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Understanding the post-2015 political crisis



Continued from last weekContinued from last week
This option is also interesting in that it helps us think beyond conventional wisdom, as Maaparankoe Mahao was fond of doing. Asked by a journalist, whether or not Lesotho needs an army, Mahao, the quintessential thinker, an avid reader and soldier-cum-intellectual, had this to say: “I believe Lesotho does need a security force. That security force can be in different forms. It can be an army, a police force or a paramilitary police.

I have been to Costa Rica which they say does not have an army. What I saw there is that even though they don’t call it an army, their security force is more advanced in terms of human resources and equipment. I felt very jealous” (thePost, July 2-8, 2015. Italics added).The last option above, therefore, may be very difficult to sell to the political elite who have grown accustomed to using the military for their own political gains. It may also be difficult to sell to the military personnel who have habituated their cosy relations with politicians and the benefits that come with this relationship. Governance is about choices. Lesotho has to choose whether it continues on this slippery slope of militarisation.

The country could also choose to change course and redirect its politics towards democratisation wherein civilian control over the security forces is institutionalised and the relationship between the political elite and the military marked by corruption and criminality is a thing of the past. Whichever way Lesotho goes, it needs genuine, frank and open dialogue on its political and socio-economic future. Without a genuine national dialogue on Lesotho’s future, including its economy, its politics, its society, the security forces, state institutions, its relations with South Africa, Africa and the world etc., the current culture of fear is bound to deepen even further, a perfect breeding ground for authoritarianism and militarisation. All dictatorships across the globe survive and thrive within the context of a culture of fear and silence. Such a culture of silence and fear, as exists now in post-2015 Lesotho should not be allowed.

Citizen engagement is the key to exorcising a culture of fear and impunity. In a bid to challenge the existing culture of fear and silence, a number of civil society groups organised a protest march, in Maseru, on 12 May, 2016, and presented a petition to the office of the Prime Minister. In that petition, the protestors called on the Lesotho government to:

i. Transparently and fully account to the citizens on the progress made in the implementation of all the recommendations of the SADC Commission of Inquiry;ii. Expedite implementation and devise clear and decent communications strategy away from the current abrasive rhetoric to ensure cordial relations between state and society;iii. Embark on comprehensive security sector reforms aimed at transforming the LDF into a professional and cohesive institution that (a) is fully subject to civilian control, (b) respects the rule of law, (c) enjoys the confidence of all Basotho;iv.

Provide assurances that Basotho textile workers will not lose their jobs due to possible disqualification of Lesotho on the AGOA preferential trade arrangement;v. Open doors for civil society participation in the on-going mediation facilitated by the Heads of Churches and convene a National Dialogue for all stakeholders to pave a way for durable reforms and stability of Lesotho (Lesotho Council for Non-Governmental Organisations, 2016:4).
Confinement of the current political crisis in Lesotho merely to the state of the economy and militarisation would miss the point. Another key factor for the post-2015 crisis is surely the fragmentation of the country’s party system to which the next section is devoted.
Fragmented Party System: The Elephant in the Room

Throughout the African continent, there are four party systems barring the no-party system that exists in the Kingdom of Swaziland, for instance. The first is the one-party system, which used to be the most prevalent system on the continent during the period 1960s-80s. The idea of many parties was considered divisive and posed a threat for unity and nation-building required for socio-economic development. Malawian political economist, Thandika Mkandawire, poignantly observes that
…as soon as African countries attained independence and held their first post-independence elections, many of them pronounced themselves as being a one-party state. The call for ‘One Man One Vote was re-edited so as to read ‘One Man, One Vote, One Time’ (Mkandawire, 2013:26).
Lesotho was no exception to this general continental trend. Following its ‘one man, one vote, one time’ in 1970, Lesotho became the de facto one-party state during the BNP regime between 1970 and 1986.

The 1993 election marked the transition that sounded the death-knell of the one-party state in Lesotho.The second is the two-party system wherein despite the existence of a multiplicity of political parties, only two exercise hegemony over the political system, often rotating their turns as ruling party and main opposition. Lesotho has never experienced a two-party system.The third is the dominant party system whereby despite the existence of various parties, only one dominates the polity on a sustainable basis, wins elections and controls both the executive and legislative branches of the state. Lesotho experienced the dominant-party system under the reign of the Lesotho Congress for Democracy, between 1998 and 2012.The fourth is the multi-party system whereby many parties exist and many of them stand a good chance of forming government.

