We too are sitting on a time-bomb

We too are sitting on a time-bomb

OVER the past week, we have noted in horror as South Africa, our biggest and closest neighbour, was being burnt to the ground.
Shops have been looted. Buildings have been burnt and livelihoods have been shattered. The damage to “brand South Africa” has been massive.
The economic cost of the riots could swell into billions of rand. Hundreds of thousands of workers are likely to be laid off. The cost of basics is also likely to shoot through the roof.

With supply chains disrupted, we are likely to start experiencing massive shortages of basics such as fuel and food.
Lesotho, which is entirely surrounded by South Africa, will likely experience the biggest hit.
In a somber address on Monday night, South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa described the violent protests as the worst to be seen since the advent of democracy in 1994.

As we watched the riots convulse the country, we were left with a sense of shock at the scale of the destruction.
We still do not understand why Ramaphosa has still not declared a state of emergency to stop the riots. One explanation we have got is that it would appear he has one eye fixed on the next general election.
He does not want to be remembered as the president who sent soldiers to shoot his own people. The Marikana massacre is still too fresh in his memory.

Yet by prevaricating, Ramaphosa has done nothing to shake off the tag that he is a weak leader who is afraid to take difficult decisions.
Ramaphosa will be remembered as the leader who failed to act swiftly to save South Africa when it was burning. The people of South Africa will not forgive him for that.
Now the people in the communities have resorted to self-help, mobilising on their own to protect themselves and their properties.
It is also quite clear that the protests are no longer about the jailing of former president Jacob Zuma. The people’s grievances appear to be much broader.

South Africa is a land of extreme inequalities. We have one community living in obscene opulence, side-by-side with those eking a living in deep squalor.
The black communities lack basic amenities. They live in shacks. They have no running water and it is a daily grind to get to the next day.
At the core of the riots are economic disparities that have not been resolved since 1994.
The bill for decades of mis-governance is now due.
But no amount of economic deprivation justifies the senseless looting we saw this week.

Lesotho should never assume this is a foreign matter that has no implications for this country. If there is anything to learn from this week’s riots, it is that we too are sitting on a time-bomb.
Basotho youths have the same grievances like their counter-parts across the border. We sense their anger and are only probably waiting for a spark to go on a similar rampage.

They think we have a small, rapacious elite that is drinking the whole milk while they starve.
They are deeply concerned about the rampant corruption in the country and the lack of access to resources. What they see is a small clique benefiting from government contracts.
They are worried by the massive unemployment levels. They are also worried by the growing levels of poverty that is spiraling out of control.

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