Pri­ori­tise so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity

Lesotho Times - - Opinion & Analysis - Ut­loang Ka­jeno

SO­CIAL re­spon­si­bil­ity is de­fined as an eth­i­cal frame­work which sug­gests that an en­tity, be it an or­ga­ni­za­tion, in­di­vid­ual or state, has an obli­ga­tion to act for the ben­e­fit of so­ci­ety at large.

So­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity is a duty ev­ery in­di­vid­ual or en­tity has to per­form so as to main­tain the bal­ance be­tween the econ­omy and the ecosys­tems. Ecosys­tem ac­cord­ing to the Con­cise Ox­ford English dic­tionary is de­fined as a bi­o­log­i­cal com­mu­nity of in­ter­act­ing or­gan­isms and their phys­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment. Though so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity is a very broad con­cept, I will for pur­poses of this col­umn, con­fine my­self to, “be it an or­ga­ni­za­tion, in­di­vid­ual or STATE, HAS AN OBLI­GA­TION TO ACT FOR THE BEN­E­FIT OF so­ci­ety at large”.

The Le­sotho Con­sti­tu­tion un­der “Prin­ci­ples of State Pol­icy”, from sec­tion 25 to 36, enun­ci­ates what I term so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity pro­grammes that gov­ern­ment is en­joined to, mark my words, not obliged to, dis­charge to the pop­u­la­tion. I am for­ti­fied in my ar­gu­ment that gov­ern­ment is en­joined to ad­here to th­ese prin­ci­ples by the lead­ing con­sti­tu­tional case of street ven­dors ver­sus the Le­sotho Gov­ern­ment and sec­tion 25 of the Con­sti­tu­tion.

Ow­ing to short­age of space I will only give you the gist of the judg­ment of this Con­sti­tu­tional case and quote the sec­tion, (25). I will not quote the other sub­se­quent sec­tions ex­ten­sively save only to give you their num­bers. In this case the street ven­dors ar­gued that the re­spon­dents had a le­gal duty to en­sure their right to liveli­hood un­der the Con­sti­tu­tion. The Court ruled that th­ese are prin­ci­ples of state pol­icy, en­force­able only if the econ­omy of the coun­try per­mit­ted and that they are not le­gally en­force­able rights in the strict sense. This judg­ment is in keep­ing with sec­tion 25.

Sec­tion 25 in­struc­tively pro­vides: “The prin­ci­ples con­tained in this Chap­ter shall form part of the pub­lic pol­icy of Le­sotho. Th­ese prin­ci­ples shall not be en­force­able by any court but, sub­ject to the lim­its of the eco­nomic ca­pac­ity and de­vel­op­ment of Le­sotho, shall guide the author­i­ties and agen­cies of Le­sotho, and other pub­lic author­i­ties, in the per­for­mance of their func­tions with a view to achiev­ing pro­gres­sively, by leg­is­la­tion or oth­er­wise, the full real­iza­tion of th­ese prin­ci­ples”.

Like I ear­lier in­di­cated, th­ese prin­ci­ples and their re­spec­tive sec­tions are the fol­low­ing: Sec­tion 26, Equal­ity and jus­tice, S27, Pro­tec­tion of health, S28, Pro­vi­sion for ed­u­ca­tion, S29, Op­por­tu­nity to work, S30, Just and favourable con­di­tions of work S31, Pro­tec­tion of work­ers’ rights and in­ter­ests, S32, Pro­tec­tion of Chil­dren and Young Chil­dren S33, Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion, train­ing and so­cial re­set­tle­ment of dis­abled per­sons, S34, Eco­nomic Op­por­tu­ni­ties, S35, Par­tic­i­pa­tion in Cul­tural ac­tiv­i­ties and S36, Pro­tec­tion of the en­vi­ron­ment. To make th­ese prin­ci­ples of state poli­cies to be en­force­able in courts of law would, ow­ing to the eco­nomic fragility of Le­sotho, be im­prac­ti­ca­ble and fool­hardy. How­ever, this de­bate be­longs to an­other day.

It is worth not­ing that the con­cept of so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity is not con­fined only to gov­ern­ment in Le­sotho, like in all mod­ern states around the world. So­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity is also the prov­ince of the church, non-gov­ern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tions (NGO’S), pri­vate sec­tor and in­deed as the def­i­ni­tion of the con­cept rightly en­vis­ages, is the purview of ev­ery in­di­vid­ual, en­tity and or­ga­ni­za­tion. How­ever, we can­not de­tract from the pre­cept that it is pri­mar­ily the duty of gov­ern­ment to dis­charge its so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity func­tions. Nev­er­the­less, this has to be done in col­lab­o­ra­tion with other en- ti­ties for the ben­e­fit of so­ci­ety.

It also worth not­ing fur­ther that so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity ex­tends to not only in­di­vid­u­als but also the church, NGO’S and com­mu­nity groups at vil­lage and re­gional lev­els. Th­ese sec­tors of our so­ci­ety dis­charge their so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity func­tions in a very com­mend­able man­ner and ought to be as­sisted by gov­ern­ment and the pri­vate sec­tor ma­te­ri­ally and in mone­tary terms. This is the crux of my col­umn to­day.

Most schools in Le­sotho, from ele­men­tary, sec­ondary and high school to ter­tiary as well as a few health in­sti­tu­tions have been founded and are run by churches. Gov­ern­ment plays in most cases the role of pay­ing the salaries of th­ese in­sti­tu­tions which in it­self is com­mend­able. How­ever, ev­i­dently, the churches have found run­ning th­ese in­sti­tu­tions on their own to be pro­hib­i­tively ex­pen­sive on their mea­gre resources. This sit­u­a­tion is ex­ac­er­bated by the ever-dry­ing or dwin­dling do­mes­tic donors. For in­stance, th­ese hos­pi­tals, which I can­not men­tion for eth­i­cal rea­sons, have been founded by the churches are now ter­ri­bly run­down in terms of in­fras­truc­ture, ser­vices and oth­er­wise.

