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Elections: How the battle was won and lost

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Strategy is defined as an exact plan of one’s actions which aims at achieving a certain military, political, psychological, or similar, goal, and which takes into account those factors that might influence one’s actions.

The political battle is gone, the election is done, and the country awaits a new government; none of the raging wars of words are present, they lost their meaning on the day the final results of the elections were announced.

The best one hears these days is based on varied perspectives post-mortem; the battle is won for the four (4×4), and the old seven-party coalition government lick their wounds and somehow have to go back to the drawing board, the reality of the moment demands so: for one cannot go and mope at their loss and hope for victory in the next campaign.

Even then, the wise winners rest not on their laurels for the political war is never done, the reality is that a win in the current format of governance does not exactly guarantee that a government can go full term, that is, last the five years as envisioned by the IEC and evidenced by the last two regimes that both lasted less than three years.

The change of the guard comes unannounced these days; at the whim of the new trend enshrined in the popular ‘vote of no confidence’ that has so far deposed two governments.
The claim that the now retired Lieutenant General was hot on their heels led to the three musketeers crossing the Mohokare to seek asylum in South Africa.

This came after the deposition and subsequent death of the previous government’s army commander at the hands of comrades in connection with a mutiny plot, and his death is blamed on his resisting arrest by members of the military police.
Judge Mphaphi Passevil Phumaphi (Chairman of the SADC Commission of Inquiry) put forth the recommendation that the involved parties be investigated and accordingly prosecuted.

The commission sat, but the three political leaders had already fled Lesotho and sought asylum in neighbouring South Africa, a move that necessitated the commission to put forward a list of recommendations.
The crossing of the river by the three political leaders raised eyebrows to the perceived instability in Lesotho’s government, as pointed out by the report.

“That these political challenges if not arrested might spiral out of control with the consequence of failing the current government,” states section ‘p’ on Pages 58-59 of the published online report.

The former commander’s death contributed a large part in the recommendations, and in the public sphere as evidenced by radio discussions, and comments on social media platforms; the death of the former commander did not sit well with a large part of the citizenry, but somehow, it seemed that the state had fallen into some form of catatonia, of a kind that split the public’s opinion into two factions as the events that led to the 2017 elections progressed and finally unfolded with the announcement of the results last week.

There was a man within the recent government whose move is reminiscent to the matador’s thrust of the muleta in a bullfight. Monyane Moleleki and company’s decision to leave government and establish their own parties with the looming elections, and the welcoming ceremony held at the Pope John Paul II podium next to Maseru Mall on the 12th of February 2017 at which he was present presented a clear sign that the seven-party coalition government in power under the leadership of Honourable Pakalitha Bethuel Mosisili would succumb to the now popular “vote of no confidence”, as its predecessor had done 28 months previously under the leadership of Honourable Motsoahae Thomas Thabane.

The turning point in the governance of the Mountain Kingdom came after the prime minister was left with the two options of resigning from his position as prime minister and letting Moleleki take the reins of power, or, to advise the king to call for snap election which would be held within three months.

The latter option played out, elections were held, and here we are as a state; a new government and a change of the guard.
The old reality of a coalition government however remains, as celebrations spirits run high and emotions are still at fever pitch for supporters of the two opposing camps.

And naturally, there are those who believe in the new government, and there are others who vehemently deny its legitimacy even if it is at a level subtle. Lesotho is clearly divided into urban and rural ideologies and these play a significant role in determining the outcome of the elections, but this time one is left wondering if there is a turn in the formerly predictable way of thought in Lesotho.

The rural areas are (or, were) well-established congress party territories, and the convention held the urban areas as their home turf.
An analysis of this year’s election results however reveals a new trend that sees both parties infiltrating each other’s territories, and the ABC comes out as the victor, but their political rivals lose out despite uniting to form a united DC/LCD front just before the snap elections.
The two parties clearly had a strategy to win the elections and one can assume that the campaign rallies had a role to play in determining the outcome, but the campaign rallies have proven an unreliable determinant of party loyalty if one is to compare the attendance figures with the final election results for the parties involved.

There were large numbers of attendees for many of the party rally campaigns, but the turnout at the polling stations stands at less than 50 percent as published by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC).
The attendance of the rally does not seem to really count, what counts is the pattern of thought of the voter with regard to effecting change through the process of voting.

Excess seems to be the new slogan luring the mob to the rally, for there is excess in terms of promises made that are intended to pull in the support of the party followers and the votes they come with.
Who wins is the political figure that manages to rally both the support of followers in the lobbies and their assurance that they will cast the vote on Election Day.

