By Thoboloko Ntšonyane
MASERU- Last month, on October 4, the country marked 57 years of independence from the British.
This year’s independence celebration was held at Thaba-Bosiu Cultural Village and the festivities were led by His Majesty King Letsie III who also launched the bicentenary.
Tributes poured in during independence, including those of the present King of the United Kingdom, King Charles III whose statement partly read, “I look forward to the continuing warm friendship…and close partnership between our countries, including as members of the Commonwealth.” As it is now trite to state, King Moshoeshoe I sought protectorate status from the British Empire and it was, indeed, granted.
While there have been successes and achievements that the country has recorded since independence from British protectorate status, it has also had its fair share of challenges and pitfalls, sometimes calling for the intervention of its neighbour, South Africa, as well as the international community.
The legal scholar and lecturer at the National University of Lesotho (NUL) Faculty of Law, Advocate Mothepa Ndumo argues that the foreign governance system adopted from the West, the Westminster Parliamentary system, has not adequately served Basotho. She encourages Basotho to critically reflect on the Westminster governance system.
“Basotho should increasingly grow skeptical of a system that seeks to so easily subvert the will of the majority of the electorate that turned out in their numbers at the polls last October 7th to elect what is now the Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) government,” she said.
Advocate Ndumo took a swipe at the much spirited Motion of No Confidence in the government. The current government was ushered in by the October 7 national elections and had just recently turned a year in office.
While Advocate Ndumo concedes that this Motion is within the confines of the current law, she says it is not in the best interest of the general populace adding that it is “devoid of principle [and] it is the height of cynicism and reeks of rank opportunism”.
“The Westminster system has brought out the worst in Basotho from the time it was introduced to the present 2023. Basotho should allow themselves to question this failed system and ask deeper questions of the so-called national reforms process and what we can realistically expect from a process that was and still is externally driven.
“It is all well and good to defer to the well-meaning wishes of the international community, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union (AU) regarding these reforms processes, but we were always going to run into problems because the process did not emerge from within us organically, it was imposed on us, like a set of International Monetary Fund (IMF) or the World Bank conditionalities a la Structural Adjustment Programmes..
“And the cavalier manner with which our politicians treat the reforms process is proof positive that there is no genuine buy-in from their end. Instead, the process is deeply politicized, although, I must admit, there are some interesting proposals that have emerged from the NRA” she stressed.
Advocate Ndumo also says the reforms must be approached with caution. The national reforms are an ongoing project envisaged to reform laws, institutions, as well as propose a peace architecture for Basotho for the “Lesotho we want”.
There are seven thematic areas that are expected to be covered by the reforms and those are the Judiciary, Public Service, Economy, Media, Parliament, Security, and the Constitution.
Advocate Ndumo continued: “No matter how animating some of the proposals may be, the fact of the matter is, the national reforms are never going to usher in anything revolutionary…the word, “reforms” is actually very low energy as opposed to the word “revolution” which occupies a relatively ascendant energy field.”
She argues that the Westminster system adopted by the British is “discredited” in Lesotho.
“We have experimented with a veritable rainbow of lipstick colours to date trying to turn what I refer to as the Westminster pig (apologies to the swine, this is just a figure of speech) into the rhinoceros it is most assuredly not: blue, red and white (BNP), red, green and black (BCP), then the Congress piglets in all their glory (LCD, LPC, RCL, MEC, AD, ABC and the DC, to say the least; who knows what else is out there? I have personally lost count), and lately, the little revolutionary piglet wearing a purple onesie (RFP). Oh well, what can you do?” Advocate Ndumo pondered.
“Now, the question that I would like to ask the Basotho people is this: When are you going to get tired of chasing your own tails trying to work a system that most assuredly does not work for you? Secondly, dear Basotho, when are you going to stop believing this detestable lie that democracy is to be found only via the Westminster system?
“You clearly have forgotten who you truly are and need to re-member your dismembered body parts as an infamously disunited collective. Does this Motion of No Confidence smell, taste, feel, sound and look like democracy to you Basotho?
