Parly opening: No more business as usual

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Makhabane malukeMakhabane Maluke

BASOTHO who have Lesotho at heart are praying hard for 8 May 2015 opening to clean away the disgrace which the 8th Parliament and its first coalition government brought to our democratic Kingdom.

The premature dissolution of the 8th Parliament was a disgrace to our fragile parliamentary democracy. The only consolation is that there will always be a cause for any eventuality. This disgrace can be pinned on the first coalition government. It had actually failed and been cornered. It could not run to hide anywhere. It had to dissolve parliament as a do or die option to which it had unwisely drifted.

Even before that, there was that disgraceful prorogation which was wrongfully invoked when parliament was on recess. The normal five-year parliamentary term, with its single session, had been interrupted. Prorogation, as envisaged by the 1993 constitution, is designed to perfect parliamentary democracy and not to be used to run it underground. A wrong turn was taken just to evade a change of government in the National Assembly.

Former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane must have engineered that prorogation mindful of its possible effects of that move.  He may not have cared about the outcome and only been advised by his team to show that he was in control.  That, however, caused massive destruction such as the untimely end to all unfinished parliament business which cannot be revived by the reopening.

Every transition from one session to the next has to be planned to enable Houses of parliament and government to decide on bills pending and when to table new ones, lest time catches up with them. Some rules of parliament ensure this by actually spelling when parliamentary sessions start and end. In our situation, the former government was in a very high state of fright and fear. It could not even improvise to give the 17 October 2014 reopening the dignity that rare event deserved.

It was a disgrace, to both the nation and parliamentary democracy, not to give the King of Lesotho respect in the form of a guard of honor and inspection of a military parade. His Majesty’s mounted escort alone could not cover up for the other missing formalities a head of state is entitled to.

While they may have had their excuses for wishing the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) away; why, for heaven’s sake, did they not line up the police for a guard of honor?  How the LDF had been portrayed only made it a household name where others came to understand and value it better, while others may have developed hatred.

The depth of that disgrace can also be deduced from the Speech from the Throne itself. The conspicuous absence of a significant feature of such speeches in Westminster parliaments comes to notice. There was no single mention of “My government…. or ‘Muso  oa  ka..”.  That omission spoke volumes. How the speech winds up equally registers how the two years of that coalition had been a wasteful era. The speech ought to have at least cited one achievement of the government in the two years of its rule. The transition to the next session has to show how much work has been done in the previous session, in relation to what had been anticipated in the previous opening speech. Mid-term opening speeches are an evaluation and an opportunity to announce adjustments.

His Majesty’s speech ends up as follows: “…..This Agreement (Maseru Facilitation Accord) should be regarded by all of us as a genuine opportunity which enables us to start the new process of creating a stronger and some democratic political framework for our nation`s future. Let us not waste it!”

That 17th October 2014 speech took the nation to the 28 February 2015 general election whose outcome is the current coalition government. Could “stronger” and “some democratic political framework”   in the speech have implied the inclusion of the most popular political party and broader representation in the coalition government? Along with that is a legitimate expectation on government to approach issues of governance differently. The previous coalition did not practice what it preached, notwithstanding a dilemma of coalitions where a puppy may opt to hold a bulldog hostage.

Political commentators are eagerly waiting to see the opening of the 9thParliament. The hope of some is, this time around, the LDF will occupy its rightful position and add the necessary pomp to the occasion. There are also those who are waiting to count the number of times a mention of  “My government ….’Muso oa ka …” will feature in the speech from the throne. To some, the size of the cabinet ought to dictate that such mention be frequent. In the event those familiar words do not come out, like it happened in the 17 May, 2014 opening, that would be another matter of interest.

The 8 May 2015 speech will be a challenge to the new government. Mention of “My government” has to send a message to jealously remain loyal and give honest and well considered constitutional advice to the high office of the King. Otherwise, any mention of these words will have been wasted ammunition.

A new government has to recall William Shakespeare’s notion of the world being a stage, with its various exits. The 9th parliament has climbed onto this stage. A good actor or performer has to know that it is not his/her body movements and utterances from the stage which matter. It is the reaction or response from the audience which the actor has to read properly. This is cited to be a challenge to work hard enough to be re-elected again in the next general election.

Interestingly, the very first “Broad Objective” of the Coalition Agreement is “to be a reformist government…” One wonders whether the new reforms will open up for any left handed passersby to feed it with suggestions of areas of reform?  If it has to be a matter for the usual grand committees alone, five years of the 9th Parliament may appear too short. Lesotho has a record of being slow in reforms: except when pressed for quick fixes by political crises. Business as usual will not take us anywhere.

After His Majesty’s Speech from the Throne, all the corners of the stage, in the name of Lesotho, will be at the disposal of His second coalition government. The question remains whether the 9th Parliament will be up to the task? The 8th Parliament thought it would.

God bless Lesotho, and long live our King!

 

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