‘We need visionary leadership’

‘We need visionary leadership’

MASERU – Samuel Rapapa was only eight when he witnessed armed soldiers storm their house in Mapoteng, about 70km north of Maseru, and beat up his father in the wake of the 1970 political crisis.
His father was an active member of the Basutoland Congress Party (BCP) which was involved in a bitter tussle for political supremacy with the then government led by Chief Leabua Jonathan.

Rapapa says the beating of his father by armed soldiers was a huge wake-up call regarding the political situation in Lesotho. It was the moment when he became politically conscious of his environment.
Even though he was a young boy during that turbulent period, he vividly remembers the terror and humiliation that people were subjected to.
“I thought one day I will revenge my father’s ill-treatment,” he says.

Rapapa’s father, Makutselane Rapapa, was arrested and later charged under the Internal Security Act. He was imprisoned for nine months at the Maseru Maximum Security Prison for political activism.
Four years later in 1974, Rapapa’s Standard Five teacher, Libe Molupe, was also beaten by soldiers following an attempt by the BCP to overthrow the government.

“The soldiers broke his arm and he had to spend a month in hospital,” he says.
Rapapa says it was these two events that sowed the seeds of his fierce political activism.
“I thought I must be part of the liberation struggle and actively participate in BCP politics,” he says.

Lesotho was soon to become a hot-bed of political activism. He says it was not a surprise that some of his classmates skipped the country to join the Lesotho Liberation Army (LLA), the BCP’s armed wing that waged a low-scale armed struggle against Jonathan’s government in the 1970s and early 80’s. Rapapa says he too was tempted to skip the country and join the struggle. He however officially joined the BCP in the mid-1990s after a stint in the private sector.

Rapapa contested under the BCP ticket in the 1998 election and lost heavily to the newly formed Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) led by Dr Ntsu Mokhehle in the Mosalemane constituency in Berea.
He says he only got 190 votes against the 4 300 votes for the LCD’s winning candidate.

“I felt very bad but was not too shocked. I told myself that I would one day win the election,” he says.
After failing to make any headway with the BCP, a disillusioned Rapapa packed his bags and found a new political home when he joined the ABC about a month after its formation in 2006.

Rapapa served as a Principal Secretary in the Prime Minister’s Office until June 2014 and PS in the Ministry of Tourism, Environment and Culture from June 2014 to December of the same year when he resigned to stand for the 2015 elections.
Rapapa retained his seat in the June 3 election.

Rapapa, a Chartered Accountant who also holds a Bachelor of Commerce Accounting degree from the National University of Lesotho (NUL), says he wishes to see the government directly creating jobs to cut the high levels of unemployment in Lesotho.
The high levels of unemployment are a cause of instability, he argues.

United Nations agencies say the unemployment rate in Lesotho stands at a staggering 45 percent.
To deal with the crisis, Rapapa says the government must have a direct role to play in creating jobs for Basotho.
“The government must come up with big companies to create jobs. For instance, the Maluti Mountain Brewery was started by the government. The LNDC was started by the government and has managed to grow,” he argues.

The view will however likely offend some critics who argue that the government cannot be both a player and referee on the economic field.
The critics argue that the government’s role must be limited to leveling the playing field and creating an enabling environment for business to thrive.
Yet Rapapa says he wants to see the government directly involved in setting up companies to slay the “unemployment dragon”.
He argues that it is unacceptable that Lesotho “has so much water yet there is very little bottled water coming from Lesotho”.
“Sixty percent of the bottled water sold in Lesotho comes from South Africa with the remaining 40 percent coming from Lesotho. That is unacceptable,” he says.

Rapapa says he is also deeply concerned by the high levels of political polarisation in Lesotho.
“We need to educate our children that our politics need not separate us as a people.”
He believes Lesotho must ensure that under the proposed SADC-driven reforms a certain percentage of posts is reserved for opposition members to be appointed into Cabinet.

Rapapa says “this could work to reduce the high levels of animosity that are present in Parliament”.
He says such a “government of national unity” will ensure peace and stability in Lesotho and reduce the levels of polarisation in the country.
Rapapa says he also believes there is no need to bar talented Principal Chiefs from being appointed into Cabinet as long as they have certain critical skills that can benefit the country.

He believes Lesotho needs a visionary leadership to extricate itself from its current developmental challenges.
“This country needs someone who has a strong economic background; that will be a big challenge if we are to improve our economy. We need someone who can drive this economy to (greater heights),” he says.

But does Rapapa have any ambitions to one day lead Lesotho? “In every job people should be passionate about the ultimate pinnacle which is to become the Prime Minister. But that should be done through due process, through the structures in the party.”

Staff Reporter

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