The struggle continues!

The struggle continues!

MASERU-Advocate ’Mota Nkuatsana recalls what he sees as a pivotal moment in his life in the late 1970s when he was expelled from Eagles Peak High School in Qacha’s Nek.
The young Nkuatsana felt he had been treated unjustly by a fellow student and took matters into his own hands, literally.

Even at that early age, he had a clear understanding of what he perceived to be fair and just. And so when he felt an injustice had been committed against him, he fought the offending student and beat him to a pulp.
Nkuatsana was summarily expelled from school.
That glaring injustice by the school authorities was to remain etched in his mind for years to come.
He however recalls that event, over four decades ago, with an unbridled sense of pride.

And so even in those formative years, Nkuatsana would constantly find himself fighting against any family or societal rule that he thought was unjust.
On numerous times, that got him into trouble.
“It’s who I am. I cannot stand people who treat others unjustly. That’s why I got so mad at the boy that I failed to control myself and fought him,” he says.

Wherever he has worked, whether in private companies or government ministries, Nkuatsana says he has always stood with the oppressed and the downtrodden, sometimes at great personal cost.
Sometimes he would find himself on a collision course with his own bosses when they treated junior staff in a way that he thought was unfair.
Five decades later, it is that unswerving commitment to the pursuit of justice that still drives him on.

“A community that does not treat people with justice is completely anathema to me, that’s who I am.”
Fast forward five decades after that Eagle’s Peak High School incident, Nkuatsana now finds himself confronted by new challenges in what has been a shifting political environment.
But his basic political guiding principle has remained the same – an unflinching commitment to justice.

Nkuatsana is among a bunch of six candidates who are vying to take over the presidency of the Basotho National Party (BNP) from Thesele ’Maseribane when his term ends in June.
A seasoned lawyer, he says he is painfully aware of the task ahead of him. He says he wants to dismantle party apparatus that has aided, for decades, the culture of sycophancy in the BNP.

He says he will need to stage a “revolution” within the party if he is to do so.
Nkuatsana says to fix the BNP will require nothing short of a “revolution” no matter how long it takes and how painful it might be.
He says he wants to dismantle the “cult of personality” and the blatant sycophancy that has been promoted in the party in recent years. He says that too has also fostered “a culture of impunity within the BNP.”

“We have no respect for the rule of law. Our legal frameworks don’t matter anymore. Everything went with what the boss wants and not what the law says.”
If elected, Nkuatsana says this will all change.
He wants to implement an agenda “which will attract human resources that understand how to resuscitate an economy that has long been in the slumps”.

That will require that the BNP “redraws our programme for the production of knowledge”.
He wants to see a fundamental shift in Lesotho’s education system.
Nkuatsana says despite the BNP being the party that “brought” independence to Lesotho in 1966 and had progressive policies, it is clear that the party is now a mere shadow of its former glorious self.
“With time, it became clear that we were no longer the same; we became a different party, a party that no longer conforms to its own norms.”

The result was that the BNP lost its friends both at home and abroad.
“We are now a party which has no prospects of being government again.”
The BNP is largely seen as “damaged goods” electorally. It won a single constituency in the 2015 election. The last time it had won a constituency was in 1998.
But Nkuatsana says this sad narrative of the party’s electoral fortunes can still be changed, with the right people at the helm of the party.

He says he believes he has assembled a competent team that can drive that change if he wins elections in June.
“We will embark on resuscitating our party, making it relevant again. We want to make it a real player on the Lesotho political landscape.”
Nkuatsana speaks of the “need for a revolution” within the BNP to change the ways things are being done within the party.
“It may take long, it may be painful, but we are ready to serve.”
It is telling that Nkuatsana, repeatedly, speaks of “resuscitating” the BNP. That is significant.

Here is a political party that dominated the Lesotho political landscape from independence in 1966 until the mid-1980’s, but is now on life support and in need of a resuscitation.
Nkuatsana says he believes he is the man to breathe life into the dying party.
He attributes the party’s sorry state to decades of maladministration and mis-governance.

The BNP has been paying the bill for such gross acts of mis-governance through successive thumping at the polls since 1993.
“We need to draw ourselves a roadmap to resuscitate the party,” he says.
He says chief among the BNP’s weaknesses is a shocking failure to abide by its own constitution.
“We want to make it a party that respects the rule of law. We have forgotten how to live by the Constitution.”

