‘Iron Lady’ fan­cies chances

Lesotho Times - - Elections 2015 -

RE­FORMED Congress of Le­sotho (RCL) leader, Keketso Ran­tšo, is a fear­less war­rior who has be­come one of the coun­try’s well­known and re­spected politi­cians.

Un­til she co-founded the RCL in De­cem­ber last year, Ms Ran­tšo — who is also Labour and Em­ploy­ment min­is­ter — was a long­stand­ing mem­ber of the Le­sotho Congress for Democ­racy (LCD).

In this wide-rang­ing in­ter­view with Le­sotho Times ( LT) re­porter, Lekhetho Nt­sukun­yane, Ms Ran­tšo chron­i­cles her long and dif­fi­cult po­lit­i­cal jour­ney — and her hopes of be­com­ing Le­sotho’s first fe­male prime min­is­ter af­ter the 28 Fe­bru­ary 2015 Na­tional As­sem­bly elec­tions.

LT: As a new party, is the RCL, or Bolekana as the party is pop­u­larly known, ready for next month’s par­lia­men­tary elec­tions, which come two years early fol­low­ing the col­lapse of the coali­tion gov­ern­ment?

Ran­tšo: It is true that we are a very new party. We turned one month old on 12 Jan­uary fol­low­ing our reg­is­tra­tion with the IEC (In­de­pen­dent Elec­toral Com­mis­sion) on 12 De­cem­ber 2014.

I was elected RCL leader at the party’s first con­fer­ence held in Maseru on 20 De­cem­ber, as was the Na­tional Ex­ec­u­tive Com­mit­tee (NEC). Rep­re­sen­ta­tives from 49 con­stituen­cies took part in the elec­tion process.

LT: How did the RCL man­aged to field can­di­dates in all the 80 con­stituen­cies when the party was only launched two months ago?

Ran­tšo: Through sheer hard work; we worked tire­lessly day and night to en­sure the party grew. out of the 80 can­di­dates, 22 are fe­male, which is a rel­a­tively good num­ber con­sid­er­ing how women are side­lined from ac­tive pol­i­tics in this coun­try.

We could be the party field­ing the high­est num­ber of fe­male can­di­dates in next month’s elec­tions. other than that, most of our can­di­dates are young peo­ple who are in­no­va­tive and full of en­ergy.

Ac­tu­ally, my heart is in women and the youth; I am very pas­sion­ate about work­ing with women and the youth. Yes, men are still good to have as ac­tive mem­bers in the RCL, but re­ally my heart be­longs to women and the youth.

LT: Could you please high­light some of sig­nif­i­cant points in your party’s man­i­festo? What is the RCL promis­ing the peo­ple should it be elected Le­sotho’s new gov­ern­ment on 28 Fe­bru­ary?

Ran­tšo: We have put more em­pha­sis on na­tional sta­bil­ity. We be­came aware that in most cases when the na­tion is un­sta­ble, it is due to is­sues of se­cu­rity.

When na­tional se­cu­rity agen­cies are biased and seem to align or favour cer­tain po­lit­i­cal par­ties, that’s when in­sta­bil­ity sets in.

This is due to th­ese agen­cies be­ing politi­cised or when party lead­ers in­ter­fere with the op­er­a­tions of th­ese agen­cies.

As the RCL, once we get into power, the first thing we are go­ing to do is re­vise the na­tional con­sti­tu­tion, par­tic­u­larly where it re­lates to is­sues of na­tional se­cu­rity.

At the mo­ment, the con­sti­tu­tion al­lows po­si­tions of army com­man­der and po­lice com­mis­sioner to be ap­pointed by politi­cians.

We are go­ing to amend the con­sti­tu­tion and stop this. We want those po­si­tions to be filled through ap­point­ments made by the King only.

As politi­cians, we may just sug­gest a list of names from which the fi­nal de­ci­sion and ap­point­ments will be made by the King alone.

This is be­cause th­ese two po­si­tions play a very cru­cial role of pro­tect­ing the con­sti­tu­tion of this coun­try and there shouldn’t be any po­lit­i­cal in­ter­fer­ence.

We also want to root-out pol­i­tics within the public ser­vice. First, we want prin­ci­pal sec­re­taries, who are cur­rently ap­pointed po­lit­i­cally, to be em­ployed just like any other public ser­vant, based on qual­i­fi­ca­tions.

They should be em­ployed on a per­ma­nent ba­sis and not de­terred from do­ing their work pro­fes­sion­ally by politi­cians.

Politi­cians come into gov­ern­ment and go, but prin­ci­pal sec­re­taries, as chief ac­count­ing of­fi­cers and main ad­min­is­tra­tors, should re­main.

This way, we will be giv­ing them the author­ity to prop­erly pur­sue gov­ern­ment poli­cies. We fur­ther in­tend to look care­fully at how we can im­prove our ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem. For a long time, our ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem has failed our chil­dren. For in­stance, the gov­ern­ment in­tro­duced free ed­u­ca­tion up to Stan­dard Seven only.

We have learnt through our re­search, as the RCL, that most peo­ple don’t pro­ceed with their ed­u­ca­tion be­yond Stan­dard Seven be­cause their par­ents can­not af­ford to put them through sec­ondary school.

