IT is saddening to see the detachment of most people from national politics in Lesotho considering the significance of the role politics play in the general welfare of a people.
Even though most Basotho hate politics and politicians, it is the latter as part of a government who make decisions that affect the lives of each one of us regardless of whether we like it or not.
However, as uninformed, immature and irresponsible as the people’s abstinence from politics might be interpreted, it is to a certain extent justified by the political history of this country along which allegiance to the opposing political camp meant perpetual persecution, exile or ultimately, death.
At one point in our history subscription to opposition politics could be equated to voluntary admission to death row where one could be called to face either the noose or an electric chair at any time.
Consequent to this, many people still consider politics a dangerous game to play.
Who among us cannot see that this misinformed perception that most people have of politics is a watered down version of the real thing and that it has taken root because of the power and influence of those who perpetuate this misconstrued form of politics?
It is important for Basotho, in particular the youth, to know that politics is not a dangerous game or rather more appropriately, that politics is not a game at all.
They should be informed that what they have been made to believe is politics is nothing but an outcome of irrational, destructive and to a large extent, selfish actions of selfish people masquerading as politicians while in pursuit of selfish interests.
I say this because even to this day, most Basotho still see an inextricable link between politics and a host of undesirables some of which are immorality, violence, death and life on the run simply because these constitute the major highlights of our political history.
Consequently, formal/informal political debates centering on Lesotho have in the past condemned delinquent political moves such as the annulling of the 1970 electoral outcome, suspension of the constitution, dissolution of parliament, depolitisising of the monarchy and the subsequent mayhem which include the 1986 military coup together with its discontents.
Recent inclusions in this condemnation are the 1998 political uprising and the 2007 post electoral conflict.
It is understandable then that due to this recurrence of deviant behaviour on our political space, all its outcomes have come to be seen as the inevitable result of political engagement.
This is wrong because it fuels the fear and hatred that people have of anything political and it encourages them to shy away from political participation to their own detriment.
Even though all the above have earned their place in the pages of our political history because they were executed by politicians within the political system as political responses to political challenges, they do not define our politics and so should not be seen as such.
Rather, they represent acts of transgression whose perpetrators acted in position of political power.
For example, in 1970 when Chief Leabua Jonathan in his capacity as Lesotho’s Prime Minister illegitimately rejected his government’s clean defeat at the polls, he deviated from a democratic norm of accepting the outcome of a free and fair election because of his selfish interests in power.
His action not only violated political ethics but also moral principles. The same is true of the Setlamo Democratic Alliance (SDA) which was composed of the BCP, BNP and MFP for resorting to violence in protest against the LCD’s electoral victory in 1998 because they strayed from the proper channels of seeking justice.
Did the burning of towns bear good fruit? Was this unfortunate act justified?
In the same way, the 2007 post-electoral conflict was also a story of gross violations by both the government and the opposition of both political and moral principles.
In the first place, was it in the best interests of the nation that a snap election was called?
During the chaos that ensued, was the government justified in frustrating, as the Masire Report stated, the process that was meant to amicably end the deadlock? If not guilty, why refuse to cooperate?
The opposition also managed to stoop very low as revealed by the report.
This involved the ABC-LWP alliance.
Wasn’t it obvious to the leadership of these two parties from the onset that their alliance was a violation of the electoral model?
Or, were they trying to see if two wrongs could make a right since LCD and NIP also formed a similar alliance?
Either way both faltered and contributed to an ever-growing archive of unpatriotic and uncalled for acts committed in the name of politics.
This therefore makes it crystal clear that most of the destabilising confusion that we now know as our national politics represents in a way, crimes committed against us the electorate by politicians in a bid to access power over us, through us.
This however is not peculiar to Lesotho.
Who cannot see how this misrepresentation of politics has wreaked havoc in most Basotho, in particular the youth by informing them to scorn the political process and as a consequence be relegated to the political backstage where they resemble nothing but a spent force?
Many young people who are old enough to have heard or alternatively read about the heinous crimes committed during the State of Emergency/Qomatsi as that period is popularly known are still not convinced that politics is a virtuous vocation which can benefit from the vigour, zeal and wit of souls of their calibre?
Due to the risk of death and perpetual persecution that the twisted version of politics has convinced many a youth to regard as part and parcel of active political participation, politics has become the preserve of the grey haired who most young people regard as having nothing to lose.
All this is wrong and unfortunately portrays Lesotho as a country devoid of people eager to control their destiny.
For example, in 1998 when we exceeded the two million mark, only 584 740 voters were registered for the general election, 554 386 for the 2002 general elections and 442 963 for the last one.
In light of the usually reported discrepancies in voter registration, the number of eligible but absconding voters might be bigger.
These numbers make it very clear that too many eligible people are not voting and this apathy towards elections emanates from their opinion of politics.
For the sake of political development and therefore the general development of Lesotho, it is important for Basotho youths to know that the essence of politics is to compete for government through robust debates centering on issues of national significance where competing politicians propose alternative ways forward after which all eligible voters must vote.
Politics is not about deceit, hatred and murder which our political history is replete with but about uniting a nation.
It is not in the true spirit of politics for political opponents to exchange blows through public speeches that reflect personal vendetta.
This however does not serve to rule out satire in exposing an opponent’s vices but rather to emphasise the importance of sticking to arguments that propose solutions to predicaments faced by the nation.
Due to being a numerical majority that logically bears the brunt of ills currently terrorising our society like the scourge of Aids, chronic unemployment, limited entrepreneurial opportunities, rampant crime and the shortage of recreational facilities, the youth have no option but to become politically inclined.
Participation does not imply that they become politicians but rather they must appreciate the value of politics in their lives.
Lastly, as an offensive against the degenerating nature of our national politics and the subsequent regression of the nation, it is imperative for the young blood of this nation to delete from their mind the generally held negative conception of politics and cultivate a more positive image.
This is only possible through their active participation the goal of which should be to gradually integrate into party manifestoes their interests which should be couched in patriotism not individualism.
Considering their numbers together with the necessary degree of enthusiasm and the crisis in which they are in as a group, this inevitability which might resemble a pipedream to pessimists, can easily become a reality.
Nkopane Mathibeli is a Masters student at the National University of Lesotho