Our cities of squalor

Lesotho Times - - Opinion & Analysis - Ut­loang Ka­jeno

THEY say if you want to as­sess the stan­dard of gov­er­nance of any coun­try or ma­jor city in the world, first look at the clean­li­ness of the ma­jor roads as you travel from the air­port to the city cen­tre.

The ra­tio­nale be­hind this as­ser­tion is sim­ply that most tourists and vis­i­tors from abroad mak­ing their so­journ in the given coun­try or city en­ter their des­ti­na­tion through the air­port.

There­fore, the au­thor­i­ties in a coun­try or city will in­evitably try to show­case their coun­try in a pos­i­tive light even if af­flicted by ab­ject poverty, as in Le­sotho’s case.

I there­fore thought it pru­dent to as­sess the clean­li­ness of our ma­jor ur­ban ar­eas in Le­sotho, in­clud­ing Maseru, the com­mer­cial and ad­min­is­tra­tive cap­i­tal, with Le­sotho this year cel­e­brat­ing 50 years of in­de­pen­dence.

I pur­posely avoided any topic that had to do with the po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment of our land­scape in our golden ju­bilee as any em­pha­sis on these ar­eas might cloud the pur­pose of to­day’s col­umn.

Le­sotho is di­vided, in ad­di­tion to the 10 ad­min­is­tra­tive dis­tricts, into many mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties spread through­out the coun­try. They are called dif­fer­ent names but each is either called an ur­ban, lo­cal or ru­ral com­mu­nity coun­cil de­pend­ing on their al­lo­ca­tion.

It is in­deed a good sight and a sense of pride of how far we have gone in lo­cal govern­ment au­ton­omy when one trav­els by road through­out Le­sotho and no­tices the many no­tice boards that clearly de­mar­cate our var­i­ous com­mu­nity coun­cils and ur­ban mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties. The ma­jor ones are, in no par­tic­u­lar or­der, Maseru, Ma­put­soe, Hlotse, Roma, Mo­hale’s Hoek and Mafeteng.

Sur­pris­ingly, how­ever, these mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties or peri-ur­ban cen­tres are the most squalid. For starters, the Maseru City Coun­cil(mcc), our big­gest ur­ban area by far, is where all the ma­jor ho­tels, embassies and ma­jor in­fra­struc­ture and head­quar­ters of all our ma­jor cor­po­rate con­glom­er­ates are si­t­u­ated yet this is prob­a­bly one of the most squalid cities on earth. Yes I said it. Be­cause no one can dis­pute that filth in what­ever form in which­ever city or coun­try is an eye­sore. Crit­ics can­not be heard to say that there are other com­pa­ra­ble cities through­out mostly Africa and South Asia that are worse than Maseru in terms of squalor.

The fact of the mat­ter is that squalor is in­tol­er­a­ble and crim­i­nal no mat­ter the mag- ni­tude or where it em­anates from. It is like crime in that we can­not be heard to say that a cer­tain city is more squalid than ours, there­fore we are no worse off.

If one for in­stance, takes a drive from the perime­ter of the city down the main North One, down Kingsway, the city’s ma­jor thor- ough­fare, via the four main bus-stops and taxi ranks, and through our city’s ma­jor street, Kingsway Street, one ex­pe­ri­ences so squalid an area that you wish you could use an­other route.

To your sur­prise, the back­streets that are ran­domly used are worse with hu­man ex­cre­ment all over the place. For the life of me, I al­ways won­der what the for­eign vis­i­tors make of our col­lec­tive ad­her­ence to hy­gienic stan­dards.

No one will dis­pute it when I ob­serve daily in broad day­light and at night-time, when scores of men and women re­lieve them­selves in these wide open pub­lic spa­ces in full view of all and sundry.

Our gi­ant neigh­bour, South Africa, fa­mously used to call plas­tic bags their “na­tional flower” as it lit­er­ally lit­tered the en­tire coun­try­side of that coun­try and its ma­jor metropoles such as Jo­han­nes­burg, Pre­to­ria, Dur­ban and oth­ers.

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