Political leadership — a cause of instability?
Continued from last week
Military Rule, 1986-1993
As LLA began operations against the government of Chief Jonathan, in the late 1970s, the government transformed the PMU from being a unit within the police to the Lesotho Paramilitary Force (LPF) in 1980. In 1982, the LPF changed from a paramilitary force to a standing army, known as Lesotho Defence Force (LDF).
The name changed again in 1986, when it became the Royal Lesotho Defence Force (RLDF). In 1993, RLDF became the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF). In an environment where the army was then in charge, the army, according to Pule (2002:179) had “ . . . been intimately related to BNP rule for a long time.”
The political instability which had characterised the BNP unconstitutional authoritarian rule of sixteen years was to continue for the seven years. This instability was caused by the unequal Military-Monarchy power-sharing arrangement, the corruption that the military was involved in as well as the adoption of the Structural Adjustment Programme.
On 20th January, 1986, the LPF staged a successful coup against the BNP regime and replaced it with a Military regime. The Military regime immediately passed two critical pieces of legislation which would constitute the major sources of its own and the country’s political instability.
Lesotho (No. 2) Order of 1986 vested executive and legislative powers in the King, and provided for the establishment of a Military Council of six members of the military appointed by the King on the advice of the Chairman of the Military Council.
This Order also provided for the establishment of a Council of Ministers chaired by the Chairman of the Military Council and whose members would be appointed by the King on the advice of the Military Council. The Council of Ministers would, according to the Order “assist the King in the general administration of Lesotho.”
The Order further provided for the dissolution of parliament and government. Order No. 4, also known as the Suspension of Political Activities Order, suspended all party political activities “until such time as the goal of national reconciliation shall have been achieved.”
Following the passing of these Orders, a period of Military-Monarch power-sharing began. This power-sharing arrangement was in place for two years when it began to show some cracks. The cracks were caused by operationalising Order No.2 which revealed that, in fact, the power sharing between the monarchy and the military was unequal and the senior partner was the military.
That is why, when the King asked the Chairman of the Military Council to resign following his fatal shooting of a young male student at the Lesotho Agricultural College on the night of 23 December, 1988, the Chairman of the Military Council refused.
A year later, the Chairman of the Military Council would, citing pressure from ‘Captains in the RLDF’ unilaterally terminate the services of three members of the Military Council and one member of the Council of Ministers. “All four . . . were known allies of the King,” and the King’s attempts to reverse the decision of the Chairman of the Military Council came to nought (Matlosa and Pule, 2003: 47).
These two events became sources of anger on the part of the King not only because his attempts at resistance were ignored by the Chairman of the Military Council but also his powerlessness vis-à-vis the military was exposed for all to see.
Political instability ensued as a showdown between the King and the Chairman of the Military Council followed when the former was stripped of the executive and legislative powers and a large number of Ministers associated with him had their services terminated by the Military Council through Order No.2 of 1990. In March, 1990, King, Moshoeshoe II was exiled to London and in November, 1990, dethroned by the military. That marked an end to a period of soured relations between the two sides and a beginning of a period of an extended political instability that would follow the BCP-led government.
Various reasons have been advanced to explain why this power sharing could not last. Machobane (2001: 80-81) observes that although “the legal instrument that launched the military government projected the King’s authority and supremacy in the new dispensation . . . his power was [however] more de jure than de facto.” Sub-section 2 of Lesotho Order No.2, 1986, made it clear that, in the exercise of his functions under the Order, or any other law, the King would act “in accordance with the advice of the Military Council.”
For Ajulu (1995: 15), “ . . . the BNP faction that joined Lekhanya in toppling Jonathan was unlikely to provide political stability…” because it lacked legitimacy. In order to address this, it was keen to include the monarchy despite “protests from [its] masters in Pretoria.” Pule is more to the point when he, rightly, observes that “ . . . the regime laboured under contradictory agendas of its leaders”, especially on Lesotho’s foreign policy towards apartheid South Africa and corruption. The situation was unsustainable.
For Southall (1995:23), it was “ …the military regime’s sheer ineptitude, its humiliating dependence upon South Africa, its internal tensions, its corruption, its repressive tendencies and not least, its mismanagement of national finances,” that led to the collapse of the Military-Monarchy power-sharing regime.
There was also the issue of the military regime’s involvement in corruption. The weekly newspaper, The Mirror, carried sensational stories of corruption in which, it alleged, leading members of the military were involved. These stories did not sit well with the King who suggested to the Chairman of the Military Council that they should be investigated and anti-corruption measures be put in place. This suggestion was ignored by the military.
Machobane (2001:130) corroborates that corruption in the military government was more pronounced (than all previous regimes) . . . especially, during the last three or four years of its life. An extremely angry example was the Hong Kong sale of Lesotho International passports which involved not only the Lesotho Hong Kong Honorary Consul but “a chain of highly placed officials in the civil service, members of the Council of Ministers and the Military Council.”
The Commission of Inquiry set up to investigate this matter found out that these passports were sold to Chinese peasants for a fee of USD 3,300 per family, and USD 2,800 per individual. An estimated M8 million was collected but not a cent was paid to the Lesotho government. No one was, however, prosecuted for this embarrassment and humiliation of the country.
Finally, the Military Council signed and implemented a Structural Adjustment Programme with the International Monetary Fund which began in1988. Implementation of the Programme greatly reduced the annual budget deficits which were beginning to affect spending as well as worry the donors, but created remuneration grievances within the ranks of soldiers, police, civil servants and teachers that helped to topple Lekhanya and cause havoc to the BCP government that assumed power after the 1993 general elections.
Fragile Democracy, 1993-2002
The 1993 general elections, the second since independence, ushered restoration of democracy after twenty three years of authoritarian civil and military rule. The elections were contested by twelve political parties and were won by the BCP, which won all the 65 constituencies.
