In an event not attended by a large majority of political parties and members of the parliament despite being invited, the National University of Lesotho on the 6th to 7th October, 2016 held a conference to review political instability in Lesotho since 1966 to 2016. The following are the issues emerging out of the conference where presentations were made by local and non-local academics, as well as other Basotho patriots.
“The recommendations for reforms are made here in full recognition that, instability-producing evils—corruption, murder, bad governance, etc.—perpetrated in pursuit of personal material gain, take place, not because the constitution is weak; instead, they take place because there are men and women whose hearts and minds have become well-honed receptacles of the propensity to do evil.
As long as men and women with this propensity dominate politics in Lesotho, no amount of reforming will produce peace, stability, and prosperity-for-all because, in order to commit instability-producing evil, this calibre of human being will always look for, and inevitably find, loopholes in any political dispensation. Even materialists among us accept that, the propensity to commit instability-producing evil that resides in the hearts and minds men and women has to be replaced by a willingness act in the interests, and to the benefit, of many.
The natural dialectical relation is complete when our conditions make us and we, in turn, make our condition, including struggling against those of our conditions that make us evil. When the powerful in society lack empathy for the weak, and choose to accept conditions that make them evil, they fall into a state in which a direct basis of their prosperity is poverty and death for the weak. That is the life of brutes, not humans.
Conclusions, Recommendations & Resolutions of various Sessions of the Conference were as follows:
Session I–Church and Education: While participants lauded the church was for using its influence to intervene in many episodes of political instability since 1966, the Conference recommended that, in order to be effective in its activity to establish and maintain peace, political stability and prosperity in Lesotho, the church should aim at developing its capacity to predict and preempt outbreaks of political instability.
Session II—Political Leadership and Political Parties: One evidence of the paucity of good political leadership in Lesotho that the Conference identified, and which is a major source of political instability, was ability of politicians to jump from one party to the next in pursuit of personal gain. Weak political leadership has become a concern of no less a person than His Majesty, Letsie III. Conference noted, and lauded, establishment of Moshoeshoe I Leadership Academy at the University, which the king has instigated and supports, and in which he maintains particular interest.
Session III—Coalition Politics, Constitution and Democratisation: As in Session II, the fact that Lesotho’s current political dispensation permits politicians to jump from one party to another was also discussed. The discussion led to a recommendation that, because this practice causes political instability, floor-crossing should be regulated in the constitution and other laws; and te threshhold used in allocating proportional representation seats should be revisited.
Session IV—Democratic Citizenship and Multiple Citizenship: Papers presented in this Session made two recommendations. First, that there is a need to cultivate, among Lesotho’s citizenry, a consciousness of holding politicians to account; and, secondly, that politicians have to stop blocking debates on multiple citizenship, and parliament must pass laws allowing Basotho to hold citizenship of Lesotho and citizenships of other countries of their choice.
Session V—Fragility, Viability, State and Statehood: A clear, and strong, recommendation that came out of discussions in this Session was that, all—politicians, civil society and other groups and individuals—must initiate, and lead, efforts aimed at enabling Basotho to discuss and debate how a stable, peaceful and prosperous future can be achieved.
Session VI—Security, Insecurity, Militarisation and Demilitarisation: At the heart of political instability in Lesotho since independence has been the establishment, maintenance and party-politicisation of the army. Conference raised regarding the need for an army in Lesotho. Based on evidence and arguments that revealed the absence of wisdom in keeping an army in Lesotho, Conference agreed on the need for the Lesotho government to de-militarise.
Session VII—Professionalisation and Politicisation of the Public Service: On the basis of evidence and arguments that researchers presented, Conference identified the need for genuine reforms of sections of the constitution that apply to powers to recruit, discipline, and fire public servants.
Closing Session: The Closing Session identified key issues of the various Sessions of the Conference, and looked at connexions between bad governance, political leadership crisis, on the one hand, and political instability, on the other. On basis of that discussion, two important questions that participants sought to answer were:
- Can Lesotho Survive, and What would need to be done for Lesotho to Survive the Next fifty Years?
- What kind of Lesotho do Basotho Want? In other words: What kind of political dispensation can bring Basotho peace, stability, and prosperity? What kind of political dispensation would turn Basotho’s country into a valued member of the Southern Africa we Want; and into a valued member of the Africa we Want?
A key Recommendation/Conclusion of this Session was that, University staff must find ways to join, and participate, in any genuine search for a lasting solution to persistent political instability in Lesotho. This must start with participation in current attempts at reforms aimed at producing a framework that will prevent further political instability in Lesotho and, instead, establish, and entrench, political stability and other conditions in which the people of Lesotho can live in peace, enjoy security and prosperity, and exercise their human rights without fear.
Organisers and Researchers who participated at the Conference wish to thank Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) for funding research for many of the papers presented at the Conference, for funding the Conference, and for funding a publication that will result from the research and Conference.
On behalf of Conference Organisers and Participants