IN March this year the European Union (EU) refused to release 26.85 million euros (M391 million) it had allocated to Lesotho for budgetary support.
At that time the EU said the Lesotho government had failed to adhere to the terms and conditions set in the agreement for the funding.
In other words the government had repeatedly failed to account and report on how it had used the money. And this was despite several reminders from the EU to comply.
Now EU ambassador to Lesotho, Dr Michael Doyle, says they are trying to help the government comply and “fix the issues”.
We find this unacceptable but hardly surprising. For years donors and development partners have complained about the government’s failure to account for their monies.
The sad truth is that we have taken donors’ help for granted. Yet a huge chunk of our budget comes from grants and donations.
That we can lose such a huge amount of money over simple administrative issues like reporting and accounting is a serious indictment on the whole government. Anywhere else heads would have rolled.
If we cannot treat other people’s monies with care how then can we be expected to handle our own?
There is a sickening notion in government and Lesotho as a whole that donor funds are ours to spend as we wish.
That is why we see no problem with diverting such funds to non-essential issues.
What remains of the funds when the financial year is about to close is spent recklessly on unproductive workshops and travel.
When time comes to report back on progress and account for the money we endlessly complained about donors either being too hard on us or not understanding that Lesotho is “unique”.
The same attitude is prevalent in the NGO sector. We see the same cavalier attitude in the way government money is used.
The truth though is that more often than not we have been unfair to the donors. Time and again they have come to our rescue.
We have abused their benevolence for too long and the EU has just decided to draw the line. There is not a single government department that can claim that it has never received donor funds. That money has helped in building infrastructure, strengthening systems and funding social programmes.
That the EU now wants to help the government comply shows that it is committed to assisting the country.
Yet such handholding is unnecessary, especially for a country that has been dealing with donors for years and needs their help now more than ever before.
Part of the problem, we suspect, is that we are so fixated with politics that we forget to deal with issues that matter.
That is what could have happened with the EU’s budgetary support. We have neglected core government programmes because we are busy pursuing political gains.
Our plea to those in power is to remember that they are there to serve the people. Their bickering should not affect government projects and relations with development partners.
Donors have now become stingy with their money. They are just more careful with who they give the money and more watchful about how it is spent.
The onus is on Lesotho to prove that it can still be trusted to toe the line when it comes to accountability.
Purge of was long overdue
THIS week, the Sam Matekane-led government embarked on a massive exercise to purge the civil service of individuals who were un-procedurally recruited under the previous administration.
The Ministry of Communications has already booted out 70 temporary workers.
A further 3 593 workers at the Ministry of Public Service are also facing a similar fate after they were unlawfully appointed into the civil service.
About 6 000 workers are likely to be affected by the clean-up exercise.
While the repercussions at the personal level will be devastating, we would like to believe that this exercise was long overdue as it gives the government a chance to clean up a civil service that had become beholden to narrow political interests.
Successive governments in Lesotho had for years been forced to fend off allegations that they were in the business of dishing out jobs to their cronies on the basis of political affiliation, a charge they feebly denied.
Such nepotistic practices resulted in the government flooding the civil service with their cronies who in most cases were hopelessly unqualified for the jobs.
This was one of the major grievances among Basotho for years. It caused much frustration for Basotho.
It is against this basis that we think an exercise to clean up the civil service of political appointees was long overdue.
Predictably, the opposition is not happy with the Matekane-led government’s push to fire the workers. That was to be expected.
We would like to argue that the opposition must accept part of the blame for creating the mess in the first place. It would be an act of duplicity to deny culpability when they were at the centre of the mess for years.
The opposition needs to accept that mistakes were made so that they can become part of the process in seeking cogent proposals on how this can now be fixed.
The government must now demonstrate that it is committed to a truly clean, transparent process in fixing the mess.
This would be good for Lesotho.
In its zeal to clean up the civil service, the government must ensure that this purge does not create chaos and halt developmental projects that were already in full swing.
It must ensure that there is continuity.
It is obvious that the civil servants who are being booted will need to be replaced. These jobs will need to be advertised in a clear, transparent process to give every Mosotho a fair chance for a crack at the jobs.
It would be sad were the government to seek to purge the civil servants only to create vacancies for their own Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) supporters. We hope the government will not fall into this trap.
If that is done, that would be tragic. This should be a government for all Basotho
The Matekane-led government came into power on the basis that it would do better than the previous regimes that were in charge. They set the bar higher for themselves and so they must deliver.
It is our hope that the government will extend this exercise to clean up the civil service of all ghost workers. A lean, clean civil service will certainly better for the interests of Basotho.
We also note with satisfaction that the government has begun floating adverts inviting qualified Basotho to start applying for the posts of Principal Secretaries.
That process must be free of political contamination.
It’s time to go, chief!
ELSEWHERE in this issue we carry a story of a looming power struggle in the opposition Alliance of Democrats (AD) led by veteran politician Monyane Moleleki.
After a decade at the helm of the party, Moleleki could for the first time have to overcome a challenge for the leadership of the party from his own deputy Professor Ntoi Rapapa.
Professor Rapapa, who was seen as fiercely loyal to his political mentor, has accepted nomination from his own constituency to stand for elections as party leader.
