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Dreams for Lesotho



I have always held the now proven notion that Morena Leabua Jonathan was a good man, a good leader and a good citizen. The only misfortune is just that he was misunderstood to a large extent by the people he sought to salvage from the clutches of regress in the years of his regime. Those that claimed they could do better than he did after he was ousted in the 1986 coup have walked not one step in the direction of the wishes of Morena Moshoeshoe as Chief Leabua seems to have done in the years of his rule. One has to get personal with the process of progress, and the philosophy of Basotho that Morena Moshoeshoe cultivated provides all the answers as to how we can harmoniously progress towards a better land. Morena Moshoeshoe conceived the true tenets of true nationhood as expressed by the ideals of forgiveness and inclusiveness in the quest for the attainment of all things necessary to see to the progress of the land of Lesotho. One cannot therefore understand why the current crop of politicians fail to understand the wisdom of including the people in the decision-making processes. The answers to dealing with prevailing predicaments were provided a hundred and fifty years ago by Morena Moshoeshoe when he formed the Basotho into a nation. Frederick Douglass in his Up From Slavery defines the current politicians as: They are they who are represented as professing to love God whom they have not seen, whilst they hate their brother whom they have seen. It is a fact that many of the decisions taken in the name of serving the people do not actually address the needs of the people. There have been several shameless answers when it comes to the question of why the promises at the lobbies are never fulfilled. “It was just lobby speech and nothing else . . . it was done to get a seat in parliament… politics is a game of lies…” leaving one with the question: is governance a game? All of the processes have been reduced to party speak and vote garnering by the individual politicians of the era whose main aim seems to be getting lucre out of the equation rather than to uplift the masses out of the challenges they face on a daily basis. In the 1969 Martin Kenner and James Petras book, Fidel Castro Speaks, quotes in a September, 1966 speech that Fidel Castro said: “We will never create socialist consciousness and much less communist consciousness with a shopkeeper mentality. We will never create socialist consciousness, communist consciousness with a ‘dollar sign’ in the minds and hearts of our men and women.” This outlook is not shared by the current political leadership, the now popular ‘tenderpreneur’ outlook rather focuses on getting rich before the plan. The masses are lured into initiatives with the promise of money rather than moral obligation. A look at the history of Lesotho reveals a people that had moral commitment when it came to development projects in the early years after the independence of October 1966. A look by Aerni Flessner in the 2018 publication, Dreams for Lesotho, reveals that the failure of development projects in Lesotho lies with political stubbornness. In essence, his outlook reveals a process of political polarisation that began before Lesotho’s independence, with both the BCP and the BNP seeking to serve their followers separately. On the issue of development Aerni Flessner (2018: 148) notes: The BNP development initiatives were facing an intransigent political opposition, some elements of which were willing to sabotage development efforts for political gain. It is not surprising therefore that the failure of projects in this land is still to a large extent driven by a culture of political partisanship. The blatant nepotism one sees these days in Lesotho that has reached shameless levels is the result of a culture that was obvious even before October the 4th 1966. The BNP held the government, BCP had the clout when it came to the recruitment of labour for the South African mining industry, with most of the officials/recruiters being staunch ‘congress’ followers. It was prior to 1970 that the culture of nepotism birthed by political partisanship was born and took root in Lesotho. What we see in the present times where employment is based on political affiliation and bureaucracy rather than competence is not a new phenomenon. Reward to party supporters by political leaders in the form of employment in civil service is a case that began with the birth of an independent Lesotho. Rooting the culture out is going to take gargantuan effort or, we should just accept the fact that it will never be rooted out due to the fact that the roots may go further back into the colonial history of Lesotho. One does not find this type of attitude looking at the history of Cuba and Fidel Castro’s administration following Fulgencio Batista’s ousting on 1 January, 1959. Based on communist tenets, the speeches of Fidel Castro focused on one fact: “We want to build socialism and we want to build communism. In as much as there is no manual, no index, no guide, since no one has traversed that path, we have the right to attempt it with our own means, our own procedures, our own methods. And, we must not think that our duty is to strive so that each one of us may have his own automobile, before first concerning ourselves about whether or not each family in those countries behind us owns at least a plough… our ideal is not wealth. Our principal ideal and our duty must be to help those who were left behind.” Education, moral obligation, sacrifice, and abandonment of the goal of a consumer society are hallmarks of Fidel’s speeches and this marks Fidel’s difference from other revolutionary heroes in another important respect: he always spoke to and for the benefit of the masses. Whereas Lenin, Trotsky, Debray, Fanon, and Ho most often wrote for party cadre and engaged in internal disputes within the revolutionary movement, Castro invariably addresses himself to the masses of the Cuban people. As said, his purpose was always to educate and to raise the level of political awareness. The direction of the Revolution toward the development of a new man and new values explains the form of Fidel’s thought: practically everything is conveyed in speeches, speeches addressed to large assemblies, speeches to small groups of farmers, students, factory workers. Fidel Castro Speaks was meant quite literally and he noted that new society cannot arise spontaneously