King must stay out of politics: academic

King must stay out of politics: academic

ROMA – PROFESSOR Motlatsi Thabane, a history lecturer at the National University of Lesotho (NUL), says calls for the king to be granted more power during the SADC-driven reforms are misguided.
Thabane was responding to calls for the monarchy to be granted more power during a lecture on the proposed reforms in Lesotho at the Roma campus on Monday.

The lecture was hosted by the Moshoeshoe I Institute of Leadership at the NUL campus.
Thabane argued that the move could taint the image of the king.

He said it was with good intentions that the British, when they granted Basotho independence in 1966, made the king a ceremonial monarch.
“The British sought to keep the institution of the monarchy out of involvement in politics as a way to ensure that the holder of the position would not pursue personal or institutional interests and engage in other political activity,” Thabane said.

“This protected the monarchy from the danger of ‘getting things wrong’ and thereby incurring indignities that are sometimes part of the criticism inpolitics,” he said.

“If the institution of the monarchy is granted power as part of the reform processes, as some are now proposing, the possibilities of a monarchy ‘getting things wrong’ will always be there and they will confront a monarchy in ways no different from the way they confront elected politicians,” he said.

Thabane said such confrontation of the monarchy can possibly come with outcomes similar to those that befall elected politicians, “including criticism fit only for an ordinary politician”.

“It has never been clear what those who propose granting the monarchy some power would suggest as a way of dealing with undignified criticism,” he said.

“As things stand, were the monarchy to become involved in politics, the only ways that suggest themselves for protecting him against criticism would be inconsistent with the fundamental tenets of a liberal democracy.”

Turning to politicians, Thabane said they are elites “who take turns ruling the country and whose power struggles in pursuit of self-interest have been responsible for political instability in this country”.

He said the majority of society “bear the brunt of poverty, unemployment and other forms of socio-economic insecurity connected to the conduct of the political elite”.

He said “their actions during periods of stability, and in reforms that have followed each instance of political instability, the politicians have looked for, and agreed among themselves, political ways of securing themselves”.

“We need to consider changing tack and our reforms should take a form of investigating the socio-economic arrangements capable of benefitting all sections of society,” Thabane said. “Only thereafter, (we should) ponder the question: What sort of political dispensation would best suit socio-economic arrangements that benefit all society?”

He said whether the proposed reforms and the processes will bear fruit depends a great deal on whether problems have been identified accurately.
“Whose influence has been greatest in the identification of problems blamed for persistent political instability in Lesotho?” he asked.
“How have those groups and individuals characterised our problem in order to arrive at the conclusion that reasons for instability in Lesotho are party-politicisation of public institutions, absence of consensus on distribution of state power and lack of adequate correspondence between MMP and our constitution?” he said.

“Whose interest will be served by solution to problems that have been identified?” Thabane also asked whether self-interest of groups who have exerted most influence on determination of areas and nature of reforms “coincide with the need to find lasting solutions to political and socio-economic problems faced by the majority of Basotho”.

He said the nature of reforms shows the influences that politicians had on the process of identifying problems derived from inward-looking methods that could lead to the conclusion that the “solution to our problems lies in addressing areas whose malfunction affects the politicians’ self-interest”.
He said politicians opt for “methods that exclude a wider, and more in-depth examination of material circumstances behind most of the evils which reforms ought to bring to an end”.

“Tragically, it is known that our politicians know what needs to be done but they will not do it because what needs to be done is not their interests as individuals and groups,” he said.

He said researchers and producers of knowledge “have largely been marginalised, sometimes, because they bring it on themselves by acting in an unprincipled manner and allowing themselves to be ‘captured’ by (unscrupulous) politicians”.

“We are beginning to lose a sense of what are healthy political differences and we have become suspicious of any expressions of differences in our politics, lest they are a harbinger of another set of events that bring with them insecurity and further deterioration of our socio-economic well-being.”
The Moshoeshoe I Institute of Leadership seeks to promote teaching and research in the area of thought leadership drawing from the celebrated principles of leadership of Lesotho’s founding leader.

Nkheli Liphoto

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