le­sotho im­age needs a facelift

Lesotho Times - - Leader -

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.

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