12 December, 2014

Political Will Versus Political Entitlement: The Left-Right Political Spectrum of Lesotho

by M. K. Mahlakeng

On the 18th November, Prime Minister Tom Thabane and his coalition government partner and leader of the Basotho National Party (BNP), Thesele Maseribane went AWOL after missing a crucial meeting with South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa. Ramaphosa is acting in his capacity as the facilitator of the peace process under the banner of SADC, whom is expected to ensure the possibility and stability of the upcoming snap elections proposed for end of February 2015.

Thabane and Maseribane’s unhappiness towards Ramaphosa includes concerns of his mediation process citing unsatisfactory judgements by Ramaphosa in favour of the “opposition” (also known as the left-wingers). This includes the allied Congress parties and Metsing, who is also a Deputy Prime Minister in the coalition government and a leader of the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD), but has since shared the sympathies of the opposition regarding the reign of Thabane.

Facilitation talks: Cyril Ramaphosa and Lesotho minority opposition (Photo: GCIS)

Many in the opposition have viewed this stance by Thabane and Maseribane (right-wingers) as a means, among many others, to sabotage or delay the unfolding satisfactory status to hold these upcoming elections. This, as history serves, is what distinguishes the left-right wingers of Lesotho. And this distinction has always been marked by a sense of political will versus political entitlement.

On the one hand, commoners or those perceived to be commoners (i.e. ordinary people who are members of neither the nobility nor the priesthood), throughout history, used their political will to influence political and socioeconomic decisions. And on the other hand, those perceived to have a degree of nobility or relations to such would be entitled and/or feel entitled to a role in decision-making. The right-wingers for instance, favoured nobility and/or priesthood and therefore used the chieftainship, the Britons and the Catholic Church to curtail popular freedom, while the left-wingers wanted more freedom and liberty and therefore advocated that the role and influence of these institutions be reduced.

History serves that, in a society where party A (i.e. a tribe, clan, parties, positions or ideologies) prohibits party B from contesting power through political will and/or popular support (i.e. the ballot), it leaves the former with a sense of entitlement thus making them hostile to elections, while the latter develops a basis of political reason.

In contrast to political will which advocates freedom and liberty, political entitlement on the other hand incorporates sabotage, use of excessive force etc. This is relevant to, for instance, the “1970 state of emergency” by Chief Jonathan Leabua (founder of the BNP and then PM) when he refused to cede thus denying the Basotho Congress Party (BCP) power after winning general elections; and the notorious “Order Number 4” of 1986 introduced by the Military Government of General Justin Lekhanya (then chairman of the Military Council and leader of the BNP) to prohibit political activity and thus legitimised repression. It is events such as these that have chiselled the current political landscape of Lesotho since independence, thus leaving Lesotho’s right-wingers (Nationalists) with political entitlement and left-wingers (Congress) with a sense of political will.

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