but must result from the conscious effort of the people to build it. It cannot be imposed without the consent of the people; hence the emphasis on speeches meant to educate and to raise consciousness. People first had to be told before the implementation of any strategy or policy made in their stead. Every speech of Fidel’s was a lesson learned with the aim of it being executed to its optimum at the end of the day. His lessons in the speeches he made ensured a clear exposition of policy, analysis of the facts on the ground, and the final goals that would benefit the masses. He often spoke at length but was hardly ever demagogic. He spoke of education because education was the key to the new society. He saw Cuba as an experiment that all the people must participate in and the results of his vision are now seen. Fidel always made sure that the point was driven home at every stage of the revolution with the aim that the revolution was meant to “create wealth with political awareness, not political awareness with money or wealth.” It is from the credo of Fidel that the Cubans learnt not to say, first we fill people’s stomachs and then we talk about democracy and communism. What they have always said was that the two must go hand in hand, that is, the focus was on the logic of the means serving the ends. Fidel Castro defined this with the words: Communism cannot develop out of a society which uses capitalist values to grow. Moral incentives—the attempt to get people to work out of commitment to the community and not for more money—create a communist society while developing the country. This is the same principle that Morena Moshoeshoe applied in the building of the Basotho as a nation. However, it was left behind as soon Basotho got into political governance and the spirit of social communism with which the nation had been built was abandoned for the new way. Though Chief Leabua Jonathan was a progressive man he was to a large extent clearly misunderstood by many of the subjects he got to rule over because of the new polarised mentality hinged on political affiliation rather than nationhood. It is a fact that comparatively speaking, Leabua was the cream of the crop when it came to issues pertaining to the proper governance of a state to the point of progress. Not a serf in mentality, he understood the significance of self-sustainment instead of reliance on donor aid due to experiences from the early years after independence. Misunderstood by the mentally-enslaved army general that led the coup that ended Chief Leabua’s reign of prosperity, Lesotho was ushered into a new era of knavery and progressive poverty. The most glaring fact of the matter is that no one can please everyone, there are those that will never understand your mirth or appreciate your effort largely because they have been psychologised differently or are followers of a different ideology altogether. The true leader understands the middle-way: that the basic needs of the people should be the main concern; the ideas do not feed the masses, popular opinion is not always the right guide, and talking ideals does not actually get the job done. What helps a country to progress may not necessarily be popular with certain sectors of the population, but the truth of the fact is that what is right is that which aids the state in attaining the right levels to enable the process of progress to go on unhindered. Establishing monopolies that enrich a few individuals but which disenfranchise masses is the wrong way to go about attaining needed progress. The current systems of government promise to free the masses from the clutches of hunger and poverty but have however not achieved none of that. Dagga is a plant indigenous to almost the entire world, and some countries have benefited the local populace through its sale and industrial processing for medical and other purposes: it is largely foreign owned in Lesotho. The wool and mohair industry has been one of the mainstays of the economy, the regime before the current regime managed to throw it into the doldrums by installing legislative amendments whose logic is questionable. Farmers that could feed their families previously were sold a rotten carrot and now suffer because the illiterate ministers wanted to please their master and patron. It is a strange and uncouth declaration if a minister puts his balls on the line in defence of a clearly failing policy, but we have seen it occur in this minnow of a country. We cannot hope to progress if there are no moments of retrospection and the words of past visionaries are not given due attention. The attitude these days is to be the figure that ‘frees the masses’ from the comfort of the parliament and not out there in the fields as true revolutionaries have done. There should be conditions that serve everyone and that leave no one behind when it comes to reaping benefits from any development project that comes along. Lesotho was flawed from the onset because of the birth of a new class of political elites whose main aim was to deconstruct everything for the sake of being remembered as pioneers in a kingdom that was colonised almost a century earlier. There was no sense of united effort from the onset in terms of the political government, there was no sense of unity when it came to the implementation of strategies meant to get Lesotho on the path to true independence. Maybe returning to the words of Fidel Castro may help: In stating a purpose, the first condition of sincerity and good faith, is to do precisely what nobody else ever does, that is, to speak with absolute clarity, without fear. The demagogues and professional politicians who manage to perform the miracle of being right in everything and in pleasing everyone, are, of necessity, deceiving anyone about everything. The revolutionaries must proclaim their ideas courageously, define their principles and express their intentions so that no one is deceived, neither friend nor foe. We have a history of hatred that has stood as stumbling block in our path to progress. The excuse that so and so did this so many years ago is preventing us from ever progressing. The wish is that we could have the type of political leadership that we had in the first phase after independence. There is a need for a Leabua type of thought in our political sphere in this country. There is no way we can progress on this demagogic trajectory our politics have taken. Tšepiso S. Mothibi

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