We need ‘more opposition’ and not ‘no opposition’

We need ‘more opposition’ and not ‘no opposition’

In a democracy, an elected government gives out its best performance when there is a strong and effective opposition. A government that has no opposition seldom excels.  This is because an important mechanism to hold government to account does not exist thus allowing especially unscrupulous governments to get away with acting in ways that are not for the benefit of citizens and country.

But where the opposition is strong, there is a bulwark against the abuse of state power. A government is kept in check.
So, if we are serious about establishing growth and prosperity for Lesotho, we must adopt the model where governing parties and opposition parties exist side by side and play their distinct roles in society. The argument that Lesotho is not yet ready for this, is not convincing.
I do however, see where it may be coming from.

For many years, no government in Lesotho has ever had to confront a strong opposition i.e. one with enough clout to dislodge it from power. But all that changed in 2012 when we had the first coalition government in Lesotho.
Overnight, the rules of running a country were changed and it’s never been the same again ever since. Many of our leaders are struggling to adjust to this new reality.

They are used to a time when the party that won took all the spoils and called the shots. The losing parties were denied a place at the table of power and had no voice. Today, this has changed.

By entering a coalition government, the small parties also get to sit at the table of power and to speak.
In fact, they don’t just speak, they speak with confidence and authority. This has introduced complexity and created a lot of noise in our politics.
The complexity arises from the fact that politicians must now consult and be more accountable than before. They no longer have carte blanche to do as they please.

The noise has come about because the voice of the opposition has also gotten louder. Opposition parties can no longer be ignored or taken lightly let alone the incessant demands of coalition partners.

This is new terrain for our political masters and they don’t like it. Those familiar with the old order i.e. the majority party ruling anyhow they wanted with no one to ask questions and no coalition partners to report to, long for those good old days.
But those days are long gone. We will never go back to that era.

Disabuse yourself of the notion that politicians in Lesotho are in politics because they want to make a difference.
They are not. They are in this thing in the same way that you go to your job everyday (if lucky to have one) i.e. to earn an income so you can feed yourself and your family.

So, don’t be alarmed when a leading politician in this country says Lesotho is not yet ready for politics that recognise the necessity to have opposition parties. We know why such things are said. A strong opposition is a threat to job security for politicians in government. So, such statements are made because jobs need to be protected.

He is calling out to the political elite to band together and to reject the departure from how things were in the past.
The old order guaranteed job security so long as you towed the party line and kissed up to the leader.

Calling for a Government of National Unity is an attempt to silence the crescendo of small parties and opposition voices.
What he is calling for will not usher in better governance and accountability which could lead to a better life for all of us in Lesotho.

It’s merely a ploy to eliminate risks threatening the continued stay of politicians in power. So, we need to be wary of such calls lest we find ourselves deeper in the midst of more patronage politics.
We need to do all we can to rid ourselves of this scourge. If we are serious about keeping Government honest, we need “more opposition” and not “no opposition”

Poloko Khabele

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