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Pushing a community-based economy



This article proposes an approach of governance that could lift Lesotho out of the dungeons of hunger, poverty and unemployment. I draw from an African-American activist and scholar, Claud Anderson. As Anderson asserts, the solution to any marginalised economy is community empowerment.

One must first understand the socio-economic dynamics at play in any constituency. Historically, Lesotho adopted its system of governance from its former colonial power. The colonial government treated Basotho as their enemies.

The system pushed Basotho into the dungeons of poverty, misery and diseases. Unfortunately, this system led to a vicious cycle of the triple tragedy of hunger, poverty, and unemployment for ordinary Basotho.

First, there is a need to understand the founding blocks that the proposal builds on. Anderson argues that a community is the starting point of economic and political emancipation of the marginalised. I seek to derive the meaning of the concept of ‘community’ in the context of a constituency in Lesotho.

A constituency is a primary structure that citizens may hold politicians accountable for. A community must desire to economically and politically liberate its members. Also, I will demonstrate that this structure will emancipate communities from the triple tragedy of hunger, poverty and unemployment. The workers in a community must earn a decent living.

A constituency community must seek to build collective thinking, bargaining and behaving as ‘we’. ‘We’ here denotes community members as a collective. To achieve ‘oneness’, they must hold regular meetings and campaigns. A constituency must connect individual members into an entity.

The starting point of all achievement is a collective desire. Thus, ‘desire’ is key to our community-building enterprise. Desire is the starting point of action. According to Wallace Wattles, desire is opportunity in a person seeking expression outwards. ‘Desire’ is the awareness of what each community lacks that would improve the lives of its members.

The term ‘community’ here is synonymous with Napoleon Hill’s ‘Mastermind Alliance’.

A Mastermind Alliance is a cooperation of people pursuing a definite purpose. The group complements each other to accomplish this purpose. Although all Mastermind members think the same way, they have different knowledge and skills. But, the members work together in perfect harmony to ensure success.

Any successful organisation has a Mastermind group. We must equip members to live and compete successfully in the domestic and global society of the 21st century, the period of the 4th industrial revolution.

In 2015 the Central Bank of Lesotho and the government said there were over 4 000 unemployed graduates in Lesotho. The national headcount poverty rate was 57.1% in 2011. Lesotho’s highest unemployment rate was 28.2% in 2010. In 2019 it was 23.5%.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimated the youth unemployment rate at 32.8% in 2020. These national data suggest inferences at a constituency’s economic endeavours.
Although the Lesotho Bureau of Statistics regularly reports census, the reports do not disaggregate these data to understand the available constituencies.

For example, it would be essential to unpack the population regarding skills available for advancing a community at constituency or district levels.
Basotho are familiar with the concept of community ‘letsema’.

Many Basotho farmers practise subsistence farming. Traditional Basotho used matsema (plural for letsema) to increase agricultural production and to support bereaved widows in their times of need.

Scholars Lebeloane and Quan-Baffour describe the concept ‘letsema’ as a process of voluntary working together to increase productivity. Letsema premises itself on ‘Botho’, meaning caring, loving and supporting one another. These days local communities have an organisation called ‘mokhatlo’ or ‘societies’.

People come together as a society during funerals and other traditional ceremonies such as weddings and assist each other financially or in other forms of contribution.

Building on our traditional values and Anderson’s powernomics, I propose a comprehensive model. In doing so, the proposal adopts the Anderson definition of a community. Anderson distinguishes between a neighbourhood and a community. He points out that in a neighbourhood, people live in the same area.

These people merely live near one another.
In contrast to Anderson’s neighbourhood, a community is the ability to pull resources and power to produce and distribute consumption in a way that creates goods and wealth under its control.

With this in mind, a community has a commitment and potential ‘power’. Napoleon Hill defines the term ‘power’ as organised and intelligently directed knowledge. The article envisions a community that is economically and politically self-sufficient and competitive.

