The Lesotho multi-stakeholder delegation to New Zealand, led by Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing, has returned home after a week of sharing experiences with that country’s well oiled political machinery.
Lesotho’s form of government since 2002 is strikingly similar to New Zealand’s Mixed Member Proportion (MMP) parliamentary system. The trip to share experiences on how to run effective coalition governments was spawned by the seemingly endless feuds in our current coalition government.
Now that the much-vaunted trip has finally come and gone, Basotho keenly await its outcome. We want to know the lessons learnt in great detail and whether these will in effect assist the current coalition or anyone in future to run effective, coherent governments.
Basotho are hoping the New Zealand trip will bring lasting peace in the wake of last month’s fallout which nearly prematurely ended the leadership of Prime Minister Thomas Thabane. Yet it is not just the three coalition government partners looking forward to the outcome of the New Zealand tour, but also the general public and investors keen on seeing a peaceful resolution to the parties’ dispute.
The trip, however, had its fair share of critics with some questioning the composition of the delegation, and whether there was any benefit to be accrued and the costs involved in sending such a huge entourage all the way to New Zealand. However, the proof of the pudding would only be known when members of the delegation relay what they learnt on the tour and, hopefully, add value to discussions on the way forward for the alliance.
As explained by Mr Metsing during a press conference held in Maseru yesterday, the delegates were lectured on the operation of effective parliamentary processes in a Mixed Member Proportion parliamentary system; forming and sustaining coalition governments; maintaining an independent and politically neutral public service; and the transition period after an election.
Mr Metsing also said the delegation examined conventions and legislation that guide the election transition period and heard from New Zealand MPs how coalition agreements are negotiated. The delegates, Mr Metsing further noted, were also informed of the processes and structures that assist coalition governments to be sustained in a functional democracy.
Last but in no way the least, the group met with senior officers from the military and police to better understand how such institutions carry out their functions in a professional manner consistent with the rule of law and democratic principles.
From the look of thinks, the trip was not an ordinary shopping junket. It seems there were substantive issues discussed and substantive lessons learnt.
We hope lessons drawn from the harmonise existence of New Zealand’s security cluster arms will be brought to bear on our own unpalatable situation. The Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) and the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) have been at loggerheads following the 27 January simultaneous bombings of the homes of LMPS Commissioner, Khothatso Tšooana in Ha Abia and Prime Ministerial partner Liabiloe Ramoholi and her neighbour, ‘Mamoletsane Moletsane, in Moshoeshoe II. We have repeatedly warned that the war of attrition between these two critical arms of the security cluster is bad for this country. The sooner it is resolved the better.
The visit has also exposed the delegation to the workings of the New Zealand’s parliament and how its public service operates in a MMP environment, including understanding how the public service retains the trust of the public through its independence and political neutrality.
Of course, we don’t expect the government to take on board the New Zealand system hook, line and sinker as there is need to take cognisance of local peculiarities. But indications are that important lessons have indeed been drawn. Coalition governments, by their very nature, are very peevish animals. They require the constituent parties to cooperate without anyone dominating or absorbing the other completely.