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The army and civilian authority

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THE Director of Development for Peace Education (DPE), Ramokhali Sofonea Shale, reminded us of a very unfortunate event that happened on September 22, 1998, 21 years ago. This week I want us to focus on the critical issue of civil-military system.

“Basotho 21 years ago on this day at this hour the post-Apartheid South African National Defence Force by the invitation of the Prime Minister entered Lesotho to disarm Lesotho Defence Force, take charge of strategic military installations and provide territorial integrity to Lesotho. This followed the act of Opposition parties having rendered Lesotho ungovernable, paralysing functionality of state, police being unable to defuse protest and the army being at best spectators to use the words of the Prime Minister then. Junior officials had forced senior officials including Commander out of office. In its operation in Lesotho the SANDF dispersed protesters at the so-called Freedom Square, broke the gate at the Royal Palace and flew the  South African flag, attacked and killed Basotho soldiers at Katse Dam and attacked Makoanyane barracks”.
I concluded a long time ago that the events of September 22, 1998 would not have happened if our police and army had submitted to civilian authority. Failure to submit to civilian authority cost us lives, infrastructure and the economy.

When the whole city was burned to ashes in 1998, it reinforced the belief in some of us that army officers should not participate in politics. They should follow the orders of the Prime Minister, no matter who is in power. Indeed 1998 was a period of greatest danger to civilian control of the military.
1998 is a reminder that when the military refuses to submit to civilian leadership, all hell breaks loose. Everything becomes crazy, disorganized and chaotic.
On August 17, 1994, King Letsie III ousted a democratically elected BCP government and dissolved parliament. According to Dr T Mothibe this move which undermined a democratically elected government enjoyed the support of the army.

On August 29, 2014, the then Prime Minister Thomas Thabane fired Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli from the command of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) but unfortunately the military refused to submit to the civilian leadership.

In accordance with our nation’s Constitution, the military leadership is rightfully subordinate to civilian authority. The Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) should stay in their lane and stop rocking the boat.
On September 9 and 10, 2019, some LDF officers who were supposed to protect Members of His Majesty’s cabinet (Ministers) deserted from work by abandoning their duties and posts without the civilian permission. This was done in protest against the proposed normalisation of the security sector salary structure.

On September 10, 2019 the Commander of the Army addressed a parade at Ratjomose barracks. That morning, his security had increased as a demonstration of force at his disposal and of his readiness to use that power.
According to the Members of Parliament Salaries (Amendment of Schedule) Regulations, 2016 (section 5.1): A Deputy Minister is entitled to have the following staff: (a). a private secretary, (b). a ministerial secretary, (c). a personal aide, (d). a special assistant, (e). a house helper, (f).a gardener, (g). two senior Chauffeurs, (h). two bodyguards and (i).a constituency secretary for an elected member.
Section 5.1 (h) is key in this particular matter – two bodyguards is an entitlement. Some Ministers including Deputy Minister Mofomobe, who was very vocal about this issue, were denied bodyguards they were supposed to get as long as they still served His Majesty in cabinet.

The army gave a lame excuse that the military officers had to report at the Commander’s parade. How come other military officers responsible for providing protection to the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and other Ministers did not report at the Commander’s parade?

The coalition government immediately suspended the exercise to normalise the security sector salary structures. How can this be allowed in a democratic dispensation?
This was a very unfortunate incident. It also suggests that the military is refusing to submit to civilian authority.
This happened after a week-long Military Civil Relations workshop where the US Ambassador didn’t mince her words when addressing the issue of the military submitting to civilian authority. She strongly concluded by stressing that the military should never again think of usurping power.
The writers of the Constitution understood the perils of creating a powerful military. The armed forces must be subjected to civilian control and must be designed to execute military operations, not determine their necessity.

The role of the military is to advise on how to use military might to achieve the policymaker’s goals, not to get involved in the political decision-making process. The military serves as a government organisation that implements rather than formulates policies. But in this particular case, the military interrupted the government policy formulation process.
We are in trouble if soldiers obey the First Lady, when she instructed the military officer to go and get petrol in order for her mission to set cars on fire at a mechanic’s workshop to succeed.
So it is also possible for the civilian leadership to manipulate military leaders to the detriment of military security. This raises a number of compelling questions: Should there be a limit to civilian authority over the military?

What should the military do when the civilian leadership disregards sound and important military advice? What options do our generals have when the Prime Minister makes critical mistakes that will cost the lives of the soldiers? Obedience and respect for civilian leadership is one of the basic tenets of our civil-military system, yet can one be loyal to a fault?
In conclusion, I want to argue that the abandonment of a duty or post without the civilian authority’s permission is an act of disobedience. A military officer is on thin ice if he dissents on any grounds other than purely legal basis and that ultimately, his overriding obligation is loyalty to his civilian masters.
For me, there is no middle ground when the military officer receives a legal order from an authorised superior, he should not hesitate, he should not substitute the order with his own views; he must obey instantly.

