OP-EDs

OP-ED: IS GNU A PANACEA FOR LESOTHO’S POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC ILLS?

By Theko Tlebere

The intrinsic debates among our people about Government of National Unity (GNU) are so underrated that one feels no need to talk about it anymore. People even have the guts to tell us that the visit of South African President Cyril Ramaphosa a few weeks ago was about forcing us to have a GNU.

But then I also think of the importance to young people knowing that among the many countries of the world, there are those where GNU worked. Nonetheless, there are countries where it didn’t work, hence our arguments for today whether will GNU safe Lesotho.

It can be very easy to make conclusions that it has not worked before therefore it will not work for us, but on the other dimension for us as Lesotho we haven’t seen it therefore it would be malicious to make such pronouncements. This morning I intend to take the case study of Zimbabwe which is one country that has a new experience on GNU.

I shall look at the background that led to the formation of GNU in Zimbabwe then give an analysis of what could have been done and what was not done. 
I deliberately chose Zimbabwe as my case study for a number of good reasons. One is that the mediator at the time was President Thabo Mbeki who was president of the Republic of South Africa (RSA). At this point, it is essential to highlight an exploration of Mbeki and the role he played in the formation of the GNU as is necessary.
It can lead to an understanding of some of the challenges within GNU, just as today the Mediator is Cyril Ramaphosa the incumbent president in RSA now. It shall be remembered how Mbeki was openly criticized for his quiet diplomacy to solve the Harare issue, and most importantly being pro Mugabe in most of his mediation decisions.

The message I just want to send home here and would like to have a critical analysis on is that because of the economic interests RSA had in Zimbabwe, GNU was suggested by Mbeki as the Southern African Development Community (SADC) mediator and all had to follow suite.

I just wanted to open your horizons to think about RSA and its mediation processes for its neighbors and check how effective it has been in the past and now, then you’ll be able to think critically whether GNU will solve any of our current problems. 
The second reason for my choice is that when the Global Political Agreement was made in 2008 to pave for GNU in Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe was eighty four (84) years old, ironically Thomas Thabane is today eighty (80) years old, meaning GNU befell this leaders while at their 80s.

Now the million-dollar question for youth would be, why is there a trend in the 80s guys to vigor us directly or indirectly into GNUs while their governments have not come to the party? Even though it shall not be part of our debate today another reason for taking the Zimbabwe issue is the controversy surrounding the involvement of the first lady of Zimbabwe in matters of governance just as it’s the case here in Lesotho today.

Like I said I may not have tangible evidence to this rumors, but they exist and a number of high profiles like the principal chief of Thaba-Bosiu has said it repeatedly. So then there is a similarity there, of course from which we would like to ascertain whether the events of Harare shall be replicated here in Lesotho.

 Following the violent and disastrous 2008 elections in Zimbabwe, SADC intervened to find lasting peace in Zimbabwe. That intervention led to a Global Political Agreement (GPA). The latter is essentially a power-sharing arrangement in terms of which a new government of national unity was created.In turn GNU was mandated to initiate a national process that would eventually culminate in a new constitution; henceforth signaling a new peaceful and democratic era for Zimbabwe.

This process was supported and endorsed by the AU and other international organisations. So it looks like regional bodies were content with the GNU emancipation in Harare, but did it ever yield the intended output? What could have been the core reasons to this effect? Aren’t we facing the same challenges but different in our own nature as Harare did more than ten years ago?

There is one other element that should be noted with caution about the Harare GNU, it did not fall from heaven like manna, and there are tangible incidents of violence that happened to members of opposition just as it has happened in Lesotho. The politically inspired violence intensified, targeting MDC and its supporters in particular.

Tsvangirai himself was not spared either. In 2005 he was detained for several days. When he came out of police custody he had sustained various injuries, including a fractured skull. Another well-known incident was that of Sekai Holland, a 66-year-old grandmother and MDC activist, who suffered multiple fractures in police custody and was unable to walk for months (Allamok, Egyesult and Congress, 2008: 603).
It was at this time that regional and international organizations stepped into the Zimbabwean fray to quell those political temperatures. This intervention led to the GPA and the subsequent GNU. This relation is just a reminder of incidents that let to Harare GNU, but what good came out of it anyway?

Let’s meet next week with the unpacking of the Zimbabwe background on GNU so that we shall detect on whether our situation as Lesotho will be different. The future is now! NW

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