WE would like to extend our hearty congratulations to His Majesty, King Letsie III, the political parties and the nation at large for the peaceful elections over the weekend.
As expected with every polls, some will be revelling in that sweet feeling of victory while others retire to some corner to lick their wounds in defeat.
It is also a time for reflection, to draw lessons which could be useful in future. One thing that we have learnt from the outcome is that in choosing the seven month-old Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) over the established political parties, Basotho voted overwhelmingly to reject career politicians. They were saying no to men and women who seemingly chose politics not out of altruistic objectives to improve the lives and well-being of their countrymen and women, but as a vehicle for self-aggrandisement.
For several decades, election after election, the nation kept on replacing one established party with another in the vain hope that one of them would one day decide to forgo their narrow self-interests and begin to work for the greater good of the nation.
But it was not to be. Instead the parties conducted state affairs in a manner which exemplified the aphorism that “politics is about who gets what, when and how”.
In the last polls held in 2017, the All Basotho Convention (ABC), then under the leadership of the charismatic Thomas Thabane, won a huge chunk of the votes to wrest power from the then Pakalitha Mosisili-led Democratic Congress (DC). The ABC came to power on the back of promises to rid government and the civil service of endemic corruption that had affected service delivery. The party pledged to reform the security agencies and rid them of rogue elements who had been the architects of gross human rights and impunity during the preceding Mosisili era. Equally, if not more importantly, the ABC government promised to implement the multi-sector reforms that were recommended by SADC in 2016 as a panacea to Lesotho’s chronic instability.
But no sooner were these promises forgotten when the ABC politicians had firmly ensconced themselves in power.
Rather than address service delivery issues, members of Mr Thabane’s administration fought over who should get which tender. One of the then ministers, Chalane Phori, even had the temerity to tell the Lesotho Times that he should get a piece of the cake because his own party was in charge of government. On many occasions, the ABC chefs made no bones about the fact that they believed all civil service jobs as well as army and police recruits should be drawn from within their ranks.
When the Covid-19 pandemic set in, Mr Thabane and his successor, Moeketsi Majoro, set up what turned out to be illegal entities, namely the National Emergency Command Centre and the National Covid-19 Secretariat (NACOSEC) respectively to spearhead the national response to the health crisis. Both were illegal as there were no enabling laws to support their establishment. They were also found by the Auditor General to be duplicating functions which could have easily been carried out by the Disaster Management Authority (DMA). What was even more galling for Basotho was that these bodies drained millions from the fiscus and blew the money, not on life-saving interventions but on food and allowances for staffers among other things.
The Sunday Express and the Lesotho Times were excoriated as Makoerekoere publications bent on destabilising Lesotho with their reporting on the looting of Covid-19 funds. Makoerekoere is a derogatory name used to express hatred for foreigners. It is never used by any self-respecting and decent officials or politicians in public. Yet some of the career politicians used the term to whip emotions against this publication and its sister newspaper for daring to inform Basotho about the misappropriation of their money.
Time and again this publication also warned the ABC and other career politicians against the perils of failing to implement the much-delayed reforms. Again the politicians would not listen. Oftentimes they would go to parliament and attend to just one item on the order paper before leaving. That one item was prayer – highly ironic considering that the selfish politicians were anything but pious in their aims and actions.
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When poverty and food insecurity escalated last year, the politicians in parliament responded, not by passing any measures to mitigate ordinary people’s suffering: they awarded themselves monthly fuel allowances of M5000 each. They left the people’s plight in the hands of well-meaning donor organisations like the World Food Programme (WFP).
When the nation cried out to Dr Majoro to address rampant police brutality, he covered his ears with wool and refused to act against the law enforcement agency and its head, Commissioner Holomo Molibeli. Only when his tenure was about to end did Dr Majoro make belated moves to oust the police boss for the same issues.
When the nation complained bitterly about rampant killings and other serious crimes, the ABC now led by Nkaku Kabi seemingly showed them the middle finger by openly fraternising with some of the gangs accused of the crimes.
They even ignored us when we warned them about the perils of infighting at the expense of service delivery. From 2019 to date the ABC was consumed by vicious power struggles despite our warnings that these could only destroy the party in the manner that similar fights had destroyed the Basotho Congress Party and the Lesotho Congress for Democracy who had also been giants on Lesotho’s political landscape.
Despite their infighting, corruption and poor service delivery, the ABC still believed the people would always be on their side. But as this election has shown, the people are fed up. Unlike in the past where they simply recycled parties led by career politicians, they decided enough was enough this time. They have gone for people who have no political track record but people who are known for their achievements in other fields.
The RFP might be basking in the glory of victory now but they should be warned: Basotho will kick them out at the earliest opportunity if they don’t deliver on their promises, just like they did with the career politicians.