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The ABC must guard against factionalism



A FEW months ago one would not have imagined the word “factionalism” being used in the same sentence as some of our ruling parties.
When the word “factionalism” became a trending buzzword in social media, it was associated with the Gupta family’s toxic influence on the recalled South African former president Jacob Zuma and also found its way into the ANC’s elective conference.
Some of us could not have imagined anything even remotely close to what was happening in South Africa happening to us here. We still do not believe that it will.

Recent indications however suggest that maybe it is time to start preparing our minds just in case. South African citizens writhed in agony as the Guptas stabbed their nation’s pride with their reckless disregard for the history of South African political struggle.
From the former state president Jacob Zuma down to the lowest ranking government official many fell victim to the hypnotising charm of the Guptas. Greed for easy money turned comrade against comrade. Money in evil hands has such power.

There is always a reason why political organisations are formed. The same is true of ABC. The constant need for coming together for the purpose of fighting a common adversity is part of our human nature. Our shared humanity dictates that every once in a while, depending on the circumstances, we congregate into a unified force in order to deal with a perceived problem in need of solving.

The reasons for the formation of the ABC back in 2006 did not emanate from planet Jupiter. There were real challenges which necessitated the formation of the party then. It was time for change from the stagnancy that had come to define LCD politics under Dr. Mosisili back then.
When the LCD resisted re-invention as personified by Thabane and others, it was time to move on. The move came with the formation of the ABC which marked the first major break-away from the once dominant LCD.

It would be remiss of me not to attribute some of the ABC’s phenomenal gains directly to Tom Thabane. So powerful was his charisma and work ethic that those with whom we worked seemed forever in the shadows as the party grew faster than any other in the history of the country.
Granted the ABC started from a position of relative advantage, but that does in anyway diminish the deserved platitudes heaped on the party’s most visible face: Thabane.

The ABC was formed in parliament in 2006 when seventeen constituency MPs crossed the floor ditching the toxic politics of LCD. So rattled was the LCD that Mosisili called a snap election in 2007 in an effort to halt the wave of huge popularity following the party’s formation.
The party won seventeen constituencies in the 2007 election and by so doing directly challenged the hegemony once held by the mighty LCD almost fifteen years earlier.

Five years later the ABC officially became a government when it formed a coalition with the splintered LCD and the BNP. The LCD further suffered another split during the coalition’s life when then current Minister of Labour Keketso Rantšo broke away to form RCL. She accused Mothetjoa Metsing of dictatorial tendencies.

Oddly enough her own party is on the verge of a split as well having been accused of the same dictatorial tendencies by disgruntled members, some of whom have since taken the party to court. The simmering tensions within the LCD then, characterised by endless disagreements between the secretary general (Metsing) and the party leader then (Mosisili) over the interpretation of the party’s constitution eventually led to the party’s split.
Mosisili went on to lead the new party Democratic Congress, credited as the brainchild of Monyane Moleleki who had loyally served as Mosisili’s deputy for many years. Moleleki now leads the AD after a controversial constitutional court judgement which ruled that the special conference could go ahead despite the party’s constitution clearly indicating that the party leader was answerable to the NEC and not to himself as the court erroneously interpreted.

With twelve constituencies and fourteen PR seats the LCD was able to enter into a coalition government with the ABC. The ABC was a main partner followed by LCD and then BNP.  Thabane was still the most visible personality that huge swathes of the country’s voting population and the world identified with. He was the most visible face of government. Metsing’s overblown ego could not take this. Clashes soon emergedas Metsing felt upstaged in the popularity stakes.

The war of egos between Metsing and Thabane got in the way of government business. This led to the collapse of the government which was dubbed by many as the “the government blessed by God.”  Once again it was Thabane’s charisma that tried but failed to convince SADC mediator, and now SA president Cyril Ramaphosa to focus his attention on Lesotho’s security problems and not rush the country into early elections.

