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One step towards changing Lesotho



Life was difficult but bearable but then came the pandemic. With many office buildings, businesses and factories shutting down, nearly over 50 000 street vendors in Lesotho, many of whom are poor villagers who live in areas hard-hit by the virus, were suddenly without a steady stream of daily customers they depend on to survive. Our economy was badly weakened as a direct consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic. Over the past two years, as the pandemic intensified economic disparities, street vendors have been forced to face the crisis alone. Too often they have found themselves sitting at home with no income. Indeed street vendors were at the precipice, with no safety net to catch them. The Democratic Congress (DC) through their initiative “rata oa heno joalo ka ha u ithata” which means “love your neighbour as yourself” campaign, is doing all they can to help street vendors fight to weather this pandemic—now and for the long haul. The DC marshalled forces to help buy street vendors’ goods. The DC leader Mathibeli Mokhothu is leading the effort, providing financial assistance of up to M2 000 to few street vendors across Lesotho and buying their goods. Recognising the significant impact of Covid-19, the DC’s dedicated street vendors’ support team that always spends over M80 000 buying their goods will continue to provide support to the street vendors throughout this period until they can safely recover from their losses. Street vendors are the central part of the cultural fabric of all towns and cities in Lesotho. Mokhothu is committed to supporting those in our community that support us on a daily basis, as they face unprecedented economic hardships. I am proud of this noble initiative that provides economic relief to vendors during a critically difficult time. I encourage other political parties to join the DC in this important mission. Basotho argue a lot and at times I do not understand what they argue about. During the hard lockdown I wrote a piece surprised at the antagonism politicians received for donating food parcels. I understood the basis of some of their complaints that NACOSEC, the government’s body instituted to fight the Covid-19 pandemic, was failing and that politicians were going around giving food parcels to advance their political interests. However, I am also a firm believer in the end justifies the means, as long as people were getting relief during those trying times I was content. Imagine what a sad case it would be if the NACOSEC was doing nothing and politicians were also doing nothing. People complained that these charitable deeds we saw from politicians were handouts and lacked sustainability. In my opinion what was needed at that time was not sustainability but relief. Some sections of society use the same line of reasoning to attack the DC’s Rata oa heno joalo ka ha u ithata campaign in which the party actively promotes buying from street vendors by organising events in which party members and whoever wishes to join them go out in numbers in a designated district to buy from street vendors. The DC Rata oa heno campaign is premised on a universal concept that transcends through different cultures and religions. It is the basis for unity and community, that in order to solve the problems we have as a society we must work together. Its name comes from the Christian commandment to love your neighbour as yourself. However even in our African culture it exists as the concept of Ubuntu, as well as the old age English adage, you are because I am. However due to the fact that politicians are known to use charity for their own gain, especially during election time, this campaign has faced a massive backlash. People believe it to be a stunt geared at gaining positive publicity and having no real impact in the lives of the populace. Yet we must note that this campaign started prior to elections and has been consistent throughout. At the beginning of the hard lockdown two years ago the President of the DC youth league Moeketsi Shale made a call that Basotho buy from street vendors so that their wares would not spoil and they too could afford to stay home during the lockdown. To my surprise I saw friends of mine on Facebook criticising him from stealing the concept from another Facebook post. I was in shock because I believe you hardly get an idea that is truly original. Furthermore I had seen this idea being touted by South Africans during that period. I wondered how my friends were certain Shale had stolen this idea from the post they referred to. Moreover, I wondered whether it would become less effective just because Shale also suggested it. As I conclude let me end this article with a story. You may have heard this one, but I find that it does not hurt to be reminded of it every once in a while. Let me tell you the story, and then we can talk about it. Once upon a time, there was an old man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach every morning before he began his work. Early one morning, he was walking along the shore after a big storm had passed and found the vast beach littered with starfish as far as the eye could see, stretching in both directions. Off in the distance, the old man noticed a small boy approaching. As the boy walked closer, he paused every so often and as he drew closer, the man could see that he was occasionally bending down to pick up an object and throw it into the sea. The boy came closer still and the man called out, “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?” The young boy paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean. The tide has washed them up onto the beach and they can’t return to the sea by themselves,” the youth replied. “When the sun gets high, they will die, unless I throw them back into the water.” The old man replied, “But there must be tens of thousands of starfish on this beach. I’m afraid you won’t really be able to make much of a difference.” The boy bent down, picked up yet another starfish and threw it as far as he could into the ocean. Then he turned, smiled and said, “It made a difference to that one!” Every political party has the opportunity to help create positive change, but many are like me, you sometimes find yourself thinking, “I’m already really busy, and how much of a difference can I really make?” I think this is especially true when we’re talking about addressing massive social problems like tackling world hunger, the Covid-19 pandemic or finding a cure for cancer, but it pops up all of the time in our everyday lives, as well. So when I catch myself thinking that way, it helps to remember the DC is already making a difference with the street vendors campaign. I might not go out with the DC crew all the time and buy street vendors’ goods, but I choose to buy from street vendors’ everyday. My friends at Ouh la la think I love roasted corn (maize). Maybe I do but what gives me pleasure everyday is to make a difference in the street vendor’s life by buying their perishable goods. The DC might not be able to change the entire country, but at least Mokhothu and his crew can change a small part of it, for one street vendor. They say that one of the most common reasons we procrastinate is because we see the challenge before us as overwhelming, and that a good way to counter that is to break the big challenge down into smaller pieces and then take those one at a time – like one starfish at a time. And to that one starfish, can make a world of difference. To that one street vendor, the DC does make a difference.

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