On 3 June, say “No” to those who believe in invisible things

On 3 June, say “No” to those who believe in invisible things

In last week’s article, I gave reasons why I was of the view that the decision by the PM not to resign was ill-considered. I gave nine reasons to explain why I thought his decision was not in the best interests of the country.

Someone I respect very much and hold in extreme high regard was not impressed. According to her, the piece wasn’t objective – in fact it was an attack against the government and the Prime Minister.

I must admit to have struggled to understand how she got to that conclusion. I couldn’t see how challenging the wisdom to exercise one constitutionally entrusted power (advise that parliament be dissolved) over a different one (resign) could be construed as an attack on the PM and being anti-government.

That this comment was coming from a smart, highly educated and well-travelled and cosmopolitan woman was most disappointing.
I had taken it for granted that she understood that having differences of opinion is not a bad thing but a good thing and that politicians must always be expected to give good reasons when exercising constitutionally entrusted powers and not exercise these powers willy-nilly as if they lead a nation of imbeciles.

She told me I must be living on a different planet. In this part of the world, you keep your mouth shut especially if your views go against powerful people in government.
Her comments reminded me of the tale of “The Emperor’s New Clothes”.

The tale goes that two weavers promised an Emperor a new suit of clothes that they said would be invisible to those unfit for their positions or were stupid or incompetent.
When the Emperor parades before his subjects in his new clothes, no one says they do not see any suit of clothes on him.
They fear that by speaking up, they will be seen as unfit for their positions, stupid or incompetent.

It takes a child to cry out “but he is not wearing anything at all.”
This tale drives home the importance to have more and not fewer of these sort of voices in society i.e. people who are prepared to appear stupid and incompetent. A whole choir of them is in fact needed.

When we don’t have such voices, Emperors are permitted to do foolish things such as to prance around exposed in public and to an outside observer, it is not the Emperor who is the more foolish but those who elect such a leader.  Our discussion about the previous week’s article did not centre on the substance of my arguments in the article but on my stupidity as she called it, to broadcast in public a view not supportive of the government of the day.

She argued that Basotho especially when in positions of power do not take kindly to the likes of the little child who cried “but he is not wearing anything at all.”
She went on to give examples of individuals who have suffered persecution after falling out of favour for daring to challenge those in command — both in and outside government structures. Her point was that given how small Lesotho is, its plain stupid to say anything bad against the government of the day or against anyone with power over you to decide whether you keep or loose a position, status etc.

She made her point well. However, I must caution that the implication of what she was saying is the continuation of our current complicity in the sustenance of a situation where many voices of reason in this country are forced to keep silent even when to speak out would be good for all and sundry.

This is problematic because it stifles debate and the generation of ideas that could make us a truly great country.

The “takeaway” for this week is that we need to shift away from being a nation of sycophants to being a nation of independent thinkers by being more like that child in the tale.
I have no solution for how this should be achieved. This is way too complex for small little me.

But I think the starting point is our collective realisation that leaders serve in government at our pleasure.
And because they serve at our pleasure, we must desist from the tendency we have to treat them as if they do us a favour when they serve in government.

We must never be afraid to call them to account and this means always having the courage to tell them that they are naked when they walk in public naked.
We must be honest and not see things which are not there (jobs, service delivery, stability, accountability, rule of law) but there only in the figment of the Emperor’s imagination. But on the flipside, we must readily acknowledge these things where there is evidence of their existence.

This starts now — with all those eligible to vote on June 3 going out to vote.
Use your vote to bring to government people who appreciate and value independent thinking and dissenting voices and not people foolish enough to believe in invisible suits and that those who don’t see the invisible, are unfit for their positions, stupid or incompetent.

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