Short-termism versus long-term view
There is no doubt that all eyes are on the next poll, which scheduled for 2022 according to the country's parliamentary election time-table, though actual dates are not yet known. All politicians are focused on winning the 2022 election. Four years ago, ahead of 2017, the hype for winning that year's elections had reached rooftop. This had manifested itself in the level of election contestation that marked that poll. On the one hand, leaders of the three political parties - All Basotho Convention (ABC), Basotho National Party (BNP) and the Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL) had just returned from a self-imposed exile in the neighbouring South Africa. Lest we forget, the leaders were hurting, full of revenge for the atrocities felt to have been committed by the then outgoing regime of seven parties dubbed the Khokanyana Phiri Coalition Government. The seven-party coalition that had ruled from 2015 - 2017 had been cut-short by a successful motion of no-confidence laid against then Prime Minister, Dr Pakalitha Mosisili. The kingmaker then was the Alliance of Democrats (AD) Leader, Monyane Moleleki, who had defected from the Democratic Congress (his brainchild) to form the AD after a short, but impactful bitter spat with Mosisili over succession in the DC. Moleleki joined ranks with the returning exile leaders, Thomas Thabane of the ABC, Thesele Maseribane of the BNP and Keketso Rantso of the RCL. The trio joined Moleleki to form a quotat that was dubbed the 4x4 coalition after successful performance in the poll when their numbers were added up to form a government.
On the other hand, the defending champions, the DC under Mosisili, the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) under Mothetjoa Metsing and Popular Front for Democracy (PFD) under Lekhetho Rakuoane had also tussled it out vigorously in the election to defend the championship. Mosisili had bluntly said it in one of DC rallies towards the highly contested poll that he had to seek victory in the poll than at any other time in history. It was a do or die.
Meanwhile, the previously exiled leaders had wanted to be vindicated by the poll result, to showcase to the world that they were right when they claimed Lesotho was off-track under the Mosisili-led coalition government. The vindication was marked by potential loss of the African Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA) in exchange for the firing of Lieutenant-General Tlali Kamoli, claimed signals of decline in good governance, accountability and transparency as well as respect for human rights. During the 2015-2017 regime, the USA Embassy in Lesotho had placed an albatross on the neck of the Mosisili-led regime, demanding observance of the afore-mentioned if the country wanted to retain AGOA and the Millennium Challenge Account. The then opposition used the vulnerability of Lesotho to external support to drum up their own political sympathy from the international community and Basotho.
Other other hand, the death of Maaparankoe Mahao had also given the then opposition of ABC, BNP and RCL enough bait to vilify the Mosisili-led regime and seek international sympathy. Mahao's death also vindicated the exiled leaders about the peddled atrocious nature of the Mosisili regime. It gave impetus to momentum-building for a snap poll and the resultant victory by the ABC, BNP and RCL. Meanwhile, the DC, LCD, PFD and their counterparts in the coalition fell short of their guns to insulate themselves from the perceived atrocities, violation of human rights, decline in good governance, accountability and respect for human rights, instruments that the USA government used to dangle the carrot on AGOA and MCC. They also fell on their own sword as they failed to present fundamentals that their regime was not atrocious. Their propaganda machinery was weak and handicapped to clear them of the dark shadow of being associated with the military-style leadership and the intentional infringement of human rights of Basotho. They then lost the poll as a result. Meantime, the jury was waiting for them to account as well.
After the 2017 poll, the political mood was tense, with newcomers taking a transformative posture, this given the manner they crafted their coalition agreement that they would ensure that Lesotho kick-started the long-overdue multi-sector reforms. This was in total contrast to the previous regime, which had, in the eyes of the public, SADC and the international community, detested the reform agenda, especially that it had placed them on a pedestal as culprits of the post 2015 poll.
The DC, LCD and PFD together with their counterparts that served in the 2015 regime had an albatross placed around their necks for the ill-fated activities of 2015-2017. They went to the 2017 poll carrying the baggage of accounting for the death of Mahao, human rights violations and high poverty and unemployment. The Phumaphi Commission Report had also added salt on their open wound, casting a dull shadow on the regime for their clear participation in the perceived fall of democracy in the period in question. The DC, LCD and PFD had no option, but to defy the odds and avoid any reform agenda as it pitted time against their new competitors, those who came from exile who took the posture of victims of the 2015-2017 regime and vied for revenged, both in the poll and afterwards.
