Writes Dr Christian Manahl 

Last night, Justice Moseneke invited a few international partners and asked us, what should be discussed in this meeting today, what should be the agenda and the choreography?

And this debate with the facilitation team was preceded by other discussions on whether this meeting should take place at all, or whether it should be called a National Leaders Forum. I am happy that a consensus has emerged for this meeting to take place. It is high time that you meet, at the level of political and social leaders.

A lot of work has been done. The district and sectoral consultations have been completed, and they have yielded a wealth of good ideas and interesting proposals. The consultation process has seen delays and the NDPC has had its challenges, but it has discharged its duties in accordance with the mandate given to it. And the problems it has experienced were perhaps foreseeable.

The NDPC is not and was not meant to be an independent body. It represents, through its members, the different political and social interest groups of this country, and as such it is a microcosm of the political landscape of Lesotho.

If there are divisions among political parties and factions, they inevitably reflect upon and influence the work of the NDPC. But the NDPC has done its job at the technical level, as it was supposed to. The draft report on the consultations is on the table; a list of proposals for reforms in the seven sectors is before you.

We are now moving from the technical phase of consultation and compilation into a phase of political negotiation, and in this phase, you, the political and social leaders, are in the driving seat. The NDPC is still needed, but it cannot complete this phase alone. You have to come together and talk to each other and discuss the proposals, notably those where there are different options, and find compromises that you can submit to the second plenary of the multi-stakeholder dialogue for consideration.

There can be no meaningful second plenary, and there will be no successful reform, if this political negotiation does not take place. And it has to take place now.

Here is a document signed on 6th April 2017, entitled “Commitment by Lesotho’s political parties to an inclusive, participatory and comprehensive reforms process”; most of you have signed this document. Now is the time to fulfill the pledge you have made 2 ½ years ago to the people of Lesotho. The Basotho do not want intricate court cases; they do not want semantics; they do not care what you call your meetings – NLF, pre-NLF, quasi-NLF, pseudo-NLF – the people of Lesotho want solutions.

The people of Lesotho want jobs; they want investments; they want a thriving economy.

The Basotho want peace and stability; they don’t want political bickering, posturing and manoeuvring, they want a constitution and a political system that allows coalition governments – because coalition governments there will be – to complete their full terms and to implement the policies you promise in your campaigns.

The Basotho want a public service that delivers and that is affordable. They don’t want a public service which is a reward scheme for political loyalty. The want teachers in school, not on the streets; they want hospitals and health services which have the capacity and the staff and the equipment to attend to their needs.

The Basotho want infrastructures and utilities which are functional and affordable.

The Basotho want police and military which ensure security and which effectively combat crime while respecting civilian political authority and the human rights of all citizens.

The Basotho want a government which effectively deals with the plight they are facing now that the country is in a serious drought, where people are going hungry.

And the Basotho want political and social leaders they can look up to, because they know that you put the common good, the

interests of the nation, and the interests of the people before your own personal and party interests.

Perhaps I bore you if I repeat my mantra that in politics – at least in democratic politics – there is a time for competition and there is a time for cooperation. Now is not the time for competition, now is the time for cooperation. Now is the time for you to sit down together and to work out reform proposals which are simple, comprehensive, effective, and implementable. Now is the time for you to negotiate the foundations of “the Lesotho you want” and to start implementing them.

Now is the time for you to fulfill the promise you made in April 2017 and to show the Basotho people that you are the leaders they can have confidence in, the leaders who rise above their personal ambitions and the party divisions and deliver what this nation wants and deserves – peace, security, prosperity, equitable social and economic development, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and national unity. NW

These are remarks by European Union (EU) Ambassador Dr Christian MANAHL at the National Leaders Forum in Maseru, 9th October 2019.

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