Coali­tion govt failed Ba­sotho - Setipa

Join­ing pol­i­tics is the right de­ci­sion The BNP has no prospects of ever grow­ing

Lesotho Times - - Big Interview -

PROM­I­NENT busi­ness­man Joshua Setipa — has for­ayed into full­time pol­i­tics with the for­mer Le­sotho Na­tional Devel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion (LNDC) chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer set to stand for a par­lia­men­tary seat on a Le­sotho Congress for Democ­racy (LCD) ticket in the 28 Fe­bru­ary 2015 gen­eral elec­tion.

Mr Setipa joined the LNDC from the World Trade Or­gan­i­sa­tion (WTO) where he had held a se­nior post as an ad­vi­sor to the WTO direc­tor-gen­eral.

He ran the coun­try’s in­vest­ment and trade pro­mo­tion show­case for only two of his fiveyear con­tract with both the LNDC and Mr Setipa sub­se­quently an­nounc­ing they had reached mu­tual con­sent to am­i­ca­bly part ways early last year.

Be­low are ex­cerpts from the ex­clu­sive in­ter­view Mr Setipa had with Le­sotho Times (LT) re­porter, Lekhetho Nt­sukun­yane, in which he speaks of his tran­si­tion to full-time pol­i­tics and why he left the LNDC.

LT: Why did you de­cide to join pol­i­tics?

Setipa: It was not an easy de­ci­sion, and ranks among the most dif­fi­cult de­ci­sions I have ever made. It def­i­nitely ranks in the top three most dif­fi­cult de­ci­sions I have had to make.

I am say­ing this be­cause once you de­cide you are go­ing to stand in front of the na­tion to say elect me so that I rep­re­sent you in par­lia­ment, it re­moves what­ever veil of pro­tec­tion you still had.

The bound­aries of pro­tec­tion are re­moved. For in­stance, it is gen­er­ally ac­cepted that a civil or public ser­vant’s fam­ily is out of bounce even if peo­ple do not agree with the way he/ she con­ducts them­selves.

But once you stand for elec­tion it’s a dif­fer­ent sce­nario. There is this un­writ­ten rule that once you put your­self out there, the public is free to say what­ever they want.

So, be­cause of such things, it is not an easy de­ci­sion to make. I have grown up chil­dren and a wife. And all of them, up un­til now, have lived their lives freely. I had to con­vince my wife and fam­ily, rel­a­tives and friends that this is some­thing I be­lieve in.

LT: What would you bring to lo­cal pol­i­tics?

Setipa: I be­lieve there is some­thing that I can of­fer. I can make a con­tri­bu­tion to­wards what I be­lieve ev­ery Mosotho to­day wants to see, and that is to have this coun­try back on track.

I be­lieve that all of us have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to con­trib­ute to that ef­fort. It does not mean all of us have to con­test for elec­tions to be in par­lia­ment. We do it in dif­fer­ent ways and from dif­fer­ent plat­forms.

But the most vis­i­ble plat­form is that of a law­maker; work­ing with gov­ern­ment to en­act laws that cre­ate an en­vi­ron­ment con­ducive for putting the coun­try back on track.

LT: What do you mean by coun­try back on track’?

‘putting the

Setipa: I, for one, be­lieve that we face a long list of chal­lenges as a na­tion. Chal­lenges that re­quire se­ri­ous-minded peo­ple and an un­shak­able com­mit­ment and con­fi­dence in this coun­try.

I have spent most of my life as a public ser­vant. I started off in the public ser­vice here in Le­sotho and grew up work­ing in it. Then I made the tran­si­tion to be­ing an in­ter­na­tional public ser­vant.

I came back and went back to the public ser­vice. So I have seen first­hand how gov­ern­ments work and how good in­ten­tions get derailed. I be­lieve that, at this stage of my ca­reer, pol­i­tics is the right tran­si­tion to make.

We have just squan­dered three years (of the coali­tion gov­ern­ment) be­cause of the failed re­la­tion­ship be­tween the par­ties elected to gov­ern­ment col­lec­tively.

I am not, in any way, ap­por­tion­ing blame to any party. But the re­al­ity is that the coali­tion gov­ern­ment failed to meet the ex­pec­ta­tions of Ba­sotho.

As a re­sult, the coun­try has suf­fered. Un­em­ploy­ment rates have gone up, stu­dents’ per­for­mance at schools has de­te­ri­o­rated, industrial pro­duc­tion has fallen dis­mally and the se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion has de­te­ri­o­rated.

Per­cep­tions of Le­sotho suf­fered a se­ri­ous blow. We are now per­ceived by the out­side world as dys­func­tional and un­able to man­age our af­fairs since we have to run and seek as­sis­tance else­where.