From an onlooker's point-of-view, the 4x4's quest for reforms was not naturally based on a good cause to take Lesotho on a transformation and reform path, which is naturally a good move. Seen from an analytical perspective, the move was laced with political opportunism of using the multi-sector reform agenda to one, appeal to the international community for financial and other support. Secondly, the move could be analysed as a calculated political gimmick to bring to book those viewed to be the perpetrators of the evils outlined in the Phumaphi Commission of Inquiry Report. The Report had placed at the doorstep of an incoming regime to prosecute all perpetrators of evil acts, including those responsible for the assassination of the former Commander of the Lesotho Defence Force, Lieutenant-General Maaparankoe Mahao. Then it made sense why the DC/LCD/PFD and others regime could not, even if they won the 2017 election, possibly implement the reforms as they were depicted as culprits. The going says you cannot shoot yourself in the foot.
The very nature of the goings-on post the 2015-2017 and 2017-2022 regimes was short-term. The two regimes were reactionary and lacked the future perspective that is needed of leadership. The two 2015-2017 and 2017-2020 regimes focused on teaching those who lost the 2015 and 2017 polls respectively, a lesson and blindfolded themselves so that they could not see the bigger picture. The bigger future is that of Lesotho beyond perennial conflicts, lack of peace and stability and a nasty political trajectory that Lesotho had traversed, then after 50 years since the first independence election in 1965. The 2015 regime was short-term in thinking, boasting of having toppled the Thabane-led regime of 2012-2014 and did nothing to come up with a long-term vision for the country, in preparation for a post-2020 Vision to take Lesotho to a new destiny. Instead, the 2015 regime focused on petty political shenanigans that have since bedevilled this country since independence.
When things did not work out and the whole world was seeing Lesotho as another failed state, with SADC and AU flaunting the dirty linen of the country in the global domain, the seven-party coalition was in the dock, fighting for survival to prove to the international jury that they were innocent. Then it was obvious that the public had been hurt by the events of 2015-2017 and an obvious change of guard was eminent. Post the 2017 poll, a Thabane-led regime was an obvious thing, with the voters feeling sympathetic towards the regime that would lead the country post-2017. But as well, focus on the short-term blindfolded the victors of the 2017 poll, the 4x4 regime. Elated by electoral victory, they failed to marshal a long-term, post-election plan of reconciliation, unity-building and construction of a strong national peace architecture, devoid of SADC and AU. It failed to build social cohesion to a society largely and historically torn by politically-engineered social, political, economic and socio-economic divisions among Basotho. They lacked the wisdom to rise above the narrow political tide and think win-win. They failed to embrace a posterity mind-set, a big picture mind-set, a future-based orientation of building a strong machinery that would mend long-term cracks among Basotho. They too, fell on their own sword and looked short-term. This was manifested by the intra-ABC conflicts after an internal party elective conference of February 2019. The ABC played a major role in tearing down the 2017 regime. The hype for the highly contested poll of 2017 had gone. The political dust had settled, but the DC, LCD and their counterparts were still reeling with anger after defeat in the 2017 poll. DC was still angry with its henchman; Moleleki who they felt sold out to the 'enemy'. The ABC, BNP, RCL were still reeling with anxiety for what they had perceived as persecution in their own country that had led to their flight of the country to seek solace in South Africa. To sum it up, the stakes were high after the 2017 poll, and these needed a leader not a politician as the two hail from two different perspectives. While one is focused on building a grand future for succeeding generations, the other is focused on winning the next election. Unfortunately, this is still the sentiment in the political field today, the quest to win the 2022 elections and the possibility to bounce back to the same doldrums, 56 years on after independence. All are reactive to the political whim and never brought about by poll 2022.
