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Tender probe a test for coalition government

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THE corruption investigation on the national Identity Document tender scandal will be a test for the coalition government.

It would not be an exaggeration to say the future of this government will be determined by how it will handle the issue.

It’s a delicate matter that should be handled with care.

Sadly the options at the government’s disposal are few and tricky. It’s a catch-22 situation.

On one hand it has to be seen to be fighting corruption and on another it has to be careful that the investigation might put an end to the alliance of the three parties.

If it stops the investigation it will be accused of going back on its promise to root out corruption.

The parties in the coalition have said they will adopt a strong stance on corruption.

Prime Minister Tom Thabane has repeatedly said crooks must be jailed without fear or favour.

The problem is that the ID tender investigation is threatening to take down some members of the coalition.

As our lead story indicates, a minister is under investigation for allegedly receiving bribes from Nikuv International Projects.

As the investigation continues it is possible that more ministers or MPs might become suspects.

But pursuing those individuals will certainly endanger the coalition’s slim majority in parliament, threatening the very existence of the government.

The conviction of a single minister or MP in the coalition could potentially rock this government.

That might open the door for the Democratic Congress which is waiting in the wings.

In its attempt to deal with corruption the coalition would have pushed itself out of power.

A by-election might restore its single seat majority but that is not guaranteed.

The smaller parties that form the bloc in parliament and support the government in principle might rally behind it but that too is not certain.

The easier option will be for the government to just sweep this whole investigation under the carpet and get on with life.

Yet that too presents its own dangers to the government.

This is particularly so because the investigation has taken a life of its own.

People want to know how the investigation will end.

They want to see suspects in the dock and criminals in prison.

Anyone who dares to stop it will be committing political suicide.  The other danger is that stopping the investigation will set a wrong precedence, both in the public domain and in government.

It will give the impression that the government is putting its interests ahead of those of the nation.

Self-preservation will be seen as the criterion the government uses to decide who should be prosecuted for corruption. The government would lose goodwill locally and internationally.

So how can the government deal with this issue?

We wish we were wiser.

We want a robust reaction to the pervasive culture of corruption in our country but we also want a stable government.

Corruption has hampered Lesotho’s economic development but so has political instability.

Do we want a squeaky clean government that is wobbly or a stable one that is infested with corrupt characters?

We wish we knew the answer and we hope the government has it.

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