As said before, the masses at the rally are not the true representation of who will win and who will lose as evidenced by the June 3 snap election results.

The thought of the man and the woman that casts their vote into the ballot box is what matters.
The reality is that the last government went into their leg in government with a 20-year record of interrupted governance, party splits, and a deviation from the original intended manifesto to lift Lesotho out of the poverty of knowledge brought by the previous governments and colonialism.

There are new realities of poverty and unemployed that were in turn exacerbated by global economic recession.
Using old slogans that hint at the wished instead of addressing the real issues only leads to the party losing their following, whose hunger and state of poverty are the more immediate concerns.

Obsession with holding on to the reins of power instead of addressing the immediate concerns of the masses only leads to the politician’s word being lost to the four winds blowing at the rally.

One has seen the rise of a new kind of dictatorship in other states in Africa, and this kind of dictatorship is not of the Idi Amin kind, but it is a system of rule where one party or leader holds the fore seat of government for too long, that is, until their failings become so obvious that they become ammunition for the rhetorical armies of their opposition to shoot them down with.
This is the case with Lesotho, where the congress has had the opportunity to rule for 20 years in which the rise in commodity prices spiked up in tandem with the rise in poverty and unemployment levels.

There has so far never been a government that shows the real concerns of the youth, and this has resulted in a youth that believes none in the words of the politicians who proclaim change on various platforms.

That there is the reality of a youth that has been reduced to beggarhood by poverty, unemployment, through to nepotism despite having the required qualifications, has never seemed the concern of previous government.
The love of the country does not have anything to do with what party the individual follows, but this trend has found root in this country, and its midwife is party politics; where one individual is excluded from salient decision-making activities on the basis of their non-affiliation with the ruling government.

The lame excuses, the shamed darting eyes that never hold one’s gaze when it comes to answering questions on why there are so many qualified graduates languishing in the clutches of unemployment are all part of the political reality that has for some time been observed by the hordes of voters.

Many of those that voted that came across just hold the vague hope that perhaps electing a different individual will bring change, the kind of change that will include all instead of forming cliques and cabals based on party loyalty and membership.
The reality is that politics can only be attractive to the masses if the political government provides incentives, starts initiatives that bear fruit, and provides needed basic benefits.

Previous governments forgot the basics, and this is one of the reasons that they lost.
The political cow has become a strange one to milk these days, for where the empty promises garnered the vote in the past, real evidence of change is the determinant of who will exactly vote this time.

A large part of those who did not vote were simply stuck with the choice of sticking to their old devil or going in with the new, and their hesitation meant that someone lost vital votes along the way.
Where the choice of one means a sure return to the old way of the empty promise never fulfilled, and the election of the other promises some new as yet unfulfilled way of bringing change, the likelihood is that the new promise will be followed by the larger part of society: it is in the primal human character that the new and the mysterious arouses more of curiosity than the known and the familiar (for familiarity often breeds contempt).

One tires of listening to the same old excuse that the global economy is in recession, we know, no one wants to hear that there are no jobs; we have experienced it for many seasons now.
The current political mudslinging will soon be a display the masses get tired of, and the name calling and confession sessions at rallies as seen in this year’s election will be boring spectacle if the opinions of the masses are represented by the vote.
Reputation is determined by the actions of the individual or the group, but reputation alone does not suffice if there is absence of assurance.

The old regime could have lost out because there is a clear legacy of complain in parts of the nation that are in the clutches of poverty and unemployment. This is not meant in a bad way, but if there are more than 10 000 graduates without jobs within the span of the years of a given party’s rule, then it is not assuring for the voter to cast their vote in such a party’s favour.
This lack only provides ammunition for the opposing parties to use in their lobbying for votes; dividing public opinion is dependent on what one does and the next avoids in their deeds.

The new government should take heed and be aware that their promises will fall under more scrutiny than their predecessors.
The malaises of favouritism, nepotism, a seeming lack of general concern for the safety and the security of the ordinary citizen, their basic needs, and to resort instead to uncontrolled abuse of power will surely result in another premature change of the political government’s guard.

The loss of focus on the original mandate as upheld in the party manifesto must never be forgotten if one is to have a lasting government. Old unfulfilled promises are not enough to garner in votes. So some have now learnt.

Tsepiso S Mothibi

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Insight

The Joker Returns: Conclusion

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Last week I was talking about how jokes, or humour generally, can help get one through the most desperate situations (although it’s like taking a paracetamol for a headache; a much, much stronger resort is faith). I used the example of how Polish Jews, trapped and dying in the Warsaw ghetto, used humour to get them through day by day.