This is unprecedented in the AD, a party whose bland type of politics was one of always deferring to the leader.
We understand there is now fierce jostling behind the scenes for the leadership of the AD.
While others might see this as democracy in action, we feel there is a sense of anxiety and desperation by challengers who can’t wait to see Moleleki’s back.
It is understandable that Moleleki fears that this could lead to a bitter split, weakening a party that has never really taken off the ground despite its promises that it was ready to govern over six years ago.
The AD was thumped in last October’s general elections, winning two contested seats in Rapapa’s Moselemane and in Malibamatšo constituencies.
It also picked three compensatory seats under Lesotho’s Proportional Representation (PR) system.
There could be a feeling within the AD that Moleleki has run his course and it is now time for the party to take a new route under a younger, much more dynamic leadership.
Moleleki thus finds himself at a cross-road. Will he continue to prod on, or will he now raise his hand up and hand over the baton to his trusted lieutenant?
If Moleleki decides to run again at the elective conference next month, he will have to face a real contest without being shielded by his own party. If he loses, he could be reduced to political irrelevance. That would be sad.
However, we believe the situation need not be allowed to get to this level.
At 72, Moleleki is no longer a young man. He has been in leadership positions in various political formations for over three decades. He therefore qualifies to be seen as an elder statesman in Lesotho both in terms of his age and his stunning longevity in national politics.
Moleleki has run his race and it may be time to say goodbye!
We hope that he has no appetite to run for the biggest job in the AD when the party meets to elect a new leadership next month.
Of course we have nothing against him as a person. We in fact agree that he is a charismatic, likeable man with a wicked sense of humour. Yet we agree that age is no longer in his favour and it is now time to pass the baton.
Following its dismal performance in last October’s general elections, it is clear that the AD needs a new leadership to set the party on a new trajectory. Moleleki should accept this reality.
If he does, the AD should create a role for him as an elder statesman to provide mentorship to the new generation behind the scenes.
The nascent challenges in the AD point yet again to a political leadership that overstays in power in Lesotho.
With no term limits in place, political leaders tend to hang on to power for years, leaving their parties with no legitimate internal processes to challenge the incumbents.
That is at the root of the many splits we have witnessed in Lesotho’s political parties in the last three decades, which is sad.
Breathing life into an anemic economy
FINANCE Minister Retšelisitsoe Matlanyane made the right noises when she presented her 2023/2024 budget in Parliament on Monday.
Dr Matlanyane spoke powerfully of the urgent need to focus on economic reconstruction and recovery for Lesotho after what has been an extremely bumpy ride over the last 10 years.
It is clear that the new government that was elected into office in October last year must do things differently if it is to haul Lesotho out of the doldrums.
That is why all eyes were on Dr Matlanyane to see if there would be any major departures from the usual platitudes that we had grown accustomed to during budget speeches in the past.
We must hasten to state that this budget speech sounded different both in terms of its fluidity and the absence of verbose economic jargon that does not reach the hearts and minds of ordinary Basotho.
Congratulations to those who drafted and penned the document behind the scenes.
Dr Matlanyane correctly identified the major challenges facing Lesotho and was also clear on what needs to be done to breathe life into the country’s anemic economy.
We agree with most of her diagnosis of what ails this country and the medicine that is required to cure it of its ills.
If all that Dr Matlanyane spoke of is implemented, we believe Lesotho will be able to solve 90 percent of all the issues that have held this great country back from fulfilling its dreams.
Dr Matlanyane spoke of the need to “secure inclusive and sustainable growth by focusing on food self-sufficiency through improved productivity in agriculture, aggressive industrialisation and building of value chains, rehabilitation of and building of key infrastructure that supports the private sector to thrive”.
In a nutshell, that is the key that will unlock Lesotho’s potential. We have argued in previous editorials on the urgent need to plough massive resources into the agriculture sector.
Very little has been done to revamp agriculture and resuscitate our comatose economy.
Thankfully, the Sam Matekane-led government is clear on what needs to be done. The test of course will be whether the government will plough enough resources into agriculture to ensure it becomes the engine to drive economic growth.
We now wait anxiously to see how the government implements some of the projects Dr Matlanyane alluded to in her budget speech.
Basotho are eager to see instant results. In the era of instant noodles, she has no time to waste. She must deliver.
Apart from agriculture, we believe as we have argued in previous editorials, that the tourism sector provides what could be seen as very low hanging fruits ready for the taking.
We have some of the most stunningly beautiful mountains in the world. If marketed properly, Lesotho can be a tourism “Mecca” in Africa. Sadly, that has not been done for decades.
It will require massive investment in the sector by building hotels and lodges in remote districts so that tourists can spend more dollars in the country rather than drive to Clarens in South Africa after their tour.
The current set-up is woefully inadequate.
We need a massive shake-up in the tourism sector so that it can rise from its current slumber. That will require that the government sends students to study tourism management in South Africa,
Kenya and Zimbabwe and see how things are done elsewhere. That practical training will be invaluable for Lesotho in the long run.
On the back of a stunning electoral victory, Basotho have entrusted Matekane to drive the change agenda. He only has a five-year grace period before their patience wears off.
That is why the government needs to act now.
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