Ramaphosa refused. Following the snap elections, ABC could not form a government as it narrowly failed to meet the required 60 plus 1 threshold in spite of additional numbers from BNP and RCL. Their combined numbers only made fifty five (55) seats, six (6) short to form a government.
The LCD reunited with its former breakaway nemenis, Democratic Congress, and formed a government with five other smaller parties. But that alliance was to suffer a similar fate to that of ABC alliance two years later with catastrophic consequences for the country and the region. Metsing’s dictatorial tendencies coupled with his unbridled greed for power ensured that government’s early demise.

Back in power after the June, 2017 elections, with two army commanders Lt. Gen Maaparankoe Mahao and Lt. Gen Khoantle Motšomotšo and scores of many others killed by rogue army elements, the ABC rebounded in the most spectacular fashion.
The party gained eleven more constituencies improving from forty constituencies won back in 2015. Thabane formed another coalition government but this time around replaced the LCD with the newly-formed AD.

ABC took power amid high expectations, largely as a result of the previously destructive “Khokanyana Phiri” administration. Thabane was expected to make miracles and make them in the shortest space of time. He did not disappoint.
Thabane swiftly restored people’s trust in government by restoring the rule of law. Exiled soldiers were returned home; those falsely implicated in the mutiny plot were released from detention; Metsing is on the run and the elderly also have their pensions increased from M500 to M700.
Factory workers are also soon going to get a boon in their wages. Notably suspects in the callous murder of police constable Mokalekale Khetheng are also behind bars waiting for their day in court.

Metsing’s extradition is also being processed to have him back in the country to face charges over unexplained large deposits made into his bank accounts in 2015.
The good always go with the bad; so goes the saying. There are signs from afar that if we do not take preventive measures we too may fall prey to the toxicity of factionalism and financial greed that have nearly destroyed the soul of the ANC. We have a come a long way to be where we are today.
So many of our members and supporters have fallen in the line of fire to get the ABC back in power. Their personal sacrifices cannot be traded for material gain.

Had things gone our way with the kind of effort we put in the June, 2017 elections we should easily have passed the sixty one mark on our own without any hiccups.

It did not happen. However we are proud with what we have achieved in partnership with our fellow coalition partners who make the tapestry of the 4×4 government. There is need now to be united more than ever before to help secure the gains we have made.
Our propensity to sometimes see our struggle from a very narrow perspective where the “self” is more important than the “all of us” is dangerously regressive. Selfishness is self- destructive.

Our enemies may appear pushed into a tight corner for now but we would be foolish to write them off as a spent force. Many of us are witnesses to how tenacious and determined they can be when they want to return to power. It has happened before; no doubt it can happen again.
One of our enemies’ most trusted weapon of attack is the use of press conferences where they launch scathing attacks against our party and our government.

These days they even use factory workers to fight their battles. Our collective resolve to stand united will eventually wear them down.
My parting shot is: let’s be resolute in our defence of our party and by logical extension our government. We have a lot of political mileage going for us at the moment. Our party has the broad support of large sections of the population.

Let’s ride on this crest wave of popularity with care conscious of how it can easily turn into despair if expectations are not met.
What we need to do is to stop bickering behind one another’s backs trying so hard to pull one another down. We must focus our energies into strengthening our party so that we can ensure a resounding victory in 2022.
Always remember that our party is not owned by a single individual or an elite group who have the monopoly to control it. It is the peoples’ property. It is our ABC.

Rethabile Rathebane

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We need a coordinated approach on youth challenges



For a number of good reasons, all of us are concerned about problems that face Lesotho’s young people, particularly youth unemployment, and the increasing tendency towards anti-social behaviour among sections of Lesotho youth including their increasing admiration for criminality.

Not only do members of such groups admire criminality and actually commit crimes but they commit crimes without much care as to the harm and other costs that their actions inflict on immediate victims and on society-at-large.

