In Moshoeshoe’s case, I would like to posit that he grew in perspective and in his larger humanity (botho) during the early and formative period of his life as a result of the much older wisdom traditions connected with Mohlomi which he then tried increasingly to incorporate in his leadership.
These included care for the poor and vulnerable, a hallmark of his legacy, and various other characteristics which are often encapsulated within proverbs and wise sayings such as: Setlhare ke pelo (Leadership comes from the heart or character of a person, not through charms and medicinal potions); U ka nketsang, ha e hahe motse; ho hahoa oa morapeli (A domineering or violent approach does not build up the community; rather, it is nurtured through humility); and Se ka re ho Moroa ‘Moroa tooe’ (Cautioning against denigrating or discriminatory attitudes, hate speech and xenophobia).
Moshoeshoe is also famous for the saying Khotso ke khaitseli ea ka (Peace is my sister, in other words, extremely close to my heart).
This last attribute was demonstrated in a number of ways, for example, when he generously gave his attackers gifts in order to placate them, and urged his followers not to seek revenge or to retaliate.
Moreover, Moshoeshoe forbid the killing of ‘witches’, even to the point of prohibiting the mere accusation of witchcraft, for he believed such accusations were usually trumped up and used to victimise people, either out of ignorance, or from manipulation for ulterior motives. Moshoeshoe also outlawed the sale of liquor within his kingdom as it destroyed the good sense of those who consumed it, and led to unnecessary disputes.
During his mid-life and later years, Moshoeshoe was ‘in conversation with’ the larger Christian tradition as well as with the prophetess ‘Mantsopa, and these no doubt added new dimensions to the already well-formed vision and understanding which Moshoeshoe held.
Suffice it to say that a rich tradition of wisdom exists here which is perhaps underutilised by us as a resource for improving our lives today, either individually or collectively. Moshoeshoe, first and foremost, was like us. He had a variety of flaws and overcame many obstacles, both internal and external.
He became a philosophically-minded but pragmatic ruler whose greatest ambition was to keep his national experiment alive so as to provide a more coherent future for his people. It was these traits of growing self-knowledge and an openness to explore options – even unorthodox ones – which set Moshoeshoe apart from others.
If his people did not always understand him, if his sons and brothers were not always prepared to heed his advice, and eventually took very different courses of action, we nonetheless all call ourselves Moshoeshoe’s children and we are indebted to his perseverance in maintaining the integrity of the Basotho nation against formidable odds.
Much of Moshoeshoe’s success in this regard can be attributed to the fact that he grew far beyond the days of his rather conflicted youth, as well as his earlier modus operandi of plundering the wealth of others, to create a more stable realm of security, growth and prosperity for his people in collaboration with internal and external partners.
We remember him for his larger sense of humanity and fairness, his willingness to adapt traditions and invent new ones as needed, and the energy, commitment and intelligence which he applied in forging and then governing a growing state in the heart of Southern Africa. If Moshoeshoe was not necessarily a philosopher king in quite the same way as Mohlomi, he nonetheless taught us practically about some of life’s most important issues, including peace and reconciliation.
These, he seemed to teach us, were not abstract goals to be pursued in and of themselves at any cost, but rather as a means towards fullness of life in community as well as peaceful co-existence between communities. A wise saying in Lesotho is that a ‘Chief is a chief by the people’. Equally true is the reverse: that ‘a people is a people through its chief or leader’.
It is partly because of the wise, magnanimous and dedicated leadership of men like Moshoeshoe that we as a nation or people have a legacy worth preserving and building upon today.
Our Current Situation
As it was during Moshoeshoe’s time, so it is during ours: maintaining the integrity and viability of the nation-state called Lesotho is not a simple matter or a foregone conclusion. It takes real commitment, intelligence and hard work. The context in which we operate as a nation has changed greatly since the 19th century.
The emerging Lesotho of the 19th century faced largely external threats though we cannot discount internal issues. During the period from 1966, however, the once again independent Lesotho faced both internal and external challenges, though the focus has increasingly shifted since 1993 towards internal factors, exacerbated by its extreme dependency upon its neighbour South Africa.
In the current fluid situation, leaders require agility and a clear focus, grappling with an array of challenges. As such, leadership remains a complicated business as human beings are socialised and educated through various institutions and associations, and rise to positions of importance and great responsibility.
The roots of our current crisis, which is only the latest in a much longer series, go back into past formations. In some respects, it might be well to note that the transition in Lesotho during the 1950s and 60s, which moved from a relatively benign if ineffective semi-executive monarchy with limited but growing elective offices under the British administration, to a full-blown Westminster system under a Constitutional Monarch at Independence in 1966, was too rapid to allow for effective institutional growth and maturity. This judgment may well raise the ire of many of you.
Certainly during that earlier era, the zeitgeist weighed heavily against anyone who articulated the concern that Lesotho might need more time to make the transition to this newer Westminster style of democracy.
