Our political dunderheads
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.