The Kingdom of Lesotho is a Constitutional Monarchy since its independence from the United Kingdom in 1966. Since then the country has experienced several political problems and at the present moment the country facing a political stalemate. The country is also faced with the problematically high prevalence of HIV. The majority of its population lives in the mountainous areas of the country.
On the 7 March 2017, the Deputy Prime Minister of Lesotho announced that His Majesty King Letsie III, had dissolved the 9th Parliament of the country. The King’s dissolution of the Parliament was done at the advice of the Prime Minister, Pakalitha Mosisili. This came after the Prime Minister had lost a motion of no confidence in Parliament the previous week. The constitution of the country allows for elections to be held within 90 days after the dissolution of Parliament. Prior to the Prime Minister losing a motion of no confidence, the government had failed to pass the FY2017/18 budget in Parliament.
The date for the election has been set by the King as 3 June 2017. This will be Lesotho’s second elections in three years, after a similar situation occurred in 2015. The problem facing the country is that elections have been declared, but there is no money to fund them. Lesotho is one of the poorest countries in Africa and cannot afford to hold elections at such regular intervals. Last week, the Independent Electoral Commission estimated that at least M204 million (R204 million) is needed to successfully host the elections. Given the current state of the Lesotho economy, such an amount could go a long way in alleviating poverty and helping to combat HIV. Some of the country’s political challenges stem from its constitution, as was suggested by the SADC Commission of Enquiry on Lesotho which took place in 2015 after much political turmoil had forced the country to hold elections that same year. Perhaps, if the government at the time had not been sluggish to implement the recommendations made by the commission, the country would not be holding elections this year.
Should the country not fully adopt these recommendations, it may risk losing its AGOA benefits and lose much needed revenue in the process. The country has also failed to qualify for a second multi-million dollar Millennium Challenge Corporation compact, because it has not made meaningful progress in implementing the recommendations made by the SADC commission. The first compact made tremendous strides in improving the living conditions of Basotho people, particularly those in the mountainous areas. Hospitals, schools, roads and other important infrastructure were built through the MCC compact. As with other countries in Southern Africa, Lesotho relies heavily on South Africa. South Africa is its major trading partner as it imports 90% of its goods from its neighbor1. The country’s biggest natural resource is water, which it exports to South Africa through the multi million rand Lesotho Highlands Water Project.
On its Global AIDS Progress Report of 2015 the Ministry of Health stated that 23% of the population was HIV positive. This is a significantly high level, second to only that of Swaziland. Data from the Demographic Health Survey, which was conducted in 2014, is yet to be released to show the latest statistics on HIV. Much of the action taken to combat HIV is still donor funded as the country itself cannot afford such measures. High levels of HIV have a detrimental effect on the economy of any country, and a prompt response to fighting the disease would save the country’s future resources.
Lesotho has ten districts and all of these districts have mountainous areas. The scenery in the mountains is magnificent, and the government should invest more in boosting the tourism sector. This investment should be directed at improving basic infrastructure in the mountainous areas, so as to improve access to these areas. Only major towns in all ten districts can be accessed by tar roads, while most other areas are still accessed through gravel roads or by horse.
Political unrest in the country will likely deter future investment. It was only recently that 15 soldiers who were accused of mutiny by the Lesotho Defense Force were released from prison. A large crowd of the population had been advocating for their release, and some believed the soldiers to be innocent. This, together with the failed coup in 2015, has created much instability in the country and uncertainty for investors. The splitting of the DC party, which was the second largest majority seat holder, of the current coalition government, has also added fuel to the already burning fire.
The country has to resolve the issue of funding for the upcoming election. It is imperative for elections to be held in order to avoid a potential civil war, but it is also true that the country cannot afford to hold the elections due to the state of the economy. This is the conundrum that Lesotho currently faces. Furthermore, the recommendations made by the SADC commission still have not been fully implemented, increasing the risk of losing AGOA benefits. The MCC Compact positively impacted the lives of hundreds of thousands of Basotho people and the country must do more to qualify for a second compact.
1 Southern African Customs Union