Instead of bringing political stability, given its strong mandate, the new BCP-led government experienced regular events of political instability, some inherited but many self-made.
These episodes included: activities of the highly politicised public sector including the army and the police; determination on the part of King Letsie III to have his father, King Moshoeshoe II, reinstated to his throne, factionalism within the BCP which led a split in 1997, and the 1998 crisis and the military intervention by SADC.
The first event was the demand, by the LDF members, of a 100 percent pay rise following an armed confrontation between two factions which lasted for fifteen days. Matlosa and Pule (2002: 52) observe that “the faction fighting was also about disagreement within the armed forces as to whether to accept or undermine the authority of the BCP.”
The BCP government, which was barely eight months in office, sought external help from the Commonwealth and SADC to deal with the issue of the army. The main recommendation was that “there is a need for full restructuring and retraining of the LDF with a view to making it a single, united and, above all, disciplined force”. (Quoted in Matlosa and Pule, 2002: 52).
Ten months into its term of office, in April 1994, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Selometsi Baholo, was assassinated by members of LDF. On the same day, four cabinet ministers were briefly abducted and released by members of the LDF.
In the light of these unsettling events, the BCP government awarded the LDF a pay rise of 66 percent and improved allowances. In May, the Lesotho Mounted Police (LMP) went on a strike for three weeks demanding a pay increase of 60 percent and, in the process, abducted the acting Minister of Finance.
The government once again caved in and awarded them a pay rise of 42 percent and improved allowances (Makoa, 1997).
Of all the challenges that it faced, the most serious concerned the reinstatement of King Moshoeshoe II who had been dethroned by the military and replaced by his son, King Letsie III, in 1990.
This challenge was one of those that the BCP government had inherited from military rule; however, the BCP government referred to the problem as the former military regime’s problem, and not theirs, and sought to side-line it.
In the event, the matter of reinstatement of Moshoeshoe II threw the palace to the corner of the BNP opposition which had problems accepting BCP’s margin of victory in 1993 elections, and was seeking to unseat the BCP forcibly, if necessary.
The other challenge was that the government routinely operated without briefing the palace, contrary to the provisions of the Constitution. To add salt to the wound, when pressure for reinstatement of Moshoeshoe II mounted and forced the government to act, the government’s reaction was insensitive, and consisted of appointing known opponents of Moshoeshoe II, including individuals known for their republican sympathies and anti-monarchical views, to a Commission to investigate the reasons for his dethronement.
One of Commission’s terms of reference was that, it should investigate how King Moshoeshoe II had related to post-independence governments since 1966. In reaction, on the morning of 17 August, 1994, Letsie III staged a coup d’etat, and announced dissolution of the government, the day after receiving a petition from the opposition to that effect.
SADC intervened leading to reinstatement both of the BCP government, on the one hand, and King Moshoeshoe II, on the other. Importantly, this marked the beginning of SADC’s attempts to establish and maintain political stability in Lesotho.
Another source of instability was the long history of politicisation of both the army and the public service by the BNP which led to tense relations
between the BCP government, on the one hand, and the public service and the army, on the other. On the one hand, BCP government suspected manycivil servants and army personnel—whom BCP leaders called Manasi—of conducting themselves, in their performance of official duties, in ways intended to sabotage government to the benefit of the BNP. On the other hand, many in the public service and the army personnel suspected the BCP government of wanting to fire them and replace them with BCP supporters.
It was also during the period 1993-2002 that politicisation of state institutions, that had started in the 1970s and consolidated in the 1980s, took a turn for the worse, as specific pieces of legislation concerning the political control of the defence and security sectors were passed. These were the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) Act, 1996 and the Police Service Act, 1998.
These laws provide for Prime Minister’s appointment and removal from office, the appointment of Commander of the army, in section 12 of the LDF Act, 1996, and the Prime Minister’s appointment and removal from office, the appointment of the Commissioner of Police, in section 5 of the Police Act, 1998.
There was also instability caused by the power struggles within the ruling party, the BCP during 1996, leading to the formation of LCD, in 1997. On the 9th June 1997, the majority of members of parliament left the ruling BCP and joined the newly formed Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) led by Prime Minister Ntsu Mokhehle.
The minority remained with the BCP. This split was, according to Matlosa and Pule (2002:58), “ . . . of a power struggle that had raged since the party’s return from exile in 1988.” The issues in contention were “ . . . succession of the ailing party leader, the conduct of armed struggle—especially historical alliances with apartheid South Africa and the use or misuse of party monies during the exile years, access to government positions and influencing public policy” (Matlosa and Pule, 2002: 58).
This period ends with another, perhaps the most significant, event of political instability following the second post-1993 general elections of 1998 which were overwhelmingly won by the newly formed LCD. These results were rejected by parties that had lost, namely, the BCP, BNP and MFP.
Not only did they reject the elections but they also decided to petition King Letsie III to declare the elections null and void, dissolve government and parliament and form a government of national unity.
For two months, they stayed at the Royal Palace gates and closed government offices, disarmed the police, and shut down government and business operations; they intimidated the workers and business owners through forced stay-aways, and they impounded and commandeered government vehicles.
There were also sporadic clashes with the police who wanted to bring law and order. While this happened, there was a mutiny in the army, where those who supported the opposition arrested the army’s leadership, some of whom escaped arrest and fled into exile in South Africa. Maseru came to a standstill, as the government was paralysed and was about to collapse. The situation was saved by SADC’s intervention.
Following the failed local efforts at resolving this explosive situation, coupled with external diplomatic efforts by the South African Deputy President, the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) and the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) under the auspices of SADC, entered Lesotho in September 1998 “ . . . to restore law and order, to rescue the legitimate government of Lesotho and to discipline mutineers in the Lesotho Defence Force” (Matlosa and Pule, 2002: 60).
