled “The Coalition Agreement for National Unity and Reconciliation” with the All Basotho Convention (ABC), Basotho National Party (BNP) and Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL), Mr Moleleki would head the coalition for the first 18 months upon forming government.
The members of the new alliance also invited all political parties to join the coalition meant to end the barely two-year reign of the Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili-led government.
This week, Lesotho Times (LT) reporter Lekhetho Ntsukunyane caught up with former DC stalwart and now co-founder of the Majalefa political movement Ramahooana Matlosa to discuss the new development on the political scene.
LT: What is your opinion on the recently-signed coalition agreement between Mr Moleleki’s DC faction and the opposition bloc?
Matlosa: Perhaps we should first accept that the circumstances that gave birth to this pact were instigated by conflict between two people (Dr Mosisili and Mr Moleleki). It had been apparent for quite some time that they don’t see eye-to-eye anymore. Hence, we now see part of the DC forming a partnership with the ABC, BNP and RCL. But again, we should go further back and reflect on what really is the problem with congress parties. The congress parties have been splitting since 1997 when the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) was formed from the Basotho Congress Party (BCP). At a later stage, the Lesotho People’s Congress (LPC) broke away from the LCD ahead of the 2002 elections. The ABC was also formed in 2006, and in 2012, the DC was formed. Now, as the major congress party, the DC is obviously heading for yet another congress split. When congress parties came together to form the current seven-member coalition government following the 2015 elections, Ntate Mosisili vigorously stated that the congress parties were humbled by the outcome of the elections which could not produce an outright winner. You would assume the elections were a lesson for Ntate Mosisili and the rest of the congress people, but unfortunately, it appears not to be the case considering what’s happening right now. Again, Ntate Mosisili himself has continued to state that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. With the current state of affairs, you would ask yourself whether it is Ntate Mosisili himself who doesn’t remember the past or the other group of the DC leadership. It begs the question of why the congress parties have always fallen into the same trap since 1997?
LT: The leaders of the new coalition are calling for a government of national unity. Do you think it’s a good idea?
Matlosa: As Majalefa, we would appreciate that as Lesotho enters into the next 50 years of its independence we can venture into that type of government. It’s a brilliant concept that brings together all parties. We can then forget about the past and, most importantly, do away with political parties’ interests but advance the national interest. A GNU can then easily facilitate constitutional, parliamentary, public and security sector reforms. This would be a good foundation in the next journey of 50 years. As Basotho, we always attempted to build something on cracked foundations. We keep experiencing the cracks because the foundation is wrong. Let’s reconstruct the whole constitutional structure to make way for economic growth and transformation for a completely new era Basotho can be proud of. Our economy can only thrive if the country is stable and in peace.
LT: You sound like you doubt the constitution. What exactly is wrong with it?
Matlosa: Our constitution has always been abused by our leaders since we returned to democracy in 1993. In fact, even before 1993, the former prime minister and BNP leader Dr Leabua Jonathan first suspended the constitution in 1970. In 1997, the founder of the congress movement and also former Prime Minister Dr Ntsu Mokhehle took advantage of loopholes in the constitution and formed LCD out of BCP. By so doing, Ntate Mokhehle stole the people’s vote from BCP and took power under the umbrella of the newly-formed LCD. In other words, he smuggled the BCP votes. In the past 50 years, we have had a series of events where our leaders abused the constitution because of the loopholes it has. These are the cracks I am referring to. For instance, one of the major cracks in the constitution is a provision that when government is formed a party or coalition of parities that have a majority in parliament will provide a head of government. That is the only time a coalition of parties is mentioned in the constitution. The constitution does not even provide some pointers as to how a coalition of parties can be established. It doesn’t say anything about the coalition agreements. We should therefore take advantage of the envisaged GNU to urgently review the constitution and other laws.
Maybe it is also high time we adopt the American electoral model by enshrining in our constitution that for every politician to qualify as head of government of Lesotho his or her party should win at least half of the 80 constituencies the country has. I am saying this because I also suspect we are where we are today because Ntate Mosisili was made prime minister with his party having won only 37 constituencies out of 80. Though the DC, his party, was voted by a larger number compared to its immediate competitor, ABC, the latter had at least managed to win 40 constituencies. So we ended up with Ntate Mosisili as the prime minister instead of Ntate Thabane due to the electoral model we are using. You cannot easily expect stability in a situation like that. The other significant change we can make in our constitution is to allow the prime minister to choose his cabinet ministers even from outside parliament. At the moment, our constitution allows the prime minister to only appoint the ministers choosing from people in parliament, that is both the Senate and National Assembly. But you see there can be a bigger pool if the prime minister is not confined to make the appointments from parliament only. Most of our parliamentarians don’t have diversified credentials to hold ministerial positions. For instance, most of them are teachers. We don’t have economists, scientists, engineers and so on in our parliament.
LT: But what exactly is this GNU, if you can clearly describe it?
Matlosa: The GNU, in my experience, is mostly applied in nations that have experienced dire instability. It’s instituted to ensure a healing process and reforms to be quickened. In other places, the GNU is established following civil wars or protracted political tension. Like I said, the GNU combines all parties to form one government. It is a unique government where enemies come together and compromise their personal interests for the greater good of the entire nation. But the most important part about the GNU is that it is meant to restore stability, peace and reconciliation. These are fundamental ingredients of the GNU. It is definitely a good concept.
LT: From what you have just said, do you think this is the right time for Lesotho to have a GNU?
Matlosa: It is definitely the right time. Like I said, we don’t want to waste another 50 years with all sorts of political tensions destabilising the nation. However, our only concern, as Majalefa, is that the ABC and DC pact doesn’t really reflect a GNU as the leaders claim. It has a lot of shortcomings and falls far from the fundamental requirements to form a GNU. For instance, the pact has already identified Ntate Moleleki and Ntate Thabane as heads of government in the envisaged new government. Their so-called GNU excludes the other six parties in government, including the DC leader Ntate Mosisili. If you are truly advocating for GNU, you cannot exclude even a single party in parliament. Everybody else should put their differences and personal interests aside and commit to a partnership that will benefit all Basotho. This is not about political parties with similar principles, or relations between certain political leaders, but the GNU has everything to do with national interests; stability, peace and reconciliation. You can even set up a platform for parties that are not included in parliament, so the entire process is inclusive in the truest sense. In my view, this is rather a proposal for a grand coalition type of government. Unlike GNU, the grand coalition mostly has the major parties forming the government. It excludes other smaller parties.