Managing Director of the Governance Institute for Sustainable Development and Editor-In-Chief of thizkingdom.com
Politics around the world is defined around and vilified with the characteristic of being overly opportunistic, self-aggrandizing and less responsive to the needs and aspirations of the people. This is a career that a few people grow intending to join, but end up being there for one or more reasons. A few parents, unless they are already politicians, would encourage their sons and daughters to join. Surprisingly, a definition of politics does not match its practice. It is loosely defined as a set of activities that are associated with making decisions in groups, or other forms of power relations among individuals, such as the distribution of resources or status. It is also defined as the activity of government and those involved in the process of governing.
A branch of social science that studies politics and government is referred to as political science. In the above definition, there is no mention or sense of bad faith as politics appears to be universally understood to be; a bad practice of duping and manipulating people to believe in a politician’s cause, especially bad one. Politics is further associated with promising people good things, but reneging on those promises and maligning them for the politician’s advantage. But is it what it is, or should be? Even scholars of politics can attest to have been taught all the good and positive things about governance and relations among various groups within society, devoid of greed, opportunistic thirst for power and economic spoils in government, chicanery and all the bad things associated with politicians.
The recent episode in the politics of Lesotho, where there was agitation by the opposition led by the Democratic Congress (DC) and its allies to seize power through shortcuts, has revealed the true colour of Lesotho’s politics, hunger for power and opportunism. These are laced with greed, self-aggrandisement and the lack of responsiveness to serve the people according to their aspirations. The DC led a group of political parties in Parliament that have demonstrated deep thirst for power, the need to destabilize and topple the RFP-led Government by proposing a motion of no confidence in the Government. The opposition bloc claimed to have amassed phenomenal numerical strength to its advantage to unseat the Government.
It convinced everyone that it had the numbers and even wrote to the Council of State that their numbers allow them to form government. Little did they know that among them, there were fluid and shifting loyalties in search of greener pastures. Pretty much, the same character of fluid loyalty was realized in the ruling bloc. Two types of loyalty were at play in both the opposition and governing camps - convenience loyalty and transactional loyalty.
The first type of loyalty -convenience loyalty is where someone or a party shows support conveniently if there is some benefit to be derived. Similarly, transactional loyalty is shown when there is promise of exchange of some benefits by the loyalty holder. These two loyalties are fluid and keep on shifting goalposts, depending on the convenience and benefits that the carrot holder flaunts in front of them and their loyalty bestows on them. In the case of the governing elite, RFP MPs’ loyalty to the party was shaken because it was not made clear by the party’s politburo about the spoils they would get from their party, in exchange for their loyalty. After all, they drew on the experience of being ‘sidelined’ during the primaries, some of them.
It has proven in Lesotho’s politics that the quest for any MP does not end with serving the people only. Though they are elected to serve in the constituencies where they are elected, and they claim that it is the main objective, they also have a secret expectation to be appointed into ministerial positions. The MPs have a desire to be ministers one day, probably as they see lavish and luxurious lifestyles lived by their counterparts who are ministers, while they languished in meager life. There seems to be a sentimental value attached to constituency victory and expectation from victors is that they be rewarded withministerial positions as they have ‘fetched the constituency votes’ to the party. They tend to want to trade their constituency victory with ministerial positions, which most of the time, does not appease those in party leadership.
The latter seem to have their own considerations for maintaining parliamentary stability, and this causes conflicts. It therefore becomes painful when those who have won elections in constituencies are overlooked and those who come to parliament through the proportional representation (PR) channels grab these lucrative ministerial positions. The former feel bitter when they see their counterparts living lavish lives under their nose and they get disregarded. The cause for the envy is that those enjoying ministerial positions may not be necessarily more intelligent than their counterparts, but it is a matter of loyalty to the leader and his politburo. Defections start here as some good MPs get ignored forever, irrespective of merit. This argument is buttressed by the fact that ruling party politburos use ministerial postings through a carrot-and-stick mechanism to maintain loyalty of their MPs against crossing the floor to join other parties.
In most cases, it is the disgruntled ordinary MPs who defect, not the ones holding ministerial positions. It becomes even more painful when ordinary MPs in the National Assembly see their party reward outsiders with ministerial positions under their watch. This is the reason for the many defections. Sometimes, political party politburos go to the extent of bringing in outsiders from other parties through the back door of senatorial postings as a gateway for rewarding them through ministerial positions. This hurts the backbench constituency seat holders in parliament, who feel disenfranchised. The worst case scenario is when those who have lost in the constituencies get rewarded with ministerial positions through PR seats or senatorial postings, if they were not in the PR lists, to the detriment of those who won constituencies.
The RFP’s undoing is aptly ascribed to the above scenarios, where its MPs, who won constituencies saw a handful of them, especially the top list that was rewarded with direct tickets go straight to cabinet. Questions were asked about the criterion as some felt they were experienced MPs, who have served in previous governments and also that they deserved to be rewarded with ministerial positions. Their criterion is not known for thinking that they deserved.
The likes of Dr Mahali Phamotse felt that they were disenfranchised by being left out of the bandwagon that went to Cabinet. For others, the expectation was fueled by the fact that they had risked their political careers by defecting from their parties. As a result, felt that they deserved to be rewarded with ministerial positions.The latter instance exposes the weakness of politics as regards the core intentions for people to join politics - to secure a job and its attendant benefits for the benefit of one’s family.
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