Such words of caution at that time were roundly condemned by the emerging political elite as a ploy to prevent Basotho from attaining their rightful self-government or, even worse, as a trap so that Lesotho might be incorporated within its apartheid neighbour.
Observers will point out correctly that our cousins in Botswana did make the transition to a Westminster system of democracy rather smoothly, within a similarly short span of time, but they had two key factors in their favour, namely, a) a fairly strong consensus around the leadership of Seretse Khama, a quasi-kingly figure with a party political base, and b) the fortune not only to discover significant mineral resources within their territory after independence, but more remarkably to utilise those resources wisely.
Lesotho, on the other hand, was divided down the middle in terms of party politics, which led to instability, while its resources were meagre to say the least as Lesotho served largely as a labour reserve for the South African mines.
Trying to build up a greater diversity of profitable economic enterprises in order to ensure the longer-term sustainability of the nation and its people has been an on-going pre-occupation of Lesotho’s leaders, but this priority has often been compromised by the lack of consensus among the political elite. As such, instability has been a regular feature of Lesotho’s post-independence experience.
The last few years have been particularly taxing, and thus our pundits and concerned citizenry have become quite vexed by the constant jockeying for position and splits within the major political parties, the repeated collapse of coalition governments before their term has expired, the misuse of state institutions and resources by successive regimes, and the brutal killing of high profile persons.
Many of our people have opted out and are completely disillusioned with the political process as can be seen in the steadily shrinking percentage of those who take the time to vote in national elections. Where then are we at present? There is a line of general thinking which runs as follows:
1. In terms of modern democratic institutions and norms, including good governance, the rule of law, the separation of powers, issues of succession, party political maturity, an efficient and apolitical civil service, and a host of other traits, Lesotho does not always score very well. We seem rather adept at wriggling out of and/or finding ways of circumventing checks and balances, or just eliminating some of these as has happened over the past 50 years, thus centralising power in the Executive, especially in the office of the Prime Minister.
Part of this ‘deficit’ in terms of good governance is a result of our poor economic base and relatively small private sector, which helps to concentrate the attention and aspirations of some of us towards gaining access to the spoils of government, this being the most attractive option or outlet for our ambitions.
As such, one sees, regardless of the party or coalition in power, a regular abuse of tendering processes, maladministration, nepotism, the undermining of accounting frameworks, etc. These manifestations of abuse are often the result of strategic cooperation between elected officials and civil servants.
2. The political elite, regardless of party affiliation, tend as a class to protect their own interests, and to unashamedly promise the public during rallies, either before or after elections, what they cannot actually deliver. Few are the cases where a parliamentarian or candidate for office explains clearly the limited ability of government to meet the ever-growing expectations of the public, or to honestly acknowledge that partnership with business and other social formations is absolutely pivotal to the larger success of the nation, or to refrain from the temptation of seeking to gain a personal share in any new business venture which tries to open up operations in the country (or in his/her constituency).
Fewer still are those in Parliament who have ever voted against the sizeable salary increases which they give themselves, or raise a query about the ethics of not repaying the rather scandalous M 500,000 interest-free loans which they receive.
3. While many will admit that each political formation possesses leaders of integrity and substance, the tendency often seems to be to move towards the lowest common denominator, and thus even relatively good people, through excessive peer pressure from their political compatriots or the ‘circumstances’ of the time, are hoodwinked into making dubious decisions.
Those in office become compromised by power and wealth, while those in opposition become excessively negative or surprisingly virtuous, preaching what they failed to practice while they were themselves in power.
4. After 50 years of independence, during which numerous crimes and excesses have been committed by our rulers, usually with impunity, we have an opportunity now, if we can pause long enough and try to re-centre ourselves, to put matters of state on a stronger foundation. And thus we aspire to hold a National Dialogue followed by the Reform process itself.
5. Finally, some will assert, if we want peace and stability in Lesotho, we need to hold a Truth and Reconciliation process in order to let go of all our negative baggage and secrets, secrets which are festering, and thus, relieved of these burdens, we can start afresh.
I have at times been personally in favour of such a TRC process, but of late I have begun to doubt its wisdom. Many in each political formation or faction do have dirty linen, to be sure, but the call for public hearings of the nature of a TRC process may be more than we can bear.
Popular as the current hearings before the Public Accounts Committee may be, it is doubtful that the political elite (whether defined more broadly or more narrowly) is keen to air its own wrong-doings and errors of judgment in public so as to seek cleansing or forgiveness or an amnesty.
Perhaps behind closed doors, some would participate, but I doubt greatly if many of our leaders have a genuine appetite for a full-blown TRC process, especially if it is meant to cover the past 50 years.
