On Tuesday next week, Lesotho will celebrate its 50th independence anniversary.
Tragically, instead of uniting the nation the celebrations have provided yet another chance to drive a wedge amongst ourselves as a people.
That is why the 50th anniversary of independence has evoked different feelings among individual Basotho depending on who you speak to.
There is no denying that the independence celebrations are coming at a difficult period for Lesotho, a period that has been marked by acrimony and bitter divisions.
Yet, we wish to argue that we would be engaging in a deliberate form of intellectual dishonesty were we to posit that it has all been doom and gloom for Lesotho over the last 50 years.
That is certainly not true.
We have had brighter moments along the way as a nation. For instance, during the dark days of colonialism, Lesotho played a major role in the decolonisation agenda on the continent.
The country provided succour to thousands of liberation war cadres and refugees who were fleeing political persecution in apartheid South Africa in the early 1980s.
We also stand among the few countries on the continent where political power has changed hands peacefully. That it has happened twice is a measure of the maturity of our political leadership.
Basotho, who are generally a peace-loving people, have acquired a fairly decent level of education, thanks to successive governments’ policies on education.
But it is on the issue of how we handle our politics that we have dismally failed. There is no denying that all of Lesotho’s problems stem from politics. Once we fix our politics, we would have gone a long way to correcting what ails this country.
As we celebrate our independence on Tuesday, it is important that we put all hands on the deck in pushing for greater reforms on the political front to ensure we nurture and defend our democracy.
We must address the structural flaws that have so often impeded our national development.
As a result of the acrimonious way we do our politics, it would be tempting to start thinking that Lesotho needs yet another coalition government to address its current woes.
That, in our opinion, would be providing a very simplistic solution to what is a complex matter.
As long as Lesotho has not addressed the issues of governance and its electoral model, we believe we will still find ourselves in a cul-de-sac. We must fix the structural flaws as part of the proposed political reforms.
The singular fixation with politics and elections will not do us any good as a country though.
Because we are always in election mode, too often our leaders find themselves being side-tracked from other key governance issues such as providing basic social services to the people.
From the time we got our independence in 1966, we have never had a decade of peace. We have hopped from one crisis to another.
That must also change.
True peace is a foundation for real economic development. Look at Botswana and Rwanda.
In the spirit of oneness we wish to call on Basotho, on both sides of the political divide, to embrace a spirit of national reconciliation. We must learn from the mistakes of the past 50 years and allow this country to move forward.
We should never fall into the same vacuous thinking like the Bourbon dynasty in France after the abdication of Napoleon who “learnt nothing and forgot nothing” from history.
We must learn from our mistakes over the past 50 years and fix what is wrong for the sake of posterity. Unless we do so, we are doomed.
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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