Every time he has found himself confronted by injustice in society, it would have been easier to take the course of least resistance.
But not Nkuatsana.
He has taken, head on, anyone he thought was stamping on justice. He fought injustice at school and at the workplace, and throughout his life.
Now he says he wants to tackle injustice within the BNP itself and at the national level.

Although he is a successful lawyer, Nkuatsana says “my real calling is about serving my people, fostering justice where there is none”.
“My calling is about reshaping Lesotho so it is no longer a “least developed country”. One can’t dedicate his life to fighting poverty successfully while playing golf with the millionaires.”

Nkuatsana says his personal interests as a lawyer can take a back-seat as long as the people’s agenda of rolling back poverty is achieved.
“I want to dedicate my life to changing my country for my children and grandchildren for good so that they can never be citizens of a Least Developed Country again.”
But what if he loses at the party’s elective conference in June?
“Even if I lose, it’s aluta continua,” Nkuatsana says. “Our vision and mission do not end with just losing an election. This is an ongoing process which will not end with us.”

He says if “you lose, you go back to the drawing board and if you win you would have to start governing in accordance with the principles of democracy and good governance”.
Thankfully, Nkuatsana says there are people who genuinely think the BNP’s fortunes can be turned around.

“If we quit, we would have betrayed them. And so we are prepared and ready to keep trying until we succeed.”
He believes the party has a golden opportunity to “correct” historical wrongs that have been committed by party cadres in selecting competent leaders.
Over the last 30 years, Nkuatsana says the party has dismally failed to put in office a visionary leader.
“We have been our own worst enemy,” he says. “For close to 30 years we have been choosing a man who could not steer the ship to where it should have been.”

This time, if not careful, the BNP will likely make the same mistake, he says ominously.
Nkuatsana trained as a lawyer in the old Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) between 1982 and 1991. He graduated with a degree in Law having majored in Public International Law and Law of International Organisations.

Again, it was his pursuit of justice that drove his academic ambitions.
He says he has always fancied speaking on behalf of the underdog and on that occasion he was looking for opportunities to speak for his country in international fora.
As a young boy, Nkuatsana had always been fascinated by the geo-political circumstances of his country, Lesotho, which is completely surrounded by its bigger and much more prosperous neighbour South Africa.
And from the little gleanings he picked from his reading, he came to understand the great injustice done by the Afrikaners in South Africa when they encroached on Basotho’s ancestral land in the Free State.

“By picking law, I wanted to fix the wrong that had been done to my country which saw it lose a piece of land to South Africa. That shaped the decision of the profession that I took.”
Even now, Nkuatsana remains determined to “get back that piece of land”.
That historical wrong bothered Nkuatsana then as it still does today.
Nkuatsana says he grew up at a time when the country was very impoverished. While being raised by his paternal grandmother in Thaba-Tseka, he never knew how a car looked like.

His first time to see a vehicle was when he started living with his parents, who were both teachers.
His father later became an MP, adding he benefitted immensely from his mentorship.
That probably illustrates how remote some places in Thaba-Tseka were at that time.
That background, surrounded by teachers, meant little Nkuatsana was heavily exposed to books and more books. And so he immersed himself in reading.

“I used to read a lot,” he says.
As he continued to read, he found himself slowly getting hooked on African politics. He was to be introduced to legendary leaders such as Kwame Nkrumah, Julius Nyerere and our very own Moshoeshoe I.
“As I continued to read, I got challenged by own status quo. I was impressed by what the father of our nation went through and despite all the tribulations, he managed to steer the country through all that.”

The injustices that were currently taking place in apartheid South Africa during those stormy 1970s and 80’s also had a major impact on his political consciousness, thanks to fiercely independent newspapers such as the Rand Daily Mail.
The Mail was a fierce critic of the apartheid government. It was seen as a leading voice for the oppressed in South Africa.
Nkuatsana says he read from cover-to-cover one such voluminous issue of the newspaper detailing the cruelties of the apartheid government.
He was incensed.

“After reading about what was going on in South Africa, you felt that you too had to contribute to undo the wrongs of the system,” he says.
When he moved to the Soviet Union in 1982, he met students who had fled South Africa. They too helped shape his political thinking at that time.
“I came to understand the pain of wanting to do justice in a system where there is no justice,” he says.

At that point, having been exposed to the brutalities of the apartheid regime, most students chose to throw their weight behind the struggle.
“As for me, I said there was no way I could live in a system where citizens are treated unjustly.”

That mission remains unfulfilled.
By throwing his hat in the ring, it would appear that Nkuatsana remains committed to righting historical wrongs and fighting for the downtrodden.

Abel Chapatarongo

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