Premier should serve only two terms

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Utloang Kajeno

AS Lesotho has held its snap general election in the aftermath of the failed two-year coalition government consisting of the All the Basotho Convention (ABC), Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) and Basotho National Party (BNP), a number of critical issues need to be addressed in the Constitution and other relevant laws, I shall attempt to enunciate hereunder.

The Constitution is very clear regarding who is eligible to be appointed prime minister by King Letsie III on the advice of the Council of State.  However, a constitutional lacuna seems to exist in that the terms of office of the premier should be restricted to two terms of a maximum of five years each. These two terms, for clarity and specificity, may either be successive or interrupted but should nevertheless be restricted to two.

In the United Kingdom (UK), which has a largely unwritten Constitution, the terms of office of the prime minister are unrestricted, a scenario that has led to many of their premiers, in the country’s recent history, having to be pushed out of office by their own parties. I have in mind Tony Blair, Margaret Thatcher and Gordon Brown with regards to this issue.  All these prime ministers had by the time they left office overstayed their welcome in office to the chagrin of their own parties. All of them were great leaders at the peak of their popularity but unwisely decided to overstay their welcome in office. They, at the end, became cavalier, disinterested and downright arrogant towards their constituencies.

Granted, Lesotho almost completely follows the above mentioned Westminster type of government of the UK. However, we need to legislate, through the Constitution, a restricted period in office for the prime minister as a departure from the Westminster model.  Lesotho could introduce a section to the Constitution similar in wording to the 1951, twenty-second (XXII) of the Constitution of the United States of America, which reads thus!  “No person shall be elected to the office of the President (read appointed Prime Minister) more than twice.

That way, we could curtail the term of office of the Prime Minister in Lesotho to no more than two terms, and this will be in keeping with the rest of the civilised world.

Closer to home in South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, who succeeded the iconic Nelson Mandela as president was admittedly a great leader, but to use the old cliché, the chink in his armour was his over-zealousness to cling to power even when his party and people no longer needed him at the helm.

In Lesotho, we have the unfortunate scenario of Pakalitha Mosisili who has been in power for almost 15 years as prime minister yet he has the temerity to seek another five years in office and possibly even beyond. If his party manages to form a coalition government, Dr Mosisili can cumulatively amass up to 30 years as Lesotho’s premier.

It is even more disturbing because in all the Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries, of which Lesotho is a pre-eminent member, terms of office for premiers and presidents are limited to two. Throughout his stay in power, Dr Mosisili has been preaching the importance of sticking to SADC protocols. However, he conveniently side-stepped the issue of limited terms for heads of state.

I think it is unfair for Dr Mosisili to continue to want to become premier again of this impoverished nation and even now as he continues to be a Member of Parliament (MP) for Tsoelike constituency. This conduct you will agree with me, borders on greed.

Already, as a former prime minister, he gets such benefits as a chauffeur-driven vehicle and a bodyguard at government’s expense.

He is further entitled to an 80 percent pension of his salary while he was premier. On top of that, he gets a double salary because he also gets a salary and a daily allowance as an MP for Tsoelike.

If individuals stay too long in one position, particularly of authority, they end up losing focus and direction. Here I am using the phrase, “too long” objectively so that it complies with acceptable international standards.

Individuals who stay too long in positions of authority admittedly, gain experience, deeper knowledge of the job and can contribute immensely to the job at hand. However, ominously they tend to build an empire, a fiefdom and a personal sphere of influence in which nobody can, in their flawed perception, encroach. We also need new ideas and to blood-in new faces to revamp service delivery.

This is precisely the chink in the armour of Dr Mosisili and his ilk, who stay too long in power. They tend to become delusional and erroneously think that they alone can lead a nation. They think they can lead Lesotho forever and that is their destiny and fate, that power beyond human control, dictates that it is only them who can lead this country to stability and prosperity. If they are not a major role player in the national agenda they erroneously think the nation is going down the precipice to oblivion.

Individuals who stay too long in positions of authority tend to, because of their intimate knowledge of the system and the rules, manipulate the system and flout the rules so that ultimately they do not deliver. This argument is also based on empirical evidence.

Dr, Mosisili by his own admission, in his election message flighted over the media in the months leading up to the snap general election, has this say:  (I will paraphrase this advertisement briefly).

“The eagle is back as it had earlier lost the sting in its claws probably due to having been in power for too long.  It had inevitably slept on the job and taken everything for granted.  It had therefore retreated atop the highest hill to sharpen its claws to resume its duties. It therefore needs another mandate as it has come back refreshed and stronger”.

What a way to admit ineptitude from our most senior statesman, who however, needs a fresh mandate from the very people he failed.

Throughout the world, history is littered with stories of individuals who have overstayed their welcome in positions of authority. To name a few these are Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and Margaret Thatcher, all of the United Kingdom and Silvio Berlusconi of Italy to name a few. Dr Mosisili belongs to this group, though he won’t admit it.

Individuals who stay too long in power tend to acquiesce, take part in or turn a blind eye to corruption to the detriment of the socio-economic development of nations they are supposed to uplift.  That is why, once they are removed from office, as they inevitably cling to power, the scourge of corruption that is unearthed is difficult to understand how it persisted un-arrested.

Because they have a thorough and intimate knowledge of the system, they circumvent the rules and procedures to the extend they tend to build they own mini empires and hegemony that benefits only them and a few individuals within their influence. A case in point is the Democratic Congress (DC), the party was in power for too long under various guises of the Congress formations.  A quick glance at the list of all the DC’s candidates’ electoral list will reflect that it is the same old faces as opposed to the other competing political parties.  This is a hegemony that does not want to let go of their hold on the body poitic and therefore potentially government.

Anything beyond successive or interrupted terms in office for a leader will lead to problems of ineptitude, corruption, creating a fiefdom or mini empire and, above all else, hegemony.

 

 

 

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