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On the brink of extinction

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The formation of the Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) has threatened many political parties in Lesotho. In fact, many are on their way to becoming completely extinct. Some have offended the masses of our people for so long while others have done nothing wrong except that they existed at a time when many voters were frustrated with the most political parties in Lesotho.

This week I want to start with the story of a once powerful Nokia company but the world changed too fast for them to remain relevant. As you read this story, think about the existence of political parties in Lesotho. These political parties, just like Nokia, missed out on keeping with the times, which resulted in an outsider joining the political space.

“We didn’t do anything wrong, but somehow, we lost”. This is how Nokia CEO Stephen Elop ended his speech on Feb 2016 to announce Microsoft’s acquisition of Nokia.
Nokia had been a respectable company and they didn’t do anything wrong in running their business. However, the world changed too fast for them. Their opponents were too fast and powerful therefore Nokia missed out on learning, they missed out on changing, and the result was the loss of the opportunity and the race.

Nokia did not only miss the opportunity – they lost a chance to survive. The message in this story is, change is the law of nature therefore if you don’t change you shall be removed from the competition and the market. It’s not wrong if you don’t want to learn new things. However, if your thoughts and mind-set cannot catch up with time, you will be eliminated. Not only did they miss the opportunity to earn big money, they lost the chance to survive.

Nokia, sadly, has become well known for its CEO’s closing remark when he announced the company’s purchase by Microsoft: “We didn’t do anything wrong, but, somehow, we lost.” Even though the mobile phone company was the first to introduce smartphones in 1996, they failed to see the value of software over hardware and relied on their name power to carry them while Apple and Android began to dominate the field. Ultimately, Nokia wasn’t able to keep up with the pace of innovation, and this resulted in the demise of what was once one of the most valuable brands in the world.

I wish to remind you of other missed opportunities and failures to embrace change in different industries. In 2000, Blockbuster famously turned down the purchase of Netflix for $50 million. Today, Netflix is valued at more than $32 billion and Blockbuster has gone bust.

Another example would be Verizon turning down a chance to carry the first Apple iPhone. Verizon’s move let Apple slip through its fingers to join forces with Cingular.
Kodak, too, had its chance at continued success and yet turned it down out of near-sighted fear.

Despite inventing the first digital camera in 1975, the company failed to market it because of the potential negative impact on its film industry. In thinking it could protect its profits by stifling technology, Kodak instead left the door open for others to take over the burgeoning digital photography industry. The seeds of Kodak’s demise were sown in a time of great success.

During the launch of RFP, its leader Sam Matekane said the formation of RFP shall be a turning point for Lesotho’s ailing political economy. He categorically stated that “I could not let my country become a laughing stock of other nations.” Therefore suggesting that political parties that existed before the formation of RFP played a role in making Lesotho a laughing stock. It appears that many urban voters agree with his sentiments.

After the launch of RFP, the leader of the Democratic Party of Lesotho (DPL), Limpho Tau, held a press conference and left the country shocked. Tau announced that after the formation of RFP, which in their opinion has ‘similar economic goals’ with DPL, his party will not contest in the coming 2022 elections and they have resolved to release their party followers to join RFP. In my opinion this announcement means one thing; DPL is on the brink of extinction.

The leader of Alliance of Democrats (AD), Monyane Moleleki, has since endorsed Matekane’s party and wished them well. The Secretary General of AD, Dr Mahali Phamotse, has since quit her role in the party. Then a few AD MPs were spotted at the RFP rally in Matšonyane last weekend. You will not be shocked if I tell you these MPs are: Dr. Mahali Phamotse and Tlohelang Aumane. You get my drift, AD is also on the brink of extinction.

I have only highlighted a few events that give a worrying trend that many political parties are on their way to becoming completely extinct. In the past decade, this country has staggered from once crisis to another, without a vision of further development in the rapidly changing world. Those who have been trusted with the instruments of power, the democratically elected political leadership, focus mostly on the struggle of preserving their positions of power and the benefits they produce.

The political parties in parliament do not put forward any meaningful programmes so as to produce radical systemic changes with the view of solving Lesotho’s deepening economic problems. The result is that Lesotho continues to lag behind other African countries. This has frustrated many Basotho hence the reason they appear to be moving to RFP.

Real democracy can only happen through the representation of political parties. This was the principle on which the emerged political parties in the late 1950s as we prepared for self-determination as a nation. However, representation by political parties was not, is not, and cannot be real democracy. Each party tries to promote the interests of a particular citizen category, even to the detriment of other categories.

The representation process takes place on the basis of shady structures inviting to corruption. At present, the information revolution taking place, thanks to the internet and other electronic channels, makes it possible for anybody to get the same information as his/her representative in Parliament. At the same time, society disintegrates into a multitude of minor groups generating interests which coincide only partially.

In such a social environment, representation by parties is increasingly obsolete and dysfunctional. What lessons can we learn from above stories of once powerful organisations? Those who refuse to learn and improve will definitely one day become redundant and irrelevant to the industry/market. The introduction of RFP in politics has made the already established political parties to learn the lesson the hard and expensive way. These political parties never wanted to improve and today they are becoming redundant.

The advantage these political parties had yesterday, will be replaced by the trends of tomorrow. These parties did not have to do anything wrong. As long as their competitor catches the wave and do it right, they can lose out and fail.

The RFP has forced others to change or close political parties. A big lesson for the All Basotho Convention (ABC) and Democratic Congress (AD) is to never assume they will stay on top. They must embrace creativity, these passionate disruptors. The ABC and DC should embrace and ride the changes otherwise, just like Nokia, they will lose the chance to survive.

Ramahooana Matlosa

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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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