Lesotho’s generation chasm – the great disconnect
In his ‘ Cutting Edge’ article of the February 12 – 18 2015 issue of the Lesotho Times under the title ‘Why the youth should vote in the elections’, Mr Lepheana P Mosooane raised some interesting points about the youth’s apathy when it comes to voting in Lesotho’s elections.
I thought Mr Mosooane’s call for the youth to vote was made rather late in the day when one considered that the snap election was scheduled to take place 10 days after his clarion call, on the 28th of February.
However, Mr Mosooane’s article was provocative and a year later I am left thinking: When will Lesotho experience its Tunisia or Senegal moment?
Before defining what I call Lesotho’s Tunisia moment or Senegal moment, I would like to propose that Lesotho’s Tunisia moment or Senegal moment will be the moment when the Nationalist/congress thinking will be finally laid to rest and replaced by new dynamic thinking which best fits the aspirations of the modern voter in Lesotho. That moment will be realised when the youth takes over responsibility to make contributions to the kind of country they want to see Lesotho become instead of letting their grandparents and parents create a country that no longer matches their aspirations.
To define Lesotho’s Tunisia moment or Senegal moment, consider the following situations which occurred in the recent past in the North African state of Tunisia and the West African state of Senegal.
On the 17th of December 2010, 26-yearold Tunisian street vendor, Tarek al-tayeb Bouazazi set himself on fire in frustration after a municipal official confiscated his merchandise that he sold on the streets of his city as a way of eking out a living. That single incident has been identified as the trigger of the Tunisian Revolution which in turn sparked the well-document Arab Spring. The Tunisian Revolution precipitated the fall from power of the then 74-yearold Tunisian president, President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
In 2011, a movement known as Y’en a Marre – translated ‘ Fed Up’, was born in Senegal. This youth movement was formed by a group of rappers and journalists who were fed up with the rule of President Abdoulaye Wade. Y’en a Marre mobilised the youth to register to vote for an effective government that would see to it that election pledges made in the past were implemented. Thanks to Y’en a Marre, the then 86-yearold President Abdoulaye Wade was replaced by 51-year-old President Macky Sall.
To achieve this feat, activists from Y’en a Marre had gone from door to door to cam- paign for the youth to register to vote. Interestingly, Y’en a Marre has never pledged its support to President Sall. The youth movement has pledged its support to the implementation of pledges made during election campaigns, chief among these pledges was land reform.
These two incidents, which happened in North and West Africa occurred within a year of each other. The question posed above still remains: When will Lesotho experience its Tunisia moment or Senegal moment?
This question is made more relevant when one considers the results of a study that was conducted in 2012 by the Centre for Global Development. The study, titled ‘ The Generation Chasm: Do Young Populations Have Elderly Leaders’ revealed some startling findings about Africa. The study examined the age difference between countries’ leaders and the average age of the country’s voting citizens. What is important is that Lesotho was included in this study.
The study revealed that an average African voter is 19 years old while an average African ruler is 62 years old. Africa holds the record for having the highest number of rulers who are over 70 years of age. For comparative purposes, one has to consider that the study found that an average European/north American voter is 39 years old while the average age of the ruler in these countries is 55 years old. In Asia, the average voter is about 27 years old while the ruler is 58 years old.
What does this study show? It shows that an African ruler is at least 43 years older than the voter while the European/north American is only 16 years older than the average voter. In order to contextualise the meaning of the results of this study, consider the situation in some countries that fall under the South African sphere of influence – the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
This year, 2016, President Mugabe of Zimbabwe is in his 90s, Prime Minister Mosisili of Lesotho in his 70s, President Hage Geingob of Namibia in his 70s, President Zuma of South Africa in his mid-70s, and President Khama of Botswana in his 60s. The exceptions are King Mswati of Swaziland and President Kabila of the DRC who are in their mid-40s. The average voter in these countries is less or just over 20 years!
