Tuesday 18 May 2021
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Weak States and Elite Circulation

“Turning a failing state around is almost as always due to skilful constructive leadership, a scarce commodity that cannot be guaranteed to appear  at the right time”  Batt and Lynch –What is a “Failing state , and when is it a security threat(2004)
Lesotho is a cyclic plot of self-centred political pedestrianism, with a government led by the same political elites who thrive in a weak poorly governed country.
Eighteen months have passed since the June 3rd 2017 election that led to PM Thomas Thabane being elected to public office.  His election calmed down threats of suspension by the US government of Lesotho’s eligibility to AGOA, as well as to Phase 2 of the Millennium Challenge Compact (MCC).
In the first MCC (2007-2013), Lesotho had received about US$ 380 million for large scale infrastructure projects.
The Lesotho conundrum has now been overshadowed by its fellow problematic SADC mates Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
To understand how Lesotho got to where it is as a country, I would have to give a historical overview that can almost be typified as the country having had an almost pre-ordained cursing , with a problematic  geopolitical positioning, limited resources and geographical hindrances,  the country is saddled somewhere  between a weakened and failed state.
Prior to its unification under Moshoeshoe, Lesotho was sparsely populated and became a settling point for tribes that were displaced by the regional war Lifaqane, which were caused by Shaka, the Zulu Kings temper tantrums.
Moshoeshoe then married over two hundred times and had over two hundred wives in order to unify the existing populace into one ethnic assemblage which then became known as the Basotho.
As a result of increasing Afrikaner encroachment from the 1840s to 1860s, through three subsequent wars between Basotho and the Afrikaners, this resulted in the dispossession of its most fertile land (present day Free State).
To avoid further amalgamation into greater South Africa, Moshoeshoe the Founder of the nation thus sought for British protection for Lesotho.
It then became a British protectorate (Basutoland) in 1868, to avoid being amalgamated into the rest of South Africa.
Since then the country has muddled through, clouded by the greater, more pertinent regional issues.
Lesotho became underdeveloped, given its limited resources whilst it was still a British colony from 1868 – to 1966. Under British rule, there wasn’t any real economic, industrial investment in the country, since the British had intended to incorporate it into the Union of South Africa (1910 to 1960) much like Eswatini (Swaziland) and Botswana (Bechualand). In the 20th century, the greater evil that was Apartheid dominated public discourse, and in no way would such a government allow real economic empowerment from 1966, when Lesotho got independence.
Lesotho has thus functioned as a labour reserve for the South African economy.
Post-independence from 1966-1986, the country had one autocratic leader Prime Minister(PM) Jonathan Leabua, who in retrospect his reign is now being typified as being the closest the country had to the golden period post liberation.
PM Leabua was overthrown in a South African sponsored military coup in 1986; the military ran government up until 1993.
The second democratic elections that Lesotho had experienced were held after 23 years, in 1993, resulted in PM Ntsu Mokhehle being elected as Prime Minister.
PM Mokhehle broke away from his own political party (Basotho Congress Party) in 1996 to found the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) which led for fourteen years (1998- 2007), post 1998 however the new party leader was previous PM Pakalitha Mosisili, who in the same spirit then broke away from LCD in 2010 to form the Democratic Congress (DC).
PM Mosisili won the 2007 elections, lead as PM for five years up until the 2012 elections, which he then lost to the All Basotho Congress (ABC) lead by current PM Tom Thabane, who was hastily and brutally out manoeuvred, by a LCD/DC coalition lead by PM Mosisili, which lead him back into power in the 2015 elections, up until 2017, when he was deposed in a no-confidence motion.
The current All Basotho Congress (ABC) government is facing a credibility issue having procrastinated to implement reforms feeding the populace false glories instead of real substance, with the SADC Southern African Prevention Mission in Lesotho (SAPMIL) being extended further than its initial agreed upon departure date of November 2018.
It was rather  naïve for Basotho  to believe that the election of PM Thabane would be the panacea to Lesotho’s developmental stagnation, not because he is inept, as the environment was favourable to his success( i.e. civil society support, regional as well as international backing) but we should have known better!
PM Thabane is not a late age hero, he has held a government post in almost every administration since the 1970s, he was the Minister of Defence during the military government of 1986-1993, and was a staunch supporter of the previous PM Mosisili up until 2006 when he formed the ABC political party which broke away from the LCD, he is finely woven in the political history of the country.
PM Thabane underwent  an incredible re-branding exercise like former President of Nigeria Olusugun Obasanjo , both leaders were in the engine room of military governments but have somehow shed their leprous associations and came back as democrats, the knights that can usher in the true Black Kingdoms.
It is typical of African leaders to be bipolar in their leadership, rather than lead it’s almost like as if they much rather enjoy the adrenaline rush of out manoeuvring their counterparts rather than seeking public office in the greater good of the public.
Africa as a whole has recycled the same political elites to govern and we just hope and pray that this time round they’ve shed their controversial pasts.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa (Zimbabwe) who oversaw the Matebeleland Massacre, President Cyril Ramaphosa (South Africa), was Deputy President during the alleged ushering in of systemic corruption during President Zumas presidency, President Joao Lourenco of Angola former Minister of Defence, in a government that jailed political opponents, President Muhammad Buhari (Nigeria) also a former Minister of Defence during a military government that repressed free speech.
Some Presidents are second generation political elites President Felix Tshisekedi newly elected President of the DRC and President Uhuru Kenyatta (Kenya), their fathers, Etienne Tshisekedi and Jomo Kenyatta was political opponents of government leaders in power.
Former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Nobel Peace Prize laureate, was the Minister of Finance during President Charles Taylors plundering reign…
Political elites are inevitable in society, they detest anything besides subservience, surrounding themselves with their clan or ethnic allies, internal political party factions undermine democratic norms and restrict public participation.
Youth leagues function as feeder systems and become the new political elites as the old ones fade away thus enhancing the institutions that benefit them, with the sad truth being that, state failure is always man made.

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