Made (only) in Le­sotho

Lesotho Times - - Opinion & Analysis - Ut­loang Ka­jeno

DUR­ING the past six months since com­ing into of­fice, the new seven-party coali­tion gov­ern­ment has writ­ten an un­en­vi­able story for this once promis­ing democ­racy of just un­der two mil­lion in­hab­i­tants.

It has, for all prac­ti­cal pur­poses, made Le­sotho the laugh­ing stock of the world that is for­ever re­gress­ing when all the other coun­tries on earth are pro­gress­ing. It is an even more uned­i­fy­ing sight when one rec­og­nizes that we are a ho­moge­nous na­tion.

Or­di­nar­ily Le­sotho should be the envy of more multi-cul­tural and multi-eth­nic coun­tries. But, sadly, it is not to be for the fore­see­able fu­ture. Be­low are the 12 rea­sons why Le­sotho is unique from the rest of the other coun­tries world. Though not ex­haus­tive, these rea­sons un­for­tu­nately high­light the rea­sons for Le­sotho’s re­gres­sion:

1.Mys­te­ri­ous killings: Peo­ple are killed at an un­prece­dented scale in Le­sotho. The most high pro­file of these were the killing of a prom­i­nent phi­lan­thropist and busi­ness­man prom­i­nent Maseru busi­ness­man Thabiso Tšosane on 14 May 2015 in Ha Thet­sane.

This grue­some mur­der has nei­ther been solved nor any ar­rests been made. Cru­cially, not even a re­ward lead­ing to the ar­rest and suc­cess­ful pros­e­cu­tion has been promised by the author­i­ties yet this is un­doubt­edly a high pro­file mur­der. Two nurses were mys­te­ri­ously killed just out­side Maseru city. In this too, no ar­rests were made.

The whole world and the coun­try grinded to a halt with the news of the day­light as­sas­si­na­tion of the for­mer Le­sotho De­fence Force (LDF) Com­man­der Maa­parankoe Ma­hao in Mokema in broad day­light by his erst­while col­leagues. To this day, de­spite a cat­e­gor­i­cal ad­mis­sion in a jam-packed court­room by the LDF that they ex­e­cuted the heinous killing, no ar­rests, as is law and pro­ce­dure, have been made. In­stead, the per­pe­tra­tors are roam­ing the streets of Le­sotho scot-free.

2.Un­der­min­ing par­lia­men­tary ac­count­abil­ity: The coali­tion gov­ern­ment, through min­is­ters, have thwarted any de­bate on these killings la­belling them iso­lated in­ci­dents that war­rant no de­bate. The op­po­si­tion has, to this day, been boy­cotting Par­lia­ment in protest. How­ever, this seems to have fallen on deaf ears. As a re­sult, the in­tegrity of the gov­ern­ment has suf­fered.

3.Un­der­min­ing the rule of law and ju­di­cial in­de­pen­dence: For a solid two months at the be­gin­ning of the reign of the new coali­tion, the LDF, un­der the com­mand of the re­in­stated Lieu­tenant Gen­eral Tlali Kamoli, in­vaded the once hal­lowed halls of the ju­di­ciary.

Heav­ily-armed sol­diers, wear­ing bal­a­clavas frog-marched their ab­ducted col­leagues to the High Court for habeas cor­pus ap­pli­ca­tions. In fla­grant dis­re­gard of the sa­cred prin­ci­ples of the rule of law and ju­di­cial in­de­pen­dence, the sol­diers en­tered the court­rooms and even a judge’s cham­bers in­sult­ing on­look­ers and bran­dish­ing their ma­chine guns.

The premises were un­der siege on a daily ba­sis and lawyers, the public and court staff as well as ju­di­cial of­fi­cers were trau­ma­tized and in­tim­i­dated. The gov­ern­ment ac­qui­esced to all these hap­pen­ings with their si­lence and ul­ti­mately en­cour­aged and de­fended this bla­tant show of brute force.

4.Mas­sive ex­pen­di­ture on de­fence: Though clas­si­fied as a least de­vel­oped coun­try, Le­sotho in­ex­pli­ca­bly spends a large chunk of its bud­get on de­fence and na­tional se­cu­rity. The De­fence and Na­tional Se­cu­rity min­istry, that in­cludes the LDF, is al­lo­cated M539,349,534 of the na­tional bud­get of about M11,697,088,965.

5.This rep­re­sents a huge per­cent­age of the na­tional bud­get un­like in most coun­tries where the per­cent­age for de­fence is less than two per­cent of the na­tional bud­get. To make mat­ters worse, Le­sotho has no po­ten­tial en­emy as it is com­pletely sur­rounded by South Africa, a coun­try that can in­vade Le­sotho with­out even a shot be­ing fired.

