THE latest threats by the All Basotho Convention (ABC) to walk out of government following divisions over the SADC-driven National Peace and Unity Commission are yet another clear sign that all is not well within the coalition team.
It could also serve as a vivid reminder of how unstable this government, and any other coalition government, is. Since 2017, the coalition government, first led by Thomas Thabane and now under the tutelage of Moeketsi Majoro, has been wobbling from one crisis to another.
What has kept this coalition government together is a real fear that they could be swept out of power entirely were a fresh election to be held.
It would be a pity were this coalition government to collapse with less than 12 months left before the country goes for another general election.
At the centre of the latest fallout is the National Peace and Unity Commission which the ABC says is being pushed by SADC envoy Justice Dikgang Moseneke against their wishes.
The ABC argues that the proposed Commission will be a vehicle that will promote impunity.
The party has now threatened to reject the proposals when they come before parliament.
Under the terms of the Commission, soldiers and politicians who are in prison over human rights violations would be set free if they truthfully testify and prove to the Commission that their acts were politically motivated.
The Democratic Congress (DC) party and its surrogates within the coalition government are backing the Commission arguing it could help Lesotho heal following decades of conflict.
As matters stand, the two biggest parties in the coalition government are singing from two different hymn books.
SADC, which has grown increasingly impatient with Lesotho, wants its intervention swiftly concluded. That is why Justice Moseneke is beginning to make threats to whip Lesotho’s bickering leadership into line.
We cannot, at present, see how Lesotho’s political leadership, can continue to resist Justice Moseneke’s nudge towards the endorsement of the Commission without coming across as spoilers.
It is a well-known historical fact that we have been bickering as a people right from the declaration of independence in 1966. Our history drips with the tears of the oppressed.
Having sunk to our lowest levels after the assassination of Lieutenant General Maaparankoe Mahao in June 2015, we pleaded for foreign mediation that resulted in the Phumaphi Commission.
With the current deadlock, we would like to believe that we might still need external help once more so that we can come to a common understanding as a nation. Without external assistance we do not see how we can successfully resolve this issue on our own.
We remain firmly entrenched in our own positions. But either way, the deadlock must be broken.
At the same time we sense that the two main political parties are already exploiting this highly emotive issue for political capital. This will be a key electoral issue in general elections set for next year.
The two main political parties are already seeking to outdo each other on the campaign trail based on their diametrically opposed positions on the Commission issue.
We admit though that this is a highly emotive issue. Lives were lost. The families of the victims want to see justice for their dead loved ones.
They might not be prepared to forgive and move on just like that.
In the search for a solution, Justice Moseneke and SADC might need to speak to the families of the victims once more and hear them out.
Perhaps a much softer option that does not compromise the pursuit of justice can be sought while at the same time taking the country forward.
Stop the leaks
IN our last week’s issue of thepost, we reported on a story of how the Examinations Council of Lesotho (ECOL) had withheld results of six schools following the leaking of examination papers.
The leaking of the examination papers is not just a criminal matter involving teachers and school principals. It goes to the very heart of our entire school system in Lesotho.
The implications for students and the education system are therefore huge. Once the integrity of our examination system is questioned, we risk ruining the future of thousands of students who might want to further their studies outside Lesotho’s borders.
Our universities and technical colleges might also end up recruiting students who do not necessarily deserve to be there. That would be disastrous.
It is precisely for these reasons that the police must get to the bottom of this embarrassing scandal. It is no small matter.
The police must channel enough resources to weed out the culprits and drag them before courts of law. Anything short of this would have serious implications for future generations.
The cost of failing to act against the culprits will be huge, in the long run.
We are shocked that teachers and some school principals were so brazen in their violation of the law when they leaked the examination papers.
They did not just allow the students to access the question papers way before the exams. But they went on and directly “coached” their students on how to answer certain questions.
At one school, we are told, students all had uniform responses to exam questions. What this scandal has proved is that the Examinations Council of Lesotho has a serious problem on its hands.
It will need to come up with a new, radical approach to stop the rot, or we will have to kiss the integrity of our exams goodbye.
Sadly, this is not the first time that we have reported about examination papers leaking in Lesotho. It has been a perennial problem that has been happening for years.
The tragedy is that the examinations authority has still not come up with a workable system to stop the leaks and effectively punish offenders. This is why we still have this problem bobbling around every year during exam times.
The big question we must all grapple with is: So what must be done?
ECOL, as the technocrats, must come up with fresh ideas to stop the rot.
Perhaps, what is happening in the education sector is a confirmation that we recruited the wrong people to manage and run our schools. We need men and women of integrity to run the system.
If any are identified as bad apples, by leaking exams, the Ministry of Education must be extremely ruthless at expelling such teachers and principals. That is because they would have sold their soul on the altar of expediency.
We need a new policy that weeds out offenders. That policy must be applied without mercy. Only when the ministry has punished offenders appropriately will we be able to see a stop to this madness.
The days of treating teachers and school principals with kid gloves should be over.
The leaking of exam papers is a criminal matter. It must be treated as such. Once the government takes the matter from that angle, then we will see a much more aggressive and serious attempt to stop the leaks.
Tough times ahead for Lesotho
ELSEWHERE in this issue, we carry a story of the rising and desperate levels of poverty in urban areas after thousands of factory workers were emptied on the streets in the last year or two.
We are aware that the textile sector has been in the doldrums for years. That crisis was worsened following the devastating Covid-19 pandemic between 2020 and 2022.
After decades of economic mismanagement, we are beginning to reap the bitter results of a spectacular failure to diversify our economy.
