The government this week announced the departure of Lesotho army commander Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli.
Kamoli is stepping down from the helm of the army to end a tumultuous 27 months during which he was at the centre of key political developments in Lesotho beginning with the controversial events of August 30, 2014.
His departure marks a significant moment in the search for a lasting solution to Lesotho’s political problems.
The international community, led by the United States and SADC, had piled relentless pressure on the government led by Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili to let him go.
In fact, the US government has threatened to terminate the AGOA deal because of what it says is a failure to uphold the rule of law.
If that is done, it would put at risk the jobs and livelihoods of 40 000 Basotho textile workers.
Yet, in spite of the pressure, Mosisili, who has affectionately described Kamoli as a “loyal and competent” soldier, was reluctant to let the General go.
With Kamoli gone, the question that must be addressed is: What next?
How do we move Lesotho forward? This is by no means an easy question. It is a very emotive issue. But this is no time to allow emotions to overshadow reason.
In our opinion, Lesotho faces two difficult choices.
The first, which the opposition has been rooting for, is to call for accountability. The feeling is that there cannot be justice without accountability.
The second option would be to grant Kamoli immunity from prosecution for anything that he did in the course of dispensing his duties.
Such an amnesty would pave way for national healing and a new beginning.
These are difficult choices. We hold no opinion on either.
But given a choice we would go for the latter. We believe such a decision would be in Lesotho’s best interests if this country is to move forward.
We cannot continue to harp on the events of the past, no matter how painful they were. This country must look into the future and set in place mechanisms to ensure we do not have a repeat of the instability we witnessed over the past 27 months.
It should be admitted that Lesotho has gone through what has been a very difficult phase in its history. This chapter must be closed.
But we cannot move away from that sad chapter through retribution.
Of course, those who suffered loss on account of any excesses on the part of government officials, in whatever capacity, must be compensated. The government should perhaps put together an attractive package to compensate victims.
This does not mean financial compensation will heal the pain. Far from it. But it would be a significant statement to acknowledge the pain they suffered at the hands of government agents.
Going after the General would be a very unwise move. In fact, it could trigger a fresh cycle of violence and counter violence which Lesotho does not need.
The country’s complex political and social problems require a measure of stability if they are to be effectively tackled.
That stability will start with a process of true national reconciliation rather than retribution. An eye for an eye will make half of the world’s population blind.
With Kamoli out of the way, exiled opposition leaders, who include former premier Thomas Thabane, must now come back home and take their rightful place in Parliament.
The return of the exiled leaders is critical if the reform process that has already been kick-started by the government is to begin in earnest.
Purge of was long overdue
THIS week, the Sam Matekane-led government embarked on a massive exercise to purge the civil service of individuals who were un-procedurally recruited under the previous administration.
The Ministry of Communications has already booted out 70 temporary workers.
A further 3 593 workers at the Ministry of Public Service are also facing a similar fate after they were unlawfully appointed into the civil service.
About 6 000 workers are likely to be affected by the clean-up exercise.
While the repercussions at the personal level will be devastating, we would like to believe that this exercise was long overdue as it gives the government a chance to clean up a civil service that had become beholden to narrow political interests.
Successive governments in Lesotho had for years been forced to fend off allegations that they were in the business of dishing out jobs to their cronies on the basis of political affiliation, a charge they feebly denied.
Such nepotistic practices resulted in the government flooding the civil service with their cronies who in most cases were hopelessly unqualified for the jobs.
This was one of the major grievances among Basotho for years. It caused much frustration for Basotho.
It is against this basis that we think an exercise to clean up the civil service of political appointees was long overdue.
Predictably, the opposition is not happy with the Matekane-led government’s push to fire the workers. That was to be expected.
We would like to argue that the opposition must accept part of the blame for creating the mess in the first place. It would be an act of duplicity to deny culpability when they were at the centre of the mess for years.
The opposition needs to accept that mistakes were made so that they can become part of the process in seeking cogent proposals on how this can now be fixed.
The government must now demonstrate that it is committed to a truly clean, transparent process in fixing the mess.
This would be good for Lesotho.
In its zeal to clean up the civil service, the government must ensure that this purge does not create chaos and halt developmental projects that were already in full swing.
It must ensure that there is continuity.
It is obvious that the civil servants who are being booted will need to be replaced. These jobs will need to be advertised in a clear, transparent process to give every Mosotho a fair chance for a crack at the jobs.
It would be sad were the government to seek to purge the civil servants only to create vacancies for their own Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) supporters. We hope the government will not fall into this trap.
If that is done, that would be tragic. This should be a government for all Basotho
The Matekane-led government came into power on the basis that it would do better than the previous regimes that were in charge. They set the bar higher for themselves and so they must deliver.
It is our hope that the government will extend this exercise to clean up the civil service of all ghost workers. A lean, clean civil service will certainly better for the interests of Basotho.
We also note with satisfaction that the government has begun floating adverts inviting qualified Basotho to start applying for the posts of Principal Secretaries.
That process must be free of political contamination.
It’s time to go, chief!
ELSEWHERE in this issue we carry a story of a looming power struggle in the opposition Alliance of Democrats (AD) led by veteran politician Monyane Moleleki.
After a decade at the helm of the party, Moleleki could for the first time have to overcome a challenge for the leadership of the party from his own deputy Professor Ntoi Rapapa.