In the fighting that followed, approximately 40 LDF soldiers died resisting SANDF troops who attacked Katse Dam and Makoanyane barracks.
Focussed on this resistance, SANDF failed to prevent fleeing demonstrators and soldiers from looting and putting parts of Maseru, Mafeteng, Mohales’ Hoek, and Roma to the torch.
The country would take years to politically and economically, recover from this man-made calamity.
One-party Dominant System, 2002-2012
Attempts to deal with a part of the causes of political instability—First Past The Post (FPTP) (the electoral model that the country had adopted since independence) and its perceived ‘tendency’ to ‘exclude’ from parliament parties with a sizeable following and a culture of disputing and contesting election results— all led to the establishment of the Interim Political Authority (IPA) in 1998 to create a more appropriate electoral system. The IPA came with proposals for a new electoral model, namely, the Mixed Member Proportional which is a mixture of FRTP and Propositional Representation (PR), with a view for parliament to be inclusive.
This is the context against which the 2002 general elections were held, the outcome of which was a landslide victory for the LCD winning 79 out of 80 constituencies, the exact number it had won in the 1998 elections, which, had resulted in chaos and political instability in the country. The difference was that at this time the size of the parliament was 120—constituted by 80 FPTP members and 40 PR members.
The enlargement of parliament was done, in large part, to appease political elites with a hope that political stability would be established. The cost of an enlarged parliament to the fiscus was huge but the question was whether the price of peace was not better than that of war. However, as we all know, despite the huge costs Basotho paid and are paying for political stability, Lesotho political elites’ greed and struggles for power continue to exacerbate political instability.
In many ways, the 2002 elections provided an opportunity for Lesotho to establish a stable democracy and to erase, from its history, the instability that had dogged the country since independence. The general acceptance of the new electoral model as inclusive and representative of all shades of political opinion was hailed as its main achievements. Prime Minister Mosisili would describe it as “molleloa” meaning ‘the best (ever)’ in one of his political rallies. The elections’ outcomes of 2012 and 2015 would show the fallacy of this description, as will be seen below.
Scholars of elections, such as Makoa,(2012: 4), however, observe that “ the advent of the MMP system may have just heralded a shift in focus or opened a new side of political conflict in Lesotho rather than being a cure for it.” Six years later, and following the 2007 general elections disputes, political instability ensued as losing parties wrangled over the allocation of propositional representation parliamentary seats because the new model was abused by the political elites. LCD went into an alliance with the National Independence Party (NIP) and won the poll. The newly formed All Basotho Convention (ABC), which went into an alliance with Lesotho Workers Party, challenged the election outcome. As a result strikes, stay-aways and protests followed as the opposition sought to overturn seat allocation.
Violence ensued as supporters of government and opposition supporters clashed. Elements of the army were also reported to be involved in this violence on the side of the government. SADC, in the person of former Botswana President Quett Masire, visited the country to mediate disputes on allocation of parliamentary seats. His mission failed and he withdrew.
In the midst of this impasse, political instability manifested itself, as Prime Minister Mosisili survived an apparent assassination attempt when the State House was attacked by mercenaries in the dead of the night in 2009. The same mercenaries had, on the same night, attacked the Makoanyane barracks and seized army vehicles. Three mercenaries were killed in the exchange of fire with the police on the outskirts of Maseru the following morning while seven were charged in connection with the attack on Mosisili and found guilty and jailed.
As these events were happening, the ever-present power struggles within the congress ‘movement’, characterised by internal wrangles within the LCD as two factions, Lija-mollo and Litima-mollo, supporting the Leader of the party, Mosisili and the Secretary-General, Metsing respectively, fought pitched battles to capture the party. When the leader and his supporters realised that they would not win, they split from the LCD and formed the Democratic Congress (DC) which hived away a large number of members of parliament to form a minority government. Political stability was a casualty.
It was also during this period that the LCD government, in order to buy support from parliamentarians, not only increased their remuneration but also introduced a lot of obscene perks. These included the interest-free loan of M500 000.00 from commercial banks, guaranteed by the government. There was also the purchase of government vehicles by the ministers and Principal Secretaries, at the nominal price of M4 000 for Mercedes Benz sedans, and M2 500 for luxury Toyota sedans after three years of use (Lesotho Government Gazette Extraordinary, 19th June, 2006).
These ‘perks’ were justified by saying that increasing parliamentarians’ remuneration was in order to attract persons of high calibre to national politics. In fact, the opposite has happened. Instead of attracting persons of integrity, national politics has attracted a majority of persons willing to play sycophant to the few who exercise real power. Further, the perks have attracted, to Lesotho politics, individuals—‘political leaders’ and their supporters—of greedier dispositions who are driven more by motives of self-enrichment than public service.
During the life of the LCD government, instances of public funds being laundered through tenders for both party and personal gain were investigated by the Lesotho National Assembly Public Accounts Committee. The results of that investigation are a matter of public record. The report shows that nepotism, kickbacks, opaque and irregular procurements, and conflict of interest were used by the political elite to fund themselves and their parties in complicity with several dirty corporations.
It was during this period, 2007-2012, that a conducive environment emerged in which the investigative institutions such as auditors, police, anti-corruption agencies acquiesced to this skulduggery. In such an environment, many public servants felt free to also indulge in this gluttony, masquerading as independent suppliers and overcharging government for goods and services illegally supplied. For example, the Prime Minister’s office reportedly bought a consignment of cans of fruit juice for each of which the government was charged M100, instead of the normal retail price of less than M10.