Thus, to me, governance crises that have hit Lesotho and other countries in this region could be ascribed to the fact that the aspirations of the rulers in this region are totally disconnected from the aspirations of the average voter. In short, the world view of the ageing rulers in Lesotho, are totally alienated from the evolving demands of the young voting population.
Up to now, the rulers in Lesotho were born during colonial times before the birth of the television, the ipad, the tablet, the internet and so on and so forth while the overwhelming majority of the voters were born years long after independence. The rulers of Lesotho have personal experience of events that occurred during colonial times and the abhorrent events that occurred after the 1970 elections which without any shadow of a doubt polarised the country into the Nationalist/congress camp.
The fact is, to the rulers of Lesotho, the events of 1970 define who they are and how they act when faced with difficult circumstances. Sadly, that is not the situation with the majority of the voters. The voters were born in an era of the globalised world. There is indeed a generation chasm between the rulers and the voters.
On the 15th of January 1986, when Major General Justin Metsing Lekhanya toppled the government of Prime Minister Leabua Jonathan, I was not yet 15 years old. I had just started Form B in Morapeli High School in Machache. When eligible voters cast their votes on the 27th of January 1970, I was not even born! I only learned about the Nationalist/congress thinking from my grandparents, my parents and my studies at the National University of Lesotho. In all honesty, I have no natural affinity to this thinking.
Thus, I propose that the disconnect between the rulers and the voters in Lesotho which has resulted in so much chaos and angst, must be seen as the source of the crises that have hit Lesotho since the introduction of democracy in 1993. However, the 28 February 2015 elections in Lesotho did not solve the generation chasm. The choice was be- tween an incumbent 75-year-old prime minister and a 70-year-old opposition leader.
The question, therefore is: Is Mr Mosooane and all the other post-independence and post-nationalist/post-congress protesters like Mr Mahao Mahao, people who are fed up with the status quo, willing to stand up and do the work that was done by the 26-year old Mr Bouazazi of Tunisia and the youthful Y’en a Marre of Senegal?
That moment to my mind, will mark Lesotho’s Tunisia moment/senegal moment and it will mark the end of the Nationalist/congress politics in Lesotho which is thoroughly hated by the likes of Mr Mahao. Most importantly, this moment will mark the end of gerontocracy in Lesotho and mark a transition to democracy. There is a caveat though – before this moment can occur all and sundry will have to first reject any feeling of affiliation they have for the Nationalist/congress thinking which they may have inherited from their grandparents, their parents and their teachers and lecturers in institutions of learning in Lesotho.
When members of the Lesotho chapter of Y’en a Marre (Fed Up) go from door to door in Lesotho, their message at the doorstep will run along the following lines: “Good morning/good day/good evening: I am here at your door to recruit young eligible voters in this house to register to vote in 2020. Ever since independence in 1965, our country has been mis-governed by our grandparents and parents who belong to the Nationalist/congress class of rulers.
As a result, our current prime minister is over 70 years. We are here to ask eligible voters in this house to consider closing the generation gap between the next prime minister and the voter. The next prime minister’s interest will be to introduce clean governance to Lesotho based on economics, development of the country and bringing services to the citizens of this country. Our next prime minister after 2020 will be in his 30s and will be adequately prepared to cope with the demands of the majority of the voters who are around 20 years of age.”
In order for Lesotho’s Tunisia moment or Senegal moment to have an impact in the 2020 elections, Mr Mosooane and his contemporaries will have to start the door-todoor work from now. In the meantime, Mr Mosooane and his contemporaries will make it clear to the current political parties that in 2020, they are not going to vote for a candidate who is old enough to be their father or grandfather. They will only vote for their contemporary.
The next ime minister’s interest will be to introduce clean governance to Lesotho based on economics, development of the country and bringing services to the citizens of this country. Our next prime minister after 2020 will be in his 30s and will be adequately prepared to cope with the demands of the majority of the voters who are around 20 years of age.”