Don’t mimic South Africans

Don’t mimic South Africans

On August 9, 2020, I watched a speech by the First Lady ‘Mamosa Masekoalane Majoro on the Lesotho TV primetime news. The speech was in opposition to the violence and injustices faced by women and children in our country. I would like to applaud the First Lady for taking a firm stance against gender-based violence and advocating for the protection of women and children in Lesotho.

This is very important at a time when we are faced with the monster that is Covid-19 that may shift our attention from such persistent matters. Furthermore, it may also aggravate it, due to the fact that precautionary restrictions to prevent the disease confine abused women and children in their unsafe homes.

In her bid to address this issue, I noticed she made a few faux pas that speak to other underlying problems we have as a nation. The issues at hand are procedural and also involve those regarding our sense of identity and integrity as a country. After her husband took over, Mrs Majoro was touted as a poised, sophisticated and educated individual, in contrast to her predecessor.

Thus her arrival into that office was deemed as clean slate for the Office of the First Lady, and an end to the turbulent era of ‘Maesaiah Thabane. ‘Maesaiah was a rather notorious figure, whose time in office was characterised by overstepping her boundaries and disregard for protocol.

I am therefore alarmed that the office of the First Lady chose to communicate directly with the PS for the Ministry of Communications Ts’eliso Lesenya, requesting that her speech be aired on national television. What ought to have happened instead is that the Office of the First Lady should have requested the PS in the Prime Minister’s office to rather communicate with PS Communications.

The fact that Mrs Majoro communicates directly with other ministries could be problematic. For example, a PS may feel compelled to give the First Lady what she requires because of her proximity to the Prime Minister.
This is a worrying possibility given our recent history with ‘Maesaiah.

However, I will be the first to admit that when it comes to extremity the actions of Mrs Majoro fall far short of what ‘Maesaiah was capable of. A memorable incident that comes to mind related to ‘Maesaiah’s blatant overstepping of the bounds of her power, was when she intervened in a row between the Ministry of Public Work’s Principal Secretary (PS) Mothabathe Hlalele, and the Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Finance Motena Tsolo. 

Apparently, her car had been damaged on a road that had not been fixed. This confrontation, which was captured on television, was done in the presence of her husband Thomas Thabane, who stood in silence as his visibly furious wife wagged her fingers in reprimand at government officials.  

As a result, we have become wary of presumptuous First Ladies, and anything Mrs Majoro does that even remotely mirrors the actions of ‘Maesaiah, is bound to make us get extremely concerned.
Last week, South Africa marked International Women’s Day by remembering the women who took to the streets on August 9, 1958, in protest against pass laws imposed by the apartheid government. Indeed this carries great significance for South Africans, but what does it have to do with us? How does a march with a clear agenda, for a specific country, relate to us? South Africans have their reasons to observe this day, but unfortunately the day has nothing to with us.

I have seen that some Basotho observe this day in their individual capacities. However, when it is done by our First Lady, using our state resources, on our national television, then it is astounding.
Furthermore the First Lady used a South African public holiday to voice out the plight of abused women and children in Lesotho. The South African national women’s day, is only recognised in South Africa, which beckons me to ask why the day was being given special attention in Lesotho?

I think it would have been more sensible had the First Lady made this speech on the AU Pan-Africanist Women’s Day, which she missed by days as it was on July 31st, or she could have at least waited for the International Women’s Day in March. At least these are days that apply to us.
It is my humble opinion that it would be more effective to focus on issues pertaining to the intolerable circumstances faced by abused women and children, using incidents we as a people are able to relate to.

Surely we cannot say that we as a nation do not have incidents we can use to mark the abuse against women and children. Furthermore such events can be used to launch campaigns similar to South Africa’s 16 days activism against gender based violence campaign.   

However, let me add that mine is no to dictate how women choose to fight this battle, but it is merely to show we can copy the good from our Big Brother next door, without becoming groupies.

A well-known incident that comes to mind when I think of gender-based violence in Lesotho is the murder of ‘Manthabiseng Senatsi, who our convention centre is named after. Senatsi was mercilessly beaten and murdered by an Asian shopkeeper and security guards, for alleged shoplifting. Her murder is an occurrence that is not only evocative of the fight against gender based violence, but also speaks to the neglect and disregard abusers have towards children, as this woman was killed while shopping with her grandchild. 

Lastly her death is an occurrence that brought about action, as it led to an upheaval. Hence I think it is more appropriate to mark retaliation against the violation of Basotho women and children. That would have been much better rather than use a highly publicised South African holiday we have become exposed to because of geographic proximity to them, and our exposure to their media.

Ramahooana matlosa

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