It goes with­out say­ing that th­ese hos­pi­tals serve a large per­cent­age of our pop­u­la­tion in terms of health ser­vices that cover a very wide area called a Health Ser­vice Area. If they were to de­te­ri­o­rate fur­ther or close-shop al­to­gether, the con­se­quences for the gov­ern­ment and the af­fected area would be too ghastly to con­tem­plate. Th­ese hos­pi­tals that also be­long to­gether with ter­tiary in­sti­tu­tions to the church which I also can­not men­tion for eth­i­cal rea­sons, are lo­cated in very re­mote ar­eas where they ex­tend com­mend­able de­vel­op­men­tal ter­tiary and health ser­vices to com­mu­ni­ties that would oth­er­wise not get them from other sources.

Fur­ther, th­ese hos­pi­tals also of­fer nurses’ train­ing cour­ses as well as in some in­stances, mid­wifery train­ing to th­ese re­mote ar­eas in our coun­try and to or­di­nar­ily dif­fi­cult-to-reach com­mu­ni­ties. All th­ese nurses’ train­ing cen­tres are ac­cred­ited with the rel­e­vant min­istries such that their grad­u­ates serve the whole of this coun­try with dis­tinc­tion in ev­ery nook and cranny.

Need­less to say, as ear­lier al­luded to in this col­umn, with re­gard to ele­men­tary ed­u­ca­tion, the ma­jor­ity of schools were founded and con­tinue to be run by churches. Th­ese schools of­fer ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion as well as high schools, to lit­er­ally tens of thou­sands of needy fees sub­si­dized by gov­ern­ment and fed dur­ing the day, for day schol­ars and all meals for board­ers through­out the year when the schools are open.

Fur­ther, th­ese are so­cial re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion in­sti­tu­tions sit­u­ated in re­mote parts of the coun­try (names with­held) whose main ob­jec­tives, among oth­ers, are to con­sci­en­tise the gen­eral pop­u­lace about the evils and dan­gers

of al­co­hol and drug abuse. They are geared to­wards and re­ha­bil­i­tat­ing drug and al­co­hol ad­dicts who vol­un­teer to ac­cess their ser­vices at very af­ford­able costs. Their in­take cut across all age and gen­der groups, ir­re­spec­tive of any con­sid­er­a­tion.

They there­fore play a crit­i­cal role in bring­ing back to make er­rant mem­bers of our so­ci­eties to par­take fully in the de­vel­op­ment of their fam­i­lies, com­mu­ni­ties and to be re­spon­si­ble mem­bers of the com­mu­ni­ties.

At vil­lage level Ba­sotho are also cog­nizant of the fact that gov­ern­ment like any in­sti­tu­tion, has lim­ited resources in terms of de­vel­op­ment, there­fore Ba­sotho at vil­lage level have set-up com­mu­nity and de­vel­op­ment fo­rums that have as their main ob­jec­tives, de­pend­ing on financial con­tri­bu­tions from their mem­bers, in­stall wa­ter, san­i­ta­tion, elec­tric­ity, built feeder roads and schools as well as creches in the vil­lagers for the bet­ter­ment and so­cio-eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment of their re­spec­tive com­mu­ni­ties.

As a re­sult, many com­mu­ni­ties through th­ese joint ef­forts have re­al­ized so­cio-eco­nomic up­lift­ment suc­cesses.

It is there­fore very clear that from the fore­go­ing that the as­pect of so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity does not only be­long to gov­ern­ment but it is also the purview of or­gan­i­sa­tions, in­di­vid­u­als, NGO’S and churches.

It also very in­struc­tive that the church in Le­sotho, and I be­lieve else­where around the world is not only re­spon­si­ble for the spir­i­tual well-be­ing of the faith­ful but also the gen­eral mem­bers of the pop­u­la­tion in terms of so­cio-eco­nomic, health and ed­u­ca­tional up­lift­ment.

While ad­mit­tedly the pri­vate sec­tor also plays a very sig­nif­i­cant and mean­ing­ful role in so­cial de­velop- ment pro­grams, I ad­vis­edly chose not to in­clude the pri­vate sec­tor in this col­umn as it has resources, though lim­ited too, to dis­charge this so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity man­date.

I con­fined the col­umn to the above en­ti­ties be­cause while they have to play a role their resources are sig­nif­i­cantly lim­ited to dis­charge this noble man­date through con­tri­bu­tions and grants from both the gov­ern­ment and the pri­vate sec­tor.

It is im­per­a­tive there­fore for gov­ern­ment to ex­tend what­ever resources in­clud­ing mone­tary to as­sist them in their mis­sion. More- over, the funds and con­tri­bu­tions of do­mes­tic and in­ter­na­tional fun­ders of th­ese en­ti­ties are dry­ing-up.

If gov­ern­ment and the pri­vate sec­tor cease to fund th­ese im­por­tant en­ti­ties thereby ceas­ing or cut­ting-back on their so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity pro­grams it would be tan­ta­mount to killing the prover­bial goose that lays the golden eggs.

Gov­ern­ment and the pri­vate sec­tor are there­fore im­plored to con­tinue and if pos­si­ble, in­crease their financial and ma­te­rial as­sis­tance to th­ese en­ti­ties that are crit­i­cally help­ful to Ba­sotho at large. This is even more im­por­tant dur­ing th­ese tough eco­nomic times and im­pend­ing re­ces­sion.

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