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Lesotho: not yet Uhuru!



Let me ask you a question. Can corruption and patriotism co-exist or are they mutually exclusive? Can a person claim to be a corrupt patriot? As you are thinking about the answer, let me sing a song for you. Who’s fooling a who? Are you fooling a me? Or I’m fooling a you? Whom exactly are we trying to fool by celebrating our independence? Are we fooling the international community or merely fooling ourselves? Well, it’s an open secret that Lesotho is nowhere from being independent. In fact, to illustrate Lesotho’s so called “independence”, picture a rectangular four legged table with three legs missing and one leg remaining. Three of the legs have been broken-off carelessly by its owner. So, the only way for the table to stand steadily is for South Africa to hold on one corner. The second corner is held firmly by China and the third corner by two people, the United States and the European Union. Otherwise, this table would have long collapsed had it not been of its neighbouring countries and development partners. So, tell me, who’s fooling a who? I remember a time when I was at the University of Kwazulu-Natal. We would hold robust political debates with a good friend of mine named Tšepang Ledia. We would debate about the situation back home until the wee hours of the morning. One thing that always stood out about Tšepang was his ability to make us laugh by making a mockery of the so-called independence that Lesotho prides itself of. He would say, imagine a ten-year-old boy causing a storm at his home by demanding to move out and hire a flat (lelaene) in a quest to gain independence. This request would be made continuously before school and in the afternoon after school. The young boy would say, “Mme, nna ke batla ho lo hira”. Then after several requests, the mom would suddenly give in and allow the young to move out and go hire a lelaene. The boy would then move out, hire a flat and gain the so-called “premature independence”. However, after a day of gaining independence, the young boy would then go back home and beg for food and say, “Mme ke kopa lijo”. On the second day, the young boy would go back home and ask for salt and say, “Mme ke kopa letsoai”. On the third day, the young boy would go back home and ask for cooking oil, “Mme, ke kopa fish-oli”. On the fourth day, the mom wouldn’t even allow the young man to open his mouth. She would say, “khelllek, hee ratla ra fela. Ha ua re u batla ho itjara na monna!” Basically meaning, didn’t you say you want to be independent? This is exactly what Basotho have done to their independence. They have made a mockery of it. I mean I was shocked when watching Lesotho Television about a few months ago. The European Union had donated about seven printers to the High-Court of Lesotho. Seven! And it was shown on national television. Kannete, even the Chief Justice, Justice Sakoane, looked embarrassed when accepting the gifts. He even passed a remark that Lesotho shouldn’t be in a position to ask for almost everything from its development partners. Even printers! Hao banna! (Well, he didn’t quite say Hao Banna. That’s me adding some spice). But look, what has the modern day Lesotho become? Basotho can’t claim to still be learning how to stand on their own two feet and learning how to walk after fifty-five years. Khanthe, how long does it take to learn to walk? In fact what Lesotho and its people have rather done is to deepen their dependence on neighbouring countries and development partners. The level of dependence on China is shocking to say the least. Have you heard of anything that Lesotho has donated to any country? We are still waiting for that day. What Lesotho has done to itself by over-depending on the Chinese government is really concerning. Can this still be regarded as development aid or is Lesotho digging a pit of indebtedness to China? Re amohela le lithuthuthu tsa mapolesa. Let’s talk about land? Basotho have demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt that they don’t love their country anymore. Why do I say so? The manner in which land is being sold to foreigners is shocking. Its owners are selling land to the lowest bidder. Lowest! The problem with land is that once it’s gone, it’s gone for good. So do you want to tell me that Basotho people are proud of being independent? Nonsense! This is reverse colonialism instigated by its own people. Let’s talk about corruption. This is by far the biggest problem that Lesotho has. The modern day cancer. A pandemic on its own. Going back to my question, can corruption and patriotism co-exist? The answer is a simple no. There’s just no way that a person can claim to love their country and be corrupt at the same time. There’s just no way. The modern day Basotho people have demonstrated yet again that their county comes second to their stomachs. Self-interests have superseded national interests. The national agenda has become how people enrich themselves at the expense of the poor and at the expense of the country. Now, you can’t tell me that these are characteristics of a nation that is proud of its independence. Not, at all. Nations such as Batswana have demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt that they are proud of their independence. But I always suspect that Basotho people are not really committed to making their country work because, at the back of their minds, they know that they have a fall back position named South Africa. If all else fails, they can always cross the border to South Africa and have a second chance to life. This notion has created a nation that has somehow become spoilt, lazy, complacent and careless because big brother will always be around to pull it out of the mud. But all in all, we don’t take ourselves seriously as a nation. In conclusion, I still maintain that the biggest cancer and downfall that this nation has to overcome is the hatred that harbours in the hearts of its people. Basotho ba lehloeo le tebileng. Ha ba ratane. How does a nation heal itself from self-hate? Is it even possible? Not yet Uhuru! ‘Mako Bohloa

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