Of politicians and ‘class solidarity’

Of politicians and ‘class solidarity’

It does not help much to consider any given issue from its midway point or to hold the notion that what one sees in the end is what the main fact is: all issues have their origins somewhere; there is always a cause to consider for all things have their point of beginning. With regard to any type of phenomenon in the world, the wisest move is that which strives first to understand the basis of any matter that has to be dealt with, to find the root cause first before attempting to unravel the pieces with which the entity in question is made of.

Blundering on with the foolish notion that it shall reveal its true form as the path is beaten is the way of the gambler, a pattern that does not guarantee that the phenomenon will ever be understood in full. Understanding the basics of anything is the first step towards attaining full understanding of the inner ramifications of an entity. First understand the simple before going to the complex, for it is the surest way to reaching a good conclusion, a right point of destiny, and a satisfactory result.

The main topic of interest with any type of reform begins first with the understanding of the history of the given system of governance or the state that uses the given system and how the existing systems affect the general harmony within society that engenders or adversely impacts the harmonious running of a given state. There are various types of reform going on in the various African states and the lead discussions focus mainly on the symptoms and not the causes (the Lesotho discussion is one such where the public has largely not been consulted, with the discussions largely limited to closed meetings and conferences, in reality labelling such type of reform process more of an imposition than a consultation).

This pattern is the same that was adopted by the colonists right at the beginning of the colonisation project that is in itself the actual source to most of the governmental and administrative problems plaguing the African continent at this point in time. The colonist imposed his system without consultation, without really bothering to find out whether existing systems were efficient enough in the running of society.
Africa already had its systems of governance that had proven effective over millennia, but the colonist with ulterior motives made sure to do away with them to guarantee that the looting of the human and natural resources would be an easier process to perform and to achieve. Of this, Walter Rodney gives an example in his How Europe Underdeveloped Africa (page 192):

The kings of Buganda set up a small permanent armed force, which served as a bodyguard; and the rest of the national army was raised when necessary. The political administration was centralised under the Kabaka, and district rulers were appointed by the Kabaka and his council, rather than left to be provided by the clans on a hereditary family basis. Great ingenuity went into devising plans for administering this large kingdom through a network of local officials. Perhaps the best tributes to the political sophistication of Buganda came from the British, when they found Buganda and other East African feudalities in the 19th century. They were the best tributes because they were reluctantly extracted from white racists and culturally arrogant colonialists, who did not want to admit that Africans were capable of anything.

The lead problem here was not that the colonist did not see the effectiveness of the system, individual racist pride took the fore, for the European in a manner still regarded himself a more superior being than the aboriginal inhabitant of the land on which he had set foot. Rodney further posits on page 193 that:

Actually, Europeans were so impressed with what they saw in the inter-lacustrine zone that they invented the thesis that those political states could not possibly have been the work of Africans and must have been built at an earlier date by white ‘Hamites’ from Ethiopia. This myth seemed to get some support from the fact that the Bachwezi were said to have been light-skinned. However, in the first place, had the Bachwezi come from Ethiopia they would have been black or brown Africans. And secondly, as noted earlier, the cultures of East Africa were syntheses of local developments, plus African contributions from outside the specific localities. They were certainly not foreign imports.

The case continues when it comes to the issue of effecting reforms in the Mountain Kingdom; there has been no attempt whatsoever to consider the simple fact that Morena Moshoeshoe’s systems of governance were in actual fact so effective that other governments that came after were based on his models. The attempt at reform is largely drawn from foreign ‘junior’ opinion and not local concern or perspective. It is as if the simple man or woman in the street has no idea how things should be and the system therefore has to impose plans and strategies. This clogs the equation in that the very people on whom the reforms are imposed are only superficially considered ‘partners’ that are expected to ‘cooperate’ at the end of the day and this brings up the question: how can one cooperate where they do not have the full understanding of what they are dealing with?

It comes back to the issue of individual self-interest over the more vital issue of national well-being. It helps no one that someone thinks that they are such a smart Alec that they consider their opinions to have so much weight they can be considered over those of others. The fact of the matter is that individuals live in houses where there are families, and those families are a part of the larger community that in itself is a part of the state. It is a Charles Dickens perspective, but it has its roots in the philosophy of Ubuntu where the basic understanding is that one is because there are others, meaning that one cannot be without the presence of the others.

There are the masses that have to be consulted first before drawing the idea that a certain system has to be imposed on them, for every man is his own man, with his own opinions whose most vital aspect lies in their ability to connect with those of the other individuals existent in his immediate or external environs. The main point of argument lies in the fact that the consultation was not thorough, it was merely carried out in a partisan fashion that addresses the interests of the political class and their followers in the main and not those of the nation as a whole.

