lesotho image needs a facelift
APART from being one of the greatest tennis players of the 1990s and 2000s, Andre Agassi is known for an advert for camera manufacturer Canon in which he uttered the tagline: “Image Is Everything”.
The American’s bold statement not only applies to the tennis court but to all facets of life. The world over, television and movie stars, athletes and even our politicians carefully craft images for public consumption. After all, image creation is a serious business with critically important implications for the success of any politician. Their ultimate goal is to convince the public that they are actually providing leadership, even if in reality they have only a limited ability to effect outcomes.
Other schools of thought posit that actions, rather than perceptions, are more effective means for leaders to assert themselves. That being said, they can be no denying that perception is 9/10 of reality. So perception is important, if not “everything”. As a political leader, faced with problems, the perception of the response is sometimes as important as the actual response.
This brings us to a story published in this edition in which the African Union (AU) has expressed “deep” concern over the “breakdown in rule of law” in Lesotho. According to AU Commission chairperson, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, the recent attack on National University of Lesotho Political Science Professor, Mafa Sejanamane, highlighted the “deteriorating state of human rights, rule of law and constitutionalism in the Kingdom of Lesotho with adverse effects on democracy, peace and stability”.
As was to be expected, the government came out strongly to rebuff the continental bloc’s rebuke saying the attack on Professor Sejanamane’s Mazenod home did not warrant a response from the AU.
Indeed, the government’s gripe that Lesotho seems to garner unjustified continental attention might have some merit, especially given the many serious conflicts currently rocking Africa. From the Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria, civil war in Burundi to the perennial clashes between the Mozambican government and the Afonso Dhlakama-led RENAMO, the AU certainly has its hands full.
So to focus on a single attack on a relatively littleknown academic is creating a storm in a teacup, the government might argue. However, that is where they get it wrong because any incidences of unrest in Lesotho dent the hope and expectation that the Mountain Kingdom will live up to its promise as a bastion of peace and tranquillity.
There can be no running away from the reality that Lesotho’s image has taken numerous knocks over the past decades and, rightly or wrongly, earned itself the ignoble tag of being a problem nation in the community of nations. The blame for this perception cannot be lumped on one particular government but on the successive administrations since Independence in 1966.
Finger pointing for this perception disaster can do any of the political contenders no good because, ultimately the perception of being an unstable nation is to the detriment of all Basotho across the divide.
What Lesotho needs is a change of the narrative so it can live up to its peaceful promise. Instead of creating a siege mentality that the rest of the world is out to get us, we need to welcome the concerns raised not only by the AU, but by Southern African Development Community and development partners such as the European Union and the United States among others. In all fairness, the rest of the world does not harbour ulterior motives such as plundering Lesotho’s resources given our humble economic stature.
However, Lesotho has a world to lose if the perception of instability lingers, especially in the realms of foreign direct investment and tourism among others. Investment promotion drives being initiated by the government will come to nothing if the image problem is not addressed.
The fact that the government sanctioned the protest march and also received the petition made by the Alliance of Non-state Actors last week speaks volumes about the maturity of our democracy. That is a good starting point in resolving our differences instead of remaining in the trenches.