A compelling argument

THE Communist Party of Lesotho, a long-forgotten political force in the country, is after all alive and kicking.

A former senator and secretary-general of the party, Jacob Kena, last Friday made a surprise re-appearance on Lesotho’s political arena.

At a press conference last week, Kena announced his political return with a startling call — drastically cut the number of legislators in our national parliament.

The tough-talking Kena told the press conference that Lesotho’s parliament, with 120 members, was too big for a country with just 1.8 million people.

He said Botswana, a much prosperous southern African neighbour with a population similar to Lesotho’s, had only 57 Members of Parliament.

This is quite a compelling argument when we disregard the man and party that is making the weighty pronouncement.

On the face of it we are compelled to agree in toto with Kena’s call to drastically cut the number of legislators in parliament.

There are numerous reasons why we need national debate on the subject that Kena raised as we explain below.

Apart from the 120 MPs, Lesotho also has a Senate made up of 22 principal chiefs and 11 other members nominated by the King as advised by the Council of State.

This brings the number of legislators in both houses to a massive 153. All these members are entitled to lavish perks courtesy of the state.

Can Lesotho, which heavily relies on donor funds from Western governments, really sustain a huge parliament of this nature?

“Lesotho is one of the poorest countries in southern Africa, but has a huge parliament which needs to be reduced,” Kena told the media.

We agree.

It is interesting to note that Lesotho’s pre-independence constitution had a provision for just 60 seats in the National Assembly.

It also provided for a Senate made up of 22 principal chiefs as well as 11 members chosen by the King.

Of course, any call to cut the number of legislators in the National Assembly will be met with fierce resistance from MPs who are benefiting from the current set-up.

This is because the office of MP comes with the trappings of power and privilege.

The proposal to cut the number of legislators in the National Assembly is probably one of the freshest ideas to come from a local politician in a very long time.

The danger however lies in dismissing the idea because it is coming from a wrong person in a discredited political party.

We are aware that Communism is a discredited political ideology which is reviled in most parts of the Western world.

The ideology and what it stands for is morally repugnant to most lovers of freedom.

Communism, as espoused by thinkers Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, sought to abolish private property and push for government ownership of the means of production – the factories and farms.

It also sought to abolish religion which Marx infamously labelled “the opium of the people”.

Communism sought to establish an egalitarian society based on equality.

After decades of experiment people in the Eastern Bloc rejected the communist ideology in the 1990s.

After years of struggle the nations had nothing to show for it except grinding poverty, repression and gross violation of their basic rights.

This is why the people rejected the ideology in the 1990s.

We see nothing of redeeming value in communism as well.

Establishing an egalitarian society sounds so utopian to be unachievable.

This does not mean we reject what Kena is proposing just because he is a “deranged” communist.

We think the issue that he raised needs our fullest attention as a nation.

We think it is healthy for our young democracy to debate whether Lesotho needs 153 legislators in our parliament and senate.

We think the matter warrants further debate.

Can Lesotho really afford to have 153 over-paid and over-fed legislators in our two legislative chambers?

Wouldn’t it be in our interest as a nation to channel resources to fight the twin scourges of hunger and poverty that are so prevalent in our country?

It is our firm stance that Lesotho is too poor to afford supporting 153 legislators.

The current structure is top-heavy and we need some pruning now.

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