Maintaining the present status quo is detrimental to constituency communities. As a result, constituencies need an entirely different approach. This proposal seeks to define a community with an identity beyond its boundaries. It needs to create a self-contained community with collective thinking. A community is a unit with one goal.

In line with the aim above, the objectives of this proposal are to:

  •  define the concept ‘community’ in the context of a constituency in Lesotho. It proposes to build a community with characteristic attributes that emancipate its members. The characters are the economy, apolitical engagements with politicians, communication, and the education system;
  • build an independent, self-sufficient and sustainable economy that provides for the domestic needs of its community;
  •  overcome the triple tragedy of hunger, poverty and unemployment by generating job opportunities leading to decent wages;

providing education and training opportunities for youth and ‘abled’ community members. Also, identify retired, unemployed people with skills that the community could use in the interest of its development.

This proposal advocates a community-based model. So, a constituency must build a competitive community and a community must be economically and politically independent. Constituencies must empower their communities.

A true community of the mind and physical structure lives in a designated space called boundaries. The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and the Ministry of Local Government and Chieftainship Affairs drew the constituencies’ boundaries nationwide.

An aspect that follows establishing a community is developing an independent sustainable economy. In this economy, money must bounce eight or more times before leaving the constituency community.

A constituency must develop a self-sufficient and sustainable retail market and other primary services systems. So, its economy must safeguard the basic family domestic requirements.

The local supplies must include groceries, fresh produce, meat products and services. Moreover, the products must be competitive in terms of prices and quality. A community must build its economy based on its needs.

There must be an Economic Committee. This Committee will provide strategic leadership in the business and economic aspects of the community. Their responsibilities will include coordinating business in the community and negotiating deals with relevant stakeholders that would benefit local businesses. For example, the Committee must negotiate favourable conditions that would favour our local butcheries with abattoirs.

These conditions would be such that these butcheries provide quality products at competitive prices.
Many communities have local cafes and vendors selling fruits and vegetables.

Many have informal spaza shops, several liquor outlets, hair salons and barber shops. So, communities need to structure and plan the businesses. A structured economy will minimise unnecessary and unhealthy competition.

However, a constituency must not control services and products. But the proposal proposes a structured approach to business and services for the constituency community.

At the same time, communities must audit business sites that are idle to understand what could be the cause of their plight. They must devise a resuscitation and redirecting plan for the business in line with its vision.

In the meantime, constituency communities must assist their informal businesses to become competitive. These businesses may only achieve competitiveness by working as one team. The team will buy quality supplies as a collective. Buying in bulk will help local shops to generate competitive prices. The bargain prices would benefit the local customers and the retail business.

Moreover, these shops must engage professionals who will assist them run professionally. For example, businesses must follow proper bookkeeping protocols. The Economic Committee must negotiate ‘loan’ services to help informal businesses with the banking industry in Lesotho.

The loan terms should facilitate the growth of such businesses.

Similarly, the local service providers must run their businesses professionally. They must follow proper business procedures. These shops must engage professionals to function efficiently. In this way, local businesses must follow proper bookkeeping protocols.

Bookkeeping will enable these shops to measure their business performance in terms of profit and loss. There must be structured capacity buildings for business owners.

Moreover, the economic committees must engage local industries to fund local entrepreneur incubation training programmes. These industries must partner with Basotho Enterprises Development Corporation (BEDCO) in developing this incubation programmes.

Also, big retail businesses sell indigenous products such as ‘motoho’ and ‘mageu’ that Basotho brew and sell on the streets. So, the industry must train Basotho on quality packaging. The government must enforce local production for these products.

Selling local products is not new in Lesotho. For instance, the government has outlawed the importation of bottled water.

This proposal suggests ways for capacitating members to attain independent economic sustainability. Using people with bookkeeping skills will enable the constituency’s economy ‘to kill two birds with one stone.

