The Kingdom and the Chaos

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Born in Shanghai in China, Zhenyu Shao moved to Lesotho 25 years ago and became a citizen in 2006. Now he’s running for parliament in his adopted country when voters go to the polls for a general election on Oct. 7. However, some Basothos, as people from the tiny landlocked kingdom surrounded by South African territory are called, aren’t so keen on a naturalized citizen assuming any power in the country, reported the Standard, an English-language, Hong Kong-based newspaper.

Shao’s unusual candidacy and how people might react to his potential victory are two more uncertainties surrounding the upcoming election in Lesotho. As University of Limpopo law professor Hoolo ‘Nyane showed in the Conversation, the county’s recent history has been replete with instability.

The All Basotho Convention political party has ruled the country of two million for the past five years. But recently, the party split, with the former Health Minister, Nkaku Kabi, supplanting Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro as party leader, Bloomberg explained. Majoro’s former boss, ex-Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, stepped down in 2020 after he became a suspect in his ex-wife’s murder. He was subsequently charged with the crime but the charges were later dropped.

The first item on the new parliamentarians’ agenda is a reform package that former lawmakers couldn’t muster the votes to pass, wrote Africanews. An electoral law would prevent legislators from switching party allegiances in their first three years in office, a move aimed to end fragile coalition governments. Other reforms would make King Letsie III the supreme commander of the armed forces, a measure that advocates hope will end political meddling in the military and vice versa.

As the South Africa-based Institute for Security Studies explained, those reforms were part of a long-awaited plan to defuse the political crisis that overtook the country in 2014. At that time, Prime Minister Thabane, claiming that the military was trying to oust him in a coup, suspended parliament under the pretext of protecting the country. The coup fizzled, South African forces entered the country and restored the peace.

Parliamentarians should also look at police brutality and how the government respects human rights, argued Amnesty International. The group listed horrible incidents and injustices that occurred in Lesotho, including when police killed a student and injured others at the National University of Lesotho when students took to the streets to protest against cuts to their stipends.

Elections are important. But the kingdom won’t overcome its chaos until a government can treat its people with respect and receive the same in return.

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