Made (only) in Lesotho
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.