Lesotho has never experienced a multi-party system in the conventional sense of the term. However, the on-set of coalition governments since 2012 may be a harbinger of the multi-party system as it accords all the parties a good chance of joining government through coalition politics.While the on-set of the multi-party system could ordinarily be celebrated as a positive development for democratisation, the downside is that the country’s party system is extremely fragmented.

The latest party splits are currently (at the time of writing this chapter) playing out within the Democratic Congress (DC)—the dominant party in the post-2015 coalition government—and within the LCD—the second largest partner in the current coalition government.The power struggle within the DC, between the party leader who is also the Prime Minister, Pakalitha Mosisili, on the one hand, and the majority of the party’s National Executive Committee, NEC, under the leadership of the party’s deputy leader and former Minister of Police, Monyane Moleleki, on the other, is at the heart of the current intra-party strife.

There are basically two factions engaged in a tug-of-war for the soul of the DC. These are Lithope (translated as girlfriends) in support of the DC leader and Prime Minister and Lirurubele (butterflies) in support of the deputy DC Leader and former Minister of Police. Moleleki and his fellow Lirurubele ministers resigned from cabinet and left the government bench in parliament opting to sit in-between the government bench and the opposition bench. The Lirurubele-dominated-NEC, and took the battle to the Lithope faction by suspending the party leader, appointing his deputy as the interim party leader.

Three reasons were advanced by the NEC in suspending the party leader and calling for a disciplinary process namely: (a) disrupting the party constitution and not consulting the Committee in taking major decisions with a bearing on the DC; (b) calling for a special conference of the party without consulting the secretary general of DC in breach of the party constitution; and (c) taking steps to suspend and discipline the NEC in breach of the party constitution. The NEC went to court to interdict the party leader from calling the special conference of the party.

The court dismissed the application giving the party leader the green light to proceed with the special conference. The NEC in turn appealed the judgement and at the time of writing this chapter, the conference was underway and the decision of the Appeal Court is still awaited.

Khabele Matlosa

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We need a coordinated approach on youth challenges



For a number of good reasons, all of us are concerned about problems that face Lesotho’s young people, particularly youth unemployment, and the increasing tendency towards anti-social behaviour among sections of Lesotho youth including their increasing admiration for criminality.

Not only do members of such groups admire criminality and actually commit crimes but they commit crimes without much care as to the harm and other costs that their actions inflict on immediate victims and on society-at-large.

Evidence of public concern about these problems includes the fact that within society individuals, groups and public and private institutions have all expressed concerns over problems facing the youth, with some of these parties making attempts to come up with ideas and measures to assist.

However, a number of problems seem to be emerging on, at least, three fronts. Firstly, a seeming lack of coordination in addressing problems that face young people. Secondly, lack of clarity on questions of whether (a) parties that seek to assist are basing their interventions on credibly identified sources of problems that face young people; and (b) whether any credible assessments are made to ensure that interventions such parties are proposing and implementing have potential to solve problems that face Lesotho’s young people.

There are many examples of what may seem to us, members of the general public, to be lack of coordination in approaches to solve problems facing young people. One such example may be sufficient. On January 8, 2024, Lesotho TV broadcast a statement in which the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) authorities announced establishment of some army facility where Basotho young people would be taught some values, including patriotism.

The very next day, on January 9, 2024, Lesotho TV broadcast another statement, this time by the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) authorities, announcing the LMPS’s plan to establish a police facility at which young people would be taught anti-crime and other values. In their essence, the LMPS’s plan sounded not totally dissimilar to LDF’s.
Apart from the LDF and LMPS’s plans for Lesotho’s youth, there are also public and private sector initiatives to nurture and support entrepreneurial talents of Lesotho’s youth with a view, among others, to fight youth unemployment and develop the country’s private sector.

Politicians have also been seen to sponsor football games for young people in their constituencies with a view, they say, to keep young people from crime and narcotics. These events cannot be criticised too much but given that they are one, or two-day events that take place during specific times, they look more like publicity stunts.

National sports federations are now complaining that politicians who sponsor these events put too much stress on sports as a means to fight crime. What federations want is that, if politicians want to help, they should stress the importance of sports as careers, and sponsor young people to develop their sporting talents accordingly.

Amidst expressions of concerns and various parties’ attempts to address problems facing Lesotho youth, public authorities that we have not heard from, or from who we do not hear enough, are those charged with responsibilities over precisely problems facing young people; that is, authorities at the Ministry of Youth.

Admittedly, we do not know if the initiatives of the LDF, LMPS, and others are carried out in consultation with or with the blessing of the Ministry of Youth.

The worry ought to be not only whether interventions of the LDF, LMPS, and others have the blessings of the Ministry of Youth. Instead, the worry should extend to the question of whether the Ministry has any national plan to address problems facing young people. And, if such a plan exists, we would expect that it identifies the LDF and LMPS as places where young place can be coached; and initiatives of these and other institutions would align with such a plan.

