Implementation is the right move
PRIME Minister Pakalitha Mosisili this week pronounced the government’s position on the implementation of the Southern African Development Community’s (SADC) Commission of Inquiry into Lesotho’s instability. Among the major take-aways from the premier’s voluminous speech was the government’s commitment to implement the Justice Mphaphi Phumaphi-led Commission of Inquiry’s recommendations albeit with some reservations.
That commitment is commendable given that it was Dr Mosisili himself who requested the regional bloc to set up the probe team with the intention of addressing Lesotho’s political challenges after the fatal shooting of former army commander, Maaparankoe Mahao on 25 June 2015. For the bulk of his speech, Dr Mosisili criticized the Commission and its findings, which he is certainly entitled to do. However, it remains a fact that inquiries of such a large scope and unique circumstances will by-and-large be far from perfect. It’s unlikely any other group of people would have fared better given the challenging circumstances in which it was undertaken, with some of the witnesses testifying while in exile.
The long and short of it is that SADC came to Lesotho’s aid by acquiescing to the request for a commission of inquiry at very great cost. What Lesotho now needs to focus on is implementation of the recommendations without further delay. Some of the recommendations are like sour-tasting medicine which is not politicallyconvenient. It goes without saying that the implementation process will be far from easy. However, it offers a historic opportunity to address many structural challenges Lesotho has faced since independence in 1966.
Over the past 50 years, Lesotho has been caught in this politics-first time warp while economic opportunities pass us by. Implementing the recommendations will give the government an opportunity to focus on the developmental issues they promised to address while campaigning to get elected. After all is said and done, the ordinary man or woman in the street is not particularly concerned with who holds what position, but with their material living conditions.
The majority in this country elected the seven parties governing this nation with the hope and expectation that their lives would markedly improve over the course of its tenure. Implementation will also ensure the international community, including SADC, the African Union and development partners, continue to be by Lesotho’s side as we chart our developmental path. There is certainly nothing to be gained in assuming a pariah status as can be attested by such countries as North Korea, Venezuela and Zimbabwe among others.
Lesotho certainly reserves its right to sovereignty, but in this case it is not at stake. We cannot pretend to be able to address this nation’s challenges on our own. Just last week, a Demographic and Health Survey report revealed that Lesotho’s HIV prevalence rate had spiked from 23 percent to 25 percent.
Some of the causes of the spike are underlying sociocultural, economic and political factors. After all, Lesotho is beset by high poverty and unemployment rates which increase Basotho’s vulnerability to getting infected with the virus. These are the issues that should rank high on the government’s priority list instead of firefighting the growing negative perception of the country.
Countless global financial agencies have underscored the urgent need for Lesotho to improve the business climate to strengthen competitiveness, build investor confidence, and boost the country’s growth potential. International rating agency, Fitch Ratings, in April this year noted that perceptions of political instability had negatively impacted on investor confidence in the country and resulted in weak real Gross Domestic Product growth.
Implementing the recommendations is also in the government’s long-term interests. Only under a stable political framework can the economic policies and institutional changes needed to build the economy be effected. In a thriving economy, citizens see the folly of fighting each other and focus on exploiting the economic opportunities before them. However, if poverty and deprivation remain the order of the day, unrest will continue to the detriment of economic development.