By: Ramahooana matlosa

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Insight

The Joker Returns: Conclusion

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Last week I was talking about how jokes, or humour generally, can help get one through the most desperate situations (although it’s like taking a paracetamol for a headache; a much, much stronger resort is faith). I used the example of how Polish Jews, trapped and dying in the Warsaw ghetto, used humour to get them through day by day.

A similar, though less nightmarish, situation obtains in today’s Nigeria. Conditions there are less hellish than those of the Warsaw ghetto, but still pretty awful. There are massive redundancies, so millions of people are jobless. Inflation is at about 30% and the cost of living is sky-rocketing, with the most basic foodstuffs often unavailable. There is the breakdown of basic social services.

And endemic violence, with widespread armed robbery (to travel by road from one city to another you take your life in your hands) and the frequent kidnapping for ransom of schoolchildren and teachers. In a recent issue of the Punch newspaper (Lagos) Taiwo Obindo, Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Jos, writes of the effects of economic hardship and insecurity on his people’s mental health.

He concludes: “We should see the funny side of things. We can use humour to handle some things. Don’t take things to heart; laugh it off.”

Professor Obindo doesn’t, regrettably, give examples of the humour he prescribes, but I remember two from a period when things were less grim. Power-cuts happened all the time — a big problem if you’re trying to work at night and can’t afford a generator.

And so the National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) was universally referred to as Never Expect Power Always. And second, for inter-city travel there was a company called Luxurious Buses. Believe me, the average Lesotho kombi is a great deal more luxurious (I can’t remember ever having to sit on the floor of one of those).

And because of the dreadful state of Nigerian roads and the frequent fatal crashes, Luxurious Buses were referred to as Luxurious Hearses.

Lesotho’s newspaper thepost, for which I slave away tirelessly, doesn’t use humour very much. But there is Muckraker. I’ve always wondered whether Muckraker is the pen-name of a single person or a group who alternate writing the column.

Whatever, I’d love to have a drink with him / her/ them and chew things over. I like the ironic pen-name of the author(s). Traditionally speaking, a muckraker is a gossip, someone who scrabbles around for titbits (usually sexual) on the personal life of a celebrity — not exactly a noble thing to do.

But thepost’s Muckraker exposes big problems, deep demerits, conducted by those who should know and do better — problems that the powerful would like to be swept under the carpet, and the intention of Muckraker’s exposure is corrective.

And I always join in the closing exasperated “Ichuuuu!” (as I do this rather loudly, my housemates probably think I’m going bonkers).

Finally I want to mention television satire. The Brits are renowned for this, an achievement dating back to the early 1960s and the weekly satirical programme “TW3” (That Was The Week That Was). More recently we have had “Mock the Week”, though, despite its popularity, the BBC has cancelled this.

The cancellation wasn’t for political reasons. For decades the UK has been encumbered with a foul Conservative government, though this year’s election may be won by Labour (not such very good news, as the Labour leadership is only pseudo-socialist). “Mock the Week” was pretty even-handed in deriding politicians; the BBC’s problem was, I imagine, with the programme’s frequent obscenity.

As an example of their political jokes, I quote a discussion on the less than inspiring leader of the Labour Party, Sir Keir Starmer. One member of the panel said: “Labour may well have a huge lead in the polls at present, but the day before election day Starmer will destroy it by doing something like accidentally infecting David Attenborough with chicken-pox.”

And a favourite, basically non-political interchange on “Mock the Week” had to do with our former monarch, Queen Elizabeth II. Whatever one thinks about the British monarchy as an institution, the Queen was much loved, but the following interchange between two panellists (A and B) was fun:

A: Is the Queen’s nickname really Lilibet?
B: Yes, it is.
A: I thought her nickname was Her Majesty.
B: That’s her gang name.

OK, dear readers, that’s enough humour from me for a while. Next week I’m turning dead serious — and more than a little controversial — responding to a recent Insight piece by Mokhosi Mohapi titled “A reversal of our traditions and culture.” To be forewarned is to be prepared.

Chris Dunton

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Insight

Reading, writing and the art of reflection

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There is a close thread that runs through what you reflect on, what you read and what sticks in your mind. It’s almost a cyclic process with regards to how all these processes unfold. Today, in this installment we focus on the thread between reading, reflection and writing.

This appears a bit cumbersome to explain. But let’s simplify it. Let’s begin with a beautiful poem which encompasses what we have so far spoken about. Here we are! The poem is penned by “Tachibama Akemi.” It goes:

It is a pleasure
When, rising in the morning,
I go outside and
Find that a flower has blossomed
That was not there yesterday.

Seemingly, the poem is simple. But, on close analysis, it reflects very deep reflection and thoughtfulness.