Without an identification of the army and the police as implementing agencies of the Ministry’s plan, and without the army and police’s initiatives alignment with the Ministry’s plan, at least two things are likely to result: duplication of effort — as seems to be the case with the LDF and LPMS plans; or, at worst, LDF and LMPS plans might contradict and undermine national plans entrusted to the Ministry of Youth.

In the worst case scenario that a national plan does not exist, we face the danger that anybody wishing to address problems facing Lesotho’s young people can do so, basing herself, or himself on a personal or group perception, and implementing plans and solutions based on such perception.

As in the case of too many people stirring the same cooking pot without coordination, undesirable consequences can be expected from a situation where just about anybody can apply a solution to a public problem.

As hinted above, a good national plan aimed at addressing problems that face Lesotho’s young people would have two characteristics, at least. First, it would be based on our assertion of the kind of society we want to be; an investigation of problems that stand in the way of achieving such a society; how such problems can be overcome, say, through school curricula; and how, in general, from Early Childhood Care & Development (ECCD), young people can be brought up and socialised in ways that ensure they will be useful members of a society we wish to be.

Any action that is not based on an investigation of the problems that stand in the way of achieving a society we want to be has little chances of success. Such action would be based on some understanding that the young who are anti-social, unpatriotic and criminals are naturally bad people.

It is, of course, not as simple as that. For example, one possible explanation for the absence of patriotism among young people may have something to do with socio-economic inequality in Lesotho: those who are closed out of, and excluded from, benefiting from Lesotho’s wealth and power cannot be expected to be patriots.

A second characteristic of a plan aimed at addressing problems that face Lesotho’s young people is that, such a plan should identify and/or establish institutions designed — and with appropriate skills — to implement ideas and proposals that come out of credible investigations.

It is unclear whether the LDF and LMPS plans have resulted from something like considerations suggested above. While it is admitted that these institutions’ initiatives are limited to addressing problems of lack of patriotism and criminality among the young people, one clear problem with their plans and solutions is that, it might be the case that they are catching young people a little late, when schooling and general socialisation have already entrenched anti-social values that we see among sections of young people; namely, individualism and the inability to think of others.

In one word, these institutions catch these young people when tendencies towards criminality, anti-social behaviour, and lack of patriotism might have already hardened.
Perhaps the biggest hope we should have is that the army and the police will have full complement of resources necessary for providing full and wholesome mentoring to young people who undergo army and police mentoring.

Short of adequate resources necessary for achieving what the army and the police have in mind, we might end up with cohorts of young people with a faulty army and police culture that may come back to haunt us. Inserting a faulty army culture among a section of young people brought us bitter results in the 1970s and 1980s that should not be repeated.

To conclude, no one can argue against all of us being concerned with problems of youth unemployment; increasing tendencies of young people’s admiration of criminality and their participation in crime. And no one can argue against all of us coming up with ideas and proposals of how to address these problems.

However, our concerns and proposals ought to be based on:
a nationally-agreed assertion of society we want to be;
a credible investigation of difficulties that stand in the way of us becoming society we want to be;

and coordination of proposals and ideas aimed at becoming society we want to be.

As with other specific instances of socio-economic development in Lesotho, problems facing the country’s young people cry out for the long-neglected establishment of the National Planning Board, as prescribed in Section 105 of the Constitution of Lesotho.

Prof Motlatsi Thabane

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Call that a muffin?



In Oscar Wilde’s short story “The Canterville Ghost” (1887) one of the characters says about the British, “We have everything in common with America nowadays except, of course, language.” Between American English and British English there are many, many differences. Which is not to say that either American or British English are standardised; there are multiple varieties within each. As a south-western Brit I can find it difficult to fully understand what someone from Liverpool or Newcastle is saying.

I remember one year during the NUL’s International Theatre for Development project we had a student from the islands of Scotland. She was brilliant and hard-working and full of good ideas — if only one could understand the ideas when she introduced them. The NUL students grouped together and asked me: “Chris, can you translate what Kirsty is saying for us?” and I replied: “I’m as lost as you are.”

Between American and British English it’s not just a matter of pronunciation but also of vocabulary (I’ll be coming to muffins — see the title of this piece — in a while) and spelling.
In the biographical film Prick Up Your Ears British, dramatist Joe Orton shares a room with Ken Halliwell and they decide to write a novel together. Ken asks Joe “can you spell?” and Joe replies “yes, but not accurately.”

