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PRIME Minister Pakalitha Mosisili has vowed to dissolve parliament and call for snap elections in the event of a no-confidence vote against the seven-party coalition government when parliament is expected to reconvene next February.
Dr Mosisili faces a no-confidence motion after a faction led by his former Democratic Congress (DC) deputy, Monyane Moleleki, inked an agreement with the tripartite opposition bloc meant to oust the incumbent government.
Mr Moleleki, who has since quit the DC and formed a new party dubbed Alliance of Democrats (AD), was last week joined by the DC’s women’s and youth leagues and other rank and file supporters.
Lesotho Times (LT) reporter, Lekhetho Ntsukunyane, speaks with political scientist, Arthur Majara, about the recent political developments and their implications in this wide-ranging interview.
LT: Dr Mosisili and the DC resolved to dissolve parliament and call for early elections should the mooted no-confidence motion on the government be passed by the opposition. What is your take?
Majara: What Ntate Mosisili did was to seek a mandate from his party to dissolve parliament and call for early elections. He sought the mandate from the highest party level, which is its conference. He is simply playing politics by posing a threat to the opposition, saying to them bring your vote of no-confidence but be aware that I am calling for elections. He got the authority from his party to do that. So the opposition have to put it in the back of their minds that when they bring the motion, parliament will be dissolved to prepare for early elections. A motion of no confidence is a constitutional provision. It cannot be instigated by Ntate Mosisili as the prime minister; it can only be instigated by the forces that seek to benefit from such a motion. Ntate Mosisili does not have the authority to manage that motion. He is simply playing dirty politics by saying that when the motion comes he will dissolve parliament and call for early election.
LT: But by agitating for the polls, what is the premier hoping to achieve? Is it because he is assured of victory in the elections or simply admitting defeat in terms of the number of legislators supporting him in parliament?
Majara: Ntate Mosisili is very much aware of the alliance between Ntate Moleleki and All Basotho Convention (ABC) leader Thomas Thabane to oust his government. That is why he has resorted to the threat of dissolving parliament. In other words, he is warning parliamentarians that they may lose their benefits by supporting the motion because they are not guaranteed a return to the National Assembly after the next elections. Ntate Mosisili is simply saying he will be forced to call for early elections through the motion. He is playing the fear game on the parliamentarians even before they bring the motion. He is posing the same threat even to Ntate Moleleki because he too is not guaranteed a return to parliament after the next elections.
LT: Under the circumstances, what is the likely scenario if early elections are held?
Majara: Ntate Thabane performed very well in the 2015 elections because he had the infrastructure and resources to campaign since he was in government. Ntate Thabane might not have that momentum because he is no longer in power. However, the ABC leader may still employ his charisma to garner support. But in the past, it was a combination of his charisma and being in power. Unfortunately for him he needs the resources to sell his charisma. Ntate Mosisili, on the other hand, has the resources and financial muscle to intensify his campaign. For his part, Ntate Moleleki no longer has access to incumbency resources to campaign for his new party. He has put himself in a difficult position. Also, Ntate Moleleki’s relationship with Ntate Thabane does not have intrinsic value. Anything that does not have roots can be blown in any direction. Ntate Moleleki says he is looking for unity, but he has not clearly defined what he means by that. I am saying this because Ntate Moleleki has always advocated for unity in every party he has been a member. What is he saying differently now? He has been singing the same song even when the DC was formed from the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD).
LT: Mr Moleleki has said his intention is to bring together everyone regardless of their political inclinations. Don’t you think that’s the new idea of unity he is referring to?
Majara: The issue of bringing together the congress and nationalist movements was the idea behind formation of the ABC. And even Ntate Thabane has failed from day one to combine the two political movements. Ntate Thabane had said the sole purpose of establishing the ABC was to neutralise all the political disputes between nationalist and congress people. Ntate Thabane had promised that before he established the ABC he would first call for a convention that includes experts, politicians, and church leaders, among others. His initial idea was that all these groups of people would meet together somewhere and draft a way-forward strategy. But then he was quickly advised by some young powerful people around him, they were called Resource Group, and then he reneged on that initial idea. That is where he failed. As such, the ABC is still not consolidated as it should. Ntate Thabane swiftly moved away from that idea to completely become a totalitarian. His party is fully under his control as compared to Ntate Mosisili who relies on the constitution of his party.
LT: What’s your take on Mr Moleleki’s idea of bringing nationalist and congress people together?