The ABC's internal wrangling stole a great deal of the much-needed time to focus on the development agenda. Focus was on the two camps in the ABC, a short-term preoccupation that rendered the envisaged reform agenda a nullity. While the reform agenda was put on the table, it lacked the national and domestic flavour and machinery as it was run and managed from outside. Todate, South Africa, posing as a facilitator dictates what has to happen and when. It interferes even in matters that are of a domestic nature such as retirement of a sitting prime minister, setting down the terms as though Lesotho, a sovereign country, has been put under a rescue plan under South Africa.
The goings-in the ABC, led to the demise of Thomas Thabane and the regime that he led this year in May. The ABC and the DC cobbled a coalition that led to the current government led by ABC and its former nemesis, the DC. That could on the sidelines, signal quassi-reconciliation, but it is not in actual terms.
Recent history since 2012 has shown that politicians only come together, even if they were perceived natural enemies, when the lowest common denominator is the quest to amass political power. Coming together has nothing to do with a long-term vision of reconciliation, building social cohesion, unity and national consensus among Basotho. It happened after the 2012 election when the ABC, BNP and LCD forged a coalition to form government, which many thought it was the basis for the coalition of forces naturally divided over political doctrines. It happened after the 2015, 2017 elections and the 2020 non-election change of government. The three successive regime changes brought together forces that had previously not seen eye-to-eye. The bottom line is not as mentioned, the long-term peace and stability, vision to reconcile a socially and politically torn nation, build consensus and unity among Basotho. It is only to amass political authority and get into office as long as the numbers in parliament enable the coalitions to take over state house. Period!
After the non-election change of regime in May 2020, which ushered in the Majoro-led coalition, hope among Basotho was that things would change, especially that there was no poll that effected regime change as it had been the case before. Basotho longed for a long-term national economic development agenda, brought about by a long-term vision. They hoped that the multi-sector reforms that had been put in motion would be steered towards a new development path post Thabane. Basotho had pinned their hopes for a new beginning, a renewal of their long-awaited vision for an economically sound country, especially that it was driven by an economist, Dr Moeketsi Majoro. Basotho had pinned their hopes on the new regime because they thought the coalition partners forming the new regime had learned a lesson from the experiences of the regimes before. They had thought that one, the new regime would ask SADC to hand over the reforms agenda to Lesotho so that Basotho deal with their own domestic issues. Two, they had thought that the new regime would put up a turnaround strategy to reverse the gear of high poverty rates, high unemployment and lead the country towards a new beginning. They thought the new regime, led by young people, a rarity in the history of this country, would inject hope among the young Turks by embarking on politics of development not of anger, vitriol and hatred. They had thought that by now, Lesotho would be on a path towards lifting herself from the status of least developed country and usher in a new economic development path. They had thought that the ABC, which leads the new coalition, had learned a lesson from internal divisions that took almost three years and start a new chapter.
Basotho had thought that the second-largest partner, the DC brought a new package to the coalition, after learning a lesson from divisions that tore it in 2016-2017 until it lost power. But the two parties still continue with the same game of internal coups among their ranks. Other factions within the ABC have vied for the fall of the current Prime Minister, Dr Majoro as if deposing a leader has become fashionable. The ABC's intra-party power wrangling and petty political shenanigans are still at play and they have a devastating effect on political governance within the party, with a spilling domino effect on the government.
But it appears Basotho were not privy to the innermost motives of Lesotho politicians, young or old - the quest to win the next election. Basotho were not aware that when the phrase 'next elections' hits the ears of a politician, young or old, it reverberates and makes echoes that bring everything to a halt. All eyes are on the 2020 poll. And as it is the case, Basotho should forget about a national development agenda. The political dust has started on a slow pace, but it will soon become nastier than ever before. Everyone among the coalition parties wants to seize state house after 2022 polls. The multi-sector reforms stand on a precipice as attention is now on the next election. What makes stakes to be even higher is the fact of the matter in the ABC. The deposed Prime Minister, Thabane might have to stand down to give way for a new leader who will take the country to the next poll. This is another internal struggle within the leader of the coalition.
Warning! Grand leadership goes beyond winning elections and thinks about the succeeding generations and posterity. Molimo o boloke Lesotho le Basotho!