By: Theko Tlebere
One of the resounding reasons why a lot of people in Lesotho are dismally disappointed in the current government that is let by the All Basotho Convention(ABC) is that, none of their manifesto pointers for the past four elections have been achieved. Those dashing hopes are the actual drive to today’s series because I am hoping Basotho can ignite their interest in party manifestos as before. I introduce today’s series with a thorny connotation for many because a good manifesto is actually scaled by the number of votes attained after elections, and we all know how the yellow party performed in the successive elections. Therefore allow me this week to scale it down by intersecting what should be the underlying factor in scaling a good manifesto, so that we are able to make an epochal interrogation on the relevance of manifestos in modern politics.
The element of relevance is actually the core of our arguments this week, and this is simply because every Tom and Jerry can easily tell and relate their manifesto without really showcasing the ‘How and When’ part. I want to make an explicit example of a political party in Lesotho that promised people from the age of sixty(60) that they will be eligible for pension. When they got into power they probably forgot or decided to ignore that policy because there was no clear foundational background of how such a policy will be made the agenda of their government. The issue of relevance comes into the picture where after being in government for more than five years, and failed with distinction to fulfill your own manifesto, yet you still have the audacity to go back to the masses and present yet another manifesto with the same contents but different words.
Another sterling example that I just remembered is a very well decorated billboard of a party leader with a huge tractor and good maize crops behind him and the slogan ‘sera sa motho ke tlala’(meaning hunger is the biggest enemy of human kind). That billboard actually said a lot about the manifesto of that political party because it was plunged across the towns of Lesotho. The irony around such billboards is that even though they can sell party manifestos very well, they also have a negative effect of causing people not to have interest in manifestos and find them irrelevant in this era because none of them become their agenda when they are in power.
The examples made above are actually meant to trigger our thinking capacities beyond that particular political party’s manifesto. In Lesotho the trending element is to hold leaders of political parties accountable and not the entire political party. That doctrine of analogy has kept many people only interested in individual manifestos forgetting that government is team work, and should be taken as such when we consider manifestos now that Lesotho is going for elections. The manifestation of party manifestos against individual manifestos is integral in making sure manifestos are still relevant in our modern politics because we will not only punish individuals but the whole party if they fail to turn their manifesto into their agenda.
The main reason for my take about the relevance of party manifestos and not individual manifestos is because in Lesotho changing parties and or forming one is like getting a piece of cake. Therefore we need to uphold unto the principle of organizational setup, which should be resembled in the formation of various political party manifestos. Remember that every political party has its mission,purpose and vision as its evergreen statement, while a manifesto spurs action and emotion in that particular moment. Manifestos are regarded as an argument for a better way of doing things, a huge exciting idea, social or political stance or core belief that the entire nation can follow. Manifestos normally need an enemy or something to fight against or an action to take to make such a manifesto relevant in the public domain.
In the above phrases, we mentioned a highlight of the word ‘agenda’, therefore just for our elitist readers allow me not to leave this chapter without making a conceptualization of agenda in the political spectrum so that we do not leave anyone behind. Fisher et al (2007) transcribes agenda as a list of subjects or problems(issues) that a certain clique of government officials as well as individuals outside government are paying sedate attention to, especially after election period. Agenda actually makes an issue relevant in the public domain hence, most often than not it is shaped by political and policy elites, but it can also be influenced by activist groups, thank tank institutions, courts, private sector and media. In Lesotho media has been renowned for its ability to set up ideas for an agenda that is inclined to a certain political party. At the end of the day a political party, or any government cannot have a well articulate agenda without having build a strong manifesto in the first place.
The issue of relevance has without a doubt been extrapolated in a way that we should be on the same page by now. But my attention to the Yellow party should not be taken as an attack to that particular party, but it should be viewed as a token of best practices learned from the non-achievement of another in relation to manifestos ONLY. Therefore you will agree with me that despite the shenanigans that political parties do, manifestos are still relevant and should be made by all parties despite their failure in previous regimes. Lets stop here for now, next week we shall be engaging on what a best manifesto looks like and why its important to have the best manifesto. The future is Now!