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A significant marker for our democracy

by Lesotho Times



THE announcement by Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili that he was planning to step down is a significant development of our young democracy that deserves praise.

Mosisili told a press conference in Maseru last week that he had no intention to hold on to power.

The statement was the clearest yet from Mosisili regarding his retirement plans.

If Mosisili steps down from his post as prime minister, he would become the second leader, after Dr Ntsu Mokhehle, to voluntarily step down under a peaceful and democratic dispensation in this country.

That would be a benchmark for our young democracy.

The critical questions that we need to deal with are when and who will succeed Mosisili?

The ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) party has never openly discussed its succession plan.

Its national conferences and “inherited traditions” have not offered a clue about what could happen regarding the succession issue.

The absence of power transfer plans is a common phenomenon among the majority of political parties in Lesotho.

This has tended to breed dictatorship with leaders assuming virtual ownership of their political parties.

Discussion of the succession issue is seen as treason.

There are several factors that contribute to this scenario.

The behaviour of party supporters has sometimes undermined power transfer within political parties.

Dictators are not born.

They are shaped and made by people who surround them.

Socialisation plays a big role in shaping and moulding who becomes a dictator.

Party supporters play a huge role in moulding their leaders’ traits and behaviour within parties.

I will illustrate these points by looking at events that have taken place within the once mighty Basotho National Party (BNP).

The party was formed in 1959, ruled from the 1970s until it lost general elections in 1993.

It looks like the party never recovered from the death of its leader Chief Rets’elisitsoe Sekhonyana who had taken over the party from Chief Leabua Jonathan in 1986.

Sekhonyana’s death in 1999 was a big blow from the party which fuelled post-election discord among supporters.

The BNP elected Major General Metsing Lekhanya as leader in 1999.

In its attempt to find someone like Sekhonyana the BNP elected Lekhanya.

Lekhanya’s expertise and experience put him at an advantage for the top job within the party.

Recently we have seen some of the individuals who put Lekhanya at the top fighting to dislodge him from the presidency of the party.

These are the same people who played a big role in placing Lekhanya where he is today.

We have seen how certain individuals lavish praises on party leaders.

They worship the leader in song and poetry.

This was particularly true during rallies addressed by Jonathan and Mokhehle in their heyday.

Today, we see similar things taking place with party supporters falling over each other to overstate the qualities of the leader.

They are quick to portray these leaders as super-human.

They want to portray these leaders as the Biblical Moses out to lead the nation of Israel from the bondage of Egypt.

The political leaders want to be viewed as the modern saviours.

The problem is that at the end of the day it becomes very difficult to criticise the leadership later.

My position is that one should never praise a leader excessively because absolute power corrupts absolutely.

By over-stating a leader’s qualities you inadvertently unleash a personality cult.

The cult of the leader can subsequently develop to a point where the leader starts to believe his own lies and begins to view himself as different from the rest.

He will begin to think that no one, apart from him alone, can be able to lead.

These leaders think every successor should have their blessing.

Parties must inculcate a culture of transparency and establish clear guidelines regarding the matter of succession.

If this is not done parties are prone to having serious leadership crises.

The terms one can run for party president should be limited to promote new ideas.

Normally it is easier for leaders to manipulate party structures when their political parties do not have clear succession plans.

The decision to elect new leadership sometimes revolves around the whims of party founders particularly when they are the ones financing the operations of the party.

The founder member syndrome has seen party leaders fight to exclude individuals deemed a threat to their positions.

Party members must play their part in funding and decision-making processes to fight this scourge.

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Lesotho’s widely read newspaper, published every Thursday and distributed throughout the country and in some parts of South Africa. 

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