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On the brink of extinction



The formation of the Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) has threatened many political parties in Lesotho. In fact, many are on their way to becoming completely extinct. Some have offended the masses of our people for so long while others have done nothing wrong except that they existed at a time when many voters were frustrated with the most political parties in Lesotho.

This week I want to start with the story of a once powerful Nokia company but the world changed too fast for them to remain relevant. As you read this story, think about the existence of political parties in Lesotho. These political parties, just like Nokia, missed out on keeping with the times, which resulted in an outsider joining the political space.

“We didn’t do anything wrong, but somehow, we lost”. This is how Nokia CEO Stephen Elop ended his speech on Feb 2016 to announce Microsoft’s acquisition of Nokia.
Nokia had been a respectable company and they didn’t do anything wrong in running their business. However, the world changed too fast for them. Their opponents were too fast and powerful therefore Nokia missed out on learning, they missed out on changing, and the result was the loss of the opportunity and the race.

Nokia did not only miss the opportunity – they lost a chance to survive. The message in this story is, change is the law of nature therefore if you don’t change you shall be removed from the competition and the market. It’s not wrong if you don’t want to learn new things. However, if your thoughts and mind-set cannot catch up with time, you will be eliminated. Not only did they miss the opportunity to earn big money, they lost the chance to survive.

Nokia, sadly, has become well known for its CEO’s closing remark when he announced the company’s purchase by Microsoft: “We didn’t do anything wrong, but, somehow, we lost.” Even though the mobile phone company was the first to introduce smartphones in 1996, they failed to see the value of software over hardware and relied on their name power to carry them while Apple and Android began to dominate the field. Ultimately, Nokia wasn’t able to keep up with the pace of innovation, and this resulted in the demise of what was once one of the most valuable brands in the world.

I wish to remind you of other missed opportunities and failures to embrace change in different industries. In 2000, Blockbuster famously turned down the purchase of Netflix for $50 million. Today, Netflix is valued at more than $32 billion and Blockbuster has gone bust.

Another example would be Verizon turning down a chance to carry the first Apple iPhone. Verizon’s move let Apple slip through its fingers to join forces with Cingular.
Kodak, too, had its chance at continued success and yet turned it down out of near-sighted fear.

Despite inventing the first digital camera in 1975, the company failed to market it because of the potential negative impact on its film industry. In thinking it could protect its profits by stifling technology, Kodak instead left the door open for others to take over the burgeoning digital photography industry. The seeds of Kodak’s demise were sown in a time of great success.

During the launch of RFP, its leader Sam Matekane said the formation of RFP shall be a turning point for Lesotho’s ailing political economy. He categorically stated that “I could not let my country become a laughing stock of other nations.” Therefore suggesting that political parties that existed before the formation of RFP played a role in making Lesotho a laughing stock. It appears that many urban voters agree with his sentiments.

After the launch of RFP, the leader of the Democratic Party of Lesotho (DPL), Limpho Tau, held a press conference and left the country shocked. Tau announced that after the formation of RFP, which in their opinion has ‘similar economic goals’ with DPL, his party will not contest in the coming 2022 elections and they have resolved to release their party followers to join RFP. In my opinion this announcement means one thing; DPL is on the brink of extinction.

The leader of Alliance of Democrats (AD), Monyane Moleleki, has since endorsed Matekane’s party and wished them well. The Secretary General of AD, Dr Mahali Phamotse, has since quit her role in the party. Then a few AD MPs were spotted at the RFP rally in Matšonyane last weekend. You will not be shocked if I tell you these MPs are: Dr. Mahali Phamotse and Tlohelang Aumane. You get my drift, AD is also on the brink of extinction.

I have only highlighted a few events that give a worrying trend that many political parties are on their way to becoming completely extinct. In the past decade, this country has staggered from once crisis to another, without a vision of further development in the rapidly changing world. Those who have been trusted with the instruments of power, the democratically elected political leadership, focus mostly on the struggle of preserving their positions of power and the benefits they produce.

The political parties in parliament do not put forward any meaningful programmes so as to produce radical systemic changes with the view of solving Lesotho’s deepening economic problems. The result is that Lesotho continues to lag behind other African countries. This has frustrated many Basotho hence the reason they appear to be moving to RFP.

Real democracy can only happen through the representation of political parties. This was the principle on which the emerged political parties in the late 1950s as we prepared for self-determination as a nation. However, representation by political parties was not, is not, and cannot be real democracy. Each party tries to promote the interests of a particular citizen category, even to the detriment of other categories.

The representation process takes place on the basis of shady structures inviting to corruption. At present, the information revolution taking place, thanks to the internet and other electronic channels, makes it possible for anybody to get the same information as his/her representative in Parliament. At the same time, society disintegrates into a multitude of minor groups generating interests which coincide only partially.

In such a social environment, representation by parties is increasingly obsolete and dysfunctional. What lessons can we learn from above stories of once powerful organisations? Those who refuse to learn and improve will definitely one day become redundant and irrelevant to the industry/market. The introduction of RFP in politics has made the already established political parties to learn the lesson the hard and expensive way. These political parties never wanted to improve and today they are becoming redundant.

The advantage these political parties had yesterday, will be replaced by the trends of tomorrow. These parties did not have to do anything wrong. As long as their competitor catches the wave and do it right, they can lose out and fail.

The RFP has forced others to change or close political parties. A big lesson for the All Basotho Convention (ABC) and Democratic Congress (AD) is to never assume they will stay on top. They must embrace creativity, these passionate disruptors. The ABC and DC should embrace and ride the changes otherwise, just like Nokia, they will lose the chance to survive.

Ramahooana Matlosa

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