A similar, though less nightmarish, situation obtains in today’s Nigeria. Conditions there are less hellish than those of the Warsaw ghetto, but still pretty awful. There are massive redundancies, so millions of people are jobless. Inflation is at about 30% and the cost of living is sky-rocketing, with the most basic foodstuffs often unavailable. There is the breakdown of basic social services.

And endemic violence, with widespread armed robbery (to travel by road from one city to another you take your life in your hands) and the frequent kidnapping for ransom of schoolchildren and teachers. In a recent issue of the Punch newspaper (Lagos) Taiwo Obindo, Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Jos, writes of the effects of economic hardship and insecurity on his people’s mental health.

He concludes: “We should see the funny side of things. We can use humour to handle some things. Don’t take things to heart; laugh it off.”

Professor Obindo doesn’t, regrettably, give examples of the humour he prescribes, but I remember two from a period when things were less grim. Power-cuts happened all the time — a big problem if you’re trying to work at night and can’t afford a generator.

And so the National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) was universally referred to as Never Expect Power Always. And second, for inter-city travel there was a company called Luxurious Buses. Believe me, the average Lesotho kombi is a great deal more luxurious (I can’t remember ever having to sit on the floor of one of those).

And because of the dreadful state of Nigerian roads and the frequent fatal crashes, Luxurious Buses were referred to as Luxurious Hearses.

Lesotho’s newspaper thepost, for which I slave away tirelessly, doesn’t use humour very much. But there is Muckraker. I’ve always wondered whether Muckraker is the pen-name of a single person or a group who alternate writing the column.

Whatever, I’d love to have a drink with him / her/ them and chew things over. I like the ironic pen-name of the author(s). Traditionally speaking, a muckraker is a gossip, someone who scrabbles around for titbits (usually sexual) on the personal life of a celebrity — not exactly a noble thing to do.

But thepost’s Muckraker exposes big problems, deep demerits, conducted by those who should know and do better — problems that the powerful would like to be swept under the carpet, and the intention of Muckraker’s exposure is corrective.

And I always join in the closing exasperated “Ichuuuu!” (as I do this rather loudly, my housemates probably think I’m going bonkers).

Finally I want to mention television satire. The Brits are renowned for this, an achievement dating back to the early 1960s and the weekly satirical programme “TW3” (That Was The Week That Was). More recently we have had “Mock the Week”, though, despite its popularity, the BBC has cancelled this.

The cancellation wasn’t for political reasons. For decades the UK has been encumbered with a foul Conservative government, though this year’s election may be won by Labour (not such very good news, as the Labour leadership is only pseudo-socialist). “Mock the Week” was pretty even-handed in deriding politicians; the BBC’s problem was, I imagine, with the programme’s frequent obscenity.

As an example of their political jokes, I quote a discussion on the less than inspiring leader of the Labour Party, Sir Keir Starmer. One member of the panel said: “Labour may well have a huge lead in the polls at present, but the day before election day Starmer will destroy it by doing something like accidentally infecting David Attenborough with chicken-pox.”

And a favourite, basically non-political interchange on “Mock the Week” had to do with our former monarch, Queen Elizabeth II. Whatever one thinks about the British monarchy as an institution, the Queen was much loved, but the following interchange between two panellists (A and B) was fun:

A: Is the Queen’s nickname really Lilibet?
B: Yes, it is.
A: I thought her nickname was Her Majesty.
B: That’s her gang name.

OK, dear readers, that’s enough humour from me for a while. Next week I’m turning dead serious — and more than a little controversial — responding to a recent Insight piece by Mokhosi Mohapi titled “A reversal of our traditions and culture.” To be forewarned is to be prepared.

Chris Dunton

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Insight

Reading, writing and the art of reflection

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There is a close thread that runs through what you reflect on, what you read and what sticks in your mind. It’s almost a cyclic process with regards to how all these processes unfold. Today, in this installment we focus on the thread between reading, reflection and writing.

This appears a bit cumbersome to explain. But let’s simplify it. Let’s begin with a beautiful poem which encompasses what we have so far spoken about. Here we are! The poem is penned by “Tachibama Akemi.” It goes:

It is a pleasure
When, rising in the morning,
I go outside and
Find that a flower has blossomed
That was not there yesterday.

Seemingly, the poem is simple. But, on close analysis, it reflects very deep reflection and thoughtfulness.

The persona, in an existential fashion, reflects all about the purpose and meaning of life and his place in the overall matrix of life.

The persona carefully reflects on nature. This is what makes all this poem rustic and romantic.