Evidence of public concern about these problems includes the fact that within society individuals, groups and public and private institutions have all expressed concerns over problems facing the youth, with some of these parties making attempts to come up with ideas and measures to assist.

However, a number of problems seem to be emerging on, at least, three fronts. Firstly, a seeming lack of coordination in addressing problems that face young people. Secondly, lack of clarity on questions of whether (a) parties that seek to assist are basing their interventions on credibly identified sources of problems that face young people; and (b) whether any credible assessments are made to ensure that interventions such parties are proposing and implementing have potential to solve problems that face Lesotho’s young people.

There are many examples of what may seem to us, members of the general public, to be lack of coordination in approaches to solve problems facing young people. One such example may be sufficient. On January 8, 2024, Lesotho TV broadcast a statement in which the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) authorities announced establishment of some army facility where Basotho young people would be taught some values, including patriotism.

The very next day, on January 9, 2024, Lesotho TV broadcast another statement, this time by the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) authorities, announcing the LMPS’s plan to establish a police facility at which young people would be taught anti-crime and other values. In their essence, the LMPS’s plan sounded not totally dissimilar to LDF’s.
Apart from the LDF and LMPS’s plans for Lesotho’s youth, there are also public and private sector initiatives to nurture and support entrepreneurial talents of Lesotho’s youth with a view, among others, to fight youth unemployment and develop the country’s private sector.

Politicians have also been seen to sponsor football games for young people in their constituencies with a view, they say, to keep young people from crime and narcotics. These events cannot be criticised too much but given that they are one, or two-day events that take place during specific times, they look more like publicity stunts.

National sports federations are now complaining that politicians who sponsor these events put too much stress on sports as a means to fight crime. What federations want is that, if politicians want to help, they should stress the importance of sports as careers, and sponsor young people to develop their sporting talents accordingly.

Amidst expressions of concerns and various parties’ attempts to address problems facing Lesotho youth, public authorities that we have not heard from, or from who we do not hear enough, are those charged with responsibilities over precisely problems facing young people; that is, authorities at the Ministry of Youth.

Admittedly, we do not know if the initiatives of the LDF, LMPS, and others are carried out in consultation with or with the blessing of the Ministry of Youth.

The worry ought to be not only whether interventions of the LDF, LMPS, and others have the blessings of the Ministry of Youth. Instead, the worry should extend to the question of whether the Ministry has any national plan to address problems facing young people. And, if such a plan exists, we would expect that it identifies the LDF and LMPS as places where young place can be coached; and initiatives of these and other institutions would align with such a plan.

Without an identification of the army and the police as implementing agencies of the Ministry’s plan, and without the army and police’s initiatives alignment with the Ministry’s plan, at least two things are likely to result: duplication of effort — as seems to be the case with the LDF and LPMS plans; or, at worst, LDF and LMPS plans might contradict and undermine national plans entrusted to the Ministry of Youth.

In the worst case scenario that a national plan does not exist, we face the danger that anybody wishing to address problems facing Lesotho’s young people can do so, basing herself, or himself on a personal or group perception, and implementing plans and solutions based on such perception.

As in the case of too many people stirring the same cooking pot without coordination, undesirable consequences can be expected from a situation where just about anybody can apply a solution to a public problem.

As hinted above, a good national plan aimed at addressing problems that face Lesotho’s young people would have two characteristics, at least. First, it would be based on our assertion of the kind of society we want to be; an investigation of problems that stand in the way of achieving such a society; how such problems can be overcome, say, through school curricula; and how, in general, from Early Childhood Care & Development (ECCD), young people can be brought up and socialised in ways that ensure they will be useful members of a society we wish to be.

Any action that is not based on an investigation of the problems that stand in the way of achieving a society we want to be has little chances of success. Such action would be based on some understanding that the young who are anti-social, unpatriotic and criminals are naturally bad people.

