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No to fascist tactics



LAST Friday’s ugly skirmishes between the police and hordes of unemployed youths is a clear signpost that we are headed for trouble as a country. What the protests have done is to magnify a problem that some of our politicians have known but have chosen to ignore for decades. We would like to believe that the government can only ignore these clear signs at its own peril. After decades of neglect, thousands of Lesotho’s unemployed youths can no longer be ignored. They are now beginning to slowly demand major changes on how they are governed. They want jobs. They want a stake in the political process. They are tired of being used as political fodder. Yet instead of listening to their demands, most of which were legitimate, the government responded through brute force. That was regrettable. And judging by its reaction, it is clear that the government, appeared to have been caught by surprise. It is also clear that it had no cogent plan as to how it could respond to the unprecedented protests. Without any clear plan, the police’s only option was to resort to brute force by firing rubber bullets and beating the youths with batons. But as we know, a violent suppression of the youths will not serve as an effective vaccine against the fundamental issues the youths were raising. Unless the government sits down with the youths to understand their grievances and where they are coming from, Lesotho risks having more spontaneous protests from youths who have nothing to lose. We know that Lesotho’s unemployment rate stands at a staggering 40 to 45 percent. Some of these are university graduates who have never worked ever since they graduated. Their hopes of a better life were extinguished. They have no hope. They have no future. That is a dangerous cocktail. In fact, this situation poses a serious national security threat. That calls for gigantic efforts on the part of the government to seek workable solutions to fight youth unemployment. Of course, we acknowledge that certain things have been tried before, but the results have been woefully inadequate. Take for instance the youth credit guarantee scheme. Nothing much came from that experiment. In our opinion, the key to generating jobs can only come from a vibrant private sector. The government must empower the private sector so that it generates decent jobs. What the private sector needs are tax relief schemes, a reduction in corporate tax and the removal of bureaucratic tendencies that impede quick payments for services rendered. Gone are the days when university graduates used to think they would immediately get a job in the civil service after graduation. The civil service, which is already blotted, is incapable of absorbing most of these graduates every year. That is why we always insist that our salvation can only come from the private sector. This explains why we felt it was extremely naïve for anyone within the government to push for the new business regulations that will scare away foreign investors. Lesotho needs all hands on the deck if it is to fight unemployment. It should be within this spirit that the government must reverse the new business regulations that make it difficult for foreign investors. We would be pleasantly surprised to know that the government has a cogent plan to even support those small businesses that are to be reserved for Basotho. It would be wrong to seek to blame foreigners, who are running small businesses, for Lesotho’s unemployment woes. The problems are much deeper than that. We urge the government to call another urgent “Jobs Summit” and talk directly with the youths. When all is done, the government must always remember that no amount of rubber bullets or bellicose talk will stop these youths from demanding their fair share of the national cake.

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