The persona, in an existential fashion, reflects all about the purpose and meaning of life and his place in the overall matrix of life.

The persona carefully reflects on nature. This is what makes all this poem rustic and romantic.

The persona thinks deeply about the blossoming flowers and how the process of the growth of flowers appears almost inadvertently.

It is a poem about change, healing, the lapse of time and the changes or vissiccitudes in the life of a person are reflected creatively through imagery and poetry. We all go through that, isn’t it? We all react and respond to love, truth and beauty.

So far everything appears very interesting. Let’s just put to the fore some good and appealing thoughts. Let’s enlarge on reading, writing and reflection.

Kindly keep in mind that thoughts must be captured, told, expressed and shared through the magical power of the written word.

As a person, obviously through keeping entries in a journal, there is no doubt that you have toyed about thoughts and ideas and experiences you wish you could put across.

Here is an example you can peek from Anthony. Anthony likes writing. He tells us that in his spare time he likes exploring a lot. And, more often than not he tells us,

“I stop, and think, and then when I find something, I just keep on writing.”

So crisp, but how beautiful. Notice something interesting here; you need to stop, to take life effortlessly and ponderously, as it were; observe, be attentive to your environment; formulate thought patterns and then write.

To some extent, this article builds on our previous experiences when we spoke at length about the reading process.

But how can you do it? It’s not pretty much different. I can help you from my previous life as a teacher of English Languge.

The most important skill you must cultivate is that of listening, close listening. Look at how people and events mingle.

What makes both of you happy; enjoy it. I am sure you still keep that journal in which you enter very beautiful entries. Reflect about Maseru, the so-called affluent city. So majestic!

How can you picture it in writing!

I am glad you learnt to reflect deep and write. Thank you very much. Kindly learn and perfect the craft of observing, reflecting and writing. Learn that connection. Let’s meet for another class.

Vuso Mhlanga

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Insight

The Joker Returns: Part One

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Don’t be put off by the title, esteemed readers; what follows has nothing to do with the Batman films. As you will be happily (or unhappily) aware, I am a big fan of jokes. There’s a common understanding that a joke is ruined if you have to explain it, and this is true, but some jokes do need a bit of background explanation. Anyway. I like jokes and I like thinking about how they work.

Many of my favourite jokes have to do with language and the way we use it. For example: “I just bought myself a thesaurus. I similar it very much.”

Other jokes have to do with human behaviour and here it is important, out of respect for others, to avoid jokes that perpetuate stereotypical ideas about gender, race, nationality, and so on. I’m afraid the following joke does depend upon a stereotype (I’ll come back to that), but here goes, after a bit of background information.

In Lesotho you have an insect called a praying mantis — stick-like, bright green, and with great bulging eyes. They are rather lovable, despite the off-putting fact that the female practices insect cannibalism; after mating, she consumes the male. So, now you’ve had your zoological primer, here goes.

Two praying mantises are getting up close and personal. The female says to the male: “before we have sex and I bite your head off, could you help me put up some shelves?”

Apologies to female readers, because, as I said, that joke perpetuates a gender stereotype, namely, that women are good with a vacuum cleaner or a dustpan and brush, but hopeless with a hammer and nails.

There are many jokes that are, as it were, much more serious than that. As I rattled on about in a couple of earlier columns, many of these are satirical — jokes that are designed to point a finger at human folly or even wickedness. In another column, titled “Should we laugh?”, I explored the question “is there any subject that should be kept out of the range of humour?”

Well, apparently not, if we take on board the following account of the Warsaw ghetto.

Historical preface first.

The Warsaw ghetto represents one of the worst atrocities in modern history. In November 1940 the genocidal Nazis rounded up all the Jews in Poland’s capital and herded them into a small sector of the city, which they euphemistically, cynically, dubbed the “Jewish Residential District in Warsaw.”

Here nearly half a million Jews were in effect imprisoned, barely subsisting on tiny food rations. An estimated quarter of a million were sent off to the death camps. An uprising against the Nazi captors was brutally crushed. Around 100 000 died of starvation or disease.

Not much to laugh about there, you might say. But then consider the following, which I’ve taken from the New York Review of Books of February 29th this year:

“In the Warsaw Ghetto in October 1941 Mary Berg, then a teenager, wrote in her diary about the improbable persistence of laughter in that hellish place: ‘Every day at the Art Café on Leszno Street one can hear songs and satire on the police, the ambulance service, the rickshaws, and even the Gestapo, [on the latter] in a veiled fashion. The typhoid epidemic itself is the subject of jokes. It is laughter through tears, but it is laughter. This is not our only weapon in the ghetto — our people laugh at death and at the Nazi decrees. Humour is the only thing the Nazis cannot understand.’”

To be concluded

Chris Dunton

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