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Back to the drawing board for opposition parties

by Lesotho Times
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THE spectacular failure of the stay- way this week is a clear indication that the opposition is losing its grip in Maseru.

The main opposition All Basotho Convention (ABC) party has in the past brought the country to a halt through mass stay-away campaigns.

The last two stay-away campaigns organised by the opposition were hugely successful particularly in the capital Maseru.

The stay-away campaigns were executed with almost military precision bringing the capital to a complete halt.

Monday’s stay-away, in contrast, was a huge flop.

It was business as usual for most people in Maseru and other major towns and cities.

It is clear from the public’s  response as seen on Monday that the opposition is slowly losing its grip in urban areas.

The failure of the stay-away was a huge boost to the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) party.

The LCD had in the past struggled to make an impact in urban areas.

There are several reasons why the stay-away flopped.

It would appear that the opposition forces failed miserably to rally their supporters to their cause.

They also failed to convince transport operators to be on their side.

Transport operators had in the past played a critical role by removing their vehicles from the roads.

This time round the transport operators, hit by the current economic downturn, refused to play ball.

The second reason relates to the Basotho political culture.

It seems Basotho can only be mobilised during general election time.

During any other time Basotho go into political hibernation.

After the election fever has died down people seem completely disinterested in politics.

For example, political parties marched in central Maseru last week demanding that the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) deal with the 2007 election dispute.

The marches were relatively weak as only a few people took part in the demonstration.

In fact, it appeared as if the number of police officers manning the demonstration were almost equal to the number of demonstrators.

This is a confirmation that people are not interested in political affairs in the absence of a general election.

The third reason is that the reasons propagated by the opposition failed to convince the masses that this was their battle as well.

The opposition miserably failed to convince their supporters to demand political redress to their grievances.

Of course there were also threats from the government that it would crack down on civil servants who heeded the opposition call.

This had a huge impact on government workers afraid to lose their jobs in the middle of a recession.

Popular Marxist thinker, Giovanni     Arrighi, argued that the Marxist revo-   lution would not succeed in Africa beca-   use Africans are divided and polarised and were protective of their economic status.

In my opinion it is this selfish mentality that makes Basotho hesitate to unite and support political protests.

To its credit the government appeared fully prepared to deal with the stay-away this time round.

While taxi owners withdrew their fleet, the government responded by increasing the number of buses on the roads.

The stay-away was therefore starved of its “oxygen”.

The government also resorted to thre-ats to civil servants to ensure that they  did not heed the opposition call to stay away.

From the foregoing it appears that the opposition forces are now a pale shadow of their former selves.

The ABC, for example, has been seriously weakened over the past year by bitter divisions and infighting.

You do not fight a war on two fronts and expect to win.

The power struggles within the ABC and the BNP have seriously demoralised party supporters.

These fights are physically draining to the opposition supporters.

There is also a feeling from the grassroots that politicians are a selfish lot keen to further their own agendas.

To them, politics is about the pursuit of power, wealth and prestige at the expense of the people.

With the way the stay-away fizzled it is certainly back to the drawing board for the opposition forces.

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