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Key findings
  • A majority (57%) of Basotho say the government should be accountable to the people, even if that limits its efficiency. But a growing number of citizens are prioritizing a government that can “get things done.”
  • Basotho support limits on executive power. Majorities say the prime minister should be accountable to Parliament (62%) and must always obey laws and courts (86%). More than half of citizens say that in practice, the prime minister “rarely” or “never” ignores Parliament and the courts.
  • Six in 10 Basotho (62%) also favour limiting the prime minister to a maximum of two terms in office.
  • A majority (57%) of Basotho say that information held by public officials should be accessible to the public. But about four in 10 believe they would have trouble obtaining information about development plans and school budgets.

The principle of accountability, described as early as the 19th century by Alexis de Tocqueville, is central to the functioning of democratic rule. Citizens bestow legitimacy upon representatives to govern on their behalf through the process by which representatives are chosen and the “rules” they must adhere to (Behn, 2001; Ferejohn, 1999; Schedler, Diamond, & Plattner, 1999). Accountability ensures that if elected representatives breach this mandate, they will face consequences in court or at the ballot box (Chambers, 2003)

Lesotho’s turbulent recent history has been marked by crises of accountability, including what Sejanamane (2015) called a collapse of the rule of law when court cases brought by soldiers detained on charges of mutiny after the reinstatement Lt. Gen. Tlali Kamoli as commander of the Lesotho Defence Force in 2015, were ignored. The crisis deepened with the assassination of Lt. Gen. Maaparankoe Mahao, in which members of the National Army were suspected. The Lesotho government’s resistance to accepting a Southern African Development Community Commission of Enquiry report on the assassination (ENCA, 2015; Shale, 2015) is seen as tantamount to refusing to be accountable to the nation (Southern African Litigation Centre, 2016).

This dispatch uses Afrobarometer survey data to explore popular attitudes toward accountability in Lesotho. The data show that Basotho widely favour accountable government over purely efficient government, even if this gap has been closing over the past half-decade. Basotho affirm limits on the powers of the prime minister, who they say should be bound by laws, accountable to Parliament, and limited to a maximum of two terms in office.

A majority of Basotho also demand public access to information held by government agencies, even if substantial minorities doubt they could obtain such information.

Thomas Isbell

Thomas was formerly capacity building manager (advanced analysis track)<br /> for Afrobarometer.

Libuseng Malephane

Libuseng Malephane is the national investigator for Lesotho.