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Lesotho faces a decisive moment

ONE One of New Zealand’s most respected politicians, Rajen Prasad, is in Lesotho on a mission of such far-reaching ramifications for this nation.

Lesotho is at a crossroads as its three governing parties try to find each other and avert a split that would end a historic alliance which resulted in the country’s first-ever coalition government in June 2012. At the centre of this acrimony is All Basotho Convention leader, Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, who stands accused of not according his fellow leaders — Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing of the Lesotho Congress for Democracy and the Basotho National Party’s Thesele ‘Maseribane — enough respect.

In-fact, it was Metsing’s decision to court the country’s main opposition party, the Democratic Congress and sign an agreement with the view of forming a new coalition government last month in protest at Dr Thabane’s alleged arrogance, which sparked a flurry of mediation efforts by various stakeholders in an effort to save the government. And among the many remedies suggested to reconcile the feuding parties was a weeklong study tour of New Zealand, which saw a 24-member delegation of politicians, senior government officials and civil society representatives visiting the island nation from 28 June.

In New Zealand, the delegates sought to learn how a coalition government works under the rather complex Mixed Member Proportion (MMP) parliamentary system, which Lesotho adopted in 2002.
It is this MMP which resulted in the LCD, ABC and BNP forming an alliance after none of the parties contesting the 26 May 2012 general election had managed to win the minimum of 61 constituencies required by the country’s constitution for it to form a government on its own.

However, because of the complexities associated with power-sharing and lack of clarity on the powers of the three principals in government, the coalition partners found themselves squabbling over a number of issues, top among them Dr Thabane’s alleged non-consultation when making crucial decisions with a bearing on good governance.

In an effort to reconcile the feuding parties, the Commonwealth secretariat and New Zealand parliament facilitated the New Zealand tour, whose results are supposed to be the cornerstone of a revised agreement expected to take the government to the next general election in 2017.

To ensure Lesotho digs itself out of the hole resulting from the impasse between the three government parties, the Commonwealth appointed Dr Prasad to give the necessary advise and also lead the preparation of a set of guidelines not only on how the ABC, LCD and BNP can work in harmony, but also how future coalition governments could operate without any undue misunderstandings. Basotho, and indeed the rest of the region, have been keenly awaiting Dr Prasad’s arrival with this report whose importance can never be over-emphasised.

Lesotho has enjoyed relative peace over recent years, and the country’s peaceful transition from 15 years of governance under a single party, to the current coalition administration, had become the envy of an African continent known for autocratic leaders with little regard for the wishes of the electorate. It is our hope that the three leaders — Dr Thabane, Mr Metsing and Chief ‘Maseribane — who will be engaging each other over the future of this country, will put the interests of Basotho ahead of their own personal gain because the last thing Lesotho needs now is unnecessary anarchy which can only drag this nation backwards, both economically and socially.

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