June 2017

A friendly advice to Thabane on learning from the past and doing things differently

After a tumultuous two years rule by Mosisili, the voters confirmed what parliament had decided earlier by passing a vote of no confidence on him and his government. The leading party in the previous coalition government headed by Mosisili was thumped by Tom Thabane’s All Basotho Convention (ABC) which increased its seats by two while Mosisili’s Democratic Congress (DC) lost seventeen seats. Compared to 2015 elections, the big loser is clearly the DC. The table below illustrates the point above.
Party year Number of seats Percentage Seat change
ABC 2015 46 37.8 N/A
ABC 2017 48 40.52 +2
DC 2015 47 38.4 N/A
DC 2017 30 25.82 -17
It must also be remembered that there were three constituencies which were declared as failed elections as a result of the death of three of the contestants. ABC is expected to win all three thus bringing its number of seats in parliament to 51.
With elections behind us, and Prime Minister Thabane having unveiled his coalition partners and a new cabinet, real work begins now. It is a herculean task in view of the mess that has to be sorted out. It is for this reason that lesothoanalysis this week heartily congratulates the winners and proffers a friendly advice to the new Prime Minister.
I know that the new Prime Minister brings into the job, administrative, managerial and political experience spanning several decades. He also brings with him a team of experienced political figures as his coalition partners. More importantly, Thabane is a much older man than most in his cabinet. In Lesotho we still have this reverence for age and as such one could say how dare you proffer to advise him on how he should tackle this task when you are ten years younger than him? Times have changed. Age alone is no longer the sole criterion for wisdom. I have been humbled by some of the advice I have received from people from a different generation. Importantly I dare say that I bring over forty years of administrative and academic experience to know where the traps are and how to avoid them. Indeed, if Mosisili had bothered to read and understand the issues I brought up in lesothoanalysis over the past year, he would probably still be Prime Minister of Lesotho. Instead, he listened to charlatans whose only interest was how they could flatter him into believing their fantasies rather than the reality which was starring them in the face. It would be a tragedy if the hopes of the people of Lesotho were to be dashed because our new Prime Minister did not listen to advice like his predecessor did.
There are simply too many challenges which will face Thabane’s new coalition. But the trick is to identify key pillars of those challenges and then go for others later, important though they may be. It is not because some challenges are less important that I leave them aside, but the ones I wish to advise the new government on have a potential to either intensify instability in the country or bring down the government. Amongst these are the issues about security; image of the country; and the mundane issues about administration. I know the latter is less exciting but it has the capacity to break the government if not handled well. But before that let’s remind ourselves of the past.
The pitfalls of the 2012 coalition
When the coalition government took over in 2012, hardly did people realise that it had through amongst others agreed to implement a“semi-feudal” arrangement where coalition partners shared government ministries as opposed to merely sharing ministerial positions. It was a situation where each of the coalition partners created as an exclusive enclave in government departments. Thus from the Principal Secretary to the lowest public servant, the public servants there owed allegiance to the party allocated that Ministry. Rather than have a cohesive government structure, in practice the Prime Minister could not intervene except through the party concerned. It was a chaotic system which was bound to collapse.
As a result of that “semi-feudal” arrangement, the question of appointments and everything in that Ministry ultimately was a party responsibility rather than a government one. This extended to Ambassadorial positions and the District Administrators. Need I mention that a divided public service leads to easy routes for corruption and maladministration? But more importantly, this semi-feudal” arrangement lead to a situation where two Principal Secretaries were placed in the Ministry of Communications, with one appointed by the Prime Minister in terms of the law, and another forced his way through the party which controlled the Ministry. One post was occupied by two Principal Secretaries leading to accountability confusion.
This is one of the first lessons from the past which need not be repeated. A Minister, even in a coalition government answers to the Prime Minister and not to the coalition party whose Minister controls that Ministry. Public servants should not be placed in Ministries on the basis of party affiliation. They shouldn’t even be known to belong to a political party, as long as they are public servants. I will deal with this further on the reforms.
Lesotho’s international image
Small states like Lesotho have to work harder than others to create international linkages. Their most important asset and security rests in the creation of international linkages and support since by themselves they are vulnerable. During the 1980s for example, at the height of South African destabilisation in Southern Africa, Lesotho was able to pursue an independent foreign policy only because it had built an international support system in Southern Africa and beyond. This is why the apartheid regime’s pressure was withstood for a long time.
