By Sofonea Shale
THE political developments that Lesotho has experienced since the fallout among the coalition trio demonstrate in no uncertain terms that the situation has surely but steadily matured into a more complex conflict. In peace work this is known as escalation of conflict, which means progression of a situation from a latent to an expressed conflict, precipitation and tensions, confrontation or adversarial positioning of parties, distortion of perceptions and crisis. If one takes a break and reflects on the road that Lesotho has traversed, the writing is on the wall, the external mediation safely said SADC Troika brokered process has neither disrupted this escalation pattern nor found wisdom in the combination of external and internal mediation strategies. Looking at what SADC could have possibly spent on Lesotho while the situation worsened from President Hapikefunye Pohwamba to President Jacob Zuma, one can clearly conclude that if Lesotho eventually finds a solution, it would clearly not be found in the parachute diplomacy that has so far nurtured the conflict not political dialogue. Right when the trio started talking at the beginning of a fallout, this column and its sister column in the sister newspaper said that situation has a reached a level where the leaders need a third party to facilitate their talks and the only formulae would be combination of local and external mediation strategies. Three months down the line and indeed after lapse of several pacts made and signed, President Zuma is reported to have left the trio to agree. In the event that this column is exonerated and indeed clearly confirmed that local mediation skill can only be ignored at the peril of the belligerent parties, ordinary Mosotho asks, so what can be expected from now?
In responding to this question, this column seeks to leave the mediation technicalities aside and read the political dynamics and the implications of what parties are thinking. The Deputy Prime Minister party Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) looks at re-opening of parliament as the salvation yet the Prime Minister Party, All Basotho Convention sees opening of parliament differently. Once parliament is opened there are two broad ways that leaders can choose. One is that LCD and DC would coalesce to use their majority to change guard. This option would mean a formal tabling and discussion of Motion of No Confidence which in terms of Section 87(5) (a) and (7) (e) and (8) and in line with Standing Order 111 should propose an alternative Prime Minister will have to be done. If the majority of members of the House vote in favour of the motion it would mean that the sitting Prime Minister has lost confidence hence majority to the House and can no longer be the Prime Minister. Unless the losing Premier resigns within three days after the successful passage of the Motion or (he) advice(s) the King to dissolve parliament, the King acting on the advice of the council of state will remove him and appoint the one whose name appears in the motion as the new Premier in terms of Section 87(5) (a) of the constitution of Lesotho. Critical here what may also upset the LCD-DC plan is the provision that after losing the motion the Prime Minister can still advise on the dissolution. However in anticipation that a Prime Minister may use dissolution to simply avoid change of guard, the constitution provides in Section 83(4) (a) that if the King is of the view that Lesotho could still be governed without dissolution and that such a dissolution would not be for the good of the nation he could acting on the advice of the council of state refuse to dissolve parliament. In this way LCD-DC option can be successful, the question is however whether the council of state would be sufficiently persuaded to advice the King to dissolve or not? The next logical question would be on the extent to which an alternative coalition particularly made of parties which between 2012 and recently were arch-rivals would be spared from the similar intricacies of operationalising coalition? When LCD and DC parted ways they were in government. While it may not be impossibility ii would surely be a mammoth task for the two to maintain a coalition in the current weak coalition legislative set up. On the other hand ABC sees dissolution of parliament forthwith as a counter strategy to the LCD-DC campaign for the re-opening. Prime Minister may at any time in terms of Section 83 (1) and (4) advise the King to dissolve parliament. This means that if approved, Lesotho should go for elections within 90 days in terms of Section 84(1) of the Constitution and in line with Section 37 of the National Assembly Electoral Act 2011.
The practicality of the first option which seeks to change guard necessarily provokes dissolution as a means of protection. In other words seeking to change guard may end up into unwanted dissolution. The change of guard or dissolution both as an option or a result of defence against the other option does not deliver Basotho out of problems. It means after elections which is likely to produce hang parliament again, Basotho would still go the similar challenges of coalition functionality. So what is the best option for Basotho?
If the coalition trio may still have ear for anyone other than Zuma, SADC and Commonwealth, this column would appeal to the Members of Parliament to whisper to the threesome and the opposition leaders the following Non Dissolution and Non Change of Guard proposal. Forget about dissolving and changing guard and agree that upon opening, parliament would embark on legislative reform programme that uses New Zealand report to address key issues such as forming and sustaining successful coalitions, clarifying and codifying transitional arrangements between election results and establishment of new government and indeed those who are of high significance to Basotho such as floor crossing, motion of no confidence and prorogation. For practical purposes, the government can establish and formalise a structure that can facilitate public participation in the law reform process to feed into the parliamentary process to turn the voices into the law. This would be a magical form of bringing an end to the current fragmented approach to Lesotho situation where external actors Commonwealth, SADC and South Africa on the one hand and internal actors such as LCN, DPE, TRC, Heads of Churches and others on the other run parallel processes. This assures Basotho that at least after next elections the leadership would have effectively used the experience of the first coalition to consolidate coalition architecture in Lesotho politics. Though leaders normally lead as though the led are thoughtless and unfortunately some followers mostly in majority support them for that, political leaders in this country both in and those anxiously waiting to be in government have failed Basotho. May be the led should stand up and give leaders a reason to look at things differently. In fact the majority of the 119 MPs across the parties may not benefit in the antagonistic positions of their parties. Would it be realistically fair for the indebted MPs, those who anxiously wait to complete their second terms to qualify for pension to suffer from consequences of dissolution coming either by design or default, a measure that will not even benefit Basotho?