Defer or cancel golden jubilee
THE fourth of October 2016 this year is without a doubt a very significant event in our beloved country’s history. It is important to every Mosotho irrespective of political persuasion or hue and even to the apolitical of our nation.
This day will mark our golden jubilee when the Union Jack was lowered for the last time in our newlyindependent Lesotho to be replaced by our very own national flag that was hoisted high for the first time accompanied by the rendition of “Lesotho faats’e la bo-ntata, rona”, our national anthem, amid much ululation and fanfare.
These events all marked our attainment of freedom from being a British protectorate to join newlyindependent nations across Africa.
We therefore attained a unique identity as an independent nation among the international community of nations.
Those who were there to witness the epoch-making event will no doubt attest to this with fond memories.
With the advent of independence came huge expectations of freedom, fundamental human rights, prosperity, rule of law, equality for all citizens, socio-economic development and many other positive developments.
But alas, 50 years down the line, all we experience is abject poverty, unemployment, disease, political immaturity and intolerance as well as violation of fundamental freedoms.
Understandably, the government and other politicians would like to celebrate this day. However, my genuine suggestion, is to at least defer this event or as a last resort, which I reluctantly support, cancel it altogether.
By way of an example, just days prior to their fifth independence celebrations, the people of the newlyindependent nation of south Sudan strongly urged their government to cancel the celebrations.
Their reasons were the internecine wars, abject poverty, political intolerance, violation of fundamental freedoms, disease and hunger, among others.
The government nevertheless went ahead with the celebrations. The result? Within four days over a 100 people lay dead due to intense fighting among the warring factions.
Lest I be misinterpreted to mean that the same could happen in Lesotho, the gist of my argument is that since a large percentage of our people, are strenuously opposed to the celebration of the golden jubilee, it might turn out to be a damp squib.
Lesotho, without a doubt has similar problems, barring war. Government has publicly solicited the general public of this impoverished nation to collectively contribute M25 million towards making this massive event a success.
My humble suggestion to our politicians is to at least defer or in a worst case scenario as a last resort, cancel it altogether. This nation faces a huge number of challenges that far outweigh those for the golden jubilee celebrations.
Granted, some of these challenges are long-term but with others, we need to overcome them before we can safely celebrate our golden jubilee.
Below are some of the huge challenges that stick-out like a sore thumb in addition to the obvious lack of funds!
Spiralling HIV/AIDS pandemic In contrast to a couple of years ago when our beloved Lesotho was ranked third in the world in terms of prevalence of HIV/AIDS, we have now climbed the ignominious ladder to number two in the world.
This means when the rest of the world experiences a significant decline in the prevalence of the pandemic, Lesotho has noticeably moved in the opposite direction.
Rampant unemployment With a population of just two million by conservative estimates, Lesotho has more than 500 000 or a quarter of its population living in neighbouring South Africa, to seek employment opportunities there.
Again, by a conservative estimate, only 16 percent of our employable people are gainfully employed in all sectors of our economy.
This translates to the sad reality that our fragile and small economy cannot create any employment opportunities for mostly its newlygraduated and other young people.
Lesotho therefore survives, at least many families to be precise, on remittances from the Basotho diaspora all over South Africa.
Political intolerance Among all the 15 Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries, Lesotho has the unique and unenviable distinction of having experienced about five military coups and a king having been forced into exile twice, though it is sad to admit.
As a serious manifestation of our intolerance, SADC has intervened on no less than four occasions meaning that we are not a country at peace with itself. We hardly toler- ate one another politically.
Another manifestation of political intolerance is the recently-established SADC Commission of Inquiry that, among others, looked into the causes of and solutions to political instability in Lesotho.
bickering Ever since our post-independence elections in 1970, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2012 and 2015, following a credible, free and fair election, no democratically-elected government has ever enjoyed any form of stability.
It appears as if it is in our DNA to be constantly at each other’s throats immediately after every election. Instead of concentrating on socioeconomic development, successive governments have concentrated on fighting external and internal enemies.
This has been our unenviable hallmark throughout our post-election period.
Attendant to this intense bickering and jockeying for positions have been the unfortunate killings, exiles and violation of fundamental freedoms and human rights that have inevitably invited the intervention of international organizations most notably SADC, African Union, Commonwealth, United Nations, United States and South Africa, to name a few.
Political exiles and inhumane
incarceration All three major opposition political party leaders and many Basotho, that earlier included soldiers, journalists and lawyers are in political exile in neighbouring South Africa.
They claim the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) endangers their lives, although both the army and government have vigorously denied these allegations.
The other unenviable distinction is that we have soldiers who are incarcerated in the Maseru Maximum Security Prison for alleged mutiny.
They have been in incarceration for more than a year contrary to the recommendations of SADC that emanate from its Commission of Enquiry.
Spiking shootings and killings Since the beginning of 2015, the killing of both prominent and ordinary persons has been on the increase with no arrest nor any end in sight.
Whether these killings are politicallymotivated is unclear but what is certain is that wanton and brazen killings have become the norm across the whole coun- try particularly in the capital, Maseru.
People now generally fear for their lives as faceless killers seemingly roam our cities and countryside with apparent impunity. Security sector’s meddling in politics The SADC Commission made it clear in no uncertain terms that some elements in the security sector have been meddling in politics, a remit that by convention, law and tradition, belongs to politicians.
This has led to some politicians using the army as a bulwark to maintain their power.
Alcohol and substance abuse Whether this is a sign of a despondent nation or not, particularly among the youth, the jury is still out, but the scourge of alcohol and substance abuse among the populace is sickening to the bone. Illegal shebeens are sprouting all over the place like wild mushrooms.
Seemingly there are no laws and regulation to curb the pernicious habit that surely eats away at our collective heritage and moral conscience.
Nobody, including all the leaders and stakeholders seem to know what to do about the scourge and its debilitating effect on the entire nation.
Unrivalled squalour The squalor in our cities and countryside is unrivalled, I reckon more than anywhere else on earth.
Again, like with alcohol and substance abuse above, nobody seems to care when people of all hues defecate and relieve themselves all over our streets and villages.
The stench that permeates our public places is unbearable and no one seems to care about hygiene and the environment.
Socio-economic development Against the backdrop of all these challenges, it is inevitable that in the past 50 years, in comparison with other nations also reaching the milestone, we could realize any significant socio-economic and political development.
There is virtually no infrastructure to speak of let alone the massive brain drain of highly-skilled personnel mostly to South Africa and elsewhere. The economy is still mostly in the lands of foreigners.
It is on the basis of the above challenges, among others, that most Basotho including myself, implore politicians to defer or at worst cancel the 50th Independence celebrations.