As the RCL, we are say­ing we pledge to pay for their school fees up to sec­ondary ed­u­ca­tion. In ad­di­tion, we in­tend to es­tab­lish vo­ca­tional schools in each of the 10 dis­tricts of Le­sotho to ad­mit th­ese young minds.

The vo­ca­tional schools will ad­mit them from Form C and Form E lev­els. How­ever, th­ese tech­ni­cal col­leges will be of the high­est stan­dard, where the grad­u­ates would re­ceive cer­tifi­cates, diplo­mas and de­grees.

We will also in­still the spirit of com­peti- tion among el­e­men­tary schools to im­prove our ed­u­ca­tion as early as pos­si­ble.

They should not only com­pete in aca­demic sub­jects, but also sport to sharpen their minds.

The is­sue of the much-awaited Na­tional Youth Coun­cil is also our pri­or­ity area. I was part of the youths who came up with the Na­tional Youth Coun­cil pol­icy from as way back as 1995.

But what we would like to do, as the RCL, is to com­pletely re­move party pol­i­tics out of the coun­cil.

Cur­rently, although it is yet to be es­tab­lished, the coun­cil is bound to have three rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the rul­ing party. And we are say­ing that should not be the case.

The coun­cil should in­volve Ba­sotho youth with­out con­sid­er­a­tion of any po­lit­i­cal af­fil­i­a­tion.

Like I said, I am pas­sion­ate about the youth and their devel­op­ment, which is why I don’t want to see their is­sues be­ing messed up with party pol­i­tics. If es­tab­lished well with­out po­lit­i­cal is­sues, the Na­tional Youth Coun­cil can ad­dress young peo­ple’s con­cerns, in­clud­ing our coun­try’s es­ca­lat­ing un­em­ploy­ment rate.

As the Labour and Em­ploy­ment min­is­ter, I was al­ready work­ing on the So­cial Se­cu­rity Fund, whose Bill is yet to be pre­sented be- fore par­lia­ment.

This is meant to ad­dress is­sues of bet­ter salaries and pen­sions among pri­vate-sec­tor em­ploy­ees.

The RCL, when we get into power, will fa­cil­i­tate this into an Act, to en­sure bet­ter work­ing con­di­tions for ev­ery em­ployee, in­clud­ing do­mes­tic work­ers. We will also be work­ing closely with South Africa to en­sure Ba­sotho are is­sued work per­mits.

Ev­ery year, we see many Ba­sotho be­ing dumped at the bor­der from South Africa, un­der the pre­text that they are il­le­gal im­mi­grants.

As min­is­ter, I was al­ready en­gaged in talks with my South African coun­ter­part so that Ba­sotho are is­sued work per­mits.

With­out work per­mits Ba­sotho, are be­ing abused by em­ploy­ers in that coun­try. They are paid R500 a month as farm and do­mes­tic work­ers, while their South African coun­ter­parts get R2 000. In short, we will change Le­sotho for the bet­ter should we be­come the next gov­ern­ment.

LT: Could you give us a lit­tle back­ground about your­self.

Ran­tšo: I was born and grew up in Taung, Ha Mo­let­sane (Mohale’s Hoek). I at­tended my pri­mary, sec­ondary and high school in that area. I am mar­ried and the mother of two daugh­ters. I was mar­ried in Matelile (Mafeteng).

I be­came ac­tive in pol­i­tics at a very young age, and have al­ways been in the congress move­ment.

I was deputy sec­re­tary gen­eral of the LCD Na­tional Youth League, and deputis­ing Ntate Mets­ing. I was the first woman to even­tu­ally be elected the party’s Na­tional Youth League sec­re­tary gen­eral.

From there, I was elected sec­re­tary gen­eral of the LCD Women’s League, and then be­came a mem­ber of the party’s NEC.

And when the party split, with those who left form­ing the Demo­cratic Congress, I was ap­pointed sec­re­tary gen­eral, break­ing an­other record as the first woman to oc­cupy that po­si­tion.

LT: Do you see your­self be­com­ing the next prime min­is­ter of Le­sotho?

Ran­tšo: Yes, def­i­nitely. It is my dream to be­come the first fe­male prime min­is­ter of Le­sotho. Af­ter all, I am used to break­ing records. I have a strong be­lief that if I be­come prime min­is­ter, I can change this coun­try for the bet­ter.

LT: When you were ap­pointed min­is­ter in2012, there were some who doubted your abil­ity con­sid­er­ing your hum­ble ed­u­ca­tional back­ground. What do you have to say about this?

Ran­tšo: I am very much aware of that is­sue, but I be­lieve I have proved those doubters wrong; I have shown that I am ca­pa­ble of hold­ing high of­fice. I don’t have to hold those very high qual­i­fi­ca­tions to take part in the devel­op­ment of my coun­try.

In life, there two types of lit­er­ate peo­ple; one is where you have big aca­demic qual­i­fi­ca­tions af­ter un­der­go­ing in­ten­sive study, and the other when one is just sim­ply trained and has an un­der­stand­ing of how to lead peo­ple.

The late Dr Le­abua Jonathan (for­mer prime min­is­ter) did it. Why can’t I do it with the cer­tifi­cates and diplo­mas that I have?

RCL leader Keketso Ran­tšo

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