Even our own in­ter­nal se­cu­rity can only be guar­an­teed by for­eign forces. So all that points to a coun­try slid­ing back­wards. We need to get back on track. We have got re­sources and the in­tel­lec­tual ca­pac­ity.

We have got peo­ple that, with the right en­vi­ron­ment, can get us back to where we are sup­posed to be. If I can be part of that ef­fort, I would have made my con­tri­bu­tion.

LT: What ex­actly do you want to con­trib-

ute in the devel­op­ment of this coun­try?

Setipa: With the pas­sion, com­mit­ment and ex­pe­ri­ence I have gained from work­ing for suc­ces­sive gov­ern­ments in this coun­try, I have a very good story to tell.

In the 46 years of our his­tory (since in­de­pen­dence in 1966), this is prob­a­bly the most dif­fi­cult time and we need to get back on track.

If we don’t, it means the fu­ture we con­tinue to prom­ise our chil­dren can­not be guar­an­teed. If we can’t guar­an­tee them de­cent work, ed­u­ca­tion and even se­cu­rity in their own homes, what type of fu­ture is that?

We need to go back to the drawing board and preach a mes­sage of tol­er­ance. All th­ese prob­lems arise from the fact that we are not able to work col­lec­tively be­cause of sus­pi­cion and in­tol­er­ance.

If we were a coun­try with many dif­fer­ent tribes, we would have prob­a­bly taken the route of coun­tries like Rwanda which went through tu­mul­tuous pe­ri­ods be­fore they re­alised di­vi­sions were not in any­one’s in­ter­ests.

Pol­i­tics is the only thing di­vid­ing us and that is our big­gest vul­ner­a­bil­ity. Po­lit­i­cal dif­fer­ences are good be­cause they en­cour­age de­bate and in­no­va­tive think­ing. But there is need for ac­cep­tance of the fact that dif­fer­ence of opin­ion is healthy.

Peo­ple in other coun­tries ar­gue while mov­ing for­ward but we ar­gue and stop work­ing and start fight­ing each other.

We can­not claim to want to de­velop and ad­vance as a so­ci­ety and still be stuck in what hap­pened in 1970, 1998 or in 2007.

LT: So what do you think went wrong with the coali­tion gov­ern­ment?

Setipa: It was like a mar­riage in which the cou­ple ex­pressed undy­ing love for each other in the first few months only to end up in a di­vorce court. If you ask one of them what went wrong, they will nar­rate their ver­sion.

The hus­band will blame the wife and vice versa. All the par­ties that were in the coali­tion gov­ern­ment made mis­takes.m Now have we learnt from those mista mis­takes?

That’s where the key is is. If we fail to learn from those mis­takes, the next coali­tion gov­ern­ment will also fall into the same trap.

LT: Why did you choo choose LCD ahead of

all other par­ties?part

Setipa: I de­cided to par­tic­i­pate in a ac­tive pol­i­tics af­ter I evalua eval­u­ated the four big­gest pa par­ties in the coun­try, na namely the Ba­sotho Na­tion Na­tional Party (BNP), All Ba­sothoBa Con­ven­tion (ABC (ABC), Demo­cratic Con­gres gress (DC) and LCD.

T The BNP, in my opi opin­ion, does not have an any prospect of growin ing and be­com­ing a pa part­ner in any futu ture gov­ern­ment t that would al­low it t to be an equal part­ner and in­flu­ence pol­icy di­rec­tion. It will al­ways be a ju­nior part­ner.

I also find its hist tor­i­cal le­gacy un­ac­cept­able. Their val­ues are not my val­ues. As for the ABC, I have worked with its leader Ntate (Thomas) Tha­bane. I re­spect him. He is ac­tu­ally a per­sonal friend. It’s just that I don’t agree with the way they ap­proached is­sues in gov­ern­ment.

They claim to rep­re­sent the poor, which I think is a noble as­pi­ra­tion be­cause this coun­try is pre­dom­i­nantly made up of poor peo­ple.

They need a voice; they need some­body to cham­pion their is­sues. But that is not what I saw in prac­tice with the ABC.

Be­ing the big­ger part­ner in gov­ern­ment, the ABC should have shown lead­er­ship.

There are cer­tain con­ces­sions the ABC should have made to make this mar­riage (coali­tion gov­ern­ment) work be­cause they were the strong­est in this re­la­tion­ship. They failed to do that …... For me that was un­ac­cept­able.

LT: You have been linked with the DC and many peo­ple say you are a close ally of that party’s leader, Pakalitha Mo­sisili, and would nat­u­rally seek dal­liance with his party. What is your take on that?