Unstable Coalition Governments, 2012-2016
The first coalition government was formed after the 2012 general elections which produced a ‘hung parliament’, where no single party had a majority to constitute government. Coalition partners ABC, LCD and BNP had 30, 26 and 5 seats respectively, forming a simple majority of 61 seats out the 120 seats that constitute the Lesotho National Assembly.
The four years of Coalition governments which followed the ten year one-party dominant government was a welcome change to most Basotho. It was hoped that the political elite had, at last, come to their senses and were then committed to an inclusive nation-building process and economic development. Alas, that was not to be, as political instability became more pronounced than ever before in the political history of the country because political elites vied for power at the expense of the people and embarked on bitter and mostly bloody struggles to get on top.
Examples of these self-serving struggles from the first Coalition (2012-2015) were the prorogation of parliament in June, 2014, the attempted coup of August, 2014, by the Commander of LDF, Tlali Kamoli, following the decision by prime minister to fire him and replace him with Brigadier Mahao, the LDF night attacks of the 30 August, 2016, on Police headquarters where Sergeant Ramahloko was brutally killed, attacks on Mabote police station, on the home of new Commander of LDF, Lieutenant- General Mahao, and on the State House. The latter resulted in the Prime Minister Thabane and the Minister of Sports, Chief ’Maseribane, fleeing to South Africa.
The first coalition government effectively collapsed in June 2014 when the LCD signed a new alliance with the DC, which had won 48 seats in the 2012 elections. Before the 2012 elections, the LCD had ruled out the possibility of a coalition with the DC in the event of a failure to secure the requisite parliamentary majority.
The ABC-led coalition was a marriage of convenience which was driven by an “anti-Mosisili sentiment.” Both the ABC and LCD were hostile to working with the DC or expanding the coalition to anyone else. This arrangement was inherently unstable because the coalition faced challenges of governing with a one seat majority; it was difficult to pass legislation requiring two thirds majority and factional politics subsequently characterised the coalition driven by their historically antagonistic relationship. More importantly, this “coalition became personality-driven with a standoff between Thabane and Metsing over the division of spoils” (Motsamai, 2015:7).
The second Coalition government of 2015-2017 was equally unstable because of its exclusion of the ABC which had won 46 seats. Within three months of a new coalition government being formed, Thabiso Tšosane, a prominent businessman, and a member of former Prime Minister Thabane’s party, was killed by unknown people in May 2015. This event was followed by the execution of Lieutenant-General Mahao, former LDF Commander, by the elements of the LDF, in June. Fearing for their lives, three opposition leaders, Thabane, ’Maseribane and Rantšo fled to South Africa, while a number of LDF members were rounded up, arrested and brutally tortured for alleged mutiny. Other LDF members fled into South Africa.
These are signs of political instability since 2012. SADC has been occupied with efforts to manage and resolve the perpetual conflict in Lesotho. In fact, Lesotho has been a prominent conflict agenda item at SADC Summits and Extraordinary Summits to-date. Following the murder of Mahao, SADC, (at the invitation of the Coalition government), established a Commission of Inquiry headed by Justice Phumaphi from Botswana. It sat for three months in Lesotho and South Africa and presented its findings. During its investigations and after presenting its report, the coalition government threw all manner of obstacles either under its own hand or using agents, particularly the army, to frustrate and tarnish the image of the Commission. To-date, only one of the Commission’s recommendations, namely, the release of Lt. General Tlali Kamoli from the Command of the LDF, has been implemented.
Makoa’s (2012:2) observation on the first Coalition that the key motivation behind its formation was the quest for office and state power applies to the second Coalition, perhaps to a very large extent. For example, while in the first Coalition the combined number of cabinet ministers and deputy ministers increased from 23 to 30, in the current Coalition the number has increased to 38. The payoffs and the spoils, or benefits, of cabinet positions have been captured by Mboweni (2014:2) when he observed that:
In this country [Lesotho], which is poor and with a small economy, control of the government is key to the most primitive forms of wealth accumulation. Access to a ministry means the ability to loot the state’s resources in order to enrich oneself. It is as crude as all that. Once someone becomes a minister, their social status changes, their control over tenders and other state resources is enhanced, and “a looter continua!” So the very thought of losing state power drives even the best men and women to go absolutely berserk. That is the fundamental basis upon which we should understand the continuing instability in Lesotho.
Based on the events of the last five decades, it can, arguably, be said that Lesotho is confronted with a significant leadership challenge which has been at the centre of the country’s political instability. That leadership challenge needs to be urgently addressed and elevated as a priority issue of concern to all Basotho—ordinary citizens, political parties, civil society groups—regional and continental bodies, as well as development partners.
Collective action is required to stop and reverse the trend of poor leadership and generate a new crop of leaders. Currently, all those at the helm of the Lesotho state seem oblivious to the fact that “leadership is a privilege and an opportunity to serve others… [rather than] an instrument to assert their dominion and oppression of others” (Murithi, 2007:9). Lesotho needs leaders who demonstrate ability to manage state affairs conscientiously and efficaciously, a consistent commitment to advancing the conditions of their compatriots, selfless devotion to the principles of democratic governance and an attitude of service.
Granted, that Lesotho’s problems cannot be reduced to poor national political leadership alone. However, men and women who have ruled Lesotho since independence have been so obsessed with self-advancement and have been so lacking in the sense of national duty that they have had neither the will nor the talent to face squarely this nation’s other problems. Current national political leadership prefers the status quo and have been completely blinded by self-interest and by the benefits that accrue to them from the status quo.
