MASERU – The time has come for a government of national unity as such a government is what exactly the torn and split country needs. Former deputy prime minister and official opposition leader in parliament, Monyane Moleleki, has said the time has come for a government of national unity after the dismal performance of successive coalition governments in recent years.
Moleleki, who is also leader of the founder and leader of the Alliance of Democrats (AD) told Public Eye in an exclusive interview on Tuesday this week the current coalition government was unlikely to survive until the next election scheduled for next year.
The ruling coalition, made up mainly of the All Basotho Convention (ABC) and the Democratic Congress (DC) and other smaller parties, has been teetering on the brink of collapse since last month when ABC split. Professor Nqosa Mahao broke away with several Members of Parliament (MPs) from ABC where he was deputy party leader to form his own party Basotho Action Party (BAP). Another ABC Member of Parliament (MP) for Mokhotlong constituency, Tefo Mapesela, also left ABC to form a new outfit, the Basotho Progressive Party (BPP).
These defections have significantly reduced ABC’s numerical strength in parliament. However, Prime Minister Dr Moeketsi Majoro, who is the deputy leader of ABC, and Deputy Prime Minister Mathibeli Mokhothu, leader of DC, have both said the government still has a majority and will continue working as usual.
“It is unlikely that the current coalition will survive until next election, but we as AD have said that we would want a government of national unity if this government collapses,” Moleleki said. The idea of a unity government has been debated extensively on different fora in the nation over the past few years, but has gone nowhere in the past. Critics of a government of national unity accuse its proponents of wanting a slice of the power cake for themselves while hiding behind the pretense of uniting a divided nation.
Eary last year, ABC leader Motsoahae Thomas Thabane told Public Eye in an exclusive interview that forming a power-sharing government with “the so-called rivals” was vital to overcome lingering “distrust and jealousy” among political parties in Lesotho which have remained deadlocked in sharply polarised conflict.
Thabane was prime minister at the time of the interview but was later cornered by MPs, including those from his party, who pulled the carpet from under his feet and forced him to resign. His coalition of ABC, AD, Basotho National Party (BNP) and the Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL) was jettisoned and replaced by the current one, which is the fourth consecutive coalition administration. Despite expressing its interest to join the new coalition, its (new coalition) leaders shut the door on AD.
“I skipped the country twice to protect my life because some of my rivals wanted to kill me. Their desire to get me killed was motivated by jealousy. The best way to deal with this jealousy is if we work together to develop this poor nation,” Thabane said last year.
Picking South Africa as an ideal example, he said after South Africa’s first democratic elections in 1994, that country’s reconciliation project was boosted by a Nelson Mandela-led multi-party government comprising the African National Congress (ANC), the National Party and Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP). He said South African political leaders led by Mandela apportioned cabinet posts and appointed ministers from all three parties to the new government, designed practices conducive to governing well, and introduced innovations that became models for other countries.
In South Africa, the notion of a power-sharing government encompassing all political parties that enjoy a threshold of 10 percent of support in the electorate came from the ANC as one among many instruments to ensure inclusion during the transition from apartheid to democracy.
The mission of such a government was to oversee a new South Africa constitution, as well as to radically improve the quality of life of all people of South Africa. Mandela’s government has been largely credited with fostering unity of purpose and relative confidence among the previously warring political parties to build trust in a joint future.
The supporters of Mandela’s government claim it laid the foundation for healing wounds as well as setting the stage for remarkable socio-economic development in the Rainbow nation. “No single political party should have monopoly of power. Political parties should work together, united to serve the common good. From opposite political parties, we can work together as Basotho. I have approached several parties to sell this idea to them,” Thabane said.
“Basotho now need a prime minister who is open-mined and is free to all suggestions. They need a prime minister who is mature enough to work with anyone and is willing to listen to anyone’s ideas in order to get things done, a person who can easily work peacefully with his counterparts,” he added.
These same views which Moleleki is advancing now courted trouble for Thabane. Thabane’s remarks attracted scorn and anger from people, including members of his party, who said he had fallen from grace and his time was up.
They said he was making overtures to extend his stay in office. He told Public Eye that some people with short term selfish interests within his party were opposed to the idea of working together with others.
“I encourage them to put the national interest ahead of narrow special interests,” he said. “Anyone who would be happy to take over from me under the current circumstances would not be knowing that he has been handed a poisoned chalice,” he added. At the time of making these remarks, Thabane had already announced that he would step down before the end of his term, citing old age as the reason for leaving office.
“It will take all of us, as a collective, to redeem our country from doom and reclaim our rightful place within the community of nations as stable, prosperous and peaceful,” he said in his speech to announce his departure date.
In 2017, former deputy prime minister Mothetjoa Metsing also called for a national unity government, saying a broader coalition deal would ensure stability after that year’s election which failed to produce an outright winner. Metsing is the leader of the former ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD). He is still insisting that the country needs a government of national unity.