The writing is on the wall

The writing is on the wall

THOSE familiar with Biblical scriptures will easily relate to the famous yet very painful inscription, “mene, mene, tekel, parsin” (Daniel 5:25).
The words were directed to Belshazzar, the son of Nebuchadnezzar, who saw a hand write them on the wall. Their meaning, in a nutshell, was that God has numbered the days of the king’s reign and that his kingdom is divided.
In a way, you could say the same of Lesotho’s political events.
Nearly every major political party in Lesotho has had that moment.

In the mid-1990s there were two factions battling for the control of the Basotho Congress Party (BCP).
The party leader, Ntsu Mokhehle, favoured one faction known as the Pressure group.
Known as Majelathoko, the rival faction was led by deputy leader Molapo Qhobela.
When the two factions could no longer stand each other Mokhehle expelled the ringleaders of Majelathoko from cabinet and formed the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD).

Robbed of its parliamentary seats, the BCP lost power and eventually crumbled into political oblivion. It has not recovered from that blow.
History would repeat itself in the LCD under Pakalitha Mosisili years later.
Then Mosisili was battling the Lesiba faction that was said to be led by Shakhane Mokhehle, Ntsu Mokhehle’s young brother. Mosisili fired the Lesiba lieutenants from cabinet as a way to consolidate his power.

The fired comrades formed the Lesotho People’s Congress which however failed to gain political currency.
But that event marked the start of the steady decline of the LCD as a political force.
In 2006, another faction arose and threatened the stability of the LCD.

This time Lehlohonolo Tšehlana was expelled from the party, and luckily Thomas Thabane jumped ship and formed his All Basotho Convention (ABC) before he was booted out of cabinet.

When Mosisili was under pressure from a faction led by Mothetjoa Metsing he lashed out at perceived opponents and kicked them from cabinet. He formed the Democratic Congress (DC) which instantly became government at the expense of the LCD.
He did the same with Monyane Moleleki who later formed the Alliance of Democrats.
The lesson here is that political leaders always start by purging political opponents from the cabinet before they kick them out of parties.
Today, Lebohang Hlaele and Matebatso Doti have been dismissed from the Thabane-led coalition after the highly contested elective conference in early February.

Hlaele and Doti are part of the new ABC national executive committee yet to take the reigns of the party because of an ongoing court challenge to their election.

The newly elected committee is rumoured to come from a faction out of favour with Thabane.
The bone of contention is no longer ‘if’ but ‘when’ the ABC will split. The writing is on the wall.
It is no secret that the ABC has reached a point of no return and what is left is divorce on grounds of irreconcilable differences.
The incoming NEC secretary general, Hlaele, has received a ‘show cause’ letter from the outgoing NEC secretary general.
The lessons learned from the BCP, LCD and DC already tell us that the ABC is at the end of the tether.
They cannot get beyond damage that has been done. And history has also taught us that when party business ends up in the courts, the only outcome is a split.

For now those outside the party may not know the actual impact the split will have on the coalition government.
Yet that should not stop us from suggesting things we believe are crucial in the next election.
We have to speak about such issues because history has taught us that once a ruling party starts hobbling, it means elections are imminent.
The temptation at such times is to rattle out a long list of grievances that voters want the next government to address: hunger, unemployment, corruption and poverty.
These are all too obvious.

My suggestion is that parliament makes two amendments before we have a snap election.
The first is to review the National Assembly Electoral Act 2011 on the submission of the proportional representation party lists.
I suggest the list remain closed but instead of being submitted before elections, the submission should be after elections.
The list should still maintain the zebra model but candidates should be listed based on how much they garnered at the first-past-the-post polls. It is patently unfair for people who got higher votes to be overlooked for proportional seats just because they are not high on the list. This adjustment will also help us eliminate the fight for NEC positions in political parties as they are being abused by people who want to have first priority when the PR lists are drawn.

Secondly, MPs should reconsider the interest-free loans they get.
I have no problem with MPs getting the loans, but I am hostile to the idea that when a government abruptly falls, the taxpayers have to pick up the tab.

The MPs should pay their own loans because they are responsible for parliament not running its full course. These two minute adjustments do not need to wait for the reform process. They can be effected as soon as parliament opens. Of course we should first pass the budget, then we can go for our snap elections.

Kelello Rakolobe

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