‘We lost our way’

‘We lost our way’

MASERU – VETERAN politician Mpho Malie has seen political shenanigans that have left him disillusioned.

Over the years he has been stunned by “the incongruence between what the country needs and what politicians are offering.”
This month Malie threw his political lot with Selibe Mochoboroane’s Movement for Economic Change (MEC), a move that surprised many because of his fierce loyalty to the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD).

Despite leaving active politics years ago Malie was one of the last congress movement stalwarts remaining with the LCD even as it wobbled.
He remained in the party even as successive splits pruned it of its stalwarts like Former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, Ambassador Kelebone Maope, Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili and Monyane Moleleki.

That he is now jumping into a newly minted ship stirred by someone young enough to be his son is a huge political statement. It is yet another blow to the former ruling party whose political fortunes have dramatically waned in recent years.

His departure might not be a mortal blow to the party but it does shake its foundation. Yet even as he has cut ties with the LCD he remains reluctant to fire salvos at the party.
Instead, he says, he prefers to talk about national politics and issues rather than political parties. Still he leaves no doubt that he is a disappointed man.
He hoped for so much but got so little. It’s the toxic politics that has stifled Lesotho’s potential, he said in an interview this week.

“We (politicians) are no longer addressing national issues. We have moved so far away from the agenda of dealing with poverty and unemployment,” he says.
“We are fighting for leadership positions rather than working on the issues that help our people.”

Mochoboroane is a different politician in that he is not trapped in this fight for positions, he says as he explains his decision to join the MEC.
“He is a driven young man with a proven track record of working for the people. That much is clear from his programmes in the different ministerial positions he has held.” What frustrates Malie is that “the old politicians are closing doors on young politicians who have a progressive agenda”.

“It’s sad that talented people like Mochoboroane are kicked in the teeth instead of being embraced. I refuse to be one of those old politicians hostile to talent”.
There is a tendency among politicians to pass the buck when confronted with evidence of historical failures.

In their quest to wash themselves of any culpability they point to a long list of circumstances and individuals who stood in their way. They spend time trying to clean the dark spots in their legacy.
Malie, to a large extent, admits to failures of policies he was part of.

The congress movement, he says, missed a lot of opportunities to implement policies that “would have taken this country forward”.
For him that failure begins with the return to democracy in 1993 when Lesotho spurned an opportunity to create a constitution built on strong institutions.
The result is an “emaciated” constitution whose shortcomings have resulted in the current political crises.

“At independence we had inherited a professional public service, a solid police force and a functional judicial system. We cannot say the British left a mess.”
“Those were corrupted along the way. We added a paramilitary unit we did not need. We had an opportunity to sort out those problems but we did not”.

He states that the second missed opportunity was in 1997 when the Basutoland Congress Party (BCP) founder Ntsu Mokhehle formed the LCD which instantly became the ruling party.
“We did not listen when he said we should move from the era of being a party that fought for independence to being a party that addresses the challenges of our times. He said the focus should be on economic problems and hunger.”

Lesotho would miss yet another opportunity when Mosisili replaced Mokhehle as prime minister. The Mokhehle government, he adds, had inherited a “fractured society that needed healing but there was so much animosity because a lot of people were coming from exile.”
“After Mokhehle we needed well-designed programmes to reform our institutions like the army, public service and the police. The economy needed to be transformed.”
“We did not go all the way. We did only half of what was needed. We brought in the Indians to help with the army, tried to reform the civil service but left the police untouched. We didn’t do enough”.

“Then the party politics intervened. Politicians began to concentrate on the leadership battles rather than national issues.”
Thabane would leave the LCD to form the All Basotho Convention (ABC) and Mosisili also left to form the Democratic Congress (DC).
“That shift pillaged the LCD of its masses and left Metsing exposed.”

He however doesn’t believe Metsing has been a hopeless failure because “there were so many problems he had to deal with in the party after Mosisili left”.
“Unlike Thabane who had left with a handful of MPs Mosisili had taken a huge chunk of the party’s MPs, leadership and supporters with him. Metsing had to rebuild the party from the ground.”
That Mosisili’s departure was a monumental blow to the LCD was evident in the 2012 election when its seats in parliament were whittled from 62 to 26, forcing it to go into a coalition government with the ABC and the Basotho National Party (BNP).

Malie says as a junior partner Metsing did not have the leverage to implement congress policies.
“But the bigger issue is that the politics of personalities continued to haunt the new government and the agenda of transforming the economy was put on a backburner”.
“Again another opportunity to work for the people was lost because politicians were now working for themselves and their positions”.

In the 2015 election the LCD’s numbers in parliament would plunge further to 12, leaving it again at the mercy of the DC in a new coalition.
Malie says once the DC and the LCD formed a coalition the old issues that had caused a split between Metsing and Mosisili started coming to the fore.
“The people Metsing had fought in the LCD were meeting him upstream in the coalition government.”

“Those old grudges that caused fights in the LCD are beginning to show in government. You begin to see their manifestation in the DC.”
He adds: “There are people who thought the old idea that Mosisili should be succeeded by Metsing is coming to fruition and they began to fight. That caused a lot of tension within the DC and has led to its split.”

In Mochoboroane, Malie sees a politician who wants politics to focus on national issues. “Here is a young politician who is not afraid to tell people what they need to do to improve their situation. He is not telling them what they want to hear. He is not afraid to tell them that they too will have to work to make this country successful. That breed of politician is rare in this country.”
Malie believes the country is in a mess because “we became emotional rather that pragmatic”.

“At independence we should have discussed if we really needed a paramilitary or we should take a different approach in dealing with our security situation at that time”.
“The BNP and BCP did not decide to work together for this country. Instead we approached each other with so much suspicion that we lost sight of the broader picture. We were already on the wrong path”.

He says after the return to democracy the ruling parties did not make the necessary reforms to the constitution, the public service, the police and the army.
“To add fuel to the fire we made principal secretaries political appointees. So we have a top guy at the ministry who knows nothing about management. That’s trouble.”
“Sadly in times of trouble we like to blame our founding fathers. We never ask ourselves what we could have done as the current leaders to change course. What have we done to make things right. We have not introspected.”

It’s not as if the parties do not appreciate the problems facing the country, he adds.
“It is that they don’t have strategies to solve the problem. You don’t get clear answers if you ask any political party how they will deal with poverty and unemployment.”

Staff Reporter

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