Dr Makoae: I am here to serve

Dr Makoae: I am here to serve

Abel Chapatarongo

MASERU – BY 2002, the Basotho National Party (BNP) which had dominated Lesotho’s national politics since independence in 1966 was in free-fall.

The party had been ousted from power in a bloodless coup in 1986 triggering a chain of events that left the BNP a shell of its former self.

Thousands of supporters deserted the party. The party was torn by bitter leadership squabbles.

The BNP had its back against the wall, metaphorically speaking.

While the BNP was in decline, the then ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) led by Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili was on its ascendancy.

It was under those circumstances that Dr Lucia Nthabiseng Makoae felt the need to answer the party’s call to duty by “being part of the solution”.

“It was not nice when our government fell and after 2002, I realised that our party was going down. I felt I wanted to be part of the solution and I joined politics full-time,” she says.

She says she noticed a general apathy among their supporters who were now joining the new political parties.

Makoae says the biggest problem facing the BNP then was “the management of the party particularly in terms of resources”.

“I thought I could contribute as part of the solution,” she says.

Makoae was elected the BNP’s deputy treasurer in 2010. That decision set her on a collision course with her employers at the National University of Lesotho (NUL).

Having jumped into politics full-time, Dr Makoae says she had a tough time explaining her new-found “vocation” to her bosses and friends at the university.

Under the university’s rules, employees are not allowed to hold any executive positions in political parties.

Two years after her formal entry into politics, Makoae resigned from her teaching position at the NUL to become a Proportional Representation (PR) MP under the BNP after the 2012 general election.

She says some of her colleagues at the NUL did not understand her decision to quit describing it as “too risky” given the turbulence in Lesotho’s politics.

“They could not understand why I was joining politics,” she says.

“But I was really passionate about politics. To me I believe politics is about people’s lives more than thinking it’s a way to make money.”

After the 2012 general election, Makoae was appointed Deputy Minister of Health in the coalition government led by Prime Minister Thomas Thabane.

Having been thrown into the deep end, Makoae says she came face-to-face with the “ugly” side of Parliament while discharging her duties.

She says she was extremely disturbed and disappointed by the “noise” she saw in Parliament with very few cogent arguments and debates about critical issues that affect Basotho.

“I have watched the South African Parliament, yes it is rowdy but you see people looking at issues that affect the nation. The legislature carries out its oversight work,” she says.

“We are MPs in the opposition but we are still amazed at how Parliament works,” she says.

Makoae says with the benefit of hindsight the coalition government led by Thabane could have done things slightly differently to ensure it did not collapse.

She cites the issue of communication among coalition leaders.

“The coalition government was a new phenomenon and we were not used to it,” she says.

She says the allocation of ministries among the governing partners meant that they were always in a “campaign mode” as they fought to out-do each other every day in preparation for the next election.

That competitive streak among coalition partners led to the government’s downfall, she says.

“Every party tried to use its own ministries to build their own parties. That took priority over services we were supposed to render to the public and that did not make me very comfortable.”

Makoae says Basotho must learn how to manage coalitions “because coalition governments are here to stay”.

She says she does not see any single party garnering majority seats to form government on its own in the next election scheduled for 2020.

“We have to learn how they function,” she says.

Makoae says as an MP she can see that “things have gone really wrong for Lesotho” over the past two years “particularly after the new government took over in March 2015”.

Her biggest gripe with the current government is its failure to provide security for some of its citizens.

“They (new government) have failed to establish trust between themselves and the opposition. The government has failed to provide safety and security to opposition leaders forcing them to go into exile.”

She says the killing of former Lesotho army commander Maaparankoe Mahao was also a dark patch in the history of the country.

But how do we take Lesotho forward?

Makoae says those accused of serious human rights violations must be brought to book and face justice.

She argues implementing Justice Mphapi Phumaphi’s recommendations in full would be the first key step to national reconciliation.

“The government must abide by Phumaphi’s recommendations. That is all that Basotho want and nothing else,” she says.

Makoae also took a swipe at the Amnesty Bill 2016 claiming it is part of an intricate plan by the government to “promote impunity”.

“They will use the Bill not to promote Phumaphi’s recommendations. The BNP does not agree with a blanket amnesty,” she says.

But away from politics, Dr Makoae has had a colourful life in public service starting as a nurse at Queen Elizabeth II Hospital in Maseru 40 years ago.

She says during those days, the career paths for young Basotho women were quite limited where one would either be a nurse, a policeman or a teacher with a few going to university.

“Those were the only disciplines available,” she says.

In 1977, Makoae left Lesotho for Port Elizabeth in South Africa to study midwifery. She later enrolled for a three-year Bachelor of Education in Nursing at the University of Botswana in 1980. She completed her degree in 1983.

After her studies in Botswana, Makoae came back home and lectured at the Queen Elizabeth II School of Nursing teaching midwifery.

She later enrolled for a one year Master’s in Public Health at the Hebrew University in Israel. After her studies in Israel, Makoae came back home and joined a research project on sanitation where her interest in research was stimulated and nurtured.

“I felt passionate to understand why people were behaving the way they were behaving. I later joined the Ministry of Health and conducted quite a number of studies for the ministry.”

When the first cases of HIV/AIDS burst onto the scene, Makoae, who was now working for the Ministry of Health, says they were in shock and did not know at first how to respond to the disease.

“There was no treatment. We were in shock but the World Health Organisation would always guide us. They sent consultants to do surveys to understand what was happening.”

She says during those early days Mapoteng’s Seventh Day Adventist Hospital was the only institution offering an HIV drug, AZT.

It was also during the same period that they carried out a comprehensive survey to find out the traditional strategies Basotho were using to cope with the AIDS pandemic.

They discovered that most Basotho were resorting to herbs and other traditional medicines to “fight the disease”.

Makoae, a holder of a PhD, taught at the NUL in the Faculty of Health Sciences since 2001. She says her thesis, which examined the issue of maternal and child care, was inspired after realizing that the majority of Basotho women “were not delivering their babies in health  institutions”.

They were delivering with the assistance of “traditional birth attendants” and they were dying, she says.

She says the majority of women did not have money to pay for services at clinics and hospitals while others stayed far from such institutions.

Makoae was born in 1953 in White Hill in Qacha’s Nek to a mother who was a domestic worker in South Africa.

Previous Matlama vow to bounce back
Next BBH back in form

About author

You might also like

News

Bantu vow to appeal

MASERU- Bantu president John Leuta has defended the club’s honour after the defending Econet Premier League champions were found guilty of using fraudulently registered players by the Lesotho Football Association’s Dispute

Local News

Mda’s law office burnt down

MASERU – CASE files and a legal library built over decades went up in smoke when fire gutted Advocate Zwelakhe Mda (KC)’s offices in Mafeteng on Sunday night. The building,

Local News

The pain of rejection

MASERU – Reformed but rejected by his own, a Qoaling man finds jail more homely. Notorious for housebreakings in his village, Sekoahelo Sekoahelo found religion in jail, hoping to put his