It is always easier to see one’s opponent confessing, rather than oneself! I would like to humbly suggest that if we take Moshoeshoe, our beloved and honoured founding father, as an example, we might rather think in more modest terms. You will remember that when Moshoeshoe forgave the cannibals for eating his grandfather, he did not, according to the traditions handed down to us, publicly admit to his complicity in helping to create the conditions for cannibalism to emerge.
After all, Moshoeshoe had not driven Rakotsoane to cannibalism by stripping him and his people of their animal wealth. Others had done so! What Moshoeshoe had done very successfully, however, was to pillage the wealth of Ramonaheng and many others, and it is only to be expected that some of these did choose the path of cannibalism. With this broader realisation, Moshoeshoe recognised his complicity within this larger dynamic, and thus he took steps to re-integrate Rakotsoane and his men, men who were greatly loathed, back into society, such that they could assume more acceptable roles.
It may be, therefore, that in seeking a higher moral tone through a TRC process, we may be going down a path that will not yield the desired results, and thus we may be cutting ourselves off from more realistic and achievable forms of progress. At this stage, this delicate stage at which we are poised at present, where the proposed National Dialogue is still not yet a done deal, each of us might well reflect upon our own complicity in the on-going dynamics within the political process, and begin to take a few steps towards doing the right thing even if we are less than fully honest in public about our complicity.
Baby steps are better than the perpetuation of animosity and intransigence, or retribution, or grandstanding and brinkmanship. We as leaders are often quite successful at playing the game of politics; true, we do stretch the rules at times, but then, so do many others. Cumulatively, however, this ‘playing of the game’ has led us into a situation which threatens our very existence as an independent nation. We may not be individually guilty of crimes, but collectively we have failed to take corrective measures, and thus we have placed the nation at grave risk.
During mid-2014, the study trip by Parliamentarians to New Zealand under the auspices of the Commonwealth inspired hope in the hearts of many that such corrective action might be taken soon. But alas this was not to be. The internal dynamics within the then ruling coalition were such that distrust escalated and the government collapsed, leading to fresh elections.
And this same process was repeated once more two years later. Surely we are all aware that the destiny of Lesotho lays within the decisions we will take in the coming days, weeks and months. Do we have enough courage to look deeply in the mirror and recognise our individual and collective responsibility in this regard? Or have we cut ourselves off so fully from those who can honestly advise and guide us that we still hope to ‘win’ by crushing our opponents, or in bringing them to their knees?
Can we not see that a larger win-win scenario needs to be brokered? Many of us may be rather like Moshoeshoe, talented individuals who also have significant flaws, but people who with mentors of the calibre of Mohlomi might grow tremendously in wisdom, people who with skilled life coaches might surprise us with their contribution to the larger society, people who with further training in various modern tools of management and administration might provide strategic guidance to Lesotho’s key institutions and foster partnerships which will help to transform our society.
Maximising the talents of our leadership pool can only be achieved, however, within the framework of a more orderly if still robust system of governance, which includes adequate checks and balances in the hope that these will prevent the ‘game’ from becoming violent and spinning out of control.
Some will argue that this emphasis upon stability and inclusivity undermines the call for justice, justice for the victims who have been brutally removed by other ‘players’ in this game of politics, this game of thrones. These voices will argue that justice has its own requirements, and that political leaders who have committed crimes, together with their henchmen and complicit public servants, must be held accountable, that those who have been wronged must be compensated.
Such calls may well be correct. I am not wise enough to discern how the demands for justice might be balanced in such a way that our leaders can also be redeemed and thus play a more constructive role within a reformed system.
My perspective at present is based partly upon a realisation that much as we need to raise the bar with regard to our political practice, we may also sabotage ourselves by following a course of action which is not realistic, thus leading to further internal turmoil and disappointment. Perhaps we can learn some lessons from the life of our founder, a man whom we all hold in deep reverence, a role model for his sagacity and leadership qualities, and an icon in terms of peace and reconciliation. If a man of his stature was apparently unable to publicly admit to certain ‘crimes’ that he had committed, perhaps a TRC process for Lesotho may be unwise. Could it be that other less obvious processes might be put in its place instead?
I am not an expert in conciliation, conflict management, transitional justice, or related matters. But certainly within Lesotho and our regional and international partners, such expertise exists for us to draw upon.
I will merely offer here a few thoughts on what we might expect from our political party elite. One does not have to make a full public confession in order to begin righting the wrongs of the past. One can start with small steps and move forward, incrementally, to create a new climate for political exchange.