And so when the textile sector catches a cold, the whole economy falls into a tailspin. With no other solid sectors to stabilise the economy, we are in serious trouble as a country.
The textile sector, with about 35 000 workers, was the second biggest employer after the civil service. That sector, unfortunately now lies in ruins.
Over the last two years, we have watched helplessly as it suffered a devastating bloodbath with thousands of jobs being lost.
That was initially due to a drop in orders from the United States.
In a bid to stay afloat, the textile companies began resorting to laying off workers. The bloodbath has not stopped. More workers continue to be thrown onto the jobless heap.
Without jobs, people can no longer provide the basics for their families. The levels of poverty and desperation have suddenly increased.
But it is not just the factory workers who have been badly hit. Those who relied on the factory workers downstream have been hit too.
Think of the hundreds of landlords in Ha-Tsolo, next to the textile factories in Thetsane. As reported in this issue, the retrenched workers have since abandoned their rented apartments. Some have reportedly sought better opportunities in South Africa while others have gone back to their rural areas.
Without any steady income coming from the rentals, the landlords in Ha-Tsolo who housed textile workers, are in deep trouble. They too were relying on textile workers to eke a living. Now the goose that lay the golden eggs is no more.
Lesotho has a large segment of informal workers. Some of these make a living by selling foodstuffs on the streets in “open kitchens” by the roadside on in their car boots.
These hawkers are now on their knees.
All this points to a real crisis for Lesotho.
If there is anything that will pose a threat to social order in Lesotho, it is the desperate levels to which people are being subjected to. Without jobs, without a basic income to cushion them from poverty, we are likely to see an explosion of anger on the streets.
That is a scary scenario.
Prime Minister Sam Matekane is in an unenviable position as leader. Two years after his rise to the premiership, he must begin to think, fast, how his government can ameliorate this crisis.
Doing nothing cannot be an option. Neither is pointing fingers at previous regimes as the author of our misery. The people think it is him who is in power and he must sort this out.
The time of apportioning blame is over. The people are no longer interested in who caused the problem. All they want is a solution.
While the people were talking of Matekane in “messianic” terms, the reality is that the Prime Minister is no messiah. He is a man of flesh and blood just like all of us.
What he really needs is a team of technocrats to back up his vision with real action on the ground in pushing his transformation agenda.
Only then can his government begin creating the jobs that Basotho desperately need.
The clock is ticking
It’s been months since the passport crisis started and the government doesn’t seem to be anywhere near solving it. Instead, we have different explanations that come across as contrived excuses.
Last year, the Ministry of Home Affairs blamed the crisis on the Russia-Ukraine war which it said had affected the supply of chips required to produce e-passports.
This time the ministry says the delay is due to a clearing agency holding on to a batch of passports in South Africa.
Granted, all those explanations could have been correct at the particular times. True, the delay could be a combination of both. The shortage of chips could have created a backlog that was then worsened by the delay at the clearing agency.
Yet the trouble is that the government doesn’t fully explain why there is a delay at the clearing agency or whether the chips are now readily available.
Because the government appears to be economical with the details, the public is left to speculate out of frustration.
To calm and assure the public the government has to forthrightly answer the following questions: Why is the agent holding on to the passports?
Could it be because the agent is holding the passports over a current or previous debt? How many passports does the agent have now?
What is the government doing to expedite the delivery of the passports from Johannesburg?
And finally, when does it expect to solve this crisis once and for all?
As long as those questions remain unanswered, the ministry and the government will continue to be pilloried and accused of making false promises.
Whatever the problem, the government should deal with it. No amount of explanation or excuses will help the thousands of desperate Basotho stuck because they don’t have passports.
The backlog of passports was 42 000 at the last count but continues to rise because the government keeps accepting new applications.
We need not remind the government that the livelihoods and education of thousands of Basotho depend on passports. We believe it’s a fundamental right.
What makes the explanation for the crisis appear hollow is the fact passports are not the only basic good the government has consistently and dismally failed to deliver.
There are no number plates and drivers’ licences. The supply of basic medicines to public hospitals and clinics has been patchy for years. Police and chiefs don’t have stationery.
Livestock owners are not getting ownership documents. The shortage of basic livestock medication is perennial. Schools don’t get textbooks on time and sometimes students go for a whole year without them. Given this reality, it is not surprising that some, including this newspaper, are not fully convinced by the government’s explanation for the delay in passports.
It doesn’t appear that this is due to a hiccup. Rather, it could be systemic. There are too many delays to too many government services and goods.
Most of those delays were inherited from the past administration but that will not mollify angry Basotho.
It was precisely because it promised to solve these persistent problems that the government was elected into power. The people have a legitimate expectation by their government will deliver on their promises. Anything short of a complete delivery will be tantamount to betrayal.
The public’s frustration is building up and it might be only a matter of time before the people completely lose confidence in the government.
It would be tragic were the government to lose the massive goodwill it still enjoys merely because it would failed to resolve a key issue such as that of passports.
The clock is ticking.
Short courses for ex-mineworkers
Stop the leaks
We need a coordinated approach on youth challenges
Mahao, PS in big fight
Call that a muffin?
How chicken import ban hit vendors
Letseng fends off threat to sue
RFP to welcome back rebel MPs
Duo in court over M1.8m fraud
Power deal divides ABC
ECOL withholds exam results over leak
Wife sues husband’s mistress for M1.5m
WASCO boss turns tables against colleague
Ex-policeboss blames Ramaphosa for Mahao death
The Market suspect granted bail
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I made Matekane rich: Moleleki
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