The persona thinks deeply about the blossoming flowers and how the process of the growth of flowers appears almost inadvertently.

It is a poem about change, healing, the lapse of time and the changes or vissiccitudes in the life of a person are reflected creatively through imagery and poetry. We all go through that, isn’t it? We all react and respond to love, truth and beauty.

So far everything appears very interesting. Let’s just put to the fore some good and appealing thoughts. Let’s enlarge on reading, writing and reflection.

Kindly keep in mind that thoughts must be captured, told, expressed and shared through the magical power of the written word.

As a person, obviously through keeping entries in a journal, there is no doubt that you have toyed about thoughts and ideas and experiences you wish you could put across.

Here is an example you can peek from Anthony. Anthony likes writing. He tells us that in his spare time he likes exploring a lot. And, more often than not he tells us,

“I stop, and think, and then when I find something, I just keep on writing.”

So crisp, but how beautiful. Notice something interesting here; you need to stop, to take life effortlessly and ponderously, as it were; observe, be attentive to your environment; formulate thought patterns and then write.

To some extent, this article builds on our previous experiences when we spoke at length about the reading process.

But how can you do it? It’s not pretty much different. I can help you from my previous life as a teacher of English Languge.

The most important skill you must cultivate is that of listening, close listening. Look at how people and events mingle.

What makes both of you happy; enjoy it. I am sure you still keep that journal in which you enter very beautiful entries. Reflect about Maseru, the so-called affluent city. So majestic!

How can you picture it in writing!

I am glad you learnt to reflect deep and write. Thank you very much. Kindly learn and perfect the craft of observing, reflecting and writing. Learn that connection. Let’s meet for another class.

Vuso Mhlanga

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Insight

The Joker Returns: Part One

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Don’t be put off by the title, esteemed readers; what follows has nothing to do with the Batman films. As you will be happily (or unhappily) aware, I am a big fan of jokes. There’s a common understanding that a joke is ruined if you have to explain it, and this is true, but some jokes do need a bit of background explanation. Anyway. I like jokes and I like thinking about how they work.

Many of my favourite jokes have to do with language and the way we use it. For example: “I just bought myself a thesaurus. I similar it very much.”

Other jokes have to do with human behaviour and here it is important, out of respect for others, to avoid jokes that perpetuate stereotypical ideas about gender, race, nationality, and so on. I’m afraid the following joke does depend upon a stereotype (I’ll come back to that), but here goes, after a bit of background information.

In Lesotho you have an insect called a praying mantis — stick-like, bright green, and with great bulging eyes. They are rather lovable, despite the off-putting fact that the female practices insect cannibalism; after mating, she consumes the male. So, now you’ve had your zoological primer, here goes.

Two praying mantises are getting up close and personal. The female says to the male: “before we have sex and I bite your head off, could you help me put up some shelves?”

Apologies to female readers, because, as I said, that joke perpetuates a gender stereotype, namely, that women are good with a vacuum cleaner or a dustpan and brush, but hopeless with a hammer and nails.

There are many jokes that are, as it were, much more serious than that. As I rattled on about in a couple of earlier columns, many of these are satirical — jokes that are designed to point a finger at human folly or even wickedness. In another column, titled “Should we laugh?”, I explored the question “is there any subject that should be kept out of the range of humour?”

Well, apparently not, if we take on board the following account of the Warsaw ghetto.

Historical preface first.

The Warsaw ghetto represents one of the worst atrocities in modern history. In November 1940 the genocidal Nazis rounded up all the Jews in Poland’s capital and herded them into a small sector of the city, which they euphemistically, cynically, dubbed the “Jewish Residential District in Warsaw.”

Here nearly half a million Jews were in effect imprisoned, barely subsisting on tiny food rations. An estimated quarter of a million were sent off to the death camps. An uprising against the Nazi captors was brutally crushed. Around 100 000 died of starvation or disease.

Not much to laugh about there, you might say. But then consider the following, which I’ve taken from the New York Review of Books of February 29th this year:

“In the Warsaw Ghetto in October 1941 Mary Berg, then a teenager, wrote in her diary about the improbable persistence of laughter in that hellish place: ‘Every day at the Art Café on Leszno Street one can hear songs and satire on the police, the ambulance service, the rickshaws, and even the Gestapo, [on the latter] in a veiled fashion. The typhoid epidemic itself is the subject of jokes. It is laughter through tears, but it is laughter. This is not our only weapon in the ghetto — our people laugh at death and at the Nazi decrees. Humour is the only thing the Nazis cannot understand.’”

To be concluded

Chris Dunton

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