AS I SEE IT
THERE is a raging debate whether Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili should retire after the 2012 elections.
A debate of this nature is critical in deepening national discourse and debate. Debates of this nature are necessary to ensure the growth of our young democracy.
Such debates also promote a culture of national dialogue which is urgently needed in our country.
The history of Lesotho is a sad history characterised by bloody political upheaval and ruthless dictatorship.
Past regimes equated legitimate criticism with treason.
But in a democratic society it should be possible for individuals to agree to disagree on the direction the country should take.
Mosisili, who heads the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD), has been in power since 1998.
The LCD is the dominant party in Lesotho.
It is only natural that events taking place within that party dominate national debate.
This is true regarding the current succession debate.
I would like therefore to confine my discussion on the succession issue within the LCD.
A number of political commentators I have spoken to believe it would be suicidal for the LCD if Mosisili was to announce his exit plan today.
They argue that it would be best for Mosisili to keep his plans to his chest.
But those who take this view are ignoring recent political developments within the LCD at their own peril.
We saw how senior party officials from the national executive committee were purged at the party’s conference last January.
There is a belief that those axed at the conference harboured serious ambitions to take over the helm of the party if Mosisili was to step down.
The results of the LCD party elections were well choreographed.
Those who failed to toe the line were kicked out.
This is pretty normal. African leaders are known to get rid of ambitious individuals to weaken and shatter their political dreams.
I would be surprised if the replacement of the party gurus last January was done without Mosisili’s blessings.
This is because African leaders are known to manipulate internal party polls to protect their succession plans.
African leaders are notorious for using party structures to hand-pick successors.
Some of them are in the habit of appointing women to the vice-presidency.
They do so under the guise of affirmative action.
But in reality what they want is someone who is politically short-sighted and malleable.
They even ignore those who are better qualified.
Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe and former South African president Thabo Mbeki played this trick.
Bingu wa Mutharika has also done the same in Malawi.
Basotho are familiar with those scenarios.
Leaders are comfortable surrounding themselves with deadwood.
These leaders want people who pose no threat to their grip on power.
I want to state that the LCD did bring in fresh blood at the party conference last January.
The party’s general secretary, Mothetjoa Metsing, and party national chairman, Thabang Pheko, are a breath of fresh air.
I think they have new ideas that can strengthen their party.
They also appear genuinely committed to democracy.
Some party officials state in private that party giants such as Monyane Moleleki fell by the wayside after demonstrating indecent haste to succeed Mosisili.
There are signs that current members of the LCD national executive committee are in their posts courtesy of Mosisili.
The purge that we saw in January was all part of a grand succession plan.
The idea was to purge dissenting voices and give Mosisili time to execute his succession plan.
I would not be surprised if those ousted party officials take the Maope and Thabane route.
These former LCD stalwarts dumped the party and started their own after they became frustrated by ruling party politics.
The position of prime minister is the most senior government political post in the Kingdom.
It is therefore important to discuss the issue of the prime minister’s succession without fear of intimidation.
The LCD is the dominant party in Lesotho.
By virtue of its position it is better poised to retain power at the next elections in 2012.
Its affairs are therefore subject to public scrutiny more than of any other political party.
It is important for the prime minister to tell the nation when he plans to retire.
This is important both to his party and the nation at large.
We need this debate to prepare voters to start thinking about a leader who can help heal our deep national wounds.
We need to start thinking about a leader who can focus on sustainable development.
It is healthy for the LCD to open up the succession issue for debate.
The emergence of new people in leadership positions within the LCD is one of the best moves that have taken place in Lesotho.
It gives Basotho alternatives on the political arena.
It also gives us time to assess their performances.
I would like to believe that the post-2012 era has nothing do with the current prime minister. He has done his part.