Thought Piece: Is Lesotho Truly Democratic? Why We Need Reforms?

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At PISA centres all over the country, citizens gather to discuss their concerns. They discuss political, economic, social as well as all other educational issues. The idea behind all these is to provide a platform. A platform for citizens to share and make known their take on all that surrounds them.

I had a privilege of participating in a discussion on a controversial topic. But also informative. The issue was whether or not Lesotho is democratic. The emotions were high. Some people, though few, were of the notion that Lesotho is democratic. While the great majority were against this idea. Nobody is wrong, we’re all learning.

I decided share a highlight and my take-away of what transpired that day. Though not word for word, this I believe captures the general understanding of the issue.

Knowing what democracy is supposed to be, are we truly a democratic state? Where do we derive our democracy and understanding of its values? These questions arose owing to the version of democracy that is presented to us in Lesotho. Some people argued that what we have is quasi-democracy. A democracy that’s not very democratic as it were or not absolute.

Having taken interest in the constitution, most participants felt that Lesotho isn’t a democratic nation. At least not in the sense of democracy. Democracy means being ruled by those accountable to us. We appoint our ruling or government and demote them anytime we’re dissatisfied with them.

We ought to have responsible freedom of speech. We ought to be able to call upon any of the government leaders to give an account to us. This should be without fear of bodily harm. Which of course, from what I deduced in Lesotho isn’t the case.

Considering the nations that adopted democracy before us. How far have they gone on the development scale? Isn’t it amazing that they’ve become better. Better than they were without it. Look at the U.S for instance, its democracy is amazing. It benefits all the citizens. It is progressing in its development. Though in reality there’s no such thing as perfect democracy, some nations are better off with adoption of its concepts.

Yet most people felt that in this country what we have is regressive development. In our case, either democracy failed to help our development or we don’t quite understand it.

So now the question is, is democracy for us?

Some people were of the opinion that a rosy picture has been painted in our constitution. A picture of an ideal democratic Lesotho. The ONLY painful thing about all that is we’re far from seeing it. Some believed we’re neoclassical slaves. We don’t really own anything, not even the land. The country belongs to a special few. All of us are just here to give it life and meaning.

Why such understandings? We considered freedom from inhumane treatment, according to which no person shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading punishment or other treatment. –CONSTITUTION OF LESOTHO Adopted in 1993, Amended 1996, 1997, 1998, 2001

A number of cases of individuals who were tortured were brought to light. The very authorities that should’ve upheld the constitution have trampled over it. So in as far as this aspect is concerned, the conclusion was that Lesotho is still a long way from being truly democratic.

The constitution also outlines other aspects of human rights, freedom of expression. According to this aspect, every person shall be entitled to, and (except with his own consent) shall not be hindered in his enjoyment of, freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions without interference, freedom to receive ideas and information without interference, freedom to communicate ideas and information without interference (whether the communication be to the public generally or to any person or class of persons) and freedom from interference with his correspondence.

Particularly with regard the part of communication of opinions and ideas without interference. Some people asserted that our country isn’t openly democratic. Theoretically, yes.

Right to equality before the law and the equal protection of the law.  And at this juncture, the emotional atmosphere became intense. Citizens upheld the fact that we’re not equal in the true sense of the term.

By way of moving forward, I’d suggest the following:

The government should uphold the constitution, especially regarding respect of fundamental human rights.

Failure to observe such should not be trifled with. Offenders should be dealt with accordingly, with no regard for status in public. All things should be done for the best interest of individuals and the general public.

The government must give account to the public, on matters regarding the entire scheme of governance plus service delivery.

Isn’t it amazing that only a few people possess political knowledge. A great majority don’t even know what LOCAL GOVERNMENT is. Let alone what it does. So the government should tirelessly be involved in the lives of the public. Educating the public and giving accounts on government planning as well as use of public funds. Nothing should ever be undertaken by government without the consent of the public. Transparency should be seen as a non-negotiable.

The public should partake in national decision-making.

Ever heard of the slogan “Nothing about us without us,” well that is true for democratic nations. Up until the public is satisfied by the governing bodies, we’re far from democracy. Hindrances to public participation should be identified and addressed. The government should not be solely supreme in running matters of this country. That’s what democracy is about.

There should be a fixed limit to a number of terms within which a leader can run the prime ministerial office.

No single leader should be a prime minister more than two terms at least. A term of five years is fine. Two terms will then be ten (10) years which should be enough for a single individual. In the business world people can lead for a given period, after which they in Afrikaans “Geef die gan.” That is, they give the go. No one should be forever residing in the prime ministerial office.

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