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No politician is worth dying for

by Lesotho Times
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THE rhetoric that is coming from our politicians over the issue of the Mixed Member Proportional representation electoral system is quite unnerving.

I now fear for the future of my country.

The politicians are set to plunge our country into senseless mayhem reminiscent of the 1998 political disturbances.

That was a dark chapter in our country’s history no one would like repeated.

It would be sad if we allow the country to descend into chaos again.

We have been burnt before and we know what it means to go through hell.

This feeling of doom has been growing since Sir Ketumile Masire abruptly ended his mission to Lesotho two weeks ago.

Masire was in June 2007 appointed by the regional Southern African Development Community (SADC) to mediate in an electoral dispute between the government and opposition parties.

Masire said he was aborting the mission because the government had shown an unwillingness to resolve the dispute.

At the centre of the dispute is the allocation of 21 seats to an alliance led by the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) party.

Opposition parties say the Independent Electoral Commission wrongly allocated the seats to the LCD-led alliance.

The opposition is demanding a review of the seats allocation.

The LCD says the issue of PR seats is now a closed subject.

From these two divergent viewpoints I see bitter conflict ahead.

The leader of the main opposition All Basotho Convention (ABC), Tom Thabane, is breathing fire.

Addressing his supporters at a rally last weekend Thabane said they will be calling an indefinite stay-away starting August 3 to press the government to address the issue.

“We are tired. We have been patient for too long. A stay-away is one democratic way of straightening out this country’s issues,” Thabane said.

From the tone of his speech it is clear that Thabane is an extremely bitter man.

We have seen him ranting and raving at rallies over the PR seats issue.

Thabane has accused the IEC of stealing seats from his party and handing them over to the ruling party.

Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili has also been in a belligerent mood.

Mosisili last May said there was no way electoral experts could be allowed to reverse decisions made by Lesotho’s courts.

“No PR experts will be coming into the country to change the laws of this country (Choo-cho! Setsoing ke ha Molapo),” said Mosisili.

I think we are now headed for stormy times.

I am still wondering where this anger exhibited by our national leaders will lead us as a nation.

Masire’s role was to facilitate dialogue between the government and opposition parties.

It is unfortunate that talks aimed at finding a solution to the electoral dispute broke down.

Since Masire’s dramatic announcement that he was quitting the mediation what we have heard are angry words being exchanged between the government and the opposition.

Critical issues that need to be addressed have been suspended.

Last week a meeting called to discuss next year’s local government elections as well as issues of voter registration had to be abandoned as political leaders demanded that the government first deal with the Masire report.

The opposition appears to have been galvanised by the Masire report.

Politicians must be careful that they do not whip people’s emotions and encourage mayhem.

For example, last week I listened to a fired-up Thabane telling his supporters that the government should not expect SADC to intervene in Lesotho’s affairs this time round like it did in 1998.

We need level heads at this juncture so that we can deal with the crisis in a sober manner.

I think it is critical that the government and opposition parties find common ground and resolve this dispute amicably.

Any other approach would be counter-productive and dangerous.

Our political leaders must act now to remove the dark clouds hovering over our country.

They should not wait for divine intervention to help them forge a common agenda of peace and reconciliation.

In moments of political upheaval it is well known that politicians want to use the poor and downtrodden to fight their battles.

But we have to instil in our youths the need to resist being abused. No politician is worth dying for.

Both sides must tread carefully. The ruling party and the opposition must find each other and pursue peace.

Blessed are the peace-makers for they shall be called sons of God, says the sacred scriptures.

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