Because many of us are members of the broader political elite, though we often do not wish to acknowledge this truth, I will use the first person here and not the third person, so that perhaps each of us will take more responsibility in this regard:
1. We will seek mentors, spiritual advisers, life coaches or others in order to better understand our own strengths and weaknesses so as to chart our personal life journeys more effectively, improve our understanding and skills, as well as better emphathise with and listen to others;
2. We will demonstrate a greater sense of humility; that is, we will not pretend that our own political formation or movement or organisation has never made mistakes, or is somehow morally superior to others, we will not demonise or demean our opponents, and we will be ever conscious of the power of our words to do good or harm;
3. We will show a willingness to dialogue with and engage other leaders in order to seek meaningful solutions to our common challenges as a nation, and we will take the time and effort to put ourselves in the other person’s shoes;
4. We will listen carefully to the input, concerns and the perspectives of all political formations, NGOs, churches, labour unions, business, chiefs, intellectuals and other formations; we acknowledge that politics is about decision-making for the good of society, not merely for our own good as the political elite;
5. We will seek the medium to long term advantage of the nation in terms of our decisions with regard to the National Dialogue and the larger Reform Process, and we will seek to build a sustainable political culture, which applies equally to all our formations whether we are part of the ruling coalition or not;
6. We will seek to build more robust checks and balances into the Constitution while understanding that the greatest checks and balances are internal to ourselves;
7. We will seek to bring greater stability to the political sphere, and work towards minimising floor crossings such that elected governments can serve out their full term of office;
8. We will be loyal in Opposition and good listeners as Rulers; if we do form a Government of National Unity at some point, as some are calling for, it will be based upon a collective commitment to raise the bar and govern Lesotho more effectively, not to engage in more procrastination and self-serving behaviour;
9. We will seek to reform government in such a way that tender manipulation, per diem allowances and other perks are no longer the main motivation or reward for high office, but that other more appropriate incentives or rewards will replace these in order to motivate the best in terms of public service and good management practices;
10. We will honour His Majesty, and listen carefully to his advice and counsel when he offers it, and always remember that we are servants of the people of Lesotho.
These 10 suggestions, as I have said, are modest, but they could make for meaningful change. Nonetheless, these are not meant to be comprehensive and no doubt each of you have many other ideas as to what can be done to get us out of the mess that we are in. Let all such ideas and suggestions be shared and debated. Ultimately, however, we must achieve consensus, and be realistic as to what can be achieved.
Let me conclude by thanking The Moshoeshoe Institute of Leadership for this opportunity to make a presentation on the life of Morena Moshoeshoe and the challenges facing Lesotho today. Ladies and Gentlemen, let me also thank you for your patience. Let me re-emphasise in closing that Morena Moshoeshoe was a particularly gifted leader. Much of his success resulted from his willingness to place himself under mentors and to learn deeply from the wisdom traditions associated with Mohlomi. These helped Moshoeshoe to rise above his own personal conflicts and flaws, derive new insight both from his successes and failures, and thus gain greater self-knowledge and leadership acumen. Nonetheless, Moshoeshoe remained fallible and subject to lapses as well as errors in his judgment and actions
. The current presentation has sought to de-mythologise Morena Moshoeshoe by placing him more fully in context, and as a result, it is hoped that we will be better able to relate to this remarkable leader. In terms of the present-day challenges facing Lesotho, we as political, social and intellectual leaders also need to deeply connect with various wisdom traditions, as Moshoeshoe did, if we hope to learn from our past 50 years, and thus put Lesotho on a more secure course as a nation state.
Though the path to National Dialogue and the Reform Process may still be subject to negotiation, it is clear that each of us can play a constructive role in this regard.
With or without a TRC process, we need to admit that we have collectively failed to address the negative dynamics that afflict us. Nonetheless, together, we can take a number of steps to diffuse tension and improve the climate for healing and national dialogue over the coming days, weeks and months. If a collective way forward cannot be found, we face the prospect of becoming a nation without a state, in the same way as the Amazulu.
Finally, let each of us admit frankly that we have contributed to the present crisis. It is not completely or even largely the result of one group or party, however much it may seem to be so at present.
If the Chinese are correct that a crisis is an opportunity, then let us not waste this opportunity. Let us not be overcome by complacency or pessimism, worn out by the constant political haggling, or become consumed by personal or purely partisan interests. Let us rather push forward and establish the consensus which is required to begin the National Dialogue. Step by step, let us air our views, build trust and then tackle the sobering challenges of the Reform Process. We owe this to ourselves, our children and our grandchildren, as well as to the generations of Basotho who have gone before us, many of whom sacrificed a great deal to ensure the peace, stability and development of Lesotho.
Let us rise to the challenge, and see this longer process through to a successful completion. Aluta continua!
Stephen Gill is the Curator of Morija Museum & Archives. He was speaking at this year’s Moshoeshoe Memorial Lecture. References have been removed from the presentation to fit thepost’s style.
Harnessing imagery in writing
All writing is imaginative. Every piece of writing reflects the artistry and mental resourcefulness of the writer.
Effective writing also reflects the colourfulness of the writer’s mind and heart; their ability to paint the world to the reader and their capacity or facility of taking the reader with them to beautiful mental and physical and picturesque journeys.
