Leaders’ talks a welcome development

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Prime Minister of Lesotho Dr Pakalitha Mosisili and the former Prime Minister Dr Thomas Thabane cut a deal on Wednesday
Prime Minister of Lesotho Dr Pakalitha Mosisili and the former Prime Minister Dr Thomas Thabane cut a deal on Wednesday

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AS reported in this edition, Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili and his predecessor Thomas Thabane have been secretly meeting in the past three weeks to map out a framework by which the All Basotho Convention (ABC) leader can return home.

The two gladiators’ rapprochement deserves commendation especially given that the political impasse was seemingly intractable. The opposition bloc had dug in its heels and vowed not to cooperate with a government they accused of plotting their demise, while the coalition had taken a similarly hard-line stance in challenging them to prove their allegations.

However, Messrs Mosisili and Thabane have wisely chosen to rise above the fray and map work out the modalities for the latter’s return. The history of our neighbour, South Africa, offers many lessons for players across the political divide. However emphatic the global condemnation was for apartheid, the evil system survived for decades despite the embargos and ostracisation of South Africa.

The system was ultimately dismantled by the dialogue between the late statesman Nelson Mandela and his oppressors.  While the situation in Lesotho is by no means similar to the one that obtained in the neighbouring country, the importance of dialogue in conflict resolution cannot be overemphasised.

We can only hope the talks do not end when the former premier returns, but become a regular occurrence for the sake of our nascent democracy. The dialogue should not be regarded as an event, but as a process.

The talks will also need to elicit a framework for the return of the Lesotho Defence Force operatives, Police Commissioner Khothatso Tšooana, journalists and members of the opposition who fled the country citing threats to their lives.

Lesotho needs to return to normalcy to ensure government sets out its developmental agenda as conceptualised in its Coalition Agreement. The country needs to extricate itself from making news for the wrong reasons and once again reclaim its mantle as the tranquil Kingdom in the sky.

On its part, the opposition needs to play its role of scrutinising the work of the executive and presenting alternative policy options in parliament. That certainly cannot happen when opposition leaders and supporters have fled to South Africa.

Thankfully, our leaders are finally addressing the issues that divide them among themselves instead of perpetually finding solace in the Southern African Development Community (SADC). We can no longer afford to continually to run to SADC at the slightest hint of trouble. After all, Lesotho is by and large a democratic country that has seamlessly witnessed the transfer of power twice in the past three years. A number of countries in SADC, that include the ironically named Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola and Zimbabwe, can learn a lesson or two from us about holding peaceful and credible  elections.

This is not to dismiss the yawning structural gaps in our democracy that urgently need to be addressed. As recommended by SADC in their recently submitted report, Lesotho needs to embark on security and parliamentary reforms to achieve lasting stability.

Without stability and political values such as democracy, good governance, respect for the rule of law, this nation cannot progress. While SADC can facilitate the process towards stability, only home-grown initiatives in that regard can bring sustained peace and harmony.

SADC’s role is fostering development and economic integration in the region and not being an arbitrator in perpetual conflicts. The region can only ensure the lowering of the political temperature, but cultivating a culture of tolerance is the preserve of home-grown actors.

Ultimately, the bloc has little real influence and can only persuade political actors to put their house in order and find solutions to their problems. In the final analysis, the solution to Lesotho’s political impasse must come from Basotho.

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