T. H. Mothibe
We need to hear of redemption plans
ON October 7, 2022 Basotho had an opportunity to decide the future of Lesotho. They did by overwhelmingly voting for the newly formed Revolution for Prosperity (RFP). The party won 57 percent of Lesotho’s 120 seats, confirming it was Basotho’s preferred alternative to combat, amongst other things, the high unemployment rates, devastating poverty, rampant corruption, and alarming everyday cases of gruesome homicides. The time of campaign promises is over, and for the “mighty RFP” as its advocates refer to it, the moment has come to act; to deliver.
So far, it appears that the RFP is cruising smoothly towards the right trajectory; the cabinet of Lesotho’s 11th government is forthcoming about pressing challenges to our economy, as well as mitigating steps it intends to take.
Nonetheless, I should mention that the delivery of the Medium-Term Budget Review in December, was followed by distrustful comments on the free streets of social media.
The Review described the mid-year performance of the economy in reference to the 2022/2023 budget as well as changes that were made in response to emerging problems. However, numerous people stressed that they wanted to hear about redemption plans in lieu of being reminded of the sorry state our nation is.
Their grievances of course, are valid when we begin to contextualise the numbers. Behind every unemployment statistic are university graduates with grim futures and parents who are unable to provide for the fundamental necessities of their children.
Behind every corruption scandal are deserving Basotho who are denied a chance because of nepotism, bribery, and extortion among others.
On the flip slide, I found it crucial that Dr Matlanyane accurately depicted the state of our economy because it confirms that the government is cognisant of the urgent need for reform and the mammoth task of selflessly serving our nation that is on the brink of disintegrating.
With reference to the Statement on the Economy and Finances which Dr Matlanyane presented to parliament on January 5, 2023, the previous ABC-led government ran a series of substantial deficits which ranged between 4 and 8 percent of the GDP in the last five years. This was due to the expenditure that had been growing much faster than the revenue and it perhaps elucidates why the African Development Bank estimates that the ratio of our debt to GDP was 50 percent in 2021.
Simply put, by taking out loans, the government spent more money than it was making.
This poses challenges; increased and persistently large deficits and debt can lead to increased geopolitical risk, rising interest rates, weaker economic growth, higher interest payments, and chronically high inflation. Thus, the RFP-led administration deserves commendations for its intention to challenge the status quo.
The principal goal of the 2023/2024 budget, “From Reconstruction and Recovery to Growth and Resilience” to hasten economic growth that creates jobs, is inclusive and reduces poverty.
In response to persistently large deficits and debt, the 2023/2024 budget promises a fiscal surplus of one billion maloti which will be 2.5 percent of the GDP. It is pertinent to underline that until the end of this fiscal year, these numbers are just aspirations. In any case, I find them to be invigorating aspirations that must eventually become a reality.
On the administration of the budget, Dr Matlanyane and her Finance and Development Planning team need to do some improving. Regarding paragraphs (a), (b), and (c) of Section 12(1) of the Public Financial Management and Accountability Act 2011 (PFMAA), each programme of the government should submit the receipts and expenditure estimates together with the objectives and performance indicators of the programme, and the details of new policy initiatives.
However, at the time of writing this piece, no documents which speak to the aforementioned paragraphs of the PFMAA are publicly available on the website of the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning. Not only does this obscure the budget’s openness, but it also deters citizens from holding government entities accountable.
Additionally, uploading a PFMAA document with missing pages on the website is utter negligence on the part of the Finance and Development Planning Ministry, excluding any indication that it was done on purpose. Page 268 of the PFMAA which I assume begins the legislative mandate of the budget is missing from the PFMAA document that has been uploaded as of the time this article goes for printing.
Concerning recurring expenses, it is unnerving that in this day and age, so many millions of Maloti are spent on printing. Prospects of the Fourth Industrial Revolution including the widespread accessibility of knowledge in digital form. Of course, there is a significant digital divide in the country, but acknowledging the fact that there are circumstances in which printing is unnecessary should be a top priority.
In addition, M249.3 million is proposed for the Ministry of Information, Communication, Technology and Innovation to fund phase II of the e-Government infrastructure project and the expansion of broadband access among other things. For this reason, I anticipated seeing a significant decrease in projected printing expenses over the next two years in lieu of the projected increase.
One thing that needs explanation is why the M567 956.00 proposed for international fares for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Relations is lower compared to some ministries.
The same goes for the Ministry of Trade, Industry, Business Development and Tourism for which not even a single Loti has been proposed for international fares.
This is because, theoretically speaking, these two ministries are mandated to play a major role in implementing our foreign policy, therefore, it is only reasonable that their international travel costs should be higher than those of other ministries.
On the contrary, according to the draft budget estimates for the financial year 2023/2024, over one million Maloti is proposed for international fares for the Ministry of Health as well as the Ministry of Information and Communications, Science, Technology and Innovation, M587 640.00 for the Ministry of Education, over two million maloti for the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, over three million for the Prime Minister’s Office, and M477 645.00 for the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Employment. The big question is, what is the purpose of international travel for these ministries?
Then there is the big elephant in the room, the unending construction of the Royal Palace. It is now a decade since hundreds of millions of Maloti have been pumped into the building of the Royal Palace.
Yet again, a whopping M393 million has been allocated for the completion of the long-delayed construction of the Royal Palace and Senate. Dejectedly, this allocation surpasses proposed budgets for urgently required development projects which will benefit the whole nation.
While hundreds of thousands of Basotho scrape by daily, why are hundreds of millions of Maloti spent on a single household? Can we, the taxpayers, once and for all get a detailed report of what is going on with the Royal Palace? At the very least, we deserve that much!
- Mosebetsi Khobotlo holds a Bachelor of Political Science cum laude where she majored in Politics, International Relations and Public Administration. She is currently studying for BA Honours International Relations at the University of Pretoria.
