Talks a welcome move



MOVES by the government and opposition to map out a framework for the return of exiled political leaders deserve utmost commendation.

As reported in this edition, representatives of the opposition bloc consisting of the All Basotho Convention, Reformed Congress of Lesotho and Basotho National Party yesterday met with government officials in Modderport, South Africa to discuss the modalities for ending their leaders’ involuntary stay in the neighbouring nation.

The meeting, which was convened by the government at the urging of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), constitutes a coup for the regional bloc in its slow but sure approach to resolving the political impasse in the Mountain Kingdom.

However, it is our leaders who deserve a pat on the back for finally sitting down by themselves to chart a way towards ending the impasse. Despite its many powers, SADC could not have coerced both parties to the negotiating table. The national interest, in our view, could have been the driving factor.

Another positive development is that the talks were not held in secret, which shows that both parties are prepared to follow the process through.

In previous occasions when such talks were held, they we held in secret giving room for the negotiators to abruptly pull out without any explanation. Pictures published in this edition of the representatives conversing in a cordial manner in Modderport are a welcome sight and speak a thousand words about their commitment to the talks.

As has been stated on this column on many occasions, protest and boycott politics have their limits however effective they may be in the short-term. On its part, the government needs the opposition to play its role of holding them to account.

However dysfunctional the arrangement may be, all the players need each other to make the country operational. This is more so given the challenges before this nation.

Elsewhere in this edition, the European Union (EU) has announced that it would not disburse €26.85 million (about M454.96 million) in budget support to Lesotho due to the insufficient progress made in the implementation of agreed policy reforms.

With all the haggling that has characterised the body politic of this nation for much of the preceding years, it is no surprise that little progress was made on the economic front. Added to that, the country is in the throes of a severe El Nino-induced drought that has made a lot of Basotho food insecure.

All these challenges require a government and opposition focused on the task of alleviating the people’s suffering and not at each other’s throats. An all hands on deck approach is the remedy Lesotho needs to emerge from its logjam.

Without doubt, these talks have the potential to be a turning point for the nation. Development partners who are mulling over their continued support of the country given recent unsavoury development would certainly be won over by a government and opposition speaking with one voice with regards to the national interest.

While we are under no illusions on the enormity of the task before the negotiators, we are cautiously optimistic of a framework that would bring not only the exiled leaders home, but other activists and Lesotho Defence Force members.

The talks will be a give and take affair, with no party likely to get everything they would want. However, the overriding objective for all parties involved needs to be ending the impasse so that focus can return to developmental issues. After all, Lesotho urgently needs to grow and diversify her economy to be able to weather the storms of global downturns and other shocks.

Leaders from across the political divide should not regard each other as oil and water, but as Basotho first and foremost. With time the congress and nationalist ideologies will become archaic, but Lesotho will remain.

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