Since 2015 when Mosisili took over as Prime Minister he squandered all the international support Lesotho had. Innumerable SADC Summits were convened to discuss the Lesotho issue. The African Union, the European Union, and the United States among others have said it publicly and in writing on numerous occasions that Lesotho has to get back to the community of states which are accountable and respect the rule of law. These were ignored. Mosisili gave all the above the middle finger. Perhaps Mosisili will be remembered for his parting shot to SADC through its Chairperson King Mswati of Swaziland where he decried the organisation’s interference in the internal affairs of the country. Knowing full well that he was going to lose the elections, he went so far as to threaten withdrawing Lesotho from SADC which he has lost its way.
This is where Thabane and his government have to begin. Restoring the country’s image internationally is a top priority. It is also a matter of survival for the new government. The traps ahead, which took almost two years to put in place, need bold leadership and humility to the peers in the region and partners beyond. Lesotho needs international support to overcome its immediate and long term challenges.
The security dilemma
Prime Minister Thabane, more than anybody, understands that the crisis that Lesotho faces in the security arena. He has been a victim of army rebellion which started when he was Prime Minister in 2014. A junior officer by the name of Hashatsi, boldly and publicly announcing that you would not be allowed to remove Kamoli as Commander of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF); army personnel planting bombs in the place they expected him to be at; Kamoli hosting a public conference to announce that he could not be removed in office and that Prime Minister was ill advised when he attempted to dissolve the Court Marshall which had been instituted against a Senior Officer, then Brigadier Mahao, for attempting to caution Hashatsi to keep out of those issues about who can or not be removed as Commander; an attempted coup on 30/08/2014, leading to his flight into South Africa; threats to kill him in 2015 leading to his second flight to South Africa only returning weeks before parliament was dissolved.
Other than the removal of Kamoli after he was reinstated, the Command and structure of the forces has become more complicated. Hashatsi and all that lot which has been pin-pointed to have been part of the rebellion and other serious crimes have been elevated to be part of the Command of the LDF after their multiple promotions at times skipping the ranks. To complicate it even further, most of those who were in the Command of LDF are presently in exile or are still facing mutiny charges. Moreover, Lekhooa, another suspect in the crimes committed in the past two years has been seconded from LDF to head the National Security Service (NSS). This does not end there; the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) has now been effectively dismantled. With some of its leadership suspected of involvement in the High Treason case in 2014 and other serious crimes including making other policemen like Khetheng disappear after an arrest, the security environment could not be worse.
Knowledgeable and/or good intentioned, this web woven by Mosisili, is simply too intricate to be dismantled without serious reaction. One of the key decisions of SADC on Lesotho for instance is that those in the military who have been implicated in crimes be suspended until their cases have been investigated by an enhanced and resourced police force. This cannot be implemented as long as all those in command are suspects. This is why international support is so crucial in unravelling this web.
In order to quash the army rebellion once and for all an urgent action plan to seek SADC support to implement the security related decisions immediately has to be developed. The plan should aim at ensuring that ahead of the reforms the following should have been achieved:
a) Dissolve the Court Marshall and have all those in open arrest be released from their two year ordeal;
b) Suspend all the suspects in LDF and LMPS identified to have criminal cases to answer;
c) Have all exiled soldiers indemnified and restored to their positions;
d) Dissolve the joint army and police unit immediately.
It is important to understand that the above suggested actions are only the basis for the total overhaul of the security establishment as part of the reform process. No reforms would be possible before the above are in place.
Mundane issues of administration
Prime Minister Thabane must know that he is surrounded. Mosisili made sure that he would rule from the grave by placing his relatives and associates in all the key positions in the government. Even a week before the elections, he continued to deploy people in foreign missions. That means that he will be talking issues through them to the international community. There are ways of course in the modern era to short-circuit those, but there will always be bottlenecks until the obstacles have been removed. In dealing with the obstacles, firmness, fairness and dexterity will be necessary. This is why questions of administration must not be neglected.
As Lesotho moved to elections, all political parties signed a pledge to implement reforms. Key amongst those reforms is the public sector reforms. We have a public sector now which was not characterised by appointments based on merit. It was all patronage. This ensures that the system as a whole lacks credibility. The backbone of any government is a professional public service which continues even after the change of government. Indeed, even when you have a week Minister, as long as the professionals in that Ministry are strong, it will not be obvious. This is why it is important to ensure that the reform process begins. But the reform process should not wait for the formal process itself. Prime Minister Thabane can ensure that there is credibility in the system if he shows by the appointments of senior officials that he is committed to reforms.
