not yet uhuru on agoa

Lesotho Times - - Leader -

BACK in 1992, just a few months af­ter her re­turn to South Africa from a long ex­ile in the United States which had be­gun in 1965, Afro-jazz leg­end Letta Mbulu re­leased the pre­scient block­buster al­bum Not Yet Uhuru which fea­tured the epony­mous hit sin­gle.

This was a pro­found warn­ing about the pre­ma­ture cel­e­bra­tions that were sweep­ing across South Africa as it had be­come ap­par­ent that the in­iq­ui­tous so­ciopo­lit­i­cal sys­tem of Apartheid which had of­fi­cially con­fined the coun­try’s ma­jor­ity black pop­u­la­tion to the sta­tus of sec­ond class cit­i­zens was on its last legs.

Many a time it has been said that the last minute is dan­ger­ous and those who fol­lowed the ex­ploits of the fa­mous Manch­ester United soc­cer team of 1999 can tes­tify. The team scored two goals in the space of a minute to snatch the Euro­pean Cham­pi­ons League tro­phy from their Ger­man ri­vals Bay­ern Mu­nich.

An­other metaphor refers to the last kicks of a dy­ing horse and as we saw in South Africa, the cel­e­bra­tions over Apartheid’s im­pend­ing demise in 1991 were in­deed pre­ma­ture as Mbulu had so elo­quently pointed out in her mu­sic.

Letta Mbulu’s ad­vice was sim­ply that there were al­ways hur­dles that needed to be cleared through dili­gent ac­tion be­fore peo­ple could fi­nally take their place in the sun and cel­e­brate.

And while we do not an­tic­i­pate tragedies of the mag­ni­tude that South Africa had to con­tend with in this coun­try, it would still be wise for our po­lit­i­cal play­ers to take heed of Mbulu’s ad­vice not to en­gage in pre­ma­ture or­gies of cel­e­bra­tion be­fore we cross the fin­ish­ing line.

Only four days ago, we made a hum­ble ap­peal to gov­ern­ment not to claim any easy vic­to­ries and de­sist from mak­ing em­phatic claims about their achieve­ments in se­cur­ing the coun­try’s el­i­gi­bil­ity for trade ben­e­fits of­fered to coun­tries un­der the African Growth and Op­por­tu­nity Act (AGOA).

AGOA is a pref­er­en­tial trade con­ces­sion which pro­vides for duty-free and quota free en­try of goods into the US mar­ket from des­ig­nated sub-sa­ha­ran African coun­tries, in­clud­ing Le­sotho, and ap­plies to both tex­tile and non-tex­tile goods.

Le­sotho’s man­u­fac­tur­ing in­dus­try is an­chored on AGOA, and with­out it the es­ti­mated 40,000 jobs in the in­dus­try could be lost. Our hum­ble plea had been ne­ces­si­tated by Prime Min­is­ter Pakalitha Mo­sisili’s em­phatic claims that the de­ci­sion by Tai­wanese tex­tile com­pany, Nien Hs­ing Group to in­ject a fresh US$20 mil­lion (ap­prox­i­mately M270 mil­lion) in­vest­ment in the coun­try was proof that con­trary to claims by un­named de­trac­tors, AGOA el­i­gi­bil­ity had been se­cured for 2017.

“If they be­lieved that AGOA was go­ing, they would not have in­vested in Le­sotho, and this has there­fore dis­pelled those lies about it go­ing away,” Dr Mo­sisili said as he at­tacked his crit­ics.

We said it on Sun­day and we will say it once again that the truth about AGOA is how­ever more com­plex than Dr Mo­sisili’s ex­trap­o­la­tions sug­gested.

And to­day, as we re­port else­where in this edi­tion, the bat­tle to se­cure AGOA is not over and the gov­ern­ment’s cel­e­bra­tions were cer­tainly pre­ma­ture.

Trade and In­dus­try Min­is­ter Joshua Setipa, will on 13 Fe­bru­ary 2017 visit his Amer­i­can coun­ter­part in Wash­ing­ton DC to “demon­strate” Le­sotho’s com­mit­ment to­wards ful­fill­ing AGOA el­i­gi­bil­ity cri­te­ria.

The coun­try has un­til the end of the first quar­ter of 2017 to demon­strate that it has met all con­di­tions for full el­i­gi­bil­ity which are specif­i­cally that we must have im­ple­mented all the mea­sures geared to­wards restor­ing po­lit­i­cal sta­bil­ity and re­spect for the rule of law.

Gov­ern­ment knows what it needs to do and with po­lit­i­cal will, it is still achiev­able within the re­main­ing time. Only then can we re­lease the cham­pagne bot­tles and en­gage in un­bri­dled or­gies of self-con­grat­u­la­tion.

For now, it is Not Yet Uhuru un­til we have im­ple­mented re­forms and se­cured con­fir­ma­tion of our AGOA sta­tus for 2017. As an­other Amer­i­can rock mu­sic leg­end Lenny Kravitz put it in an­other hit song, It Ain’t Over Til It’s Over!

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