The long queues are a sign of a failing state

The long queues are a sign of a failing state

The long queues when crossing borders between Lesotho and South Africa are bad. Over the years, the queues have been getting longer and not shorter.  This is concerning because the impression is created that our government either does not see anything wrong with this, or the government is incompetent to address the underlying causes.

The queues are long because many Basotho have to go to South Africa. They go to the republic driven by survival instincts than the pursuit of greener pastures.  To live in Lesotho is hard. In fact, very hard unless you are part of an existing patronage network which takes away some of the hardship.
Because those who are outside this network have no jobs or viable prospects to access income generating opportunities, they cross the border to search for opportunities to survive.

Those who are inside the circle of patronage have different motives for crossing. They skip the country to dodge the bad schools and bad health facilities in Lesotho.  Lately however, even those outside the patronage networks are queueing to escape the same absence of good schools and decent medical facilities here.

Other Basotho cross our borders for commercial and not survivalist reasons: they go to buy food, clothes and many other things we are either too lazy to produce or make ourselves, or we lack the competence to create back here.
Many more cross the border to attend funerals, weddings and other social events of relatives and friends who live in South Africa. Many of these relatives and friends were once upon a time, irrevocably tied to Lesotho.

But because Lesotho inexplicably does not allow dual citizenship, many of these sons and daughters of this country have given up their birth right and those who have refused to, have been rendered illegal citizens in their country of birth. This is unfortunate because it is Lesotho which bears the brunt of such foolish laws.

Not only are such laws foolish, they are also out of step with reality on the ground to the point where no one is alarmed anymore by the fact that the crossers include hundreds upon hundreds of our grandmothers and grandfathers who cross the border every month to collect their South African pension even though they are also Lesotho citizens.

People are not crossing between Lesotho and South Africa because they have nothing else better to do. They do it because successive governments have failed to make life “liveable” in Lesotho.
Elsewhere in the world, good governments have policies and plans that limit the prevalence and impact of many push factors on citizens. Good governments create an environment that induces citizens to stay in their country of birth and to contribute to its construction and development.
Bad and incompetent governments however, have no such policies and plans. They just have plenty of excuses.
This is often manifest when politicians and government officials from such governments criticise the policies of other governments instead of coming up with their own.

Our government needs to urgently eradicate the factors pushing Basotho out of Lesotho. The long queues and border congestion will only go away when government confronts head on the underlying causal factors.  The longer this takes, the more incompetent and out of their depth our government will appear. No self-respecting person accepts the current border situation. It’s frustrating. In fact, it makes me and many people very angry.  But perhaps the ultimate anger trigger, is a politician or a government official who cuts to the front of the queue because they have a diplomatic passport.

It’s not right that they are exempt the indignity and humiliation of standing like animals under the hot sun like the rest of us. They don’t get to feel the same humiliation and discomfort.  This deprives them the incentive to do their job vigorously i.e. to work hard to mitigate or even eliminate the push factors causing people out of Lesotho.

It’s too early in the year to be whining, but the untenable situation at our border crossings cannot go unmentioned. It is in our government’s control to turn this situation around. Our politicians need to be reminded that the honeymoon period ended the day the current Prime Minister was sworn in.
These long queues have nothing to do with policy and border operational changes in South Africa. The long queues have everything to do with governments in Lesotho not doing enough to bring about conditions that anchor Basotho in Lesotho.

If the requisite conditions were in place, Basotho would eke out a living right here in the kingdom.  All Basotho children would attend schools right here in the kingdom. Those who are sick, would receive treatment right here in the kingdom. Most goods and services would be sourced right here in the kingdom.

Basotho have given this government a clear mandate i.e. to govern this country and to bring about growth and prosperity for all Basotho. The long queues at the border crossings do not engender confidence that this is being done. The Government must work harder.

Poloko Khabele

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