Home Columns Coups d’etat are really out of fashion

Coups d’etat are really out of fashion

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Noisemaker 1

Coup Plotters

There was a time when coups were the in-thing in African politics.

Any time you didn’t like the guy at the top, all you had to do was to say “bring me my machine gun” to a sympathetic country and you would go out and take care of your nemesis.

From the 1960s to the late 80s, leaders such as Congo’s Patrice Lumumba and Liberia’s Samuel Doe were forced to relinquish power through coups d’etat — some of them fatal.

However, as the 90s came, there was a marked decline in the number of coups and the feeling was that they were becoming a thing of the past for sub-Saharan Africa.

Yet it seems the coup is back in fashion like the Afro hairstyle.

In the past two years, our continent has seen successful coups in Niger, Guinea, Madagascar and Mauritania. In addition, there have been numerous political disturbances, failed coups and whispered threats elsewhere.

However, southern Africa has been relatively coup-free throughout all this time.

With the exception of Lesotho.

It seems our country is more prone to coups than any other in this part of Africa. The country always seems a moment away from a disturbance, even when things are running smoothly.

Just this past week, it was reported in the media that the Lesotho Mounted Police Service is aware that nine men were arrested in Eikenhof, south of Johannesburg on suspicion of plotting to topple the government of Lesotho.

It is as if we are dancing on a cliff-edge, one minute enjoying the rhythm and the next writhing in pain after a fall.

It is easy to ascribe the trend of coup attempts to the fact that the country has a small population and a relatively small army.

However, Swaziland is smaller than us in size and militarily, yet it does not have this problem.

Namibia and Botswana too have relatively small populations compared to the other SADC nations, but they have enjoyed sustained periods of peace.

It is also easy to blame the abundance of illegal arms and ammunitions in South Africa, and Lesotho’s geographical location to that country.

However, again Swaziland is very similar to us in this regard.

It should also be obvious to any political mind that the South African army is a mere phone-call away should Lesotho require assistance.

But if the coup attempts are still being reported, it means someone is putting up money for them.

While the army has been a key player in many of Lesotho’s political upheavals,  it is clear that the major contributing source to the prevalence of coups, coup attempts and other illegal political interventions in Lesotho is among some of our political leaders.

It would seem many of those who aspire for the highest political office in the land will stop at nothing to achieve their dreams. Not even if it means disenfranchising voters.

Some people who are in a position to drive the process of democratic change — be they in the opposition or in government — would rather take a shortcut, via the door marked coup, than wait for the ballot.

However, we at Newsmakers & Noisemakers think such people are not doing themselves or Basotho a favour.

Coups beget more coups whereas a peaceful, democratic handover of civilian power typically comes with competent administration of government affairs. We do not want to be trapped in a cycle of coups.

Besides, the SADC community is made up of relatively stable democratic governments who will surely reject any coup within a member country.

The people who keep plotting military coups must therefore not pretend to be solving Lesotho’s problems when in fact they are in all likelihood worsening them.

 

Noisemaker 2

Dagga Cop

Speaking of people of questionable moral fibre, if there is one thing that stinks more than a coup plotter it is a crooked police officer.

Crooked police officers are an irritating fact of life in every country — from the best democracy to the worst dictatorship. They are people who go out of their way to make a pledge to fight crime in all its forms, yet go on to commit that which they pretend to be fighting. 

This newspaper reported last week a police officer and his wife were arrested for allegedly stealing copper cables belonging to Econet Telecom Lesotho.

The cables, reportedly worth over M1 million, were found hidden in the couple’s cattle kraal, according to police spokesperson Masupha Masupha who confirmed the arrest.

As bad as that is, the most ridiculous aspect of the case was that when police searched the constable’s house in Ha-’Masana, they also discovered a bag of dagga and other goods that they suspect could have been stolen.

This is not the first time this year that police officers have been found in the possession of Marijuana.

In August, a senior police officer and four other suspects were last week nabbed for possession of marijuana.

It is obvious that the actions of police officers such as this one are exacerbating the problem of marijuana.

When villagers find out that a police officer is dealing in the drug, what is to stop them from growing and selling it too?

Police officers who deal in dagga are not only depriving companies of income.

They are promoting drug use which ultimately erodes the quality of life of users and their loved ones alike.

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