Who I cannot vote for
AS the whirlwind of electioneering gathers more pace and threatens to choke weaker horses with its plume of dust, all Basotho of voting age must not forget one key aspect: elections are not merely a routine that comes once in a while but a moment to reflect and look to the future.
As the different political formations cover the length and breadth of our land — promising heaven and earth we are still yet to witness — it took me a long moment of reflection on where we come from to decide that some parties do not deserve my vote. Many factors come into play but I have narrowed my focus to just three.
The first is the party that has never felt the need to apologise to me and the other citizens who value their taxes and have developed an unflinching keenness to scrutinize where every cent goes.
Those with short memories need some reawakening from their slumber of forgetfulness. Sometime in 2006, a panel of government ministers was hastily dispatched to a Maseru hotel to help extinguish some raging fires.
The main source of the fire was the Mercedes Benz and Toyota Camry vehicles devalued to a shocking M4000 and M2500 respectively for ministers and other government officials.
Many people, especially the urban folks, were seething with anger and disbelief.
The arrogance on display — amid such a loud public outcry — during the press conference at this hotel was unbelievable. One of the statements from a then minister thundered: “We will be campaigning using these same cars in the upcoming election, we will blow dust into their eyes.”
It was the same man who later came to be known as Mr Leqe. I felt like I was getting a massive kick in the teeth by a government that was supposed to protect my taxes from such deplorable self-enrichment.
Yet there they were, pathetically and shamelessly defending daylight looting. They were showing contempt of the highest order to me and the other tax payers who had contributed to their luxurious ride in those cars.
Yes, this was a watershed moment in the political lives of many Basotho who vowed never to put up with such blatant arrogance and disrespect at a time when their grief was inconsolable at seeing their taxes go down the drain like raw sewage.
One got a sense that the government of the day, under the Lesotho Congress for Democracy, was spitting right into our faces and boldly saying: “We can do whatever we like, and there is nothing you can do about it.”
Up to now, only All Basotho Congress leader, Prime Minister Thabane, has come forth to publicly apologise and vowed this would never be repeated under his government.
For other political leaders whose party personnel had gained even more from this shameful transaction, it has been business as usual.
After all, why should politicians who think they are more important than the general public come crawling on their knees to apologise to the same public?
A false sense of self-importance afflicts many politicians like a cancer that can no longer be controlled.
When leaders have lowered their conscience to such levels, the public to them resembles a mass of ants to just be squashed with two pairs of boots; no need to even look back to see the trail of destruction. No one steals from me and still retains a place on my list of favourite people.
The second party I would certainly not vote for is the one that takes my blood lightly. Blood gives me life and if I were to lose it I would drop dead immediately.
Members of certain parties found it rather casual to threaten of a blood-bath when key decisions were recently made in government; notably when Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli was removed from his position as Lesotho Defence Force commander. I once asked those who uttered the statements to explain exactly whose blood they were referring to. I am still awaiting a response.
I will further challenge them to first sacrifice their own blood and that of their family members and everyone will sit up and notice they mean business.
The sad incidents of last Sunday where an unfortunate security guard lost his life during gun fire between army personnel should have made these politicians very happy. I challenge them to release a statement glorifying this blood-bath they wished upon our nation. Isn’t this exactly what they wanted?
They should hold a press conference and present this incident as one of their successes while the family of the security guard battles to find bread and school fees in his absence.
It is totally unacceptable to trivialise Basotho’s lives this way. Such utterances are not only inflammatory but also downright irresponsible.
Finally, some political parties seem to still live in the age of the dinosaur. Any party that still stokes up people’s sentiments about national and congress ideologies displays serious signs of irrelevance. They are as outdated as the Stone Age and seem to have nothing new to offer. Whenever such party leaders ap- pear on television I switch channels.
They usually have absolutely nothing to offer going forward and instead find their national versus congress rhetoric far more interesting than education, health, corruption, unemployment, stock theft, food security and economic development.
It is old-fashioned leadership at its very worst. They are not even aware they are addressing a generation that does not care about the national and congress divide.
Their naivety means they are unaware they are trying to appeal to a dying constituency of people who already walk with the aid of walking sticks and will soon not have any say in deciding the outcome of elections. It always pains me when some young people seem to have been brain-washed into dancing to this off-tune junk about national and congress opposite extremes.
None of them even have the guts to ask their leaders why — in the run-up to the 2007 elections — the then LCD leadership signed an electoral pact with National Independent Party (an offshoot of the Basotho National Party). Talk about hypocrisy and divisiveness when they suit some people’s interests. Today, they are the same ones shouting from the rooftops that congress and national parties cannot work together.
What is worse between a national/congress government and a foreign company paying greedy officials bribes (in a congress-led government) to provide us with passports?
My decision to withhold my vote from certain parties has got absolutely nothing to do with harbouring a grudge against anyone.
Instead it has everything to do with compassion, accountability, clean and resultsdriven governance and recognition of a basic principle of governance that the voter comes first and must be given utmost respect; that we go into politics to serve not be served.
Party leaders will never, at any point, be more important than the general public. That can only be the case in a country where the citizens’ blood can be sucked dry at any point at the whim of those who govern them.
Mahao Mahao is a lecturer in the Faculty of Education at the National University of Lesotho