For Le­sotho, this rep­re­sents about 2.5 per­cent of our na­tional cake. In terms of the na­tional bud­get, this is a huge al­lo­ca­tion. Surely, there are more de­serv­ing min­istries that merit this huge per­cent­age such as those that pro­mote so­cial up­lift­ment, health, ed­u­ca­tion, eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, em­ploy­ment cre­ation and poverty alle­vi­a­tion.

6.Poor public re­la­tions pro­file: Af­ter I lamented last week that the spin­doc­tors in the Prime Min­is­ter’s of­fice left much to be de­sired in their per­for­mance in Botswana dur­ing the SADC Sum­mit, the Premier’s team was at again.

7.This time, Prime Min­is­ter Pakalitha Mo­sisili pre­sented, at a pre-ar­ranged news con­fer­ence, a poorly drafted “Mem­o­ran­dum of Dis­cus­sions” as op­posed to “Res­o­lu­tions” or “Mem­o­ran­dum of Agree­ment” be­tween him­self and for­mer premier Tom Tha­bane.

To a dis­cern­ing and well-trained mind, this merely rep­re­sents, though signed by both par­ties, a record­ing of min­utes of “dis­cus­sions” as re­flected in the head­ing and not the fi­nal bind­ing agree­ment. For a whole premier to present to the world a doc­u­ment that is not fi­nal, pre­ma­turely is re­ally dis­con­cert­ing. Moreso, when this is a doc­u­ment from the high­est of­fice with hand-writ­ten amend­ments and ad­di­tions. Granted, the premier is un­der pres­sure from the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity and de­vel­op­ment part­ners to se­cure the re­turn of the op­po­si­tion lead­ers and oth­ers to Le­sotho from ex­ile, but his of­fice again failed dis­mally.

8. In­ces­sant bick­er­ing: Since the be­gin­ning of its term about six months ago, the new coali­tion has done vir­tu­ally noth­ing on the de­vel­op­ment front. What we have just wit­nessed is in­ten­si­fied bick­er­ing with the op­po­si­tion, the media, civil so­ci­ety, and un­ex­pect­edly, de­vel­op­ment part­ners.

The source of all this bick­er­ing has been the per­ceived hu­man rights record of the new gov­ern­ment, its strained re­la­tions with both the op­po­si­tion and the media, the flight of op­po­si­tion lead­ers and boy­cott of par­lia­ment as well as ac­qui­es­cence to the LDF’S vi­o­la­tion of hu­man rights and ero­sion of the rule of law and ju­di­cial in­de­pen­dence.

All these weak­nesses on the part of the coali­tion gov­ern­ment have in­curred the wrath of the ma­jor de­vel­op­ment part­ners who in the process are threat­en­ing to cut aid to Le­sotho. 9.Brinkman­ship: It is now more than three months since the United States, the ma­jor de­vel­op­ment part­ner to Le­sotho, has writ­ten to the Le­sotho Gov­ern­ment re­quest­ing among oth­ers, that Le­sotho brings to book the

per­pe­tra­tors of the al­leged coup of 30 Au­gust, 2014 when a mid­dle-rank­ing po­lice of­fi­cer was killed al­legedly by the LDF, some ra­dio sta­tions pulled-off air, po­lice in­stal­la­tions in Maseru at­tacked by the LDF and to re­move the re-in­stated LDF com­man­der (whom many per­ceive in­clud­ing the US as a po­lar­is­ing fig­ure) from his post and bring to book al­leged at­tack­ers of State House.

The US threat­ened that if Le­sotho does not act on these it would take mea­sures it deemed ap­pro­pri­ate such as cut­ting aid. To this day, Le­sotho has not headed the warn­ing from the world’s only su­per­power.

Fur­ther­more, the US wrote to Le­sotho to put its house in or­der to be el­i­gi­ble for the sec­ond com­pact of the Mil­le­nium Chal­lenge As­sis­tance and the African Growth and Op­por­tu­ni­ties Act (AGOA).

The two in­ter­ven­tions by the US use the bench­marks of gov­er­nance, rule of law, ob­ser­vance of hu­man rights, pro­mo­tion of laisse faire poli­cies and ac­count­abil­ity for a coun­try’s el­i­gi­bil­ity for US as­sis­tance. In Le­sotho, over 45 000 textile jobs, plus hun­dreds of thou­sands of de­pen­dents, are sus­tained by AGOA.