Varieties of African women’s poetry
I want to show just a few varieties, out of many, through which African women poets tell the stories of women through poetry from about 1840 to the present. Sometimes the women appear to be silent and conservative but with the passage of time they have become direct and radical in their poetry.
Aisha Taymur the Egyptian woman poet writes in a complicated way about her relationship with the traditional Islamic cloth, the hijab. In “With pure virtue’s hand I guard the might of my hijāb” she indicates that far from oppressing her, it identifies her as a free Muslim woman. Contrary to the feeling that education and writing makes a Muslim woman rebellious, Aisha is of a different view:
“The arts of my eloquence, my mind I protected:
talisman dear, hijab’s amulet: danger denies
My literature and my learning did me no harm
save in making me the finest flower of minds wise
Solitary bower, scarf’s knot, are no affliction
nor my gown’s cut nor proud and strong guarded paradise
My bashfulness, no blockade to keep me from the heights”
She is comfortable in her culture and religion. She was one of Egypt’s most distinguished poets, novelists, and social activists. Born in 1840 into a family of Kurdish origins and literary roots, Taymur was a symbol of the women liberation movement since the Ottoman rule. She was well-versed in the Holy Quran and Islamic Jurisprudence, and also wrote poetry in Arabic, Turkish and Persian.
Contrast that with the other Egyptian female poet, Doria Shafik. She was a rather more open and radical voice. She found her environment rather oppressive and indicated that her poetry was going to save as one of the few spaces that allowed her to be herself. In her poem, “Solitude”, she writes:
In this desert,
where I am drowning
you open more than one way.
In this silence,
the horrible silence
that encircles me,
in the torment of my becoming
you permit me
She wrote a lot of poems in the mid 1940’s. In an intelligent way, she wrote and spoke about gradually rising within her culture, going outside but not moving rather too far from tradition which she ironically saw as a shield. She once said the aim of her writings was “To catch the imponderable thread connecting my own very existence to my own past, as well as to my own country’s history and civilisation. The Egypt I knew in my early years was an Egypt awakening from a thousand years’ sleep, becoming conscious of its long sufferings – that it had rights! And I learned in my childhood that the will of the woman can supersede the law.”
Philosophically, she felt that the boundaries of the laws can be extended through both existence and negotiation. For her, freedom is attained even as a woman is holding herself together. She believed in a careful and methodical fight. She ends her poem, “Unburdened” thus:
“My heart is in my hand
Hold it…here it is!
But do be careful with it
It is made of crystal.”
She saw an opportunity to steal the thunder of knowledge which she would use in her home country. Travel and education were not just for the sake of it if the new Egyptian woman was to rise beyond her woes: She was rooted in her quest for growth and freedom. She saw her education and her travels abroad as something that was central to her growth:
“Conquest of my soul,
with which to revive myself
and our land that is dying.”
Sabrina Mahfouz is a more contemporary Egyptian woman poet, having been born in 1984. She was raised in between London and Cairo. Her most famous works are a poetry book, How You Might Know Me of 2016. She is very direct, quick and radical. Her poem, “In the Revolutionary Smoking Room” is spontaneous and breaks from traditional Egyptian women poetry traditions:
“Open the window. Isn’t it –
despicable deplorable disgraceful suspicious untenable untouchable delightful delicious unbelievable unstoppable grateful curious
tweetable filmable this is fucking serious
debatable inflatable never ever tedious
remarkable reliable spiteful pretentious
responsible blameable beautiful ferocious
– Yes. Can I have another cigarette please?”
But in her new book of 2020, For Women Trying to Breathe and Failing, Batsirai Chigama of Zimbabwe has, for me, one very special section called “How Love Should Be”. In that section, Chigama chooses to protest against men’s abuse of women by actually giving us the alternative man. This is a rare feat! Here is a man that the women would prefer…
In school we used to call that the control experiment!
When a male reader goes through that section, he may definitely come face-to-face with what he could have been when the world was fresh and the hills were still soft.
It is like coming home in the middle of a rainy night to find your better version sleeping in your very bed! When that happens, and you are able to control your nerves, you may see what you could have been and not the brute that you have become. We tend to come into the world too late or too early to be sane.
In one of those poems by Chigama, a woman gazes at a man and thinks, “of all the places (that) I could live, your heart is the paradise I choose.” In another, a woman refers to her man as “a best seller to me” and more specifically, “babe I would carry you around in the duffel bag of my heart, flip through you, slowly grasp(ing) every single word profound…”
Then she describes an imaginary good, lovely and well behaved man with:
“There are some rooms in your palms
Where I feel I belong
Full of you.”
These are the kind of men’s palms that women look for everywhere without finding. Those palms with rooms! But that is only the beginning because in yet another poem, the title poem to this section itself, the poet writes about her man’s “gentle softness” and her man’s “dewy kindness that drips each time you look at me and hold me strong in the embrace of each syllable.”
And the man is so good that the woman even admits her own faults, “I am a mess I know, yet the way each vowel curves in your iris is the magnet that centres my universe.” And that electric section of poems continues unabated.
In another piece, a joyful woman reads a book of poems by the window as her caring man wears the apron to prepare a toast for her, roasting a chicken drumstick for her and the sad part is that the man does this only on Sundays. If he could do it more regularly, the better!
Here you find a man who knows how to spell love even in his sleep. There is also talk about “a man who smiled with his eyes,” causing a woman bloom like a flower in season. That is not even enough because in yet another poem, “ a woman meets her former lover (so that she is able) to touch the wrinkles on his body and realises that she still loves him even more than before and that it was really “stupid (that they had) let each other go the way we did.”
Then there is a section called “For Women Who Forget To Breathe While Alive”, which has poems about how women’s woes affect their private and bodily lives. There are also sections about women failing to survive and another more reassuring section about “women finding their feet.”