It will help small business clean their books while at the same time reducing unemployment. The people with basic bookkeeping skills provide ‘mobile’ bookkeeping services to local businesses.

The Committee could explore possibilities of creating local cooperatives (the Coop). Basotho are familiar with the concept of cooperatives. Also, the Coops must benefit the local farmers, businesses and consumers.

For instance, the Coop could audit families with fields that may be lying fallow. There may be families that engage in farming elsewhere. The Committee must negotiate farming contracts with these families.

The Coop would then establish a Food Coop that will sell fresh produce at competitive prices. The Committee in constituencies must the electronically link the Food Coop with the local business.

The link with local businesses will be in a way that encourages community members to buy locally.

Also, a community must encourage interested families to engage in commercial agricultural projects such as piggery, poultry, and horticultural and dairy farming. The Coop will identify interested families and arrange developmental workshops that they could use to induct these families into the farming they opt for.

The Coop must consult with the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security to create these business prospects.

The World Bank report (2016) and Guardian (IRIN, 2011) describe Lesotho’s public health system as ailing.

Healthcare crises plague the public health system. Affordable healthcare is scarce. Access to the general public to medical healthcare services is a challenge. The economic committee must link healthcare to the Coop. The strategy would enable members to have access to quality healthcare.

The Coop must explore ways its members may benefit in both public and private medical systems.
Constituency communities need a coordinated communication system.

The system would be necessary to build and empower members. However, there will be a need to communicate beyond town halls and formal gatherings. There must be regular local newsletters and other print media bulletins.

Each constituency community must have a communication radio station. The communication station is where ideas are developed and shared. This station must be interactive, allowing community members to air their views and developmental initiatives.

Its sole purpose will be to provide publicity. The communication radio station is a platform for sharing community programmes and projects with members and the general public. Moreover, the communication radio station will facilitate non-formal, informal education and information sharing.

The platform enables constituency communities to communicate with all stakeholders, politicians and other interested parties.

Initially, constituencies may not be able to own a radio station. An alternative would be to identify that radio station that resonates with them and may provide their services in the best condition and work with them. A constituency will then work out a contract that will suit them.

Moreover, the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic shutdown underlined the need for WiFi and internet connectivity. The youths are consumers of internet connectivity and its products. Constituency communities must lead in the initiative to harness this desire in young people and exploit it beneficially.

They must endeavour to provide free WiFi connectivity to their members. A constituency must use WiFi connectivity to enhance communication.
A constituency community must be apolitical. Presently, politicians, both at local and national levels, sell their political party manifestos to communities. People vote for parties based on personal sentiments.

A constituency must not vote on a party basis. It must bargain with politicians on a quid pro quo policy. Thus, a constituency must vote for a candidate who promises to meet all its demands. In this way, the electorate forces their MP to make him accountable to them.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, quid pro quo means that one gives something or receives it for something else. In other words, as Anderson puts it: ‘I scratch your back, you scratch mine.’

As a result, quid pro quo is the best strategy a constituency could use to make politicians account for because the deal enables the voters to attach conditions to their votes. The politicians must promise to meet the community’s demands.

The last and critical feature of a community is education. Education is the apex of community development. Education provides the best means that a community may break the vicious cycle of the triple tragedy of hunger, poverty, and unemployment. A constituency must develop education strategies for their children.

Unfortunately, Lesotho offers an education that fails to meet the country’s needs. Only the general public sends their children to public schools. Those who have, e.g., the moguls, send their children elsewhere. But education is a mandate of the national government.

Although the Bureau of Statistics shows the population at different levels, it does not disaggregate the data by age, profession, skills or employment status. The statistical report unpacks these population data at district and national levels.

The omission is serious.

Government documents reveal that Lesotho’s biggest asset is human resources. As a result, Lesotho Government sponsors thousands of students in higher education institutions. Yet reports show that in 2015 there were over 4 000 unemployed university graduates who never worked.

