The essence of reform

The essence of reform

On one of the infrequent trips into town, I decided to walk counter-clockwise around the main traffic circle, past the Catholic cathedral, the fish and chips shop, and up the street to one of the oldest high schools in the country.
There is a popular take-away food enterprise owned by an international fried chicken franchise after which the bus stop is unofficially named, and from there all roads lead to all parts of the city and the rest of the country.

This is not all of Maseru City for it is a vast expanse which cannot be covered in one day’s walk, the gist of the tale is in the walk anti-clockwise around the traffic circle; for that is where I got the thought for today’s talk.

To understand a different side to a perspective, one sometimes has to follow a road less travelled if they are in pursuit of knowledge and understanding. In this instance, the circle is the hub of the life of the city for it is common for every vehicle to go clockwise around the circle at least once in a day.

Vehicles became the centre of industry after Henry Ford, Karl Benz, Gottlieb Daimler, and others invented the motorised carriage as the new and faster means of travel and delivery of goods from one point to another. The roads on which they travel were the brainchildren of John Macadam who came up with the structure of what we now call the ‘tarmac’.

The travel on this new form of tarred surface was a smooth ride, that is, only if there were no potholes that are a threat to the suspension of the motor vehicle; we have many of this in this land, and they need to be dealt with on all levels: the economic, the social, the political, the religious and the traditional.

If there is a problem in the running of anything, the basis for the solution lies in one being able to confront its source, and if needs be, to excise it if it can be lanced off. It is common knowledge that the solution to a disease lies in its antidote, and the antidote or vaccine is often made from the disease itself or the strains thereof. A viper’s venom provides the basis for its bite’s antivenom, that is; out of the toxic can be drawn the antitoxin that restores what was previously negatively affected.

The antivenin works counter the venom and in its opposing movement vanquishes the threat the poison poses to the life of the affected. In brief, this country’s political problems can be sorted out for good only if we adopt the attitude of the antivenom found in being daring in adopting the virtuous path of suppressing our vices.

Where there was once pride should be humility, and where there was once sloth should be found diligence. Where there was once hate, love should reign, and where there was once vehement denial (of which a lot I see), acceptance should be the credo.
This is just a part of the sketch, not the whole political portrait which is in this country made of two faces; the ‘Congress’ and the ‘Nazi’ sides which have for more than two score years and a decade been trying to prove who was right and who was wrong while the rest of the state lapsed into regression.

There is talk about reforms these days, but there is obviously no clear path and like in the past, they might just prove to be a no start as parties play tedious blame games and state coffers are emptied at the expense of the poor masses that are just mere cannon fodder and pawns in the political battles.

Of their welfare and peace of mind, none seem to care; because the focus is on such rigmarole practices as ‘rooting out corruption’ where one finds the effectors end up assuming the roles of witch-hunters instead of being healers to a land gone sick.
We have for the longest time been hearing talk of reforms in this land and are witnesses to the simple fact that they are actually end up as no shows. This is due to the simple fact that there is no clear locally constituted model for reforms, for all of the models to the day have all been guides fashioned by some foreign authority that is often seen as a big brother instead of being an intercessor.

Instead of one hearing two differing political sides giving their different views on what should be done to effect reforms, this kind of talks end up buried under a cacophony of blaming voices.

Who stole what, who killed who, and other such statements become the buoy by which the now precarious two-year governments stay afloat and the central figures cling on to their per diems, stipends and salaries.

From a neutral point, I think that the adoption of Morena Moshoeshoe’s philosophy of focusing on the problem and rooting it out instead of pointing fingers is what ‘is’ the solution to a peaceable negotiation problem that has been plaguing this country for the past 50+ years.
We cannot afford to have councils of fools competing in endless choruses focused on establishing who the loudest voice is and who is the most favourite or followed. The masses can now see through the curtains of the parliament and shall soon be deaf to the campaign speeches that are nicely laced with empty promises. The reality is that large parts of the current crop of politicians have careers that span over 40 years, and this means that they have possibly been in the political arena from the first day of independence on the 4th of October 1966 which is 52 years ago.
What real changes have been politically effected in those years? I miss my village headman; he is more decisive in his dealings with issues of governance and effecting change.