In this piece we focus on how we can hone our creative abilities through the use of imagery and the effect of using colourful and evocative imagery in writing. Let’s go! What if I say, “Learn to prepare wisely and meticulously in time,” you will still grasp the message in a very clear way, isn’t it? But would that be interesting and colourful?
But what if we put it in a colourful manner, “Make hay whilst the sun still shines,” you really grasp the colour and the full import of the message, isn’t it? That’s what imagery does to your writing; it allows you to feel, touch and smell what you are reading.
There is no doubt that the proverb, “make hay whilst the sun still shines” has taken you to the countryside, in a farming community. You hear the bleating of sheep and the neighing of horses.
At the same time, you visualise the good farmer gracefully at work, cutting grass which he is piling in orderly stacks, preparing fodder for his animals in the future. The sun’s rays buoy his attempts and ensure that the hay is prepared with care and colour.
Thus, the point of good imagery is to capture in full detail a world that allows the reader to grasp and enjoy using their five senses. Let me give you a small but beautiful extract which further drives home the point.
“With his machete he detached a brittle clod, broke it on a stone. It was full of dead twigs and the residue of dried roots that he crushed in his fingers.
“Look, there isn’t anything left. The water has dried up in the very entrails of the mountain. It’s not worth while looking any further. It’s useless.” Then, with sudden anger, “But why, damn it! Did you cut the woods down, the oaks, the mahogany trees, and everything that grow up there? Stupid people with no sense!”
Thando struggled for a moment to find words. “What else could we do, brother? We cleared it to get new wood. We cut it down for framework and beams for our hearts. We repaired the fences around our fields. We didn’t know ourselves. Ignorance and need go together, don’t they?”
The sun scratched the scorched back of the mountain with its shining fingernails. Along the dry ravine the earth panted. The countryside, baked in drought, began to sizzle.”
What a colourful piece! The extract aptly paints a countryside’s pulse and the rhythms of seasonal and climate change and how that affects the livelihood patterns of the inhabitants. Have you seen how the sun has been endowed with human-like features?
And the description of the earth assuming human-like features, for instance, “the earth panted.” No doubt, you have seen the earth subdued by the intensity of heat in a way that is similar to a person who is panting.
To paint excellent images the writer needs to have the gift of observation. He/she should be able to observe quite a panorama of things around him and immerse them in the soil of their imagination. Let’s see another good extract where you can discern the link between good images, excellent description and the power of observation.
“It’s in the morning, the fourth watch, to borrow from biblical discourse. It’s damp outside. I brace the slicing chilly weather to go outside. There is a drizzle, constant showers seeping deep down. I pace up at least 400 metres from my hood. I see lined-up, almost cubicle-like houses.
I keep walking, with a spring in the step buoyed by the damp aura wrought by the incessant downpours. I take a deep breath, and step back as it were.
I want to be deliberate. I want to take in everything in my environment; the colours, the diverse hues and plethora of landscape contours. I notice a woman, almost in her forties, from my eye-view assumptions. She is grabbing a basket clutched tenaciously almost close to her big bosom.
She is going to Mbare Musika, the famous agricultural market wherein she intends to buy items for her stall. Behind her, there is a big strapped baby covered in velvet. As she briskly walks, I see her jumping a poodle of water as she observes her stall. I also observe a man, clad in sportswear running trying to cure a big belly.
As I keep watching, I see a woman sweeping her small veranda. I keep walking. I see a woman, plump tending to her garden. She seems animated by the drizzle, thanks to the rains.
I hear another woman, especially her piercing voice, she is selling floor polish. Her voice fills the air. As I drown in the sweet voice, I notice a man staggering. He is filthy. He could have calloused the whole night. He is holding a Black Label quart, speaking gibberish in the air. I keep watching.”
So here were are! Writing is a matter of painting with words, carving images and allowing the reader to experience the impact of all the senses so as to fully grasp the sense of what is put across.
Vuso Mhlanga teaches at the University of Zimbabwe. For almost a decade and half he taught English language and Literature in English at high school.
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Politicians’ propensity to score own goals
Lesotho politicians are often in the habit of scoring own goals. For example, look at the circus that took place in the country at the opening of parliament after the winter break. These events remind me of the article that I wrote with the title ‘Scoring own goals’.
This article appeared in this publication dated March 18 – 24, 2021. It argued that Lesotho’s politicians had a propensity to score own goals.
Many say that education and academia should not involve themselves in politics. This belief is a fallacy. The two are intrinsically intertwined. Education and politics link in a complex way.
For instance, parliament is an organ that passes laws that govern and guide national education policies. The interconnectedness includes the curricula that educational institutions and schools teach. Now, if the National Assembly’s focus is misplaced, important legislative decisions may stall or be derailed by lack of action.
I must make a disclaimer though. I am not promoting any view about a political party. I am writing this article purely as a concerned citizen.
