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Will Matekane’s government successfully lead us through the reform process?


Rapelang Mokotsolane Mosae

Prime Minister Samuel Ntsokoane Matekane was inaugurated on the 28th of October 2022 amidst high levels of jubilation amongst Basotho and a high international presence at the inauguration. To say Matekane was a favourite in the 2022 elections would be an understatement of note.

Basotho saw in him a fresh new leaf, where corruption would be a tale of the past due to his financial standing and that of members of his party who all never missed the opportunity to state that they were financially well off and as such had no reason to steal government funds.

Indeed, some even went further to pledge their salaries as Members of Parliament (MPs) to their constituencies, how many have successfully made good on this promise, remains a story for another day.

Despite the euphoria around his election and inauguration, it was clear to all and sundry that what lay ahead for the Matekane administration was nothing short of a mammoth task; the international community from SADC, EU, and the UN all expected the administration to pass the reforms as soon as possible.

The youth who saw Matekane as their saviour expected jobs to start rolling out as soon as he took his oath of office and the business community who saw Matekane as one of their own who understood the bottlenecks that impeded the private sector from flourishing in Lesotho expected his administration to quickly deal with such and level the playing field.

Matekane’s first test was the management of his own party, governments in Lesotho have fallen not because of extra-party conflicts but internal party conflicts, hence Basotho were looking to see if RFP would be an exception to this.

Matekane’s first sign of his failure was the so-called meritocracy-based deployment of constituency candidates. Matekane’s RFP was taken to court for such and lost the cases indicating that as the executive, they could not alter the will of the people by dictating who stands for elections.

For a new party gearing up to contest national elections, the maintenance of unity ought to be of utmost importance. In a strange, twist the RFP decided to appeal the decision, further causing a rift in the party. The RFP at the end, decided to allow democracy to reign and let the candidates stand for election, but the writing was on the wall for all to see, cracks in the RFP’s unity.

Upon assuming power one would have assumed the RFP would first engage in a unity-building process of the party, to unpack its journey from formation to their election success as well as the differences that arose during the campaign period.

For a party intending to stand the test of time and to flourish in a coalition setting that is notorious for being unstable, there was need for such an exercise. However, the RFP failed to engage in this process but went further to add insult to injury by snubbing the MPs who were earlier denied their right to stand from all cabinet positions.

This, from a by-stander position, was a clear miscalculation on the part of the RFP and what followed after confirmed such an observation.

From a government administration stand-point, one expected the RFP to run with the baton of the reforms, either through the resurrection of the National Reforms Authority or a similar institution or pass the Omnibus Bill. These seemed to be the lower hanging fruits for the new administration, but even with this, the RFP failed to deliver amidst challenges, some in the public domain and some known only in the high echelons of power in the government.

The cracks in the RFP reared their ugly heads resulting in MPs being expelled from the party and it was not long after this that a motion of no confidence was instituted in the National Assembly barely a year into the RFP’s reign. With the motion of no confidence instituted, the RFP found itself in need to enter into a shot gun wedding with an additional four parties and also increase the size of cabinet, in blatant disregard of its election promise to maintain a slim cabinet.

Currently, the RFP is a shadow of what it symbolised, and this is due to a failure on the side of the RFP leadership to understand the basic ethos of leadership. A true leader ought to have the ability to lead frank and honest dialogue to lead to true unity.

The RFP failed to do this after the creation of divisions before elections, the RFP instead of building consensus in its ranks decided to expel MPs from the party and then opted to enter into alliances with more political parties hence creating an even more unstable coalition government.

Basotho want reforms which have unfortunately been botched by successive governments despite them being on the campaign cards. For reforms to be passed, there is need for stable leadership and national unity.

If the Matekane regime is to carry us through this process, the RFP must first fix its house – Matekane must call all his members and engage in genuine and frank discussions, leading to compromise that all can appreciate.

RFP must also go for a national elective conference and let the people feel that the RFP is theirs and not the sole property of a select few, it is politically wrong for the RFP to be run by a handful of people who are also enjoying privileges of being cabinet ministers.

The elective conference will install cadres who command the masses into the ranks of RFP leadership and hence bring legitimacy to the party which will in turn afford it some stability.

Moreover, the conference will also bring about the necessary checks and balances between deployed RFP cadres and the masses.

On the part of the reforms, the RFP-led government must resuscitate a trimmed National Reforms Authority to lead the process. Reforms cannot be the sole responsibility of the government; this will lead to a lack of legitimacy of the process.

There is also a need for the government to abandon the piecemeal approach to passage of reforms and instead introduce a new constitution which will be passed through a referendum. Basotho need to be participants rather than spectators and the RFP and government will suffer a great deal if they continue to force the masses to be mere spectators on issues of concern.

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