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Who is to blame?

by Lesotho Times
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It is an undeniable fact that Lesotho is experiencing economic, social and political regression as manifested by an assortment of ills whose combined weight, breadth and depth qualify it to be classified as a country in crisis.

All available evidence supporting the existence of this crisis has over the years been disseminated to the public through academic publications, newspaper articles/columns, electronic media and radio broadcasts.

The content of this cumulative evidence includes the following: moral degeneration, pseudo politics/governance/democracy, the scourge of Aids, chronic unemployment, poverty and the threatening rise of lawlessness both violent and purely fraudulent.

Furthermore, the delivery of services exists only in government departmental mission statements. Millions and even billions of maloti creep out of state coffers unnoticed yet the coffers are managed by known individuals who seem not to be taken to task over these disappearances.

The civil service resembles an institutionalisation of slavery and poverty as reflected by the uncompetitive salaries, the predatory income tax and the legal sanctioning of labour unionism.

We also have the shameless enrichment of those in control of the levers of power through gigantic salary increments usually preceded by unconvincing justifications which however vague always do their intended job.

We also have a paralysis of the judicial system and an irrelevant education system.

This sums up the challenges facing the Mountain Kingdom. How did we get to where we are and who brought us here?

First, let us note that Lesotho is democratically ruled and as a result, Basotho enjoy universal human rights and freedoms.

In addition, the Mountain Kingdom is a constitutional monarchy led by a bicameral parliament that feeds off a multi-party political system.

This therefore implies that the process of governance in Lesotho is a joint venture involving the governing elite, the opposition and the subjects.

In a way, governance resembles a system whose perfect performance depends not only on the harmony of its constituent parts but also on the virtuosity of each part.

With this as a background and through a trial by both the media and a disgruntled population, the governing elite together with the system of governance it oversees have already been found guilty of a horde of injustices against the people.

As much as this might not be palatable to the government, it is true that there is substance in most of the scathing attacks launched. It is therefore logical to conclude that a significant portion of those in government, as rational beings, can see the shortcomings of their governance whose internal contradictions are threatening to bring it to its knees, together with the country.

This however does not imply that the government has unilaterally created this chaos without an accomplice(s) which is an impossibility considering the multiplicity of stakeholders in democratic governance.

What then has been the role of other stakeholders, namely; the opposition and the people in this fiasco?

Let’s look at the opposition first.

As a point of departure, the goal of an opposition entails keeping a government in check while simultaneously attempting to democratically unseat the latter.

Through constant change of those at the helm we achieve progressive evolution of the state.

Did our opposition approach the last general elections with this in mind, what did it do to as an attempt to achieve it? Since it failed, what did it miss in its effort?

It is true that due to the heterogeneity of our society we are a nation of various interests which politically find representation in the numerous parties of our multi-party democracy.

However, looking at the fact that during parliamentary proceedings, the decision to turn a motion into a law is determined by the majority of votes, what is the significance to governance of the majority of parties that usually gain between one and five parliamentary seats?

More than half of our political parties never get even 10 seats.

As much as they claim to represent the interests of particular sections of our population, how often do they succeed in influencing legislation that addresses the interests or needs of such groups?

If not, what purpose do they serve to the general process of governance?

In truth, they are just part of the statistics which is unfortunate considering the political wisdom of their leaders.

Instead of settling for this form of meaningless parliamentary representation, why doesn’t the opposition combine its strength?

On the other hand, if such a conglomeration would violate the Proportional Representation electoral model, are there strong reasons why it is not being changed in order to accommodate a political force of such nature?

My take is that most politicians will not buy such an idea because it implies that their parties get swallowed up after which they might not make it to parliament.

The continuation of this form of ineffective parliamentary representation lends credence to the generally held view that most opposition politicians establish political parties only to get admitted into parliament where they are in a better position to benefit more from the state’s wealth than to make an impact.

It is on the basis of this failure to unite that the opposition has lent a helping hand to the creation of a development crisis in Lesotho because had the party leaders entertained, lobbied and effected such a move ages ago, chances are that we couldn’t be where we are.

This however does not serve to write off the opposition in Lesotho which would be naïve considering the good work it does through the Public Accounts Committee of exposing the misuse of public funds by those in charge of state coffers.

Though deserving applause, the PAC dominated by opposition politicians has also exposed the powerlessness of the opposition in influencing the conviction of embezzlers of public funds.

Again, instead of uniting against the government which is their natural competitor during elections, opposition parties in Lesotho have shown a propensity to unite only when condemning the government’s vices.

One of its most ironic condemnations is that the government misuses the taxpayers’ money on pampering its cabinet and other high ranking officials.

Has anyone ever heard the opposition speaking in unison condemning or even rejecting the popular interest-free M400 000 loan they benefit from or the huge salaries of MPs, a part of which they are, citing the injustice they visit upon poor people?

There is no doubt that our opposition needs an overhaul due to weakness caused by its fragmentation and as long as it remains weak, the government will keep on acting as it sees fit regardless of an ocean of tears and tortured souls it leaves in its wake.

However, for meaningful progress to occur, it is important for each group participating in our system of governance to acknowledge its weaknesses so that in the future each acts appropriately.

Next time we will look at how and why we the people have contributed to our national calamity.

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