The argument could be that the issue of reforms can easily have more than a million ideas as to how it should be carried out, which would therefore mean that the discussion would be lost before reaching a veritable conclusion, but the main point of reiteration here is that there are living examples found in the history of Lesotho that can be used as points of reference rather than the findings and suggestions of one commission of inquiry. The Mosotho citizen should be given enough time to introspect and the nation should first be engaged in a comprehensive introspective dialogue before reaching the conclusion that the suggestions put forth by a single commission are worthy enough to be imposed as the model for a progressive approach to reforms.

The notion that two years of discussion can bring about changes to a problem that is older than fifty years is in simple terms illogical. The discussions should be more in-depth in their approach, and imposition should not be seen as the only way to reaching the desired point of conclusion.

The world operates on the basis of systems, and such systems need to be understood comprehensively if they are to be of any use to the people aiming to use them. The governmental system in Lesotho claims to use the Westminster style or system of governance adopted before and after independence.

It is quite different from the indigenous system of governance used after Moshoeshoe I’s national reforms, and to a large extent is a system that was imposed on Basotho after Moshoeshoe’s request for Lesotho to be a protectorate of the British Empire. It did not serve local interests but those of the colonist in its beginnings, for the main point of interest in its structure was the demolition of systems of rule and governance already existent in Lesotho society.

The power of the chief and the paramount chief was to a large extent reduced and in its place the power of the colonial/political elite was installed. The problem therefore lies in the fact Lesotho claims to be a monarchy but the monarch does not hold the power to effect changes in state rule and governance; the Prime Minister holds sway in this aspect, holding the executive power to effect changes.
There is no clear sense of hierarchy when it comes to rule and governance from the point of view of the common citizen. A clear understanding of hierarchy is a vital aspect when it comes to the issue of any type of revolt or change, that is, everyone first needs to know their place before they can contribute in the process. Should hierarchy or the understanding thereof be as vague as it stands in the land at this point in time, then executing it will become a hard process to complete, for the people need first to know and to understand who is leading who.

What could be a simple process can be lost to time as people flounder from one point to the next as leaderless birds on a migration journey. There is a need to know who exactly holds sway between the king and the Prime Minister in the instance of Lesotho, otherwise it will be endless sessions of opinion that end in nothing as seems to be the case with a country that has had more external interventions to sort local problems than any other state in the world. Intervention is well and good, but the fact of the matter is that Lesotho first needs to understand itself from the point of view of the individual, the community and the nation.

The real flaws in government are normally disguised by the rhetoric of political discourse which in fact promotes the effects of ideological manipulation (through political interests). This ideological manipulation’s weaknesses are brought into the open sphere where they can be seen by all citizens through the exposure of a particular situation which is often of a revolutionary form.

The revolutionary focuses only on the truths the ordinary people face and not the interests of the ruling class that in the case of Africa has largely been a self-serving entity that promises one thing at the rally and delivers the opposite in Parliament. It is pretty hard to question the politician once they become a Member of Parliament, an aspect which the German poet and intellectual Hans Magnus Enzensberger attributes to what he terms as “class solidarity”, based on the protection of a particular class’ interests to which he asserts:

For a ruling class does not permit itself to be questioned unconditionally before it has been defeated. Before that it does not reveal itself, does not account for itself, does not give up the structure of its actions, except by way of mistake…

The loquacious discussion that has been going on in Lesotho has been the ‘congress/national’ debate that has been going on for the past 50-plus years. It is the first point at which the reform process should begin, with none of the recalcitrance one sees between the two sides at this point in time. The failures of both parties over the years are what put this country where it is at this point where reforms have to be seriously considered as being the only way we can go forward as a state and nation.

What put the two parties at loggerheads is the first aspect that should be considered instead of the pointing of fingers one sees escalating with each passing day. There is room for reform in our hearts, but the real causes are possibly in the issue of party politics: the point at which the discussion must start. Justice Phumaphi must not be used as the scapegoat when people want to avoid getting to the gist of the matter in terms of the origins of the civil unrest and polarisation brought and manifest in the political history of post-independence Lesotho.

One learns with each passing day, and the people one meets are not only wells of wisdom but they are also libraries of information for one if one listens closely enough. What one hears is that the reform process should adopt a stance where the real origins of the divisions are questioned to the point where the solutions in the form of reforms are found. Right now, it is endless dilly dallying over pride and history, and there is no end in sight.

Tšepiso S. Mothibi

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