Since the start of the new political era beginning in 1993, there seems to have a dependence on external opinion on issues that could be dealt with locally. The culmination or the beginning of this kind of political attitude can be seen in the 1998 political uprising and the subsequent SANDF (SADC?) intervention, which began what I term ‘the big brother’ syndrome, where Lesotho’s politicians seem to have adopted the notion of the small boy that calls upon the elder brother whenever they feel threatened or abused by their peers on the playground.

Instead of finding amicable solutions to prevailing political problems, the tendency has been to resort to external intermediation instead of sitting down to doing the job one (the politician) is paid for, which is to parley in parliament for the sake of the welfare of the voters that got them into the house on top of the Maseru hill.

I just find it rather obtuse of the politician to pretend that the dross of political incontinence can be amicably resolved without resorting to blame games that end up in stalemates.
The reality of the matter is that all of us in this land are relatives in more ways than one, and this is coupled with the fact that we have knowingly or unconsciously wronged each other in some way over the years.

Pretending that we have not done so and playing the saint can only see this state recede further into the shadows of regression where it now seems to be a permanent resident. Pretence never got anyone anywhere except nowhere, the where this country has slowly been going to in the past 52 years of political governance.

Existence entails fulfilling the responsibilities one is vested with, and as a patriotic citizen in a kingdom loyalty to king and state is paramount.
If it seems that the king is forgotten and only the opinion of the politician who is him or herself a commoner counts far more than that of the king, we are bound to have the kind of sickness of the land as found in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

The people will gather into councils of accusers and witch-hunters bent more on punishment than restoration, focused more on revenge than reconciliation, and in the process, we shall never recover the last remaining vestige of our Bosotho but shall instead become a creature we do not know.

When that creature reaches full fruition, we will not be able to look at its countenance for the ugliness it will portray. I can hardly understand the reason why certain individuals think their opinion is more right just because they follow a certain party or wear certain colours or are members of a given group.

Everyone is right as far as I am concerned, as long as their righteousness does not infringe on the rights of others or subjects them to unsavoury living conditions that we are all witnesses to in this country.
My anti-clockwise walk around Maseru’s main traffic circle landed me among a group of men waiting to be employed as cheap labour by contractors that come looking for them. In their foreground is the circle with its endless stream of cars, and the cathedral is their background.
They wait not because they are ‘mekoao’, they wait because they carry the everyday hope that someone will come along and give them a job that will put food on their table. Hunger and unemployment is a reality these proposed reforms should focus on.

Politicians can send each other to jail to prove their point, but we should be able to eat and live whilst they are placating each other in parliament.
I have seen eras pass and go and I had two degrees, was unemployed until I decided to employ my hands. Some graduates may not think as I do, others may feel that they cannot steep as low as doing garden jobs to put food on the table; I do not blame them but the government for not fulfilling its campaign speech promises.

One is from the first day in the classroom promised a posh job upon completion of their education (as if one’s education ever ends), and for one to face the reality is hard especially if the figure or institution that made the promise reneges on the promise that they made.

The statement that ‘there are no jobs’ is cursory in form, and it insults the efforts of those that bothered to go to school just so they could get a job. In fact, it is a selfish statement made from a podium that should instil a sense of hope to the hopeless from figures that promise to end the scourge of poverty and unemployment in their lobbying rhetoric; it sounds absurd.
It is time politicians commit to the promises made before they ascended office, not the lame excuses one has somehow gotten used to hearing over the passage of time.

Reform to me sounds like the carpenter’s job where one is sometimes forced to plane across the grain to attain a certain finish to the piece of wood they are turning into furniture. To think that the only way to go about the reforms is where only party and parliament politics shall be involved in the talks seems a whimsical wish that will never get to see the light of day.

It took a few decades to get this country to the point where it is today, it might take longer to get it to the level it was before the deluge of political battles changed its face and lowered its rate of progress to the current snail pace.
We cannot afford to be self-righteous about the manner in which the reforms need to be undertaken; we cannot afford to be political about it for it was politics that put us where we are today.

We can only forge a visible path towards progress if all are included, that is, the ordinary people, the political, the apolitical, the religious, the traditional, and even those whose voices are suppressed and their concerns are often not addressed. Reform sometimes means going against one’s interests for the sake of the greater good; it can be a bitter pill to swallow: but good medicine is often bitter.

Tsepiso S Mothibi

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