There is also a section that carries “the random thoughts of a woman sojourner.” Maybe these are about the poet’s feelings at all the different spaces she has visited (at home and abroad.)
Still in Zimbabwean women’s poetry, when you move to Samantha Rumbidzai Vazhure’s, in her latest book of poems of 2022, Starfish Blossoms, you find that this collection is decidedly based on the firm foundations of the wisdom of one’s female ancestors, both in mythical and real time. This book can be read as an archive of women’s thoughts and sweet secrets from one generation to the other.
In these pieces, there is the hovering presence of the persona’s paternal grandmother, VaChivi. She is the spirit of the lioness, hunting relentlessly for game in order to feed her pack of cubs. VaChivi is more vicious and runs much faster than her lazy and redundant male counterpart. Hunting is not sport. It is a matter of life and death.
There is also the maternal grandmother, aChihera, the woman of the Shava Eland totem. Charwe Nehanda of the first Chimurenga is among the strong Chihera women of Zimbabwe. They are renowned in Shona lore for their resilience and sometimes they are known to be strong-headed, fighting harder than their fathers or their husbands!
These two archetypes VaChivi and aChihera demonstrate that this poet is coming to the world stage already armed with ready-made stories of the brave women from her own community. She is not looking for new heroes. She already has the blood of heroines running through her veins. She is only looking for a broader audience. For me this is Samantha Rumbidzai Vazhure’s greatest achievement.
In the very first poem the persona recalls her time with her grandmother out in the countryside. It is a return to the stable source and to roots that go deep.
Grandmother hides her monies everywhere; inside her crimpling doek, under the reed mat and even inside her g-cup bra. Meanwhile the corn is roasting by the fireside. When she asks her granddaughter to count her money, the younger woman says, “but you can’t see the money even if I were to count it for you!”
And the elder answers: “These eyes can see what they want to see.” Meaning I would not have asked you to count the money if you were not a trusted fellow. This poem is a story about the easy camaraderie between women from across generations.
In the poem “Hanyanani”, the poet goes even deeper into the Shona mythology. An old woman lives in the drought-smitten district of Chivi in a year when the famine is at its bitterest. There is danger that the many-many orphans that she keeps in her homestead may actually starve to death. VaChivi goes up and down among her neighbours and she finds no food to cook. But the orphans gather around her crying louder and louder…
VaChivi comes up with a plan which has become legendary among the Shona people. She lights a fire as if everything is alright and puts a pot full of water on the fire. There is still nothing to cook and VaChivi picks pebbles from the bare ground and throws them into the pot and she tells her grandchildren that she is now cooking something and she will make soup out of it. She dishes out the ‘soup’ eventually. It is the mere hope among these children that the hot water that they are taking in is real soup. That saves their lives;
“And there’s an old woman from Chivi
who cooked stones and drank the soup.
She did not swallow the stones.
Did she not know that those
who swallow stones do not die?”
The Chivi woman’s story is about intense hope and resolve. In the same area there is a contemporary tale about Hanyanani, a ghost that goes ahead with its ghostliness without thinking about what people say about her as a ghost. Sometimes Hanyanani terrorises wayfarers who walk the paths in the middle of the night from beer drinking binges.
The daring drunkards even think Hanyanani is a fresh new prostitute from more urbane places like Masvingo, Harare and Bulawayo and on being taken to her home, the men fall into deep sleep.
When they wake up they find that they are actually resting in the graveyard! In a more contemporary period, Hanyanani is often reincarnated as Peggy, the other terror ghost of the other Zimbabwean towns of Chiredzi and Triangle.
These are stories about woman triumphalism retold in poetic form. Vazhure does not exactly rewrite these myths but her allusions to them through her poetry are powerful and strategic. Vazhure uses local materials to talk about global issues.
Indeed, over the years, African women poets in different countries, have developed varied methods of telling their evolving stories through poetry.
We’re stuck to our old habits
Sesotho se re, u ka isa pere nokeng ho’a noa metsi. Ha feela e sa batle ho noa, ha ho seo u ka se etsang. The translation is; life is all about choices and we are all products of the choices we make.
I realise that this month marks exactly one year since the formation of the Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) party. The news of the formation of the RFP brought a ray of sunshine. A ray of hope!
I tell you, around this time last year, it was evident that Mathibeli Mokhothu would be the next Prime Minister but the RFP rescued us from a potential catastrophe of epic proportions. Ebe re ka be re le kae? Ke sure re ka be ntse re loana.
However, now that the RFP is firmly in power, that ray is unfortunately starting to fade away. Well, let me speak for myself. The euphoria is slowly starting to evaporate now that I see that the RFP has overpromised and is starting to under-deliver. It wasn’t ready to govern.
You see the problems started when the RFP failed to give an account on progress made in the first 100 days in office. Some people claim that it is actually 100 working days. So that excludes holidays and days that fall over the weekend. Friday is a half-day of course.
But why can’t the Minister of Communications say something on the promises made on first 100 days? Is it over? Is it in April? By the way, is Minister Mochoboroane the new Government spokesperson? When will the PM give an account on the first 100 days? We need a report.
Now what bored me the most was the recent budget speech. The message was just loud and clear. It clearly says this new administration undermines public servants.
I wish the government knew the level of debt that our public servants are currently swimming in. They are swimming in a pool of mud. They owe almost all machonisas in town because their salaries just cannot sustain their families. Hence the high rate of corruption. People need to survive. Le nna nka utsoa Diesel ea mosebetsing. Le parts tsa literekere. Ho ja ke ne ke le mohlanka. If only!
If the RFP administration is adamant to maintain the status quo on ignoring the wellbeing of public servants, then it must just forget about service delivery. We’ll re-open this conversation after the 2027 elections.
