THE mooted government of national unity (GNU) fronted by the All Basotho Convention (ABC) and a faction of the Democratic Congress (DC) would more likely be a grand coalition given that Lesotho is beset by a political and not a constitutional crisis.
This was the prevailing view among analysts during the ongoing Lesotho Council of Non-Governmental Organisations (LCN) 17th NGO Week at ’Manthabiseng Convention Centre in Maseru.
The NGO Week began on Monday and is expected to end tomorrow with the stated aim of facilitating and building linkages between ordinary citizens and government to ensure greater accountability.
Held under the theme “Demanding Rule of Law, Accountability and Civic Participation in the next Semi-centennial of Lesotho” the NGO Week is featuring various socio-economic and political experts.
During a session titled “Government of National Unity: Principles and Relevancy in Lesotho”, constitutional law expert Advocate Hoolo ‘Nyane said a constitutional crisis was the main cause of GNUs and not the political crisis rocking Lesotho.
He made the comment in light of last week’s signing of a coalition pact between a faction of the DC supporting the party’s deputy leader Monyane Moleleki and the tripartite opposition bloc meant to oust the current seven-party governing coalition and form a GNU.
The pact is titled “The Coalition Agreement for National Unity and Reconciliation” with the ABC, Basotho National Party and Reformed Congress of Lesotho signing on a deal that would see Mr Moleleki head the coalition for the first 18 months upon forming government.
The alliance has also invited all political parties to join the coalition which is meant to be inclusive.
Adv ‘Nyane, who is a constitutional law lecturer at the National University of Lesotho, said Lesotho’s second coalition government could have possibly unravelled due to a smaller party in the alliance having disproportionate influence over the others, in apparent reference to the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD).
The DC formed a coalition government with the LCD, Marematlou Freedom Party (MFP), Basotho Congress Party (BCP), National Independent Party (NIP), Lesotho People’s Congress (LPC) and Popular Front for Democracy (PFD) after the snap 28 February 2015 general election resulted in a hung parliament.
The DC won 47 of the 120 parliamentary seats on offer, while the LCD, PFD, BCP, LPC, MFP and NIP took 12, two, one, one, one and one seat respectively.
The DC faction supporting Mr Moleleki has often accused the LCD of fomenting strife in the main coalition partner with the intention of swallowing the party.
“The DC – ABC pact brings to life a grand coalition made up of two big political parties as opposed to past coalitions that were made up of one big party and smaller parties,” he said.
“These big parties presume they will coerce all others to enter into an agreement they negotiated exclusively on their own, and have others join them without having been part of the formulation team.”
Adv ‘Nyane, however, noted a GNU was unlikely given the infighting in the DC and the LCD’s disinclination to join the alliance. The strife-torn DC has two distinct factions – Lithope (loosely translated to girlfriends) and Lirurubele (butterflies) – supporting party leader Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili and his deputy Monyane Moleleki respectively.
“We know that the DC is split into two warring factions and one of the factions doesn’t identify with the so-called GNU,” he said.
“The LCD has publicly announced it does not identify with the GNU and expressed shock that its name was affixed to the agreement. This brings about a conceptual problem for this union entered into by the DC and the ABC.”
Adv ‘Nyane also stated that GNUs were mostly established in countries facing constitutional crises and not the political challenges Lesotho is facing.
“GNUs, by their very nature, are temporary formations that prepare a country for a fresh election. In Lesotho, we have a political crisis and it is not correct to describe it as a constitutional crisis,” he said, adding Lesotho’s 1993 Constitution was still functional.
“Those who are proposing a GNU are trying to effect section 87 of the Constitution of Lesotho which deals with the formation of governments and the collapse thereof in this country.
“Referring to the pact as a GNU agreement just seems to be a motto. Constitutionally, in terms of section 87 (2), it would be another coalition government that would give the political landscape a breath of fresh air. It would likely be a grand coalition as opposed to the past coalition governments.”
Transformation Resource Centre (TRC) Director Tšoeu Petlane said GNUs where the product of a legitimacy crisis in the state.
“A GNU is a tool used to redefine, identify and build the kind of polity we need and its institutions. It’s not a solution on its own; but it is used as a driver to get us to the answer,” he said.
“A GNU’s membership is inclusive to ensure the attainment of its set objectives.”
For his part, TRC Programmes Manager Lenka Thamae, said the alliance was merely for political convenience and “did not have any mutual core values”.
He said it was ironic that the ABC had teamed up with Mr Moleleki whom they accused of corruption during the first coalition government.
“I think the ABC is betraying the revolution as Moleleki is not part of the revolutionary programme that was taking place in the country,” said Mr Thamae.
“They were fighting an anti-corruption campaign, but they are becoming irrelevant and not addressing the main agenda.”