Le­sotho’s gen­er­a­tion chasm – the great dis­con­nect

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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.”

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