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Where are the statisticians?



Jesus! This has been a rather somber start to the New Year. In fact, there are no words to best explain this sad moment. The most difficult news to stomach were of the passing of my friend Tjonane Matla and my priest Father Tlaba. It has just been a very difficult start to a year and not forgetting the passing on of Ntate Teboho Kitleli. But I think the news that gave me an “eish” moment was when I heard of the passing on of Major General Metsing Lekhanya. That was an “eish” moment because I had planned to approach him to write a book and document some of Lesotho’s historical events and an insight into events related to the Lesotho highlands water project. It would’ve been interesting to get his view on a range of matters such as the visit of Pope John Paul II and a hilarious story that I truly wished he could verify relating to the construction of phase I of the old Central Bank building (the brown building). To digress a bit, there’s comical character that once told me of a story of what happened during the planning stages of the construction of the Central Bank building. So this comical character told me that when plans of the central bank building were presented to the military council at Makoanyane barracks, the design was meant to be a majestic twelve storey building that would become the tallest building in Lesotho. So the governor of the time went to present the designs with the architects before the military council. During the presentation one of the members of council saw the majestic design and immediately said, “If I stand at Thibella and shoot a bazooka, the bazooka will go through the building.” Then the member of the military council pulled out a red pen out of his chest pocket and drew a line on the plan to demarcate the height of the building. That is how the old Central Bank building got dwarfed and I wish I could have interviewed Major General Lekhanya on that issue. I’m sure he could have laughed it off because he was usually pleasant when we met at Church. With the passing on of Major General Lekhanya, history got wiped out just like that. In a snap of a finger. I’ve said this and will say it again, our major weakness as Basotho people is that we do not write. Secondly, we don’t document our history. I make mention of those names because they carried so much wealth of knowledge and value to the country. May their souls rest in eternal peace. I somehow got hold of a copy of thepost newspaper and read a mind-blowing piece written my Ntate Maqutu. Wow! What a breath of fresh air. The piece was on the decolonisation of education in Lesotho. I make a standing ovation after reading the piece because it was out of this world. First class! The piece gave me a break from reading about Covid-19 horror stories. We need more and more people like Ntate Maqutu to give us their perspective on life. In fact, we need professionals to write and air their views. This is what I find frustrating about our intellectuals. They tend to sit back and watch the situation deteriorate day-by-day. Let’s talk about our statisticians for a minute. The Covid-19 situation was a matter of statistical analysis from the onset. Right from day one but the statisticians were all hiding under the bed. Or is it in the wardrobe like one notorious gentleman from Maseru. I understand that he was once found in a squashed posture hiding in wardrobe. As the owner of the house tried to change his clothes after a day of hard work, when he opened the wardrobe to change, he found a man with eyes popping out in a foetus posture, a iphinne sekoloto. The owner of the house said, “hee monna, u batlang ka haka ka moo”. The man in the wardrobe answered back and said, “ke emetse taxi.” This is the situation with our professionals and intellectuals in Lesotho. They know how to play hide and seek. For instance, where is the Statistician General? Does Lesotho even have a statistician general? Where are the lecturers in the Statistics department at the National University of Lesotho? They all went silent and gave politicians a platform to talk crap all day from the Command Centre. You know, when you watch a politician on LTV and they mumble a whole lot of nothing about something they know nothing about and you are thinking, “what’s this Ntate saying?” Talking about the Covid-19 disaster, I think we can all agree that the Lesotho government was caught with it pants down. In fact, we were all caught with our pants down. Largely because of our complacency caused by how we started with the notion of zero infections. The curse of zero infections! Let us all be honest, we mismanaged the Covid crisis from day one. I remember writing about this issue during the hard lockdown, sometime last year and commenting about the dangers of claiming to have zero infections. I think this was sometime in May 2020 when there were talks of unseating Ntate Tom. So our politicians found it fit to unseat Ntate Tom and claim to have zero infections. That false claim went on to set a very dangerous precedent because Basotho gained a false sense of belief that they are immune to the Covid-19 virus. This gave Basotho a chance to indulge in very risky behaviour. I remember walking into Ouh-la-la one morning, last year, when the hard lockdown was eased and found a bunch of adults making false claims about reasons why there are zero infections in Lesotho. Moreover, on reasons why Basotho people are immune to the Covid-19 virus. So, you can just imagine how mediocre the conversation was. One of the assumptions was that, because of Lesotho’s altitude, the Covid-19 virus can’t survive in the cold temperatures. Then came another view. “No, Basotho are immune to the Covid-19 virus because of the BCG vaccine.” Then came another view, “No, the Covid-19 virus thrives where the air is polluted. Lesotho has very clean and fresh air for the virus to survive.” Well, those were-wide ranging views on why Basotho were immune to the Covid-19 virus mainly due to the mystery of zero infections. But I think Lesotho has been let down by its statisticians mainly because they should’ve stood up and built a model called a hypothesis to quell or squash unfounded myths and dangerous assumptions of zero infections. What our statisticians should’ve done during the chaotic moments of the Command Centre, is to build a model we call a hypothesis and make assumptions of what the possible statistics could be, mainly based on the data collected from South Africa. This is what I would’ve done. Let’s take this example for example: Lesotho is surrounded by three provinces, namely; the Free-State province, Kwazulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape province. I would have drawn three graphs based on the results and created a median graph that would tell me more or less where Lesotho would be. I mean I’m not a statistician but the way we always try to run our country without solid statistics is just mind boggling to say the least. Have you seen a statistician from Nacosec justifying the figures that we keep on receiving and the basis of collecting the data? No! It is because there’s a sub-culture of undermining the value of statistics in Lesotho and where are the people from the Bureau of Statistics? They should be at the core of Nacosec. Right in the middle. In conclusion, Ka nnete our academics and professionals need to stop this fear of writing and commenting on things they have expert knowledge on instead of sitting at home and giving empty vessels a platform to talk all day on various radio stations. Bo-Harvest. I mean I’m not an expert on economics or statistics but some of us feel compelled to write because the brains of this country are just afraid to voice their views on expert knowledge. Let’s get into the culture of writing and documenting our history. There’s an open platform to write here at thepost newspaper. Air your views to the Lastly, our statisticians need to wake up. The figures that we keep on receiving from NACOSEC need some form of verification. The Department of Statistics at NUL, Wake-up! Wake-up! Wake-up! Mako Bohloa

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