This is hardly a surprise, given that he’s a Brit. The American spelling system is far more regular and rational than the British. (Readers with laptops will have noticed that your spell-check gives the option of British or American spelling, but that doesn’t help you as in Lesotho the British system is used, so for the time being you’re stuck with it).

I mean, what can you say about a spelling system where “plough” rhymes with “now”, but “tough” rhymes with “stuff”– and “now” doesn’t rhyme with “low.” Yipes (as the Americans say). When I was lecturing in Lesotho and in Nigeria and marking assignments I was always very lenient over spelling, because I know what a mountain it is to climb (the latter word rhyming with “time”, of course).

Then there is the matter of vocabulary or denotation (a term I hope readers remember from a few weeks back). There are many examples of things that are denoted by different words in British and American English: lift / elevator; pavement / sidewalk; windscreen / windshield; petrol / gas; cinema / movie theater (and look at the American spelling of (Brit) “theatre”– a lot easier). And some of these reflect our different histories.

For example, there’s a vegetable, a kind of small marrow, the British call it a courgette (one of my favourite vegetables, in case any of you are planning to invite me for dinner). That’s a word that British English has borrowed directly from French — that is, a loan word (I’m not sure we plan to give it back).

The Americans on the other hand call it a zucchini, a loan word from Italian, which I guess reflects the size and influence of the Italian community in the USA. (Speaking of vegetables, I can’t give you an explanation for why the Brits call an aubergine an aubergine — another loan word from French — but the Americans call it an egg-plant).

Next week I’ll get around to muffins — a sore point — and I’ll move on to differences between English and French and between Sesotho and Setswana. Bet you can’t wait.

Chris Dunton is a former Professor of English and Dean of Humanities at the National University of Lesotho.

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Lessons from Israel: Part 3



I shall round off my account of my 1995 trip to Israel by putting on my tour guide cap. Staying in Tel Aviv, most days were fully taken up by the conference, which was my reason for being there. Tel Aviv in July is scorchingly hot, so there were walks along the beach only before breakfast and after sunset. I did take a little time off to go with South African author Stephen Gray to an art gallery that had a painting he wanted to see (a portrait by Modigliani of Beatrice Hastings, whose biography Stephen was then writing).

I wasn’t especially keen on the hotel restaurant, where dinner comprised meat served by the ton (surprisingly little fish, given that we were on the coast. By contrast, I had always been surprised and happy that Maseru restaurants are so good on fish, despite the fact that Lesotho isn’t exactly maritime). But I discovered a little Russian Jewish restaurant that offered Beluga caviar at an amazingly cheap price. I suspect it had fallen off the back of a lorry, as we say in the UK — i.e. that it was contraband, acquired illegally. I just blinked innocently and enjoyed myself. I can’t think of a more delicious way of starting a meal than with caviar, freshly-made blinis and a large glass of deeply chilled Wyberowa vodka — no ice, please. (I only say all this to show you what a very cosmopolitan chap I am).

The conference ran to a packed schedule and we worked hard (no, really). Half-way through we were given a day off and taken to Jerusalem. On arrival I teamed up with an old Nigerian friend and a friend of his from Senegal and we took ourselves first to the Dome of the Rock, the main mosque, which is splendid and radiant (wow, the mosaics!) Then we saw the Wailing Wall.

Then we trudged up the Via Dolorosa to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The Via marks the route along which Christ was forced to carry his cross on the way to his crucifixion (dolorosa means something like “of miseries”). I had expected it to be lined with sculptures showing the Stations of the Cross (rather like the lovely ones at Fatima, near Ramabanta).

Instead it was one tourist gift shop after another. Here I came across one of the most repugnant things I’ve seen in my life. Proudly displayed for sale, a wall clock with the face adorned with the image of the head of Christ, the two clock hands protruding from his nose.

At the top of the Via Dolorosa, the fourth century Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the holiest site in the world for Christians, which is breathtakingly beautiful. The interior is (not visibly) divided into sections, the upkeep of each of which is the responsibility of one of the major denominations: Roman Catholic, Anglican, Methodist, Greek Orthodox, Egyptian Coptic, and so on. I had had the impression this was an arrangement worked out under the colonial regime of British Palestine, but Google tells me it dates back to the Status Quo of 1757.

My companions had done their homework and suggested we head first for the roof, which had been allocated to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church (dare one possibly suggest a tinge of racism in this marginalisation?). There we found a cluster of monkish cells, each inhabited by an elderly Ethiopian monk, at least two of whom spoke English or French. They were delighted to see us, and utterly sweet, hospitable, and in their accounts of their pastoral work spellbinding.

To be concluded

Chris Dunton

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