Setipa: I have a very strong and per­sonal re­la­tion­ship with Ntate Mo­sisili and his fam­ily. His chil­dren are among my best friends. It is a re­la­tion­ship that goes back many years. The same level of ac­cess I have to Ntate Tha­bane is the same with Ntate Mo­sisili. Peo­ple then in­ter­preted that as po­lit­i­cal af­fil­i­a­tion.

They be­gan say­ing I was re­cruited into the LNDC by Ntate Mo­sisili. So many peo­ple were hired dur­ing the DC regime. I was given a job like any other Mosotho for which they felt I was qual­i­fied. And that’s it.

So that story about me be­ing a DC ac­tivist just be­cause I am friends with Ntate Mo­sisili is base­less.

LT: Is it be­cause of those al­le­ga­tions that you did not choose the DC?

Setipa:

No. I would have been hap­pily wel- comed in the DC. The DC is still by far the strong­est party. It is an or­gan­ised party. It has (good) struc­tures and has ex­pe­ri­ence in gov­ern­ment.

But I strongly be­lieve that in 2012 the vot­ers sent a clear mes­sage to the DC; that it was time for change. They wanted change in how the coun­try was be­ing run. But that mes­sage doesn’t seem to have hit home.

The team the party con­tested the 2012 elec­tions with is the same they have to­day. It sends only one mes­sage; that they failed to heed the mes­sage of the elec­torate.

They keep im­pos­ing can­di­dates who the peo­ple would not vote for in 2012 be­cause they had failed them.

A party that is not able to learn from its mis­takes has a prob­lem.

A sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of can­di­dates in the ABC and LCD are new, which shows their growth. In the DC, you have some­one who has been in cabi­net for 14 years and who wants to come back again for an­other five years.

No mat­ter how hard work­ing and smart that per­son is, he/she is bound to get tired. We age. A party that fails to re­alise that has se­ri­ous lim­i­ta­tions.

In other so­ci­eties, the lead­ers are young and dy­namic peo­ple be­cause the chal­lenges we face to­day re­quire such kinds of peo­ple.

LT: Your de­par­ture from the LNDC was partly as­so­ci­ated with pol­i­tics, with al­le­ga­tions you were not on good terms with the coali­tion gov­ern­ment.

There was a re­port stat­ing that you mis­ap­pro­pri­ated the cor­po­ra­tion’s funds and that you fell out with the board of di­rec­tors. Why ex­actly did you part ways with the LNDC?

Setipa: Look­ing at how this is­sue was han­dled; if any­one in any or­gan­i­sa­tion is ac­cused or sus­pected of be­hav­ing or con­duct­ing them­selves in a man­ner that is not con­sis­tent with what the or­gan­i­sa­tion stands for, there are pro­cesses to fol­low.

It has been proven be­yond doubt to me that there are el­e­ments in gov­ern­ment who, for some rea­son, saw it be­ing in their best in­ter­ests for me to go. They ran around find­ing an ex­cuse to fire me.

I can show any­one who says I failed to do the job I was asked to do that I ex­ceeded and went be­yond ex­pec­ta­tions.

When I was first ap­pointed at the LNDC in 2012, there was no sin­gle op­er­at­ing au­to­mo­tive in­dus­try in this coun­try.

How­ever, 18 months later when I left, we had three com­pa­nies man­u­fac­tur­ing car parts from the United States, Ger­many and Malaysia.

That is just one ex­am­ple. Imag­ine what I could have achieved in five years. My prob­lems started with the board. It over­sees the gov­er­nance of the in­sti­tu­tion.

The day-to-day run­ning of the LNDC is the re­spon­si­bil­ity of the CEO. When I was ap­pointed CEO, nowhere was it was ever stated that I would be jointly man­ag­ing the in­sti­tu­tion with the board.

So there was this mis­un­der­stand­ing con­cern­ing bound­aries and some board mem­bers had a hid­den agenda. I raised is­sues of gov­er­nance on their part and they felt that I was in­ves­ti­gat­ing them and that I was be­ing in­tru­sive. That’s where the prob­lem started.

So the whole is­sue then be­came con­cocted and be­came a big­ger story about how I went and spent money with the cor­po­ra­tion’s credit card.

It’s a very sim­ple prac­tice. When you travel, you use the com­pany credit card for busi­ness and per­sonal pur­poses and when you come back, you pay for per­sonal charges which is what I did. End of story. I don’t owe the LNDC.

The sad thing about it all is that even the Trade Min­is­ter (S’khu­lumi Nt­soaole) never gave me the op­por­tu­nity to ex­plain or re­spond to all the al­le­ga­tions he heard about me.

It was al­ready de­cided that they would fire me. And they did.

For­mer LNDC Ceo Joshua Setipa

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