Pass the baton

Pass the baton

FIREBRAND Basotho National Party (BNP) MP, Machesetsa Mofomobe, torched a political storm last week after he called for leadership renewal within Lesotho’s political parties. The essence of his message was that the current political leadership has had its chance and it is now time to pass on the baton to a generation of younger Basotho to take this country forward.

His message was directed at current Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, who is now 77, former premier Pakalitha Mosisili, 73, Monyane Moleleki who is the deputy premier and has been an MP for over 25 years. Also targeted under the proposal is Machesetsa’s boss in the BNP, Thesele ’Maseribane. We are not surprised that Machesetsa’s call has triggered a political earthquake in Lesotho because of the blunt manner in which the message was couched.

If we were to focus on the manner in which Machesetsa who is also the home affairs deputy minister delivered the message, we would have missed the point. That would be a disservice to ourselves and Lesotho in general. It would be sad if political party supporters are to see Machesetsa’s call as treasonous. There is nothing criminal about his call for leadership renewal.

As explained elsewhere in this issue, Machesetsa believes this is a subject everyone was scared to death to discuss. It is a debate that we believe is absolutely critical for Lesotho. It must therefore be treated with the seriousness it deserves. Scholars tell us that organisations that fail to renew their leadership will always face stagnation and eventually die. That is why it is critical that all political parties have clear succession policies. Such policies will ensure leadership renewal and revamp the generation of fresh ideas.

Sadly, over the last 50 years we have seen political parties in Lesotho hero-worship leaders. The deification of the leader has had terrible results for the country. We have leaders who stay on for far too long in positions of leadership – with the masses expected to ululate at every turn even when it is clear they have gone way past their sell-by date, politically. The recycling of the same old leaders has resulted in a sterility of ideas and economic stagnation. That is why it is critical to take Mofomobe’s call seriously.

This is not a problem peculiar to Lesotho. It is a problem that has historically been prevalent in Africa. Lesotho must not follow that route. Apart from Botswana and Tanzania, where there are two five-year terms for the president, the rest of Africa is struggling to shake off the “big men” syndrome that has proved the bane of our politics on the continent.

In Botswana and Tanzania, and more recently Mozambique, the term limits have injected fresh leadership after every 10 years. The results are all clear for all to see. Botswana is now a jewel on the African continent with steady economic growth, a stable political environment and improved standard of living for its own people. This is the route Lesotho must go.

But that can only happen when we inculcate a similar respect for term limits at the party level. The time for leaders who hold on to power as if their lives depended on it is long gone. The new generation of leaders must take up the baton with the old leaders retiring in dignity.

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