It is, of course, not as simple as that. For example, one possible explanation for the absence of patriotism among young people may have something to do with socio-economic inequality in Lesotho: those who are closed out of, and excluded from, benefiting from Lesotho’s wealth and power cannot be expected to be patriots.

A second characteristic of a plan aimed at addressing problems that face Lesotho’s young people is that, such a plan should identify and/or establish institutions designed — and with appropriate skills — to implement ideas and proposals that come out of credible investigations.

It is unclear whether the LDF and LMPS plans have resulted from something like considerations suggested above. While it is admitted that these institutions’ initiatives are limited to addressing problems of lack of patriotism and criminality among the young people, one clear problem with their plans and solutions is that, it might be the case that they are catching young people a little late, when schooling and general socialisation have already entrenched anti-social values that we see among sections of young people; namely, individualism and the inability to think of others.

In one word, these institutions catch these young people when tendencies towards criminality, anti-social behaviour, and lack of patriotism might have already hardened.
Perhaps the biggest hope we should have is that the army and the police will have full complement of resources necessary for providing full and wholesome mentoring to young people who undergo army and police mentoring.

Short of adequate resources necessary for achieving what the army and the police have in mind, we might end up with cohorts of young people with a faulty army and police culture that may come back to haunt us. Inserting a faulty army culture among a section of young people brought us bitter results in the 1970s and 1980s that should not be repeated.

To conclude, no one can argue against all of us being concerned with problems of youth unemployment; increasing tendencies of young people’s admiration of criminality and their participation in crime. And no one can argue against all of us coming up with ideas and proposals of how to address these problems.

However, our concerns and proposals ought to be based on:
a nationally-agreed assertion of society we want to be;
a credible investigation of difficulties that stand in the way of us becoming society we want to be;

and coordination of proposals and ideas aimed at becoming society we want to be.

As with other specific instances of socio-economic development in Lesotho, problems facing the country’s young people cry out for the long-neglected establishment of the National Planning Board, as prescribed in Section 105 of the Constitution of Lesotho.

Prof Motlatsi Thabane

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Call that a muffin?



In Oscar Wilde’s short story “The Canterville Ghost” (1887) one of the characters says about the British, “We have everything in common with America nowadays except, of course, language.” Between American English and British English there are many, many differences. Which is not to say that either American or British English are standardised; there are multiple varieties within each. As a south-western Brit I can find it difficult to fully understand what someone from Liverpool or Newcastle is saying.

I remember one year during the NUL’s International Theatre for Development project we had a student from the islands of Scotland. She was brilliant and hard-working and full of good ideas — if only one could understand the ideas when she introduced them. The NUL students grouped together and asked me: “Chris, can you translate what Kirsty is saying for us?” and I replied: “I’m as lost as you are.”

Between American and British English it’s not just a matter of pronunciation but also of vocabulary (I’ll be coming to muffins — see the title of this piece — in a while) and spelling.
In the biographical film Prick Up Your Ears British, dramatist Joe Orton shares a room with Ken Halliwell and they decide to write a novel together. Ken asks Joe “can you spell?” and Joe replies “yes, but not accurately.”

This is hardly a surprise, given that he’s a Brit. The American spelling system is far more regular and rational than the British. (Readers with laptops will have noticed that your spell-check gives the option of British or American spelling, but that doesn’t help you as in Lesotho the British system is used, so for the time being you’re stuck with it).

I mean, what can you say about a spelling system where “plough” rhymes with “now”, but “tough” rhymes with “stuff”– and “now” doesn’t rhyme with “low.” Yipes (as the Americans say). When I was lecturing in Lesotho and in Nigeria and marking assignments I was always very lenient over spelling, because I know what a mountain it is to climb (the latter word rhyming with “time”, of course).