The quality of the people who will be appointed will be a good indicator. Let him forget about political party stalwarts and opportunists who will bring nothing into the system. If he wants to be credible, he must be able to say, this second round as Prime Minister, he will focus on merit and not whether people have been close to him. He has a golden opportunity to appoint people who are better skilled than those in Mosisili’s government.
Perhaps I have to say that the rule of thumb of judging whether the new administration has prospects of surviving long enough is to see whether it is able to differentiate government administration from both the political party and the family. The political party anchors the government, the family provides social support, but they should never be seen to be fulcrum on which the state revolves. This is more so when you have a coalition government. The advice to the new government is that government business is not a political party or family affair. It is sacrosanct and must not be compromised by any outside interests. Failure to do that will doom this government to failure.
Lesotho is also plagued by corruption and this government must dedicate itself to ridding the country of that scourge. The starting point is to recognise that Ministers in our system of government are not Chief Accounting Officers. They must at all times avoid invading the territory of the Principal Secretaries. Ministers must not try to be Principal Secretaries and vice versa. Once there is no clarity there, the struggler about tenders will begin and inevitably there will be the beginnings of the fall of this government. Had the Bidvest scandal not emerged there is a good chance that Mosisili’s government would still be limping on. Ministers have no role in the award of tenders and that should be emphasised from the beginning. Chief Accounting Officers must be made aware from the beginning that they will be held accountable when things go wrong. That is administration.
Conclusion and going forward
Sustaining a new regime requires strength, decisiveness and dexterity in dealing with issues. The need to be decisive is required now that Thabane has won decisively against Mosisili. Delaying to take action now will dilute the legitimacy that he now has. If Thabane had been decisive in January 2014 when the roots of the rebellion began to show, we probably would not have had an attempted coup of August 2014. The rebellion was left alone to chart its direction without serious attempts to quell it. The utterances of Hashatsi and Kamoli later indicated clearly that they no longer regarded themselves to be under civilian control. This was confirmed later in Sechele’s testimony to the Phumaphi Commission that the military was a law onto itself.
I’m aware that the circumstances of 2014 were different. Thabane had to also deal with a third columnist at every stage who sought to undermine him. Thabane now has the power and authority working with his partners to act decisively to ensure that the key issues about security are sorted out. I would like to conclude with the words of Machiavelli in his The Prince where he underlines that strength, which electoral victory has given you, is not sufficient to sustain your rule; you also need to be cunning.
A prince must imitate the fox and the lion, for the lion cannot protect himself from traps, and the fox cannot defend himself from wolves. One must therefore be a fox to recognize traps, and a lion to frighten wolves. Those that wish to be only lions do not understand this. Therefore, a prudent ruler ought not to keep faith when by so doing it would be against his interest, and when the reasons which made him bind himself no longer exist. If men were all good, this precept would not be a good one; but as they are bad, and would not observe their faith with you, so you are not bound to keep faith with them.”
Mosisili imitated the lion, using the military to suppress all those opposed to him, but never recognised the traps. The new Prime Minister must be strong and wise!
As we go forward we must ensure that over and above these, we recognised critical issues like youth unemployment which is now beyond an economic challenge but a security challenge as some of the things which the new government has to defeat if it is to survive. That is a time bomb which could explode at anytime.
As we go ahead with other programmes we must remember that we have to salvage international assistance which is dependent on accountability and rule of law.
Let ones again congratulate the new government and hope it listens.


Agitating for a coup? Metsing’s desperate plea for protection of the militia and formation of a government of national unity

As opposed to a rebellion a coup is never a spontaneous development. It takes time and plotting to put the pieces together. The important thing to note however is that all coups are a result of agitation often outside the barracks. The calculations whether the environment exists for a coup; and, the probability of success of staging such a coup are then made by those who have weapons of war. It is under these circumstances that recent statements of the outgoing Deputy Prime Minister, Mothetjoa Metsing, on the military and fraud in the June 2017 elections in Lesotho, have to be understood. They are tantamount to incitement to stage either a rebellion or a coup.
