Our cities of squalor
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.
Continued on page 14...