Our po­lit­i­cal dun­der­heads

Lesotho Times - - Scrutator -

As with any new year, some of us sprinted into 2015 while oth­ers did not make it. For those who made it, al­low me to start by wish­ing you a very happy and pros­per­ous 2015 (since this is my first col­umn of the year).

All the best for you and your fam­i­lies. For those who didn’t make it, may your souls rest in eter­nal peace.

We start the new year en­meshed in the silly sea­son of elec­tions. Though elec­tions are the very cen­tral the­sis of any democ­racy, I must ad­mit that I of­ten dis­like them.

Elec­tion time is nor­mally the pe­riod when our politi­cians show­case the great lev­els of contempt in which they hold us.

Be­fore I go into my anal­y­sis of our lat­est silly sea­son, al­low me to start by thank­ing all of you who re­mem­bered me dur­ing the fes­tive pe­riod and sent me some holy com­mu­nion to see me through the fes­tive pe­riod.

spe­cial thanks to the gen­tle­man who sent me the Glen Fid­dich 18 bot­tle with­out dis­clos­ing his iden­tity. My dis­ap­point­ment is that as the years pass by, I am re­ceiv­ing fewer and fewer Christ­mas presents from fol­low­ers of this col­umn.

Iam not sure whether that is ev­i­dence of my grow­ing un­pop­u­lar­ity or sim­ply a sign that times are hard for Ba­sotho amid our cur­rent po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic vi­cis­si­tudes. What­ever the case, I made a vow since be­gin­ning this col­umn that I will al­ways tell it like it is.

If I annoy you, please feel free to with­hold the Glen Fid­dich or Co­gnac bot­tle you may have con­tem­plated for me the next fes­tive sea­son.

I will hap­pily im­port crates of Ea­gle Lager, the cheap­est beer man­u­fac­tured in none other than Zim­babwe, to cover the deficit for my holy com­mu­nion. Ea­gle Lager is the worst beer in the world cre­ated for Zim­bab­weans who could no longer af­ford any­thing dur­ing their never end­ing eco­nomic cri­sis.

It tastes like brake-fluid but will suf­fice so long as it gets my brain run­ning. What I will never do is sac­ri­fice my free­dom of speech to ap­pease any­body.

since re­turn­ing to work on Mon­day, I have been pe­rus­ing through the man­i­festos of the main con­test­ing par­ties to as­sess why they de­serve our votes come Fe­bru­ary 28 2015.

Re­mem­ber again, this is the pe­riod when politi­cians ex­pose their huge contempt for vot­ers by promis­ing us any­thing and ev­ery­thing. I have thus far been dis­ap­pointed by what I have read in th­ese so called man­i­festos.

I have of course not read ev­ery man­i­festo, con­sid­er­ing our nu­mer­ous po­lit­i­cal par­ties in­clud­ing the many hus­band and wife po­lit­i­cal for­ma­tions.

I cer­tainly have not seen the man­i­festo for the Ba­sotho-batho Demo­cratic Party (BBDP) of Ntate Jere­mane Ra­math­e­bane, the ar­che­typal hus­band/con­cu­bine po­lit­i­cal party.

I am not sure it has the ca­pac­ity to is­sue a man­i­festo de­spite com­mand­ing a sole PR seat in the last par­lia­ment; thanks to our overly gen­er­ous po­lit­i­cal sys­tem.

But I will not be sur­prised that, if it does even­tu­ally is­sue a man­i­festo, it may in­clude the grand idea of mak­ing Le­sotho “the first African coun­try to put a man on Mars so that there is food on ev­ery Mosotho’s ta­ble.”

I must con­fess that I don’t mind any wacky at­tempts to take vot­ers for a ride from par­ties like the BBDP. We some­times need a good laugh and the BBDP and other hus­band and wife par­ties ex­ist for that.

But I am not pre­pared to take any non­sense from the par­ties with a real chance of win­ning power like the Demo­cratic Congress (DC), the Le­sotho Congress for Democ­racy (LCD) and the unof­fi­cial al­liance of the All Ba­sotho Con­ven­tion (ABC) and the Ba­sotho Na­tional Party (BNP).

I am not sure the BNP have is­sued any man­i­festo yet. I have not seen any and nei­ther have any of my col­leagues in the news­room.

I have nev­er­the­less trolled through the man­i­festos of the DC, LCD and ABC. I have been dis­ap­pointed with what I have seen.

