- Former Zambian leader Banda calls for inclusive and broad-based dialogue to stem bouts of political instability
FORMER Zambian President Rupiah Banda says a new political mindset is needed for Basotho to find long-lasting solutions to the country’s perennial political challenges through inclusive and broad-based dialogue.
Mr Banda, who was the head of the Electoral Institute of Southern Africa (EISA) election observer mission, made the remarks this week while issuing a preliminary statement on last Saturday’s National Assembly polls.
The EISA mission consisted of 19 representatives of civil society and election management bodies from 11 African countries.
The elections, which were Lesotho’s third in five years, were precipitated by a 1 March 2017 parliamentary no-confidence vote on outgoing Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s seven-party government.
Much like the 2012 and 2015 elections, none of the contesting parties could muster the 61 seats required to form government outright.
Former premier and All Basotho Convention leader Thomas Thabane came closest with 48 seats, followed by Dr Mosisili’s Democratic Congress with 30.
Dr Thabane has since formed a coalition government with the Alliance of Democrats, Basotho National Party and Reformed Congress of Lesotho.
Mr Banda, who served as Zambian president from 2008 to 2011, said Lesotho was not the only African country beset with bouts political instability. He said Zambia also underwent a similar period, with five general elections being held in 10 years.
The Zambian statesman, who relinquished power after being defeated in a September 2011 presidential election by the late Michael Sata, said it was imperative for Basotho to carry out inclusive and transparent reforms processes to nip the scourge of political instability in the bud.
“All Basotho need to sit down together and come up with solutions to their problems.
“I have come to regard Basotho as good and educated people. They have the much-needed knowledge to finding a long lasting solution for Lesotho,” Mr Banda said, adding he was glad that all political leaders had committed to accepting the elections results by signing an electoral pledge ahead of the snap elections.
He said it was uncommon in Africa for political leaders to commit to accepting the results prior to election day, adding that it was an indication that Basotho were politically-mature people who could come up with the best solutions for the country.
“We are not here to tell Basotho what they should do because they are capable of making their own decisions,” Mr Banda said, adding that the phenomenon of governing coalitions, which emerged as a result of the electoral system adopted in 2002, had exposed the weaknesses within the political class and in the legal frameworks in dealing with the new political reality.
He said the loopholes in the legal frameworks with regards to coalition governments was an untenable situation that Lesotho could not afford to keep repeating.
“It is therefore critical that Lesotho carries out an inclusive and transparent process of wide range reforms through broad-based dialogue among all political forces and civic stakeholders aimed at ensuring not only sustainable management of coalitions but above all stable governance.
“However, this cannot be achieved through legal or institutional reforms only. It will require a new political mind-set and serious commitment by political parties to transformation of the current political culture in the country.”
To ensure the long-term sustainability of the reforms, Mr Banda said it was vital for Basotho political and civic actors to take ownership and leadership of the processes, their substance and implementation.
“The EISA Election Observer Mission urges the political forces and other stakeholders to develop and implement consensual and inclusive constitutional, legal and other reforms regarding the functioning of governing coalitions and parliamentary stability, and to further guarantee security sector neutrality and impartiality, among others, as committed to by most political parties through the pledge signed on 6 April 2017.”
He urged the National Assembly to create an electoral court to adjudicate electoral objections and complaints in a swift manner and to strengthen the regulatory framework for the conduct of the media during elections.
Turning to political parties, the mission urged them to strengthen the role and visibility of women in politics.
“. . . in particular within political parties to improve their prospects as party leaders and constituency candidates.”
For the IEC, Mr Banda called on the body to review the requirement of two ballot paper counterfoils and to improve the training of polling station staff to ensure consistency in the application of procedures, particularly ballot reconciliation procedures.
The mission also urged the IEC to improve conditions at polling stations to make them fully accessible to voters with disabilities, and to provide adequate lighting after sunset.
“The EISA Election Observer Mission commends the people of Lesotho, the Independent Electoral Commission, and the candidates for a peaceful and well-managed process.
“To the losers of these elections, be gracious in defeat, and to the winners, be magnanimous in victory,” Mr Banda added.