It is a cardinal canon of any democratic society that everyone is entitled to rights of peaceful protests.
It is, therefore, within the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD)’s rights to stage their protest as contemplated for Monday 1 September 2014.
At a press briefing this week, LCD leader and Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing, announced his party’s decision to organise a demonstration calling for Prime Minister Thomas Thabane to lift the prorogation of Parliament or resign from his post. Mr Metsing is adamant the current suspension of Parliament is a major impediment to the functioning of our democracy. After failing to cajole Dr Thabane into lifting the prorogation in their ubiquitous yet hitherto futile interactions, Mr Metsing’s party is now resorting to the streets to make its point. There is nothing particularly wrong with that route as long as the envisaged protests are peaceful. Yet rumours that the protests may involve elements hell bent on causing mayhem are worrying.
Even more worrying are rumours that disenchanted supporters of Dr Thabane’s own All Basotho Convention (ABC) may try to disrupt the march if the LCD protest is done outside the confines of the law, in particular if the march does not follow the route authorised by the police.
We can only urge the LCD to ensure that their march is peaceful and to put safeguards to contain any zealots who might want the situation to deteriorate for their own selfish ends, while the ABC should restrain its supporters from any provocative actions.
Protests or no protests, it is difficult to see how the equally difficult marriage between Dr Thabane and Mr Metsing can be salvaged. So far, all efforts to broker permanent peace between them have hit a brick wall. Mr Metsing is normally a reserved and guarded politician. But judging from his uncompromising and harsh tone this week, he certainly no longer wants to be in bed with Dr Thabane. The premier is equally unprepared to accommodate his one-time ally who has effectively become an arch foe. For Dr Thabane, re-opening Parliament is tantamount to writing his own dismissal letter.
The proverbial dictum that where two elephants fight, the grass invariably bears the biggest brunt rings true of the persistent squabbling in our coalition government. The grass in this case is the generality of poor Basotho who are entitled to coherent and good governance to better their lot.
While we cannot dispute Dr Thabane’s constitutional right to prorogue parliament, we equally see sense in the counterview that our parliamentary democracy is served better if the House is open.
In his interview with us last week, Dr Thabane made it clear that should it become necessary, the only solution and best final test is to go back to the people to decide on a new government through fresh elections. We couldn’t agree more. Elections are by their very nature expensive and sometimes wearisome exercises. It is all the more better if they are conducted at their pre-determined schedules.
However, in our current debilitating case, we see no other way. Even the most optimistic observer will not see any prospects of Messrs Thabane and Metsing re-uniting in a coherent marriage. A mature compromise is what is now needed. We see no other better compromise than to call for fresh elections to determine new rulers for the Kingdom.
Fresh elections may not be the best option for Mr Metsing. His party did poorly in the 2012 elections, winning only 15 contested seats, and was saved by proportional representation seats. Fresh elections are also not a best option for Dr Thabane. Basotho are yet to feel the benefits of his two year plus tenure as prime minister.
Squeezing him out of power through a no-confidence motion appears to be the most lucrative option for Mr Metsing. But herein lies the problem. Dr Thabane will not sign his own death warrant.
We suggest a compromise in which Dr Thabane can keep the prorogation till the end of its life in February 2015, followed thereafter by fresh elections in March 2015. That gives at least six months for preparation and campaigning as well as mobilisation of resources for the polls.
While its perfectly legal for Mr Metsing to seek regime change via the parliamentary no confidence route, such political skullduggery sets a bad precedent.
Let the people decide and rule.