I revisit the own goal tendency of those in authority by assessing the drama that unfolded in politics and governance. I review the recent events that culminated in the failed vote of no confidence against Prime Minister Sam Matekane and his government.
I use arguments from research to demonstrate the fluidity of Lesotho’s democracy. Some politicians often take advantage of this fluidity for selfish gain. I contest that the Prime Minister and his government should treat their adversities as stepping stones to meeting their targets.
A constitution is a living document. Accordingly, to keep Lesotho’s constitution alive, current and relevant, parliament should regularly amend it.
However, in so doing, parliament must be careful that tinkering with the country’s constitution does not compromise the essence of democracy they champion. National and democratic principles must form the dogma that underpins the improvements and amendment exercises.
Personal aspirations, ambitions and creed must not underpin the amendments.
The recent events in and out of the National Assembly make one question the perceptions of the different roles players in the democratic playground in Lesotho have.
First, there was a vote of no confidence that the Speaker ruled to defer subject to the high court’s decision.
Second, there was the allegedly drunken MP’s own goal.
The third is the press conference led by the Commissioner of the Lesotho Mounted Police Services flanked by the head of the Lesotho Defence Force and the Director General of the National Security Services.
It is already a hat trick of own goals. Fourth, there was the statement of the Prime Minister claiming an attempted coup.
The fifth own goal is the moratorium that prevented parliament from holding a vote of no confidence against the Prime Minister before the lapse of three years of his inauguration.
The sixth is the practice of shirking responsibility by MPs. MPs often refer political matters to the national courts for decisions. The seventh, and the mother of all own goals, is the electoral system that Lesotho elected to pursue. The National Assembly has 120 MPs. There are 80 MPs representing constituencies and 40 proportional representatives.
The Commonwealth suggested that Lesotho review the modalities of the PR nominations. Sekatle and the Commonwealth agree that the PR system introduced plurality but at a cost. The cost is what scholars and commentators term minority rights and coalitions.
Also, it compromises accountability and transparency. It undermines the collective intelligence of the voters. Chief Jonathan warned against coalition governments by citing their instability. Political instability plagues Lesotho today.
Sekatle and the Commonwealth cited the overreliance on a threshold in awarding PR seats in parliament, cheapening them.
The PR system ballooned parliament unnecessarily. By comparison, Botswana had a population of 2.6 million in (2021). Lesotho had 2.3 million (2021). Botswana parliament currently has 65 seats, and Lesotho has 120.
A consequence emanating from the PR system in Lesotho is a hung parliament. Since 2012, there has not been an outright majority in the National Assembly. The results yielded chaos. Over that period, PMs constantly look over their shoulders. All these coalitions imploded.
Democracy is about the majority. Politicians must be persuasive to attract votes to achieve the majority. In other words, the PR system rewards failure.
The own goals cause stagnation. MPs score these own goals by serving their selfish interests. They waste time and energy on trivial things. And yet, they receive full-time salaries and earn allowances such as sittings and petrol allowances. How, then, would one explain that the external urging of parliament had to engage in the reforms exercise?
Today, reforms are lying latent. Politicians use the reform programme as an excuse for ensuring that they retain or access power. In the recent correspondences to SADC, the government and the opposition cite reforms and democracy to justify their actions. But as I write this article, there is nothing much that is happening along the lines of these very reforms. Why?
The starting point of any achievement is desire and definitiveness of purpose. The definitiveness of purpose is more than goal setting. It is one’s roadmap to achieving the overall objectives. Elsewhere, I took the definition of desire as explained by the author, Wallace Wattles.
According to Wattles, ‘Desire is possibility seeking expression, or function seeking performance’. All desires began as a thought. Expressing their desires through a manifesto is a means by which parties attempt to concretise them (their desires).
The starting point of an election campaign is the expression of political intentions and goals through manifestos. A manifesto is a public declaration of aims and policy by a political party or candidate. Political parties express their desires for what they will do in their manifestos.
After elections, these desires become the guiding principles and laws. Politically mature voters would then elect political candidates based on these manifestos.
Who instigated and drove the reforms in Lesotho? The contemporary history of Lesotho reveals that external forces pushed the reforms. Basotho merely reacted. They do not own the reform process. High on the list of their drivers are SADC, the US through AGOA and the European Union.
The practice contradicts Wattles’ definition. According to Wattles definition, desire must emanate from inside the individual, or in our case, from Basotho and be expressed outward through actions.
I do not want to comment too much about the involvement of the security agencies in politics. In my view, the relevant bodies, namely, the Law Society of Lesotho, the media and the opposition parties dealt with their involvement adequately.
Former PM Leabua Jonathan often described democracy as the government of the people by the people. But, the meaning of the construct of democracy is fluid and elusive, depending on the position of governance in Lesotho’s political arena.
Authors Hughes, Kroehler and Vander Zanden explain that democracy is a system in which the powers of government derive from the consent of the governed, namely the masses who vote, in which regular constitutional avenues exist for changing government officials.