“What it is, is an insult of a farce, it is plain diabolical and, surely, our ancestors, on whose broad shoulders we do not deserve to stand, unquestioning wholesale trans platers of foreign norms and wimps that we have become, are doing U-turns in their graves,” she said.
Advocate Ndumo underscored that the current developments playing out in Lesotho’s Parliament are “typical Westminster plot twists and turns” and are an embarrassing spectacle to witness, accusing Basotho of just watching the process likening them to the victims of Stockholm Syndrome.
Asked if the people appreciate the political developments unfolding in the Parliament, the NUL Faculty of Law scholar noted thus:
“Basotho are not stupid, they have just been bequeathed a system that makes them appear to be. We know that this is; a farce, but we play along with it because we are deeply unconscious and because we have resigned ourselves to All This Non-Sense. This does not make any rational sense. We have lost it.
“Let us regain consciousness and give ourselves permission to fashion a productive way forward sans the promises and threats that accompany that expensive foreign development assistance.
“I do not see why we have to be cajoled, outright threatened and bribed to do right by ourselves and future generations. Basotho need Moshoeshoe-ist, Mohlomi-ist, Nzinga-ist, Mkwawa-ist, Kemathi-ist, Nanisca-ist, Sankara-ist, Biko-ist, Madikizela-ist political education and from that, and many other examples that abound throughout this majestic continent, and her history since time immemorial, elicit wisdom and strategy for the future.”
She pointed out that in the 57 years since Lesotho attained her independence, the Westminster system has clearly been a disaster for Basotho.
On the question of whether the country had learned from past experiences as the ongoing political developments are not novel, Advocate Ndumo responded that even the fact that these political developments are “not novel” should, for once, alarm the people and shake them out of their “unjustified complacency and learned helplessness”.
She added: “It is like we have become totally immune to non-sense. That is worrying. There have been no responses, only knee jerk reactions. We must now call a spade a spade.
“In everything, absolutely everything. Like I said, we have 57 years of solid, scientific data. Westminster was on trial for 57 years, in the witness box so to speak, and, man oh man, this witness has lost all credibility and must be excused from the proceedings henceforth.
“There is nothing to be salvaged here, keep it moving. I owe no one any apology for stating the obvious. We never even asked for this from the British; we merely asked for protection from Afrikaner aggression and, what did we get in return?
Betrayals galore, a deliberate policy of benign neglect, a deliberate policy of subverting our organic interaction with work and labouring, the imposition of hut taxes and deliberately turning us into a labour reserve for the benefit of the Randlords in the South African mines…the list goes on.”
She highlighted that Basotho do not need external permission to order the affairs of their own house in a manner that serves them, adding that this should not be equated with undemocratic behaviour.
Also a well-regarded, long-standing opinion columnist, thought leader and author and co-author of scholarly works in Labour Law and Pension Law, Advocate Ndumo said the system that King Moshoeshoe I and Basotho, organically evolved, served the country best and brought out their Vibranium like nothing else. “We should re-member ourselves and become the beacon of light unto the world that we have long been prophesied to be.
“Asserting ourselves authentically does not imply hating others nor should we tolerate being gas lit by the powers that be who benefit from the status quo; we know what time it is. It is time to dismantle this system without apology whatsoever, retrace our steps and embark on a process of authentically evolving our indigenous governance Vibranium much like what the Mohlomi Code adopted by the Lesotho Institute of Directors (IoD) has done to revolutionise corporate governance in Lesotho by integrating Moshoeshoe-ism and Mohlomi-ism – that is what we are talking about.”
She warned that “We will never experience peace, harmony and social justice if we are inauthentic to ourselves. God does not make mistakes; He created all this diversity because it makes for a richer human experience and, I can only imagine, animates Him.
“It goes without saying; the Motion of No Confidence is a cynical move, a self-serving move, but, totally par for the course…what would you do in the Opposition’s shoes? You would try your luck. This is a try-your-luck system completely devoid of principle, coherent ideology, ethics, morals, sound leadership and stewardship of very sensitive, fragile times; it thus deserves to be dismantled in its entirety. There. I said it.”