Then there is the matter of vocabulary or denotation (a term I hope readers remember from a few weeks back). There are many examples of things that are denoted by different words in British and American English: lift / elevator; pavement / sidewalk; windscreen / windshield; petrol / gas; cinema / movie theater (and look at the American spelling of (Brit) “theatre”– a lot easier). And some of these reflect our different histories.

For example, there’s a vegetable, a kind of small marrow, the British call it a courgette (one of my favourite vegetables, in case any of you are planning to invite me for dinner). That’s a word that British English has borrowed directly from French — that is, a loan word (I’m not sure we plan to give it back).

The Americans on the other hand call it a zucchini, a loan word from Italian, which I guess reflects the size and influence of the Italian community in the USA. (Speaking of vegetables, I can’t give you an explanation for why the Brits call an aubergine an aubergine — another loan word from French — but the Americans call it an egg-plant).

Next week I’ll get around to muffins — a sore point — and I’ll move on to differences between English and French and between Sesotho and Setswana. Bet you can’t wait.

Chris Dunton is a former Professor of English and Dean of Humanities at the National University of Lesotho.

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Lessons from Israel: Part 3



I shall round off my account of my 1995 trip to Israel by putting on my tour guide cap. Staying in Tel Aviv, most days were fully taken up by the conference, which was my reason for being there. Tel Aviv in July is scorchingly hot, so there were walks along the beach only before breakfast and after sunset. I did take a little time off to go with South African author Stephen Gray to an art gallery that had a painting he wanted to see (a portrait by Modigliani of Beatrice Hastings, whose biography Stephen was then writing).

I wasn’t especially keen on the hotel restaurant, where dinner comprised meat served by the ton (surprisingly little fish, given that we were on the coast. By contrast, I had always been surprised and happy that Maseru restaurants are so good on fish, despite the fact that Lesotho isn’t exactly maritime). But I discovered a little Russian Jewish restaurant that offered Beluga caviar at an amazingly cheap price. I suspect it had fallen off the back of a lorry, as we say in the UK — i.e. that it was contraband, acquired illegally. I just blinked innocently and enjoyed myself. I can’t think of a more delicious way of starting a meal than with caviar, freshly-made blinis and a large glass of deeply chilled Wyberowa vodka — no ice, please. (I only say all this to show you what a very cosmopolitan chap I am).

The conference ran to a packed schedule and we worked hard (no, really). Half-way through we were given a day off and taken to Jerusalem. On arrival I teamed up with an old Nigerian friend and a friend of his from Senegal and we took ourselves first to the Dome of the Rock, the main mosque, which is splendid and radiant (wow, the mosaics!) Then we saw the Wailing Wall.

Then we trudged up the Via Dolorosa to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The Via marks the route along which Christ was forced to carry his cross on the way to his crucifixion (dolorosa means something like “of miseries”). I had expected it to be lined with sculptures showing the Stations of the Cross (rather like the lovely ones at Fatima, near Ramabanta).

Instead it was one tourist gift shop after another. Here I came across one of the most repugnant things I’ve seen in my life. Proudly displayed for sale, a wall clock with the face adorned with the image of the head of Christ, the two clock hands protruding from his nose.

At the top of the Via Dolorosa, the fourth century Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the holiest site in the world for Christians, which is breathtakingly beautiful. The interior is (not visibly) divided into sections, the upkeep of each of which is the responsibility of one of the major denominations: Roman Catholic, Anglican, Methodist, Greek Orthodox, Egyptian Coptic, and so on. I had had the impression this was an arrangement worked out under the colonial regime of British Palestine, but Google tells me it dates back to the Status Quo of 1757.

My companions had done their homework and suggested we head first for the roof, which had been allocated to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church (dare one possibly suggest a tinge of racism in this marginalisation?). There we found a cluster of monkish cells, each inhabited by an elderly Ethiopian monk, at least two of whom spoke English or French. They were delighted to see us, and utterly sweet, hospitable, and in their accounts of their pastoral work spellbinding.

To be concluded

Chris Dunton

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