IN Lesotho, political parties are unlike commercial brands, which are sensitive to how they are perceived by their publics. In contrast, parties seem not to care how they are regarded by the electorate.
Commercial entities are always coming up with innovations to ensure they retain customer loyalty. And that is the best way to create a market-leading business.
Likewise, political parties in Lesotho should handle the electorate with great care so as to ensure they get a resounding mandate come election time.
“Electorate-centricity” should be the modus operandi to ensure the growth of political parties because it ensures that voters remain engaged just like commercial brands do in pursuance of their profit-driven mission.
However, local political parties are not attentive to the needs of the electorate and thus, have no basis to resolve whatever problems the latter are facing.
While commercial brands are profit-driven, political parties’ aim is to become the government of the day and, as such, they should craft strategies to woo voters in order to achieve their objective.
It is now three weeks since Ts’epong workers went on strike demanding better remuneration and working conditions, but to date, none of the 18 political parties that contested in the National Assembly elections in 2012 has made a stand on the side of the aggrieved workers.
Of course, there should be a balance between ensuring essential services remain functional and also securing the rights of the workers.
The government’s seeming lethargy in addressing the matter justifies the accusation that there is no political will to ensure this impasse is expeditiously resolved.
Employment Labour code (Amendment) Act 2000 section 3 stipulates that: “If the Minister believes that it is in the national interest, the Minister may, after consultation with the Industrial Relations Council, appoint a person to prevent or resolve any trade dispute by conciliation.”
In my view, this provision has not been invoked to date and the dispute refuses to go away, at great cost to patients in need of medical services.
The current approach to resolving this issue has been more political than labour-related.
Government has not done enough to help lower tensions, facilitate communication between the contending parties, exploring possible solutions and helping to bring about a negotiated settlement.
Considering the role played by political parties on this issue, it’s disconcerting to see all of them failing to tackle the real problems and preoccupying themselves with non-issues.
The main opposition Democratic Congress (DC) youth league was unable to articulate the real problems behind the strike, and only condemning the excessive force used by the police in dispersing the protesting workers.
The DC, in my view, is failing to present Basotho with an alternative government.
Meanwhile, the All Basotho Convection (ABC) youth league claimed to support the workers as if there were no other avenues to explore in resolving the labour dispute than through demonstrations.
Furthermore, the coalition government parties; ABC, Lesotho Congress for Democracy and Basotho National Party are just fumbling about and not showing decisiveness.
This instance highlights how wanting our political parties are in terms of institutional capacity and policies to deliver services to electorate.
They cannot go beyond the push to mobilise votes. None of them has articulated a clear policy on labour issues.
This stalemate risks ending tragically with the possibility of some people losing their jobs. Collective bargaining is the way to go in bringing a solution to the matter.
Ineptitude, interference and a glaring dearth of skills are being exhibited by political parties on the Ts’epong issue.
And the cosy relationship between the ruling parties makes it difficult for any of the parties to censure another in the failure to resolve the Ts’epong dispute.
That is why I postulate that political parties should follow the example of commercial brands and treat voters with respect.
Instead of making shallow promises and slagging off political opponents, parties should provide electors — their customers — with real engagement and tangible solutions to the various problems they face.
There are many parallels between politics and everyday branding. Unfortunately, political parties simply don’t abide by the rules that successful brands do.
In the end, electorate becomes apathetic to political processes and our democracy becomes poorer because of it.