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A bunch of flip-floppers



Flip-flopping in politics can be deadly for politicians. Just ask Temeki Tšolo about the energy contract with Fraser or Lesego Makgothi and Motsoahae Thabane about Western Sahara. Changing your stance can make you seem unprincipled and deceiving. But sometimes, politicians can get away with it, if it is done right. I have been concerned lately with the way some political leaders get away with flip-flopping. According to the Oxford Dictionary, flip-flop is a verb which means “to make an abrupt reversal of policy”. This week I want to look at a bunch of flip-floppers who think they are smarter than the electorate. I have never come across a political party that flip-flops like the All Basotho Convention (ABC). Is it okay to flip-flop as a Prime Minister or MP? Shouldn’t these people, at a certain age, have their basic ideology in place whether they are pro-Western Sahara’s independence, political party formations, human rights and workers’ rights? It seems that each election season, our politicians find out the hard way that their personal beliefs may not align with the voters they are courting. So they may flip or flop. This is the season for flip-flops — the political U-turns that politicians make when they need to change their positions. In my opinion politicians without principles flip-flop in their voting behaviour. In other words, they change their position on a given issue depending on how close they are to elections. For example, at one point the ABC-led government was in favour of the Transitional Justice Commission Bill but now their spokesperson Montoeli Masoetsa is speaking against the Bill, talking their usual rule of law rhetoric. I have noticed that ABC MPs follow the party line in the early stages of their term in office, but change position mid-term to serve their interests. Then when election time approaches they find something big to campaign on or apologise for their mistakes. This is a strategy used to maximise the chances of re-election. In this way, their flip-flop behaviour doesn’t affect the majority of voters, who don’t care about this issue but allows them to secure the vote of the minorities of single-minded voters. And since voters tend to have short memories and forget their politicians’ earlier positions, they can get away with this by targeting single-minded voters. As a result, a minority comes to play an important role versus a more apathetic majority. Then there are the unscrupulous political party leaders, like Thabane, who make screeching U-turns on pivotal issues to ride advantageous political winds. There is an art to the political flip-flop, and the ABC leader, Thabane, has mastered it. Depending on the issue, how it plays out will differ, but the key is always to make it genuine. He asked for forgiveness in 2006 from factory workers after forming a political party, blaming the then Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili. He had earlier instructed the police to shoot the workers during protests when he was Minister of Police. Thabane is a political waffler with no core convictions. It is rare that a politician stands up and says, “I changed my mind.” When they do, they do not always win. But Thabane got away with murder. His disciples like Tšolo, Lehlohonolo Moramotse, Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro and Prof Nqosa Mahao have learned from the Master. Majoro recently launched a private sector-led Fund called Sesiu Sa Letsoele le beta Poho. A special purpose vehicle designed to fund acquisition and distribution of Covid–19 vaccine(s) that will augment the efforts made by government. But the Prime Minister and Minister of Health later fought this initiative. I later discovered that this flip-flopping came as a result of the government demanding from the fund, for them to deposit the money into the government purse. ABC members have perfected the art of flip-flopping. Though they might appear to change positions, they do so in a way that does not make them seem unreliable to their key stakeholders. But I am afraid stakeholders often see through their plans. It has come to my attention that some of the reliable clients of the duty-free alcohol are high ranking government officials. This was revealed after the South African government declared a handful of diplomats as persona non grata because of trading in the duty-free alcohol, therefore violating diplomatic privileges. Some of these diplomats made shocking revelations that high-ranking government officials benefited from the duty free alcohol. But those whose names were implicated denied ever being involved. In fact, Moramotse said he does not drink alcohol. The same Moramotse who was caught buying alcohol during the hard lock down when it was illegal to do so. It appears to me that flip-flopping is contagious. Thabane gave it to Professor Mahao. He is a fast learner. While working in South Africa, Mahao once confessed that Lesotho is not viable as a country and that it should be part of South Africa. But today he wants to be the Prime Minister of the same country. A year ago he spoke badly against the formation of new political parties and vowed never to form any political party. But when the ABC fired him from cabinet he formed his own political party. He has become a flip-flopper of note. In the current political landscape the charge of flip-flopping is the deadliest in politics. It is seen as a sign of lack of character. By contrast, a politician who does not change his or her mind, is considered to be of a higher calibre. Circumstances change for a lot of politicians and not all flip-flops are created equal. Voters take some of them in their stride. Politicians might never agree that what they say constitutes a flip-flop, but they all know that being seen as a flip-flopper is a very bad thing. We need to have a proper perspective and a sense of judgement so that we can discriminate between right and wrong. We need to discern between good and evil in every situation and all circumstances. This is what we want our children to be able to do for themselves so that they don’t get into trouble. Our children need to know that leaders can be principled. We need to constantly judge between truth and lies, and whether or not our confidence in other people might be betrayed. This ranges from our support of public politicians down to personal relationships. Ramahooana Matlosa

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