Le­sotho’s iso­la­tion a death knell for econ­omy

Lesotho Times - - Leader - Ut­loang ka­jeno

ON Mon­day, 18th Jan­uary, 2016, the Dou­ble Troika Sum­mit of South­ern African De­vel­op­ment Com­mu­nity (SADC) held in Gaborone, Botswana, is­sued a com­mu­niqué that stopped short at the eleventh hour, of sus­pend­ing Le­sotho from the re­gional block, faced with the threat of sus­pen­sion from SADC the govern­ment of Le­sotho re­versed the po­si­tion it ear­lier took against re­ceiv­ing the re­port from the SADC Com­mis­sion of En­quiry look­ing into as­sas­si­na­tion last June of the for­mer head of the Le­sotho De­fence Force (LDF) Lieu­tenant Gen­eral Maa­parankoe Ma­hao, among oth­ers.

Govern­ment of Le­sotho re­versed its po­si­tion well aware of the dis­as­trous con­se­quences that could be­fall this im­pov­er­ished na­tion had it re­fused to take and im­ple­ment the said re­port. This is a huge new stand­point adopted by the govern­ment as it takes into ac­count the vul­ner­a­ble po­si­tion of the ma­jor­ity of the Ba­sotho, mostly the in­no­cent ru­ral poor.

The volte face was there­fore wel­come. Govern­ment agreed to have im­ple­mented the rec­om­men­da­tions of the Re­port by 1st Fe­bru­ary.

How­ever, at the African Union (AU) Sum­mit held in Ad­dis Ababa, Ethiopia, on the side­lines of the AU Sum­mit on 29th Jan­uary Govern­ment asked the chair­per­son of the SADC Or­gan on Pol­i­tics, De­fence and Se­cu­rity Co­op­er­a­tion, Pres­i­dent Jac­into Felipe Nyusu, of the Re­pub­lic of Mozam­bique, af­ter a con­sul­ta­tive meet­ing, to al­low the govern­ment to re­con­vene Par­lia­ment on Mon­day, 8th Fe­bru­ary, to re­ceive the re­port. SADC agreed to this ex­ten­sion of time for the re­lease of the Re­port un­til 8th Fe­bru­ary.

How­ever, amid all this “time buy­ing” ex­cuses by govern­ment, as some in the op­po­si­tion mem­bers la­belled the de­lay, sus­pen­sion par­tic­u­larly by SADC, still looms large over Le­sotho. In the words of South Africa’s Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma im­me­di­ately af­ter the Gaborone Sum­mit, echoed by the Chair­per­son of the Or­gan in Ma­puto, Mozam­bique, SADC would “dis­en­gage” Le­sotho from the re­gional bloc. Zuma went on to an­nounce that SADC was not aban­don­ing the Ba­sotho but was go­ing to, nev­er­the­less, pub­lish the re­port and im­ple­ment the rec­om­men­da­tions, which by now had be­come res­o­lu­tions and there­fore bind­ing on Le­sotho ac­cord­ing to Ar­ti­cle 10 of the SADC treaty, on be­half of the peo­ple of Le­sotho.

It is our col­lec­tive fer­vent hope as the na­tion that the Le­sotho Govern­ment will have wis­dom to im­ple­ment all the unadul­ter­ated rec­om­men­da­tions of the Re­port to ob­vi­ate the need for eco­nomic sanc­tions as so suc­cinctly bandied about by SADC.

Equally im­por­tant as well, the United States (US) govern­ment and Mil­len­nium Chal­lenge Cor­po­ra­tion (MCC) have also made it clear that if govern­ment does not re­lease cer­tain seg­ments of the re­port or the re­port, then eco­nomic sanc­tions will inevitably en­sue.

