Time for cooler heads to pre­vail

Lesotho Times - - Leader -

IT seems the dark clouds are never far away for Le­sotho, with the Moun­tain King­dom grap­pling with re­newed po­lit­i­cal ten­sion. In this edi­tion, we re­port on the stay away and protest march sched­uled for to­day aimed at pres­sur­ing the govern­ment into “speed­ily” im­ple­ment­ing rec­om­men­da­tions made by a South­ern African De­vel­op­ment Com­mu­nity (SADC) com­mis­sion of in­quiry into Le­sotho’s in­sta­bil­ity.

The heavy pres­ence of se­cu­rity forces in the streets of Maseru as of yes­ter­day, casts an omi­nous shadow on the frag­ile peace that has been hold­ing in the coun­try. There is no telling what will hap­pen next as the con­tend­ing forces dig in and tem­pers flare. We earnestly hope cooler heads will pre­vail on all sides, and noth­ing un­to­ward oc­curs.

In the grander scheme of things, who­ever “wins” this duel is im­ma­te­rial be­cause, as a na­tion, we are all los­ing. What wor­ries the or­di­nary peo­ple more is that Le­sotho is in the throes of a de­bil­i­tat­ing drought which has se­ri­ous ram­i­fi­ca­tions for food se­cu­rity and their liveli­hoods?

Added to that, Le­sotho is at a cross­roads with its main de­vel­op­ment part­ners, with the Euro­pean Union (EU) hav­ing al­ready de­cided not to dis­burse €26.85 mil­lion (about M460.65 mil­lion) meant to sup­port the na­tional bud­get due to is­sues of un­ac­count­abil­ity. The United States’ Mil­len­nium Chal­lenge Cor­po­ra­tion (MCC) has also told the govern­ment to ex­plain the steps it would take to ad­dress its con­cerns on the rule of law and gov­er­nance is­sues be­fore the is­suance of a sec­ond com­pact. A with­drawal of MCC fund­ing sup­port would be so mo­men­tous that there is a very real risk that other aid or­gan­i­sa­tions might also re­con­sider their as­sis­tance to the Moun­tain King­dom.

Le­sotho re­ceived its first five-year MCC grant in July 2007. The $362.5 mil­lion com­pact, among oth­ers, helped fund the con­struc­tion of Me­to­long Dam, as well as the Pres­i­dent’s Emer­gency Plan for AIDS Re­lief to mit­i­gate the neg­a­tive eco­nomic im­pact of poor ma­ter­nal health, HIV/AIDS, tu­ber­cu­lo­sis and other dis­eases.

How­ever, the MCC board on 16 De­cem­ber 2015 de­ferred a vote on Le­sotho and Tan­za­nia’s el­i­gi­bil­ity for a sec­ond five-year com­pact, cit­ing the coun­tries’ poor gov­er­nance record.

In March this year, the MCC’S board of di­rec­tors voted to sus­pend their part­ner­ship with the govern­ment of Tan­za­nia, say­ing the east African na­tion “en­gaged in a pat­tern of ac­tions in­con­sis­tent with MCC’S el­i­gi­bil­ity cri­te­ria”. Le­sotho’s fate is still uncertain, but the signs are not en­cour­ag­ing.

As if to but­tress the con­cerns raised by our de­vel­op­ment part­ners, the lat­est out­look by rat­ings agency Fitch on Le­sotho’s econ­omy states as much. It notes that po­lit­i­cal ten­sions were com­pli­cat­ing any pol­icy re­sponse to the grow­ing fis­cal deficit. In essence, the con­tin­ued ruckus was crip­pling the govern­ment’s at­tempts to re­dress some of the chal­lenges the econ­omy is fac­ing.

That is why a re­assess­ment of our pri­or­i­ties as a na­tion is an ur­gent pri­or­ity. Le­sotho has, and con­tin­ues to lose so much ground in eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment ow­ing to the peren­nial crises. What we need is self­less and vi­sion­ary lead­er­ship from across the po­lit­i­cal di­vide. The poverty many of our com­pa­tri­ots grap­ple with is cer­tainly more per­ti­nent than the one-up­man­ship that char­ac­terises our pol­i­tics.

The de­ci­sions all our lead­ers make have telling im­pli­ca­tions on this na­tion and our chil­dren’s fu­ture. While im­ple­ment­ing the rec­om­men­da­tions of the SADC re­port might have neg­a­tive im­pli­ca­tions for the coali­tion govern­ment in the short-term, it would en­sure the coun­try does not be­come a pariah in the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity.

Ul­ti­mately, the po­lit­i­cal in­sta­bil­ity in Le­sotho did not start with the present coali­tion govern­ment, lest we for­get. Ba­sotho from across the po­lit­i­cal di­vide need to take re­spon­si­bil­ity for this malaise. As rightly noted by Gem Di­a­monds Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Clif­ford El­ph­ick in this edi­tion, our fix­a­tion with pol­i­tics has re­tarded progress in the de­vel­op­ment of the req­ui­site tech­ni­cal skills to sup­port di­a­mond min­ing. This also ap­plies to Le­sotho’s eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment which has been peren­ni­ally stalled by bouts of po­lit­i­cal in­sta­bil­ity.

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