For Lesotho, the spectre of coups has been with us for a long time. The only successful coups in Lesotho have however been staged before our modern constitution that came into effect in 1993. Since then we have been faced with numerous military rebellions and unsuccessful coups. The last unsuccessful coup in Lesotho was staged in August 2014. Its repercussions however continue to reverberate up to the present since it was never suppressed. On the contrary it was embraced as a legitimate action by the government which took office in 2015. Metsing was the Deputy Prime Minister in that regime which was essentially a mask for military rule. The civilian authorities were then mere cover for the real wielders of power. It is therefore not surprising to hear Metsing portraying himself and those around him as the great protectors of the military against the imminent coming to power of Tom Thabane as new Prime Minister.
It is important to elucidate and analyse three things which Metsing desires. First, he wants to prevent Thabane to take over power in order to protect the soldiers, who in his words “..put their necks on the block that we ended up taking power..” Second, Metsing alleges that there has been massive voter fraud and requests SADC to institute a forensic audit of the voters roll. Thirdly Metsing and his cohorts demand that a Government of National Unity (GNU) be formed. Strange as it sounds, it is Metsing who ridiculed the idea of a GNU in 2015 after the elections. Where do these statements lead us in the post- elections period in Lesotho?
Metsing on the “army” issue
In places where you have the army as a state institution rather than a privatised army, citizens of all political stripes should have the confidence that such a body serves the broader national interests rather than partisan ones. It would therefore be unheard of for politicians to portray themselves as the protectors of such a military establishment. In Lesotho, we have had the experience of some politicians who tend to wrap themselves up with the army. When they fail to get support to either stay in power or to get to power, they suddenly become the great protectors of the army against their opponents. Metsing has a reputation for doing just that. From 2014 when he had his difficulties with the law about corruption, he suddenly was surrounded by over a dozen heavily armed soldiers wherever he was. This continued until he boldly declared on “national television” that Kamoli who had been dismissed as Commander of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) would remain in his position regardless. He incited continued rebellion within the military.
After the Mosisili led coalition took over in 2015, Metsing was primarily the person who frustrated the implementation of the SADC decisions after the adoption of the Phumaphi Commission Report. He talked reform in order to stop reform. His cohorts in the military were protected from the courts for cases which ranged from High Treason to murder spelled out in the Phumaphi Commission Report. It was a case of one turn deserves another since the military had protected him from answering for his difficulties in court. It is understandable now that he would like those to continue being shielded from the courts.
Talking to his supporters shortly after losing the elections, Metsing began to openly argue that all means must be found to stop Thabane from taking over power from his coalition. That was a futile attempt since Metsing and his allies could never muster the numbers to stop Thabane from ascending to power. He argued that the army needed to be protected for their role in bringing about the out-going coalition government.
Let me tell you that it is because of members of the country’s army who put their necks on the block that we ended up taking power, and if today Thabane attains power, it is clear that some of them would be in danger.
There are some people whose future should be protected by us, regardless of our individual aspirations. This is our obligation and I am surprised that some LCD members don’t want us to approach Mochoboroane while on the other hand some DC followers do not want Moleleki to be approached.
For Metsing, the issues are clear, it is either Thabane is stopped from gaining power after he won the elections, or the army, which can now be clear that he has turned it into a militia will face danger. It is not that Metsing’s fears are baseless. All the political parties undertook to implement the SADC decisions which include the suspension of those of his allies who have committed serious crimes pending further investigations. The point is that his statements are tantamount to incitement to the militia to stage a coup. It is unheard of that an outgoing Deputy Prime Minister can incite the army against the incoming government. This is more so now as a result of the rapid promotions of those implicated in serious crimes into the Command positions within the military. They could be expected to use their positions to undertake doomed from the beginning actions against the incoming government.
The question of paying tribute to the military for facilitating the coming to office of the outgoing coalition government is not new. Mosisili pronounced on that shortly after he had taken office. What is new is that Metsing is now talking about the protection of those who put their necks on the block to ensure that the outgoing government took power. It is a clear indication that those of his cohorts in the military which has become a militia should resist the new government.
On rigging the elections
Almost a week after the elections which the Mosisili coalition spectacularly lost, Metsing, supported motley of politicians held a press conference on Friday 9th June 2017 to declare that there was tangible evidence of fraud in the elections. “…there is damning and tangible evidence that there were fraudulent activities and tampering of the voters’ roll..”