Majara: I know Ntate Moleleki very well. He recently requested me to compile his biography for his birthday celebrations. So I sat down with him for many nights as we discussed his political history. He has so much trust in me. I am not ashamed to tell you that Ntate Moleleki is a shrewd politician. When somebody is shrewd it doesn’t mean he is evil. In fact he is a very smart politician. Unfortunately, as a nation, we don’t need smart politicians like Ntate Moleleki and Ntate Thabane. The reason why I say their relationship will not work is because I know they are equally shrewd. I don’t see any future in their relationship. For a very long time in the past they fought over many issues. As I was talking to Ntate Moleleki, among the things that puzzled me, and I won’t say others for privacy, he accused Ntate Mosisili of surrounding himself with “useless people”. He then mentioned the likes of Dr Fako Likoti (PM’s political advisor) and ’Me Mamello Morrison (PM’s senior private secretary). He said they were milking the government’s coffers. I won’t forget that statement. The whole concept of overthrowing Ntate Mosisili was deeply rooted in Ntate Moleleki.
LT: You have just indicated how much Mr Moleleki trusted you. Don’t you think you are one of the people he was eying to be on his side as he now forms a new party?
Majara: Actually, I was invited to attend serious meetings, but I refused. The nature of my life does not allow me to actively engage in party politics. That’s the same reason I fell out with Ntate Thabane; because he wanted to engage me actively in the ABC. Ntate Thabane taught me politics. He buried my father. He is very close to my family, especially my younger brother Motlatsi. He was like our father. But when he defected from the LCD, I decided I was not going to be attached to any political movements, not even the one established under his name. So many political offers come my way, but I reject them because I want to remain neutral. Politics are short-lived. I love business more than politics.
LT: Are you saying that because Mr Moleleki is shrewd, he will not succeed in his political campaign?
Majara: We cannot determine Ntate Moleleki’s support base yet. Politics is very fluid. What I meant was that both Ntate Moleleki and Ntate Thabane are equally shrewd and can’t form a political partnership. For instance, when Ntate Thabane was in power, the first person he wanted to neutralise was Ntate Moleleki. He almost sent him to jail. Ntate Thabane and Ntate Moleleki are not only equally shrewd but also dangerous. They have a long history in the congress movement. No one has ever explained how Ntate Thabane ended up in the congress movement having previously served both the nationalist and military regimes.
LT: Can you tell us about that?
Majara: I believe Ntate Thabane transitioned from the nationalists to the congress movement after Dr Ntsu Mokhehle (founder of the congress movement in Lesotho) was convinced that Ntate Thabane was the right person to appoint as his political advisor when the Basotho Congress Party (BCP) took power in 1993. Ntate Mokhehle knew when he got into power that the first hurdle was how he was going to deal with the nationalists who had been in power for a long time. Definitely Ntate Thabane’s role was to assist Ntate Mokhehle to neutralise the nationalists. Ntate Thabane was kept in the congress movement under those circumstances. Not long after, the BCP regime was faced with military and police revolts among other challenges. Ntate Thabane played his role of neutralising the forces. But unfortunately, as things unfolded the congress people lost focus regarding the role of Ntate Thabane. It was crucial for the congress people to observe whether Ntate Thabane’s commitment to neutralise the forces was legitimate and deeply rooted. But they were not smart enough to realise Ntate Thabane had double standards. He showed his true colours when they denied him an executive post in the LCD in 2006 and he decided to form the ABC. And one of the forces that forced him to jump ship was Ntate Moleleki. The nationalist influence never died in Ntate Thabane.
LT: Now that Ntate Moleleki has left the DC, can you really say the party’s problems have subsided?
Majara: No, they have not. I will give an example; Lesotho first experienced democracy in 1966. But quickly in 1970 it was a totalitarian regime. In 1986 we had the military rule. We got back to a democratic dispensation in 1993. But ever since 1993, Lesotho has had nothing but rebellious regimes up to today. There have been serious political turbulances, tensions and disorders in this country ever since. In proper words, Lesotho belongs to the Guinness book of world records for having experienced so many types of governments. We have tried all types of governments in this country but none of them seemed to work out. Our political landscape is akin to a swamp or a wetland. Swamps breed mosquitoes that carry deadly viruses. In our case, the mosquitoes are our political party youth leagues. Our elderly political leaders know quite well that even though they have political concepts, they don’t have the energy to deliver the messages to the electorate. They rely on the youth leagues to do so. They are the carriers of the virus I am talking about. Our political landscape is saturated with bad political history. It is a swamp.
LT: What is the solution?
Majara: The media is part of the solution. The media, as a fourth estate, should realise the power it has to neutralise the situation. Media is the ultimate saviour. It is the core of democracy. The civil society organisations know quite well that without the media they are powerless. The media and people using it should seriously start educating our people about politics. The people’s last hope lies in the professional media houses.