Who I can­not vote for

Lesotho Times - - Opinion & Analysis - Ma­hao Ma­hao

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

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