Some people voted twice and even thrice because their names appeared more than once in different lists. All these fraudulent activities were in contravention of the electoral law.
In our view, elections are a pillar of democracy. And in a situation where there is fraud in the electoral lists, there is simply no way the results would reflect the will of the people or be democratic.
Not only did Metsing make his outlandish statement about the elections which were monitored by well over 700 observers from Lesotho and all over the world, but his demands for a forensic audit must be fulfilled before the end of June 2017. We have to say that all the observers from SADC, African Union, SADC Parliamentary Forum and the Commonwealth to mention only a few, gave the elections a clean bill of health. The only reservations by all the above was the undefined role of the army which turned up heavily armed in some polling stations without the knowledge and concurrence of the Independent Electoral Commission which complained that they could scare off voters.
The question of fraud in Lesotho elections is a red herring. The level of transparency of the voting process is way beyond what is found in most electoral processes. Indeed, all political parties participate from the beginning of the process until they all sign the outcome as a sign of concurrence with the process and the outcome. Those who are unhappy about the process and the outcome don’t sign the form announcing the results. Moreover, they have ample opportunity to file a complaint at the voting station. Beyond that they can always petition the High Court about their grievance. Metsing and the rest of the losing crew have not filed any complaint or file a petition with the High Court. All what they are doing is to stir up the pot in order to prepare for a coup.
The challenge for Metsing is that he lost the elections badly. In spite of being borrowed votes in twenty five constituencies by a bigger political party, the Democratic Alliance (DC), Metsing’s party only managed to win only one constituency. Through the borrowed votes, he now has eleven seats from the proportional allocation, in the National Assembly of 120 seats. His pronouncement about fraud is merely a way of trying to deflect attention from his ever diminishing support base. He now wants to cling to power through unorthodox means.
On the formation of the GNU
Shortly after the elections of 2015, the former Prime Minister of Kenya Odinga Odinga, heading the AU Observer Mission in Lesotho, proposed that the inconclusive nature of the elections in Lesotho at the time called for a formation of the GNU. For him the issue was one of ensuring that the two biggest parties shared power in order to stabilise the country. Metsing was the first person to dismiss that, since he would have been relegated to a minor partner. He also rejected that when the matter was raised a few weeks before the vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister was brought up. He knew at the time that his position as Deputy Prime Minister would elude him. But now that he has lost the elections and is fearful that his past will catch up with him when he is not in government, he vigorously advocates the GNU. For Metsing, this is for him as an individual and not the issue of stability of the country as he claims.
There is nothing wrong with the GNU as such, but in our region, it has been used as a weapon for those who have lost elections to be in power. We saw that in Kenya and also in Zimbabwe. The strategy to inflict as much violence on the populace as possible so that people will concede that it is better to allow the loser to rule than to allow people to be brutalised is an abhorrent thing to tolerate. There would be no reason to have elections if losers can force their way through violence to be in power.
The critical question for Metsing and that motley of politicians with him is that losers cannot dictate terms. The question of GNU is one that can be pioneered by the winners who want to be inclusive. What Metsing and others should hope for is that the winners are magnanimous after their resounding victory. For Metsing and his allies, theirs is to lie low and begin to prepare for the elections five years down the line rather than stir the pot or make unrealistic demands to the victors.
Lesotho has gone through elections which reflect the will of the people. They were not fair, but the opposition stood its ground to show that it was not a fluke to pass a vote of no confidence in parliament against Mosisili. They represented the majority of the electorate. Mosisili to his credit has steered clear of public statements which would indicate that he has not accepted his defeat. Metsing on the other hand wants to fight on and hopefully end up annulling the unfavourable vote he got.
The army as opposed to the militia has nothing to fear from the new government. But the militia should know that the rule of law and accountability are the only future for Lesotho. Those who have committed crimes should know that the world expects them to answer for themselves in the court of law. That is not vindictiveness, but the rule of law.
The problem with this Jammeh like attitudeby Metsing of accepting defeat and then trying to resist to leave office is that it is not sustainable. If Metsing and his allies have not noticed, they are being intensely monitored and cannot sustain a coup. The world has changed and they’d better realise that the days of coups has long past.
There will be calm in the Kingdom despite the rubble rousing by Metsing and his co-conspirators!
We heartily congratulate the winners of the Lesotho elections.


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