As a re­sult, I have come to the con­clu­sion that if there is any Mosotho out there look­ing for­ward to the cur­rent crop of our po­lit­i­cal lead­ers to take this tiny na­tion for­ward, that Mosotho needs to have his/her head ex­am­ined by a win­ner of a No­bel prize in psy­chi­a­try.

I will dwell on the DC man­i­festo first, not be­cause of any bias for the LCD and ABC. Their man­i­festos are just as cryptic and bad.

I start with the DC be­cause this is a party that wants to re­turn to power af­ter hav­ing reigned for 15 years in all its pre­vi­ous man­i­fes­ta­tions.

The DC leader, Mr size Two ( I will con­sider down­grad­ing him to Mr size One by virtue of his party’s poor man­i­festo) was the Prime Min­is­ter all th­ese years.

One would thus think a party of such ex­pe­ri­enced peo­ple would at least of­fer some­thing bet­ter.

Yet the DC man­i­festo re­sem­bles a “speech” by a three year old child for a kinder­garten grad­u­a­tion party. “I want to fin­ish school, so I can be­come a rocket sci­en­tist and then pi­lot a rocket to Jupiter……,” is the typ­i­cal stuff to ex­pect from a kinder­garten grad­u­a­tion party.

That also typ­i­cally sums up the DC man­i­festo.

Be­fore I pro­ceed to my anal­y­sis of the DC man­i­festo, I must re­mind you about how great coun­tries with great economies have been built.

In 1968, south Korea, the home of such ven­er­a­ble in­ter­na­tional brands such as sam­sung and Dae­woo, was far smaller than Kenya eco­nom­i­cally. Now a short 46 years later, south Korea’s econ­omy is more than 300 times big­ger than Kenya’s which has at worst re­gressed or at best stag­nated.

I have pre­vi­ously asked any car­ing Ba­sotho to re­flect on how coun­tries like sin­ga­pore and Tai­wan, with­out a sin­gle nat­u­ral re­source base, have ex­celled into be­com­ing eco­nomic pow­er­houses with very high per capita GDP rates in the world.

But Ba­sotho be­ing Ba­sotho and our politi­cians be­ing what they are, no­body seems to care. Re­mem­ber south Korea, Ja­pan and most Asian eco­nomic tigers are not en­dowed with any nat­u­ral re­sources ei­ther. so how have they suc­ceeded?

The rea­sons are var­ied. But part of the main rea­sons of their suc­cess is that any na­tion se­ri­ous about ad­vanc­ing it­self must iden­tify its com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tages and in­vest heav­ily in re­al­iz­ing its com­pet­i­tive po­ten­tial.

Ev­ery­thing starts with mas­sive in­vest­ment in the peo­ple of course, with good ed­u­ca­tion, be­cause it’s ev­ery coun­try’s hu­man cap­i­tal that will de­fine its progress.

It was a de­lib­er­ate strat­egy of the Asian tigers to foster knowl­edge based economies in which they pro­duce high end tech prod­ucts for sale to other un­think­ing na­tions of the world, like our dear lit­tle King­dom.

A sim­ple ba­sic rule of eco­nomics is that coun­tries be­come wealthy by pro­duc­ing goods and ser­vices to sell to other na­tions.

If you pro­duce noth­ing, you will of course im­port ev­ery­thing and find your­self stuck with a neg­a­tive cur­rent ac­count po­si­tion. If you visit the Maseru bor­der post, you will find it bustling with su­per-link trucks loaded with sec­ond hand VWS and Toy­otas from Ja­pan.

Most of th­ese ve­hi­cles would have been trashed at dump sites by the Ja­panese. some en­ter­pris­ing en­trepreneurs saw an op­por­tu­nity to clean the Ja­panese dump­sites by fur­ther on­ward dump­ing of th­ese cars in Africa for what ap­pears to be bar­gain prices.

Hence you will find ev­ery African of car buy­ing age trolling the ubiq­ui­tous web­sites set up to fa­cil­i­tate the col­lec­tion of th­ese old ve­hi­cles from Ja­panese dumb-sites into Africa where we are ever ready to re­ceive and con­sume ev­ery­thing for­eign.

There is no at­tempt what­so­ever at in­no­va­tion to pro­duce our own brand of ve­hi­cle in Le­sotho, or else­where in Africa, for both lo­cal use and to ex­port to the Ja­panese and the Kore­ans in tit-for-tat com­mer­cial re­la­tion­ships.

Imag­ine that we had to wait for the Tai­wanese and Chi­nese to es­tab­lish fac­to­ries here so we could ex­ploit the benefits of duty free ac­cess to the Us mar­ket un­der Agoa.

