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Engage in public consultations



Let’s get a few things right before I start. I received a WhatsApp message about two weeks ago informing me of a newspaper advert by the LNDC requesting expressions of interest to operate the Basotho Canners factory. I thought wow! Sanity has finally prevailed. I was in Johannesburg at the time and had to wait for Friday for a local newspaper to be distributed in and around the Sandton area. I usually buy the paper at a Spar supermarket and when the supermarket manager called to inform me that the paper had been delivered, I rushed straight to the store, bought the paper and went straight to the LNDC (Basotho Canners) advert. The LNDC made a bold move once again. This time by requesting expressions of interest from Basotho entrepreneurs to express interest to operate the Basotho Canners factory. In the advert, I picked a fundamental error that said that the cannery is based in Masianokeng. No, this is wrong. Basotho Canners is not located in Masianokeng. Hase Masianokeng mono! That area is named ‘Metla-khola, in Mazenod. ‘Metla-khola (Mmetla-khola) not Masianokeng. Masianokeng ends where at the boundary line of Phuthisatsana River. I find it disappointing that our senior citizens usually keep quiet when such mistakes are made. I highlight this point because ‘Metlakhola has a very rich history. When we were growing up as boys, ‘Metlakhola was a major agricultural hub that boasted two banks. A Lesotho Bank branch and an Agric Bank branch. ‘Metla-khola! All that history has been flushed in the toilet. Hee ha re ithate Basotho. Ekare ha re rapele Molimo. Let’s continue with the business of the day but before I do, allow me to tell you an interesting story. Someone confronted me with an unexpected question and said, “What exactly do you stand to gain with suggesting that democracy should be suspended and King Letsie III to be given executive powers?” My answer is very simple. “I stand to gain nothing”, I said. The questions came in thick and fast and the second one said, “Have you been promised a ministerial position to peddle this campaign?” My answer was very simple, “not at all. I don’t have ambitions of being a minister. Not now, not ever. Funny enough, I don’t know His Majesty on a personal basis and I doubt he knows me as well. As I’ve once mentioned in one of the opinion pieces, the only time I’ve ever come close to His Majesty was when we took a group photo at one of my friend’s wedding in Leribe. My good friend Bokang Kheekhe. That was the only time I’ve ever been close to His Majesty but we didn’t even talk or shake hands. I sincerely do not know him and have nothing to gain from him. As I once pointed out, the only person I remember from my high school days is Queen ‘Masenate but we don’t know each other either. There was a sign of disbelief in the eyes of the “confronter” but my position has always been simple. Our country needs political stability for it to be able to gain economic stability. However, we live in a democratic dispensation and democracy is a system that requires public engagements for it to work. Unfortunately, some of us turn a blind eye to the fact that democracy is a system of the people by the people and public engagement/consultations should be the order of the day. What do I mean? I want to highlight two of the biggest blunders in recent history that were done without proper public engagements. The first one was the change of the national flag sometime in 2006/7 and the second one has to be the biggest PR blunder to date and has to do with the change of the national number plates from the Mokorotlo Hat to the Coat of Arms and now back to drawing board. Let’s look at the number plate incident for starters. When the Department of Traffic decided to change the national number plates from the Mokorotlo Hat to the National Coat of Arms, it unfortunately went through the process without proper public consultations. This has been evident with the current blunder of the Department of Traffic having to change the current number plates that bear the Coat of Arms back to the Mokorotlo Hat and this could have been avoided from the beginning had the Department observed public consultations. Unfortunately, the Department of Traffic is yet again, making the very same blunder of changing back to the number plate design back to the Mokorotlo Hat from the Coat of Arms without proper public consultations. My fear is that the Department will impose a design that is not particularly embraced by the general public and back-fire at a later stage. Why are public consultations important? When dealing with matters of national interest, it is important to engage views from the public in order to build consensus. This is particularly important when dealing with matters of national interest that touch consumers on a day-to-day basis. For instance, tariff increases of electricity and water. I must applaud the Lesotho Electricity and Water Authority (LEWA) for cultivating the culture of public consultations. Well, yes of course, LEWA public consultations will always work and be successful because they come with a full meal at lunch that comes with dessert (li-sweets). I once attended a session and the lunch was delicious. That’s all I remember. My suggestion and plea to the Department of Traffic is that, kindly take your time to engage members of the public through public engagements/consultations in all ten districts of the country. Do not rush the process, as this matter is highly important and very sensitive. Use Lesotho Television (LTV) to engage the nation. LTV is a public broadcaster and should be used as a platform for public engagements for such matters. We need to cultivate a culture of public engagements for our democracy to be successful. We need to avoid public relations blunders such as this one of number plates having to change the design all the time. Lastly, will someone, somewhere have the courage to change this hideous national flag that we are currently using? Jesus! Unfortunately, it was also imposed onto the public without proper public consultations and it has backfired badly because most Basotho citizens hate it and needs to be changed quite urgently. Please! ‘Mako Bohloa

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