Other de­vel­op­men­tal ac­tiv­i­ties and as­sis­tance for Le­sotho across the spec­trum rang­ing from health, HIV-AIDS epi­demic, ed­u­ca­tion, wet­lands preser­va­tion and the ju­di­ciary to name a few are in jeop­ardy.

How­ever, the Le­sotho gov­ern­ment has turned a deaf ear to these con­cerns raised by the US gov­ern­ment.

If any­thing, the Le­sotho gov­ern­ment is on record in stand­ing up to the US, re­it­er­at­ing that Le­sotho is a sov­er­eign coun­try that can­not, ac­cord­ing to in­ter­na­tional law and con­ven­tions, be dic­tated to by any for­eign gov­ern­ment.

Should the US cut this mas­sive as­sis­tance to Le­sotho, the con­se­quences are too ghastly for Le­sotho to re­count here. They would be dis­as­trous in the ex­treme.

10. Large scale ter­mi­na­tion of em­ploy­ment: As ear­lier stated, Le­sotho is cat­e­go­rized as a least de­vel­op­ment coun­try, yet the new coali­tion gov­ern­ment saw it fit to buy-out the con­tracts, with mas­sive fi­nan­cial con­se­quences, of close to 20 prin­ci­pal sec­re­taries, close to 20 diplo­mats serv­ing abroad and is ac­tively en­gaged in covert low in­ten­sity and sub­tle bat­tle to re­move the Pres­i­dent of the Court of Ap­peal and the Vice-chan­cel­lor of the Na­tional Univer­sity of Le­sotho.

It would be un­der­stand­able if all these highly qual­i­fied chief ex­ec­u­tives and of­fi­cers of gov­ern­ment-con­trolled en­ti­ties were be­ing re­moved for some mis­con­duct or fac­ing some dis­ci­plinary hear­ing but none ex­ist.

Their only sin is that they have been ap­pointed by the pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ment. As a re­sult, gov­ern­ment has to pay the salaries of two of­fi­cers for one po­si­tion for the next three years at the most.

The dam­age this is hav­ing on the fis­cus is huge, to say the least. This is purely for po­lit­i­cal ex­i­gen­cies. Aw­ful!

11. Reck­less­ness with ter­tiary ed­u­ca­tion: A few weeks ago the whole na­tion was dumb­founded when gov­ern­ment, through its man­power de­vel­op­ment arm, the Na­tional Man­power Sec­re­tar­iat (MNDS), an­nounced that it would not spon­sor, as it is its so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity role, scores of el­i­gi­ble stu­dents at NUL.

How­ever, af­ter much public out­cry, gov­ern­ment an­nounced that it would af­ter all, spon­sor these stu­dents.

Dis­turbingly, how­ever, was done at the ex­pense of equally de­serv­ing stu­dents to who will be pur­su­ing their stud­ies in South Africa.

To add in­sult to in­jury, gov­ern­ment un­justly be­rated the NUL author­i­ties for ad­mit­ting what in its flawed opin­ion, was an un­usu­ally large and un­jus­ti­fi­able stu­dent in­take.

For its part, NUL ar­gued that this was in line with its leg­isla­tive man­date and in­sti­tu­tional and struc­tural ca­pac­ity.

It is only in Le­sotho where there are no po­ten­tial ex­ter­nal en­e­mies to de­fend the coun­try against where gov­ern­ment can di­vert funds from so­cial up­lift­ment pro­grammes to buy guns, bul­lets and tanks.

It is only in Le­sotho where gov­ern­ment does not want fu­ture ed­u­cated lead­ers.

12. Al­leged wide­spread vi­o­la­tions of hu­man rights: Since it came to power, the new coali­tion gov­ern­ment has been se­verely crit­i­cised from across the spec­trum, for wide­spread vi­o­la­tions of ba­sic hu­man rights.

The crit­i­cisms have come from civil so­ci­ety, the op­po­si­tion, de­vel­op­ment part­ners, clergy, media and from vir­tu­ally ev­ery quar­ter.

As a re­sult of these al­le­ga­tions, three op­po­si­tion lead­ers have fled the coun­try, as well as scores of sol­diers, a few jour­nal­ists and or­di­nary civil­ians to es­cape the per­ceived reign of terror that is be­ing un­leashed by gov­ern­ment op­er­a­tives on its op­po­nents.

As a re­sult of these un­for­tu­nate events, Le­sotho on pa­per at least, is a nascent democ­racy that could have been at peace with it­self and the rest of the world.

With­out much hype, its de­vel­op­ment po­ten­tial, as op­posed to be­ing in the dol­drums of de­vel­op­ment is un­doubt­edly huge. Its demo­cratic ideals are as good as any na­tion’s. How­ever, all is not lost as both SADC and the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity are will­ing to help.

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