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Traffic Department poor at PR



Whilst helping my daughter with her spelling homework about a year ago, I quizzed her with a random question and said “Who is the King of Lesotho?” She was writing on the coffee table in a kneeling position. She turned her head and answered back in a squeaky voice and said, “ke Ntate Tom”. I immediately stood up and said, “Haai! U seke oa tlisa lipolitiki ka tlung ka mona. U tla re bolaisa li high-blood”. Poor girl, she kept starring at me in confusion. I’m sure she was probably asking herself, “and then? What is wrong with this father?” You see, politics have consumed our day-to-day lives. Even kids get confused as to what is happening in our Kingdom. We live in a country marred by mismanagement and chaos. We can’t even manage 20 set of traffic lights that we have in the country. Yes, 20! We live in a state of confusion. Today, we want Ntate Majoro to be the prime minister. Tomorrow we want him out of office and replace him with Mme Doti. The day after, “no, Ntate Tom was actually better than Ntate Majoro”. The day after that, “by the way, Ntate Mosisili was way better”. Hao! But I must admit that the biggest confusion to date is by far the chaos caused by the Lesotho Traffic Department. I recently saw a big hoo-ha over Facebook on the new national number plates. There was also a set of personalised number plates and a set of green plates proposed for the MPs. Well, a lot of people were quite disappointed that a symbol that gave Basotho some form of uniqueness had been discarded. The Basotho hat has now been replaced with the Lesotho coat of arms. What I found most startling was the fact that all those changes and developments within the traffic department were mostly made without proper public consultations. Secondly, there wasn’t any formal public relations exercise in order to inform the public (tax-payers) about the new choice of colours. There was no explanation on the choice of coat of arms over the Basotho hat. Why not place the national flag with a Basotho hat in it? There was also no formal explanation on how the new numbers will be rolled out and what the new symbols actually mean? Do we still retain the letter A for Maseru? What does BBC mean? What I also found worrying is that the new plates are long (too many symbols) to read and memorise and not reflective. What will happen in a case of a hit and run? Will our people be able to memorise the combination of numbers and letters? It’s as if we live in a Banana Republic somewhere in the tropical regions where a military junta wakes up on the wrong side of the bed and decides to change the national number plates. I mean, who does that? Look, we live in a democracy or let me say a democratically elected government. What does democracy as a system mean? In case our politicians have conveniently forgotten, the simplest definition of a democracy is the rule of the people, by the people for the people. I think it has a much deeper meaning in Sesotho. The translation is as follows; puso ea sechaba ka sechaba molemong oa sechaba. The common thread is the word, “people” – sechaba. So what I always fail to understand about our democracy in Lesotho is that once politicians assume power, they suddenly forget about “the people”. Why do I say that? The answer is very simple. How many times or how often does government consult the electorate about changes or matters of national interest? Moreover, do politicians still remember that the very same people that voted them in power are also tax-payers. The reason why I bring this up is because one key weakness that our government has is their lack of respect for taxpayers and taxpayers’ money. Think about it logically. Can you use someone else’s money without consulting them? If you do, it would be called stealing. Had our government respected the electorate/taxpayers and respected tax-payers money, a lot of things in our country would have been done in a logical and orderly manner. Let’s take the case of the plate numbers or number plates, whichever way you want to look at it. The biggest confusion started when the Lesotho Traffic Department introduced a derivative starting with the letter “M”. There was no explanation, no public relations exercise. Our assumption as the public was that the letter “M” stood for Maseru. It was a speculative assumption. One-two, one-two, we all saw an introduction of number plates starting with the letter “R”. R? What does it stand for? It is still a mystery up to this day. Then a letter “L” came out of the blue. My assumption was that it stood for the letter “L” found in the word Lesotho. Unfortunately, my assumption was wrong. I only found out latter that the letter “L” stood for L found in the word Leribe. I actually wanted those number plates starting with the letter an L until I later learnt that they represented Leribe instead of Lesotho. My interest suddenly dwindled. Well, for personal reasons that I can better explain face to face. To digress a bit, in one of our Herbal-life breakfast sessions, my friend Robert Likhang, once told us that people from Leribe are the most intelligent people found in Lesotho because of deposits of selenium found in soil deposits around Leribe. I disagreed and agreed to prove him wrong. Che, eseng ka batho ba Mazenod. Haai! You see people from Leribe are like that. They believe that they have “that thing” which no one else has. They remind me of people from Qacha during Ntate Mosisili’s tenure in office. Aaaah, they believed that they were “there”, “we have arrived”, more especially with number plates with a letter “H”. More like people from Soweto and there is no need to elaborate further. Look, that’s just a summary of our people from Leribe and I vowed never to get that number plate labeled “L”. To go back to the topic at had, my biggest disappointment was when I randomly saw a plate number starting with the letter “S”. I simply got a shock as to what “S” is supposed to mean. Still, no press release from the Traffic Department to explain what the letter “S” is meant to be and represent which district. Is the traffic department trying to create an acronym with the letters, M R S. My interpretation is that it means MoRuSu. As a closing comment, the Lesotho Traffic Department owes Basotho citizens a proper explanation. They also need to address this mess of a range of numbers running concurrently. What does that say to our counterparts in the SADC region? I can foresee confusion from most traffic officers in South Africa at a time when the borders are opened. The symbol they know and are familiar with is the Basotho hat and no press release was taken out to SADC countries regarding the changes or even an advert/press statement in the Sunday Times or Lesedi FM. My advice is simple, even if we change to alpha-numerical plates of which is a very good idea, let’s keep the Basotho Hat as a unifying national symbol. Secondly please discontinue the “A” “M” “R” plates. Let’s try to have some sort of uniformity and order. All in all, let’s try to run our country professionally. We can’t afford this mess! If the above matters are not addressed, I suggest that we (the public) lodge a complaint and objection with the office of the Ombudsman. It’s time to exercise our democratic right! ‘Mako Bohloa

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