All Basotho Crying (ABC)

All Basotho Crying (ABC)

IN the last election urban voters overwhelmingly supported Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s All Basotho Convention (ABC).
They were desperate for a new government and the ABC looked like the only viable option at that time.
For years they had been caught in a cycle of corruption and maladministration.
What they wanted in Thabane is a new leadership that would change their lives.
Thabane struck a chord with the middle class, farmers, factory workers, civil servants, taxi owners, small business owners and other urban voters who were eager for change and desperate to recapture economic opportunity in their industries and communities.

But two years later many of those voters have come to believe that their hope was horribly misplaced.
I have spoken to many staunch ABC supporters who say they feel used and cheated.
Their frustration is not overdone.
They see that their lives have not changed and the economy is crumbling.
Under Thabane and his coalition partners Basotho are now caught up in a toxic cycle of poverty. The economy is ailing, their incomes have stagnated and debt is gnawing at their earnings.
The economy is now dominated by a few Chinese individuals amassing super profits while local businesses are shutting down.

Citizens are dying in police custody and police torture is on the increase.
Corruption is rampant and poverty increasing.
These are the same things that Thabane promised to sort out.
The people voted for him because he said he had solutions to those problems.
But now he seems to stand arms akimbo while things get out of hand.
At a youth protest march organised by Transform Lesotho Initiative a few weeks ago I saw a placard that said “All Basotho Crying (ABC)”.

That placard aptly captured the anger and frustration in the country.
It told a story of a people who have lost hope in their government and leadership.
It reaffirmed my belief that democracy can give you popular leaders but will never guarantee that they will be competent.
Thabane was popular enough to win the election but has clearly failed to deliver on his promises and mandate.  That is why Basotho are screaming about his government.
The ‘All Basotho Crying” placard is not an exaggeration because Thabane has failed nearly all sectors of this country.
The government is failing to pay pensioners on time, with some going for several months without receiving a cent. The youth remain unemployed as government officials parcel out jobs to party functionaries, relatives and friends.
Tenders are being rigged to favour a few Chinese and some locals who are connected.
The National University of Lesotho (NUL) is on the verge of shutting down because the government is too broke to increase the subvention.

The police are angry at the government for failing to pay their six percent salary increase. Civil servants are furious after government failed to review their salaries this year.
Teachers are still fighting over salaries, promotions and work conditions.
The government is struggling to pay suppliers and some have already closed shop.
As I write this, 700 000 Basotho are said to be facing starvation.
When the wool and mohair regulations were announced, the government promised that farmers will get better prices and reduce their transport costs.
We were told that this was for the good of the local economy. Today 40 000 farmers and their half a million dependents are on the verge of starvation.

There is no sign that the regulations have led to growth in the rural economies.
The government cannot tell us how much taxes were collected after the localisation of the wool and mohair trade.
Instead, what we have are endless excuses from both the government and their broker, Stone Shi.
When farmers complain they are accused of being used by opposition politicians.
Those that have not been paid are blamed for not following procedure or failing to provide their banking details.
Small businesses that cook for primary students are crying foul over late payments. In fact some have not been paid for several months now.

Nurses at Queen ’Mamohato Memorial Hospital have been embarking on go-slows on several occasions. Thousands of patients have suffered during those times because they were forced to wait for hours in the hospital beds and queues without being attended to.
Even my tenderpreneur friends are crying because they no longer get government orders. Once upon a time they used to get two to three orders per quarter.
Young people recently petitioned Thabane to address an array of grievances that include unemployment, reckless government spending and high business registration fees.
They are crying because it has never been this hard to do business and to get hired in this country.

When I think about the qualities of a good leader I might use terms like vision, ambition, discipline, and inspiration. But leadership is also about restraint and knowing when to quit. The problem with leaders like Thabane is that they refuse to leave whilst still at their best. Some stick around to mistakes which outlive their accomplishments.
I have no doubt that Thabane has nothing new to offer to this country. He has done his part and must make way for other people.
Good leaders know that admission of failure is not a sign of weakness but strength. Those who admit failure are capable of stepping down for the greater good. I am not saying the new leaders will succeed. How they perform is a matter for another day. What we know for now is that the incumbent has failed and its time for him to rest. Even the most passionate ABC supporters are beginning to see things that way.

Ramahooana Matlosa

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