In the meantime, the population census reports do not reveal data on retired skilled but not incapacitated pensioners lying idle. Constituencies waste these resources. We may juxtapose this information with the unskilled and unemployed youth and all ‘abled’ persons in a Constituency.

I use the word ‘abled’ to mean a person capable of working. Communities must exploit the skills of their members.

A constituency must engage in a fundraising campaign for the capacity development of the youth.

Constituency must build technoparks. A technopark is an initiative managed by professionals to support innovation and competitiveness. The technoparks will house skilled personnel, who include hairdressers, dressmakers, motor mechanics, plumbers, engineers, etc.

Technoparks will serve three purposes. (a) They would create jobs for the unemployed skilled labour force. (b) They will enable these owners to employ unskilled youths as apprentices. (c) They will produce quality products and services.

However, many will argue that young people need breakthroughs. Breakthroughs are also called luck. Education and training provide opportunities for these breakthroughs. Luck, in this case, the breakthrough happens when the preparedness in young people meets with opportunity.

Meanwhile, a Constituency must encourage its graduates to provide youth services by first working locally before exploring greener pastures. So constituencies must invite education scholarships for youth development.

Also, a community must work closely with the Ministry of Social Development to ensure deserving youth obtain the educational support they may require. Its education initiatives must make provision for inclusive education.

Lesotho, especially now in the age of digitalisation and social media, is reading and faces a challenge in knowledge acquisition, general information and recreation. Reports show that Lesotho is not a reading nation.

The country’s literacy rate is declining at an alarming rate. Consequently, we propose an erection of a modern public library. The library would also serve as a resource centre that provides digital services.

Community building is not an event but a process. As a result, the process requires time. It is best to match our building time interval constitutional elections period. Therefore, we envisage a fully-fleshed autonomous community by the year 2027.

In summary, this document suggests a strategy for building a constituency community. It highlights that communal farming and matsema are already inherent to Basotho. Also, Basotho have societies that cover customary ceremonies. As a result, constituencies must exploit this custom in their community-building endeavours. It highlights the aim and objectives of a constituency community.

Here, a community must work on the principles of collective decision-making. It aims to build a self-sufficient independent economy. I combine the objectives of a constituency community into one, namely, to overcome the challenges of hunger, poverty and unemployment. The constituency community is responsible for the emancipation of its members and advancement.

This proposal highlights the different features of a community arranged in hierarchical layers of an emancipatory community. It shows how a constituency community could utilise the features to its advantage. These features are:

• the constituency must build a self-sufficient economy. It must create an Economic Committee. The Committee will, in turn, institute a Community Cooperative. The Committee will structure the local business to the community’s needs;

• A community must encourage small business commercial farming. Where possible, the Economic Committee must encourage contract farming;

• A Constituency must initiate an entrepreneur incubation training programme in partnership with industry and BEDCO. Furthermore, a big retail business must sell local cultural products produced by indigenous Basotho;

• the constituency must form its communication station and other forms of communication, like bulletin newsletters, etc. Also, the constituency must provide WiFi connectivity;

• A Constituency must be apolitical. It must vote for candidates on merit. Politicians must commit to meeting their developmental demands. In this way, the community will have the power to hold politicians accountable through quid pro quo practice; and,

• Constituencies must structure their education and training initiatives. Also, they must develop their human resources based on their needs. A constituency must initiate and communicate their training endeavours with the stakeholders.

• A Constituency must erect technoparks. As such, the technoparks would serve multiple functions. They would provide training and employment opportunities while providing services and products.

• Each constituency must erect at least one public library.

Finally, this proposal can apply at any level in Lesotho or any part of the world. We envisage a constituency community project will be fully functional and autonomous in five years. This way, a constituency will break the vicious circle of the triple challenge of hunger, poverty and unemployment and lead their country to prosperity by serving, not receiving.

Dr Tholang Maqutu

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