If our en­trepreneurs can­not put to­gether sewing ma­chines in their garages to sew sim­ple T-shirts and jeans for ex­port to Amer­ica and then grow their busi­ness, but in­stead wait for the Chi­nese to do it for us, then it may still be too am­bi­tious to preach the gospel of knowl­edge based eco­nomics here.

My heart never stops bleed­ing when I see Ba­sotho stream­ing out of th­ese Chi­nese fac­to­ries com­plain­ing that they are be­ing un­der­paid by their round faced bosses.

But whose fault is it when Ba­sotho can­not think be­yond es­tab­lish­ing car wash stalls as our main eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity. This sums up the sad story of Africa, and Le­sotho in par­tic­u­lar.

Lack of in­no­va­tion, spawned by poor hu­man cap­i­tal is at the root of our prob­lems as a coun­try and con­ti­nent.

And with po­lit­i­cal man­i­festos like the DC’S, we are guar­an­teed to re­main stuck in our ap­palling con­di­tions. Coun­tries that have pro­gressed else­where have done so on the back of vi­sion­ary lead­er­ship. This is sorely lack­ing here.

The DC is a party robbed of an op­por­tu­nity to con­tinue in gov­ern­ment in 2012 by our gen­er­ous elec­toral sys­tem which re­wards losers. This is a party that can still po­ten­tially be back in power come Fe­bru­ary 2018.

Yet this is a party suf­fer­ing from a com­plete dearth of ideas.

In Europe and other coun­tries with dis­cern­ing vot­ers, its man­i­festo would have au­to­mat­i­cally failed it. But not here of course.

The DC man­i­festo is a mere wish list of ob­jec­tives to achieve this or that for Ba­sotho. The same things the party failed to achieve in 15 years of power.

We are pre­sented with a list of “13 pil­lars” which Mr size Two said are meant to re­store democ­racy as well as Le­sotho’s im­age, (wrongly spelt in one of the man­i­festos as “emerge”) and restor­ing eco­nomic growth “which stalled dur­ing Thomas Tha­bane’s bad gov­er­nance”.

The ques­tion each Mosotho wish­ing to vote for the DC should ask them­selves is; was there ever any eco­nomic growth when the DC was in power for 15 years?

If so, can ev­i­dence of such growth be pro­duced? Can we be shown any ma­jor fac­to­ries, mines or busi­ness that opened dur­ing the DC reign?

When ex­actly did this rapid eco­nomic growth un­der the DC stall? An­swers please!!

The 13 pil­lars men­tioned range from deep­en­ing democ­racy and good gov­er­nance to pro­vid­ing ef­fi­cient ser­vice de­liv­ery which would, in turn, “bring in job cre­ation and in­clu­sive eco­nomic growth for the coun­try”.

Af­ter read­ing the ser­vice de­liv­ery one, I could not help but ask my­self; What the f*** is all this? Does this mean it has fi­nally dawned on the DC that Ba­sotho living in the cap­i­tal city need to be saved from the hu­mil­i­a­tion of squat­ting around pit la­trines in favour of proper ablu­tion fa­cil­i­ties.

If they get back to power, will we fi­nally have proper sewer and san­i­ta­tion in­fra­struc­ture, in­clud­ing de­cent toi­lets, and be a mod­ern city. If that is the case, then all fine and good.

But then all the DC’S 13 man­i­festo pil­lars are a mere list of ob­jec­tives. Any­one, ex­cept po­lit­i­cal dun­der­heads, know that any ob­jec­tive must be mar­ried to a strat­egy to achieve the ob­jec­tive. Nowhere in the DC man­i­festo do you find a re­al­is­able strat­egy to achieve any of the ob­jec­tives or “13 pil­lars” listed.

I have con­cen­trated on the DC be­cause it is a for­mer rul­ing party and was the sin­gle largest party in the last Par­lia­ment. It has a re­al­is­tic chance of get­ting back to power. This of course does not ab­solve the LCD and ABC man­i­festos which are equally ap­palling. But more about that next week.

At least, un­like other hus­band/ con­cu­bine po­lit­i­cal par­ties, the DC have made an at­tempt to pro­duce a man­i­festo. That is the only no­table thing I will com­mend them for.

I will nev­er­the­less put copies of the DC man­i­festo in my pos­ses­sion to bet­ter use by adding them to my reels of toi­let pa­per.


Sup­port­ers of the main po­lit­i­cal par­ties have noth­ing much to cel­e­brate if their man­i­festos are any­thing to go by.

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