Firstly, since its in­cep­tion in 2007 the MCC compact in­jected bil­lions of Mal­oti into our frag­ile econ­omy in the fol­low­ing sec­tors: th­ese in­cluded ren­o­vat­ing health cen­tres, im­prov­ing anti-retro­vi­ral ther­apy ser­vices and im­prov­ing man­age­ment of hos­pi­tal out­pa­tient ser­vices, con­struct­ing and equip­ping a new Na­tional Ref­er­ence lab­o­ra­tory and train­ing staff in Maseru and build­ing dor­mi­to­ries and staff res­i­dences at the Na­tional Health Train­ing Col­lege, con­struct­ing a ded­i­cated, cen­tral fa­cil­ity for col­lect­ing and pro­cess­ing blood, which in­cluded a mo­bile blood col­lec­tion ve­hi­cle that col­lects and trans­fers blood to the Cen­tre as well as stor­age equip­ment and col­lec­tion units, in­creas­ing ca­pac­ity for nurse train­ing and im­prov­ing dis­trictlevel pub­lic hu­man health and safety and waste man­age­ment prac­tices.

The compact also fi­nanced the wa­ter and san­i­ta­tion pro­ject, jus­tice and pri­vate sec­tors. In the for­mer pro­ject is funded the pro­ject that sup­ports Le­sotho’s vi­sion for se­cure, ad­e­quate, sus­tain­able and clean wa­ter sup­ply and waste wa­ter re­sources. It did so through the con­struc­tion of bulk wa­ter con­veyance sys­tem from Me­to­long Dam, re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion of ex­ist­ing ur­ban and peri-ur­ban wa­ter sup­ply in­fra­struc­ture and ex­pan­sion of the dis­tri­bu­tion net­work. (Source: lo­cal news­pa­per)

This con­tri­bu­tions by the Mcc-compact to Le­sotho’s econ­omy and in­fra­struc­ture are just the tip of the ice­berg as there are many oth­ers. Un­der the US’S Africa Growth Op­por­tu­nity Act (AGOA), the US among oth­ers, im­ports tex­tiles and agri- cul­tural pro­duce duty-free into the US from de­vel­op­ing coun­tries mostly in sub­Sa­ha­ran Africa that ad­here to prin­ci­pals of gov­er­nance, rule of law, ac­count­abil­ity, re­spect for hu­man rights and pro­mo­tion of free en­ter­prise. To this end and as a di­rect re­sult of this con­ces­sion by the US, at a con­ser­va­tive es­ti­mate, Le­sotho’s tex­tile and gar­ments in­dus­try now em­ploys over 55,000 Ba­sotho who pro­vide in­come to hun­dreds of thou­sands to de­pen­dents and as a re­sult of th­ese ex­ports, govern­ment gets the much-needed ex­ter­nal rev­enue to fund the many so­cial and de­vel­op­ment projects.

Le­sotho ben­e­fits from its mem­ber­ship of SADC in the form of among oth­ers, free-move­ment of goods and ser­vices and traf­fic within the re­gion, joint polic­ing on il­licit drug-traf­fick­ing, com­mu­ni­ca­tions, sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy as well preser­va­tion of wa­ter re­sources. Le­sotho is also able to as­sert its poli­cies in­ter­na­tion­ally with the ac­tive sup­port of SADC and there­fore can, so to speak, punch be­yond its weight. Our prover­bial um­bil­i­cal cords con­nec­tion to the gi­ant that is South Africa (SA), a se­nior role player in SADC, can­not be over-em­pha­sized for its strate­gic, eco­nomic, mil­i­tary and so­cial im­por­tance.

The old­est re­gional union on Earth, the South­ern African Cus­toms Union (SACU) that binds since 1910, South Africa, Le­sotho, Swazi­land, Botswana and lately, Namibia, qual­i­fies us to a huge source of rev­enue from the gi­ant econ­omy of SA that con­sti­tutes more than 70% of our na­tional bud­get that fi­nances our ex­pen­di­ture.

As a fur­ther demon­stra­tion of our vir­tual whole­sale re­liance on for­eign aid for fi­nanc­ing its mea­gre bud­get and so­cial up­lift­ment pro­grams be­cause sad to ad­mit but true, Le­sotho has vir­tu­ally no econ­omy to speak of, there­fore an­other huge per­cent­age of its na­tional bud­get is fi­nanced by grants and aid from in­ter­na­tional de­vel­op­ment part­ners.

My con­tention is that on the ba­sis of the above sce­nario, in the event that as al­luded to by the Prime Min­is­ter and his Deputy, Le­sotho does not im­ple­ment parts of or the whole re­port, then eco­nomic sanc­tions and or sus­pen­sion from SADC and the rest of the world, with a domino ef­fect, will en­sue.

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