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We talk more and do less



I use the 4th October each year to look back into our past and to reflect. And by “reflect”, I do not mean to romanticise about the past. I mean to really go below the surface in order to understand where it all went wrong for Lesotho. Because what we have now is far less than we deserve.

Below are two questions I always grapple with.

Is what we have become as an independent nation what our forebears envisioned for an independent Lesotho?

Would they be proud of the sacrifices they made for us to become an independent country?

This year was no different. Last Wednesday I went through the same ritual.

This year however, the ritual was a bit more emotional than the years before. I had in front of me, the transcript of the speech delivered by Prime Minister Leabua Jonathan when addressing the nation on the day on which the British protectorate of Basutoland become an independent country and we became known as the Kingdom of Lesotho.

In that historic speech, the PM touches inter alia, on the excitement of Basotho for gaining independence, the relevance of customs and traditions in a changing world, the importance of land to the future growth and prosperity of an independent Lesotho, the role of every Mosotho to ensure the entrenchment of democracy, agriculture, education, peace and unity.

Below is a bit of some of the things he said.

“A new era is opening for every Mosotho on this our Independence Day, and by Mosotho, I mean everyone who has made Lesotho his home and owes allegiance to her, irrespective of race, creed or colour”.

These words, made 51 years ago should be a serious indictment against those of us who had issue with the appointment of Xie Jan to the Prime Minister’s office on the basis of his origin.

Such reaction simply does not accord with the understanding of who a “Mosotho” is by those who led us to independence.

“I would give you my assurance now that it would be the earnest endeavour of our Government and myself to ensure that each and every member of our nation, whatever his station in the life of our country, will receive equality of treatment under the law and in accordance with the wishes of the Basotho people as a whole”.

There is evidence galore that under the Liphiri regime, there was a complete breakdown in the rule of law. Impunity and lack of accountability had become entrenched and the new norm.

Take for instance, how people suspected of serious and heinous criminal activities (e.g. kidnapping, murder, state looting etc) roamed the streets instead of being prosecuted.

Recall too, how the previous regime had the audacity to spew “nonsense” like the Amnesty Bill i.e. granting amnesty to people liable for criminal prosecution. This included even those alleged to have staged an attempted coup in 2014 and those who killed Lieutenant General Maparankoe Mahao.

This is clearly at variance with the expectation of those who ushered in our independence that “each and every member of our nation, whatever his station in the life of our country, will receive equality of treatment under the law”.

“If democracy is to work in Lesotho, if Government is to work efficiently, if we are to be true to the ideals embodied in our Bill of Human rights and freedoms, the heavy burden will lie on every individual, on every parent, every school teacher and particularly on our university”.

“The salvation of Lesotho is in the hands of every man, woman and child who live here”.

This is powerful stuff.

The message cannot be any clearer – those who fought for our independence understood that our success would require that we ALL put shoulder to wheel.

At a basic level, this means that those eligible to vote should exercise and not waste their right to vote. This is one of the greatest duties a citizen can do for their country. Many of us however, don’t seem to care about this civil obligation.

Consider the low voter turnout during the last three general elections – 2012 (50%), 2015 (48%), 2017 (47%).

It’s clear that most of us do not believe, like our pioneers did, that Lesotho’s salvation is in our own hands.

“I appeal to you all. Let us do more and talk less. Let us have action and not mere words.”

Why do we continually fail to heed this call?

Even a non-perceptive visitor to Lesotho will tell you that Basotho are happiest when talking than when doing. This explains why we are not anywhere close to achieving our Vision 2020 goals and aspirations.

This is the result of our propensity as a people to talk more and to do less.

“Our needs are great. Many of them require money to satisfy, but education can with effort be within the reach of all”.

Prime Minister Jonathan and his peers back in 1966 were correct. Our needs are indeed great. And yes, many of them require money to satisfy. But they got it wrong when they said that education to be within the reach of all, requires only effort.

It also requires a government led by people who love this country more than they love selfish interests and corruption.

Sadly, over the years, we have not been blessed with a critical mass of this calibre of leaders.

“Your Government will bend every effort to ensure that the people have access to learning and that as far as possible education will be provided at the lowest possible cost”.

Have subsequent governments since independence “bent every effort” to ensure that the citizens of this country have quality and appropriate education?

Personally, I am not convinced.

“As a small nation, we were able to survive because we were a peaceful people. We fought only when we were attacked. We never allowed ourselves to be divided by internal conflicts caused by tribalism, and in the same sense we shall resist any attempts to divide us through political affiliations”.

Looking back at the last 51 years, the words above are not true. It is not true that we fight only when attacked. We fight all the time.

In fact, many of us cannot remember a time when this country has been free of divisions not caused by political affiliations. Many of us have never known uninterrupted peace, unity and stability in Lesotho.

“I am only well aware that the road ahead will not be easy, but difficulties exist to be overcome”.

When you take a quick glance at our recent past, you will notice that on this point too, we are not aligned with the thinking of those who led us to independence.

Yes, perhaps we agree that the road ahead remains difficult, but we don’t believe that difficulties exist to be overcome.

For us, difficulties exist for political gain. Take for instance the SADC recommendations.

There is absolutely no justification why almost two years on (since 6 November 2015) these have not been fully implemented.

This exemplifies the lack of political will to tackle difficult national issues that our recent leaders have demonstrated than their lack of ability.

And because of the absence of this requisite political will to tackle our most difficult issues by those who have led us in the past, the journey we have had this last 51 years has been rougher than was necessary and the future rendered bleaker than would have otherwise been the case.

“Let us go to work immediately for a more prosperous country. Let us face the future with courage”.

To me, this call for action is very clear. I therefore fail to understand why we still fall amongst countries considered least developed after 51 years as an independent people.

Honestly, why?

Perhaps the answer lies in the words “it is better to misgovern ourselves than to be governed well by others”. We all know who uttered those words. We also know the number of years he served as prime minister of Lesotho.

Perhaps, if for all those years, we had been led by someone with a different philosophy, Lesotho’s achievements would compare with the achievements of countries such as Botswana who attained independence at the same time as us.

When I look around, I do not see the “prosperity” that I think our independence leaders had in mind. Surely this can’t, be it. Surely not.

“Differences about ways and means, there will always be, but there can surely be no room for differences about our ultimate objective. We all want a happy land in which there will be a full and worthwhile life for every Mosotho.”

Are our current Leaders made of the same stuff as the Leaders from 51 years ago i.e. leaders who understood that there will always be differences about ways and means but leaders who nevertheless were prepared to remain firm on the ultimate objective?

I beg you to show me the evidence. Because honestly, I am yet to see it.

I conclude by confessing that after this deep reflection, I felt seriously depressed. I felt depressed because I believe we have failed to be masters of our own destiny. We have failed to build a land in which there is full and worthwhile life for every Mosotho for an entire generation of Basotho.

I attribute this failure more to poor leadership than to anything else (lack of resources, lack of ability, global financial crises or any of the other fancy words commonly used to cover up bad leadership).

I draw solace and comfort however, that it is impossible for things to get any worse. I am convinced that the worst is now behind us. Henceforth, the future, can only be better. Having hit rock bottom, especially in the last couple of years, “Growth and Prosperity” now seems possible in my 11-year-old girl’s life time. I have hope for the future.

The only proviso however, is that going forward, we always remain vigilant and prepared to expose the scoundrels amongst us whose actions could drag us back to our ugly past.

Poloko Khabele

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