The authors characterise the system as one which permits the population a significant voice in decision-making through the people’s right to choose among contenders for political office. Also, the system allows for a broad, relatively equal citizenship among the populace.
Lastly, it affords the citizenry protection from arbitrary state action.
Now, the question is whether the recent activities fit all the three criterias. Are the actions of the MPs who moved for the vote of no confidence in the PM’s government acting in line with Lesotho’s constitution and democracy?
This definition of democracy says that regular constitutional avenues exist for changing government officials. The no confidence vote exists in Lesotho’s constitution. But the PM and his security agencies questioned this. They claim the move by the members of the opposition to dethrone the government was a coup attempt.
The drama began when an MP from the ruling Revolution for Prosperity (RFP), Thabo Moea MP, sought an order from the High Court to delay the motion of no confidence against the Prime Minister until after the completion of the reforms process.
The opposition contests that the prayer by Moea stifles a democratic process for self-serving ends. Subsequently, the Speaker cited this impending case to defer the matter.
The constitution of Lesotho stipulates that the legislature is to pass laws, the executive is to approve and execute them, and the judiciary is to expound and enforce them. But a scholar, Nwafor, claims that the courts in Lesotho often intrude into the functions of the other arms of government.
Lesotho ‘s constitution confers powers on three arms of government in such a manner as would ensure cooperation and coordination in governance. The courts ought to bear in mind that the effective discharge of the responsibilities of the courts largely depends on the effectiveness of the other arms of government.
Nwafor brings up the issue of encroachment. He asserts that the powers of the different arms of government in such a manner would guarantee a coordinated discharge of government responsibilities to the nation. But, parliament overly relies on the courts to make political decisions. The practice encourages the risk of overreaching.
The PR electoral system denies Basotho the right to choose their representatives among contenders for political office. Instead, parties ‘hand pick’ these representatives in the pretext of the constituency elections outcomes. Often, these PR members are the ones who lost their constituency elections.
These are the politicians whose constituencies rejected them. They represent their parties and not the voters. They do not account to the voters.
Both the PM and the opposition made presentations to SADC. They overlooked the electorate. Why would SADC have power and not the electorate that elected the politicians to office? Running to SADC, an outside organisation, to settle Lesotho’s internal problems is not a solution. It is scoring an own goal. Lesotho, with its 57 years of independence, should be able to solve its internal problems.
Nonetheless, I have a completely different take from Mokhothu on the issue of the protest march by the RFP. It is unimportant to find the instigator of the protest march. The people to persuade are the voters, the people who put governments into power in a democracy, not external bodies such as SADC.
Napoleon Hill’s creed reads: ‘Every adversity brings a seed of equivalent or more benefit’. Any business person knows that business is a solution to an economic problem. So, the PM and his colleagues in his party who are business people must look at the adversity emanating from the opposition as a seed of equivalent or better benefit.
The government must dig deep to find how the problem may benefit them.
They must identify their failures and use them as stepping stones to success.
Elsewhere, I presented the views of an American scholar and activist, Anderson, who suggested that marginalised communities must cease granting candidates blank cheques. Instead, the electorate must draw their expectations and demand the campaigning party or candidate promise to meet them.
This practice is called quid pro quo. It enforces accountability and transparency.
You scratch my back, and I scratch yours. Quid pro quo is an example of one of the universal laws that demonstrate reciprocity. Reciprocity is the practice of exchanging things with others for mutual benefit. The universal law is the Law of Cause and Effect. It means that for every effect, there is an equal cause. You plant a seed, so shall you reap.
Both the government and the opposition ran to SADC for help. Remember, Matekane is a successful businessman. He has, on more than one occasion, explained that he wanted to use his prowess in business to take Lesotho forward. As a businessman, Matekane has faith in his ability.
Words that come to mind here include self-confidence and trust in himself. He believes in himself. Running to SADC does not display this faith in his ability to deal with problems emanating from his opposition.
Hill argues that riches, or any form of success and achievement, begin with a thought. Faith removes limitations. Matekane must apply his faith as a businessman to become a successful politician.
To summarise, the article explores the events emanating from the fiasco of the no-confidence motion. The individuals who ought to champion constitutional democracy in Lesotho betrayed Basotho by scoring hordes of own goals.
I explored the meaning of concepts that helped me unpack some of these own goals. These were democracy, faith and desire. Also, I coupled these with scholarly research views on the constitution of Lesotho.
I contest that while the opposition may argue that they are within their rights to ruffle the government, the PM must use different tactics. He must display faith and confidence in himself and trust Basotho.
The move to influence the voters to back him deserves a big WOW! He must hold more campaigns to persuade voters to support his government. Voters may make or break him.
MPs waste time in discussing trivial issues that have no bearing on the national agenda. Often, they focus on self-serving matters. The RFP promised to refocus Lesotho towards national development and improving the quality of life.