But the thing that got me concerned was to see blunders our ministers made at the recently held conference/summit on Least Developed Countries in Qatar (‘Moka oa Naha tse itlhotseng).
Haai! The questions asked in that summit were quite difficult and one of our ministers was dribbled by one simple yet difficult question. The question said something like; what you need to do to, in order to catapult your country out of the ‘least developed’ status.
This was a very difficult question. It’s like asking an alcoholic an unfair question and say, “what do you need to do to quit alcohol”. Or a question a poor person, “what do you need to do to become to rich.” Obviously these are questions that need deep introspection for one to deal with demons they could be avoiding.
Yes, of course, this was a difficult question to answer for our ministers. “What do you need to do to pull yourself out of poverty?” As I was watching this on Lesotho Television, my answer was, “Knowing Basotho, absolutely nothing.”
Why do I say this? When we were growing up in Mazenod Airport City, there was a gifted artist called Anikie. Well, that was a nickname he used for cartoons he drew for Moeletsi oa Basotho. Ka motseng a tsejoa ka lebitso la Taliban.
He was way older than us, e se e le abuti, and he was blessed with a very rare form of talent. I tell you, he could just sit and start drawing and the end result would be a masterpiece. That man was blessed.
But unfortunately, Anikie had a terrible habit that he had to feed and this habit just pulled him back. He was an alcoholic and drank until he looked like an old man. By the way, did you see the new President of Nigeria?
So, there were so many people that tried to intervene to save that precious talent. I remember that even Major General Lekhanya sourced a scholarship for Anikie to study fine-arts in Germany.
No, Anikie was not interested in that sh*t. He just wanted to stay in Mazenod, paint a piece, sell it, buy alcohol and drink until he couldn’t pronounce his name. Start a new piece, sell it, drink until he forgot what the day of the week was. This was a vicious cycle that just sank him. Anikie was addicted to his bad habits. No one could rescue him. Absolutely no one.
I remember buying his last two art-pieces, before he departed, at an exhibition held at Morija Arts and Cultural Festival about 22 years ago. No, that man was finished. The alcohol had turned him into an old man and he was probably 40-years-old then. But he looked like a 70-year-old man. No one could save that man from his bad habits.
He subsequently died after the art exhibition and I’ve kept those two art pieces for sentimental value. Well, I donated one to my sister but I’m thinking of repatriating it. But the story of Anikie is exactly the same as the story of a country Lesotho. Blessed with abundance but held back by its bad habits.
By the way, Anikie had a super talented younger brother named ‘Chipa’ but this ‘Chipa’ was a marathon runner. Why the name Chipa for a runner still remains a mystery up to this day.
So Chipa was a long distance marathon runner. That guy could run for kilometres on end and won various marathons in South Africa.
Yet again, Chipa had a terrible habit to feed. He would practise for a marathon. Win it. Drink the prize money. Be absolutely broke. Practise for the next marathon. Win it. Drink the prize-money.
Be absolutely broke. Practise for the next marathon. That was the cycle.
Chipa was such an alcoholic that he missed his son’s funeral because he was busy drinking at one of the shacks near Basotho Canners. How sad is that?
Yes, like his brother Anikie, Chipa departed this world a broke and broken man. No one could help him. I felt sad when Chipa died because he was someone I related well with and was always pleased to see me.
So, this is a quagmire that Lesotho finds itself in. Lesotho is just addicted to its bad habits and no one can save it. I’m telling you, the Americans can pour all the money from American tax-payers into Lesotho’s economy. But if the will to change is not there, no one can change Lesotho.
The Chinese government can donate all sorts of landmark buildings. However, if the will to change is not there, nothing can change Lesotho.
The EU has poured millions towards reforms but there is simply no will from Basotho to leave their bad habits. Lesotho is a country that is not prepared to reform because it is addicted to its bad habits.
How is it possible for a country to be inside a belly of a country that budgets R2 trillion and only budget one percent of that? One percent of R2 trillion? Ha ke tsebe hore na ke bolehe hona kapa bo…..(feel free to complete the sentence).
Do you want to tell me that Lesotho can’t at the very least target to budget 10% of what South Africa budgets? Okay, let me say, five percent of which would translate to R100 million. Re je mafoforetsane a South Africa. We don’t need to start anything afresh. Just pick and choose from what works and run with it.
But no, there’s no will to change from the bad habits. Lesotho will never change unless its people sincerely change.
The beauty queen of Lesotho
The stock-theft menace
Purge of was long overdue
Matekane to launch microchip project
We need to hear of redemption plans
Varieties of African women’s poetry
We’re stuck to our old habits
Shao resigns from SR
Big blow for Sekata
Machonisa on fire
Mahao murder witness grilled
The queen Mampara
Lephema spooks Muslims
Matekane whips dissenters into line
LEC to switch off households over debts
Weekly Police Report
I made Matekane rich: Moleleki
The middle class have failed us
Musician dumps ABC
DCEO raids PS’
No peace plan, no economic recovery
Reforms: time to change hearts and minds
We have lost our moral indignation
MP dumps party, joins Matekane
Coalition politics are bad for development
MP charged with stock-theft
Row over army secrets
Literature and reality
End of the road for Letsatsi
Bofuma, boimana li nts’a bana likolong
Mahao o seboko ka ho phahama hoa litheko
Contract Farming Launch
7,5 Million Dollars For Needy Children
Ba ahileng lipuleng ba falle ha nakoana
Ba ahileng lipuleng ba falle ha nakoana
Weekly Police Report
Mahao o re masholu a e ts’oareloe
‘Our Members Voted RFP’ Says Metsing
Matekane’s 100 Days Plan
High Profile Cases in Limbo
130 Law Students Graduate From NUL
Metsing and Mochoboroane Case Postponed
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