Professor Rapapa, who was seen as fiercely loyal to his political mentor, has accepted nomination from his own constituency to stand for elections as party leader.
This is unprecedented in the AD, a party whose bland type of politics was one of always deferring to the leader.
We understand there is now fierce jostling behind the scenes for the leadership of the AD.
While others might see this as democracy in action, we feel there is a sense of anxiety and desperation by challengers who can’t wait to see Moleleki’s back.
It is understandable that Moleleki fears that this could lead to a bitter split, weakening a party that has never really taken off the ground despite its promises that it was ready to govern over six years ago.
The AD was thumped in last October’s general elections, winning two contested seats in Rapapa’s Moselemane and in Malibamatšo constituencies.
It also picked three compensatory seats under Lesotho’s Proportional Representation (PR) system.
There could be a feeling within the AD that Moleleki has run his course and it is now time for the party to take a new route under a younger, much more dynamic leadership.
Moleleki thus finds himself at a cross-road. Will he continue to prod on, or will he now raise his hand up and hand over the baton to his trusted lieutenant?
If Moleleki decides to run again at the elective conference next month, he will have to face a real contest without being shielded by his own party. If he loses, he could be reduced to political irrelevance. That would be sad.
However, we believe the situation need not be allowed to get to this level.
At 72, Moleleki is no longer a young man. He has been in leadership positions in various political formations for over three decades. He therefore qualifies to be seen as an elder statesman in Lesotho both in terms of his age and his stunning longevity in national politics.
Moleleki has run his race and it may be time to say goodbye!
We hope that he has no appetite to run for the biggest job in the AD when the party meets to elect a new leadership next month.
Of course we have nothing against him as a person. We in fact agree that he is a charismatic, likeable man with a wicked sense of humour. Yet we agree that age is no longer in his favour and it is now time to pass the baton.
Following its dismal performance in last October’s general elections, it is clear that the AD needs a new leadership to set the party on a new trajectory. Moleleki should accept this reality.
If he does, the AD should create a role for him as an elder statesman to provide mentorship to the new generation behind the scenes.
The nascent challenges in the AD point yet again to a political leadership that overstays in power in Lesotho.
With no term limits in place, political leaders tend to hang on to power for years, leaving their parties with no legitimate internal processes to challenge the incumbents.
That is at the root of the many splits we have witnessed in Lesotho’s political parties in the last three decades, which is sad.
Breathing life into an anemic economy
FINANCE Minister Retšelisitsoe Matlanyane made the right noises when she presented her 2023/2024 budget in Parliament on Monday.
Dr Matlanyane spoke powerfully of the urgent need to focus on economic reconstruction and recovery for Lesotho after what has been an extremely bumpy ride over the last 10 years.
It is clear that the new government that was elected into office in October last year must do things differently if it is to haul Lesotho out of the doldrums.
That is why all eyes were on Dr Matlanyane to see if there would be any major departures from the usual platitudes that we had grown accustomed to during budget speeches in the past.
We must hasten to state that this budget speech sounded different both in terms of its fluidity and the absence of verbose economic jargon that does not reach the hearts and minds of ordinary Basotho.
Congratulations to those who drafted and penned the document behind the scenes.
Dr Matlanyane correctly identified the major challenges facing Lesotho and was also clear on what needs to be done to breathe life into the country’s anemic economy.
We agree with most of her diagnosis of what ails this country and the medicine that is required to cure it of its ills.
If all that Dr Matlanyane spoke of is implemented, we believe Lesotho will be able to solve 90 percent of all the issues that have held this great country back from fulfilling its dreams.
Dr Matlanyane spoke of the need to “secure inclusive and sustainable growth by focusing on food self-sufficiency through improved productivity in agriculture, aggressive industrialisation and building of value chains, rehabilitation of and building of key infrastructure that supports the private sector to thrive”.
In a nutshell, that is the key that will unlock Lesotho’s potential. We have argued in previous editorials on the urgent need to plough massive resources into the agriculture sector.
Very little has been done to revamp agriculture and resuscitate our comatose economy.
Thankfully, the Sam Matekane-led government is clear on what needs to be done. The test of course will be whether the government will plough enough resources into agriculture to ensure it becomes the engine to drive economic growth.
We now wait anxiously to see how the government implements some of the projects Dr Matlanyane alluded to in her budget speech.
Basotho are eager to see instant results. In the era of instant noodles, she has no time to waste. She must deliver.
Apart from agriculture, we believe as we have argued in previous editorials, that the tourism sector provides what could be seen as very low hanging fruits ready for the taking.
We have some of the most stunningly beautiful mountains in the world. If marketed properly, Lesotho can be a tourism “Mecca” in Africa. Sadly, that has not been done for decades.
It will require massive investment in the sector by building hotels and lodges in remote districts so that tourists can spend more dollars in the country rather than drive to Clarens in South Africa after their tour.
The current set-up is woefully inadequate.
We need a massive shake-up in the tourism sector so that it can rise from its current slumber. That will require that the government sends students to study tourism management in South Africa,
Kenya and Zimbabwe and see how things are done elsewhere. That practical training will be invaluable for Lesotho in the long run.
On the back of a stunning electoral victory, Basotho have entrusted Matekane to drive the change agenda. He only has a five-year grace period before their patience wears off.
That is why the government needs to act now.
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