The article also shows that the PR system does not benefit Lesotho. It diminishes accountability and the principle of quid pro quo. Also, it ballooned the numbers in parliament unnecessarily. It increased political instability by forging formations of coalition.
Politicians must refrain from abusing the judiciary by making them make political decisions. Involving the courts in making political decisions leads to encroachment. Encroachment defies democracy.
In conclusion, Matekane must not allow his detractors to derail his mandate. The same is true for the opposition leaders who attempt to dethrone him. No party campaigned on removing sitting PMs.
Also, the MPs must take the responsibilities that Basotho entrusted them with. It is high time that they make the political decisions instead of shifting them to the judiciary or external bodies.
Matekane, his business associates and technocrats in his government should revisit attributes that made them successful. One such attribute is their faith in their abilities. They must remember that riches (and success) begin with a thought, and faith removes limitations.
Dr Tholang Maqutu
Painting mood effectively
Writing is not different from beautiful artwork. Just like a skilled painter holding a brush with its broad strokes, the writer occupies the same place and vocation in life. Writing is a work of painting life’s experiences, its hues and beautiful unfolding internal journeys. In this piece we focus on mood and how it can be achieved. Many students struggle with understanding and contemplating the scope and ambit of mood in writing.
It is hard to define and frame the scope of mood in writing. What really constitutes mood? Generally, mood encapsulates the totality of the “air” or “spirit” or “aura” that a certain work of art evokes in the human mind, feeling or sensibility. There is a certain dominant feature or streak associated with a certain work of art, place or person.
There is something which is evoked in our hearts which is associated with a certain place, person or event. Every place or event or person carries or imbues with him or her a certain mood or sensibility; and there is a panorama of sensibilities; for instance, a happy or sombre or whimsical mood. We will now focus on a certain extract and discern how it paints mood.
“He quickly rights himself and keeps walking, but there is an unsteadiness to his knees. He has been given many looks in this quarter – dirty ones, blank ones, sympathetic ones, annoyed ones. For the most part, he had learned to tolerate those than can be tolerated, and ignore those that should be ignored, but the look this woman gave him is not a look one gives to humans but to flies, ticks, cockroaches, fleas…Thato feels anger, then humiliation, then something nameless. If he were in his own country he would turn and confront the woman; but now he’s hurt, wounded, a part of him wishing he were invisible. Breathing evenly, he walks with care, only lifting his eyes once he reaches his own quarters, among his own people. He proceeds to his shack. He could stop by Thapelo’s, his neighbour, where he knows that men and women are already congregated to watch videos from home. Yet, no matter the promise of good fellowship and laughter, Thabo does not join them. Watching videos is a form of forgetting; the 2008 elections, the police with batons, the soldiers with guns, the militia with machetes. Do you remember? Limbs broken. Roofs blazing. I remember.”
This extract is characterised by the intensity of feeling and evokes feelings of sadness, despair and pain. The excerpt paints a harrowing and blood-curdling account which produces a sombre, dull and subdued mood. Thato, the protagonist in the story is in a foreign land. He was impelled to leave his country as a result of political violence which saw many people lose limbs and lives. He feels lonely and unwanted in the foreign land. He feels lost and alienated.
There are sentiments of xenophobia expressed through the glances of citizens of the foreign country he is in. Even if he were to entertain himself together with his countrymen residing in that foreign land, Thato still felt a deep and nagging feeling of being an outcast. Thus, we have made very deep and broad descriptions of the circumstances in which the protagonist finds himself with a view to demonstrate how mood is created in a narrative. The creation of mood feeds into the description of the character’s circumstances, his mindset and the space and place in which he finds himself.
Mood, as we have demonstrated from the portrayal of Thato’s experience, has a link with pathos. Pathos is that streak of sadness which pervades a story and creates empathy in the reader. The aim of effective writing is to move the reader and to impel him towards certain sensibilities which are of an affective kind. Mood, when effectively created, allows the reader to grasp meaning which is not directly said in the story or composition.
Meaning in a story is an interaction between the words in a text as read together with the effect of the words, the tone used and the created mood. There are certain words in a text which do not just communicate, but etches in the reader’s mind certain thoughts, viewpoints and feelings. These words would be so evocative. One such word describes Thato’s deepest sense of alienation in the extract given above.
The word describes him as nursing a wish of invisibility, he felt or wished he were ‘invisible.’ His wish for invisibility is of great importance. It portrays how he was deeply affected by the loathing expressed in the eyes of those looking at him with hate and disdain.
So, here we are! Creating a mood is a craft which takes time to acquire and hone. But when achieved, it makes effective reading and allows the reader to get meaning which goes beyond the text.
Vuso Mhlanga teaches at the University of Zimbabwe. For almost a decade and half he taught English language and Literature in English at high school. Send your comments and questions to: email@example.com
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