TŠEPANG Tšita Mosena ditched the corporate world in 2017 to join the then newly-formed Movement for Economic Change (MEC) party, led by Selibe Mochoboroane. Ms Tšita-Mosena was elected deputy leader in 2019. She will represent the party in the Lithoteng constituency at the 7 October 2022 elections.
This week, the Lesotho Times (LT) special projects editor, Bongiwe Zihlangu, sat down with Ms Tšita-Mosena who explained her mission in politics.
LT: Please briefly tell us about your educational and political background.
Tšita-Mosena: I am a twin sister born in 1977 and bred in Maseru. I went to Iketsetseng Primary School before proceeding to ‘Mabathoana High School. After that, I enrolled with the National University of Lesotho (NUL) where I did Computer Science and Physics. I later joined the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority (LHDA) as an intern in 1997.
I got an opportunity in 2000 to work for UNESCO for eight years in Paris, France, when I was 23. That’s when I pursued my Masters in Development Management. After obtaining my post-grad, I resigned and came back home because I wanted to deepen my roots and help develop the country.
The fact that I had studied development management inspired me as I viewed development issues from a different perspective. I wanted to be on the ground and help develop my country. After returning home, I started a company called BAM Foundation, with my twin sister, Ntšepeng Tšita Tikiso. Politics was not in my view then. Not at all. I only wanted to contribute to the development of the country. After years of running BAM Foundation, we decided to take a break.
That is when I was approached by MEC leader, Ntate Selibe Mochoboroane, when he formed the party in 2017. I became the Communications and Marketing Secretary in the MEC national executive committee. Immediately after that we went for elections and the party obtained six seats in parliament — Ntate Mochoboroane’s Thaba-Morena constituency and five proportional representation (PR) seats. I was lucky to go to parliament on one of those PR tickets.
LT: You have been an MP for five years now since 2017. How has your experience of parliament been?
Tšita-Mosena: I think I have managed to achieve what I set out to do when I joined parliament. I went there with a passion, with a purpose. I joined politics when I was fairly young. The majority of MPs we have now are elderly. It’s like they go to parliament to retire.
The reason why Lesotho is lagging behind is because our vision as young people is carried by people who don’t understand progressive politics and our needs. A lot of issues that we complain about can be solved with the right mindset and policies. We need more young people who can effectively articulate issues affecting the youth. We cannot leave this to old legislators.
I’m a motivator who’s always telling other women that they can make it if they work hard. By going to parliament, I told myself that let me be the example and become part of the system to bring change. Parliament gave me an opportunity to help address issues hindering the growth of the economy. I love MEC because it came with a different brand of politics, not the “them and us” politics that has characterised Congress parties and the Basotho National Party (BNP). As MEC we are done with such thinking.
We talk politics of the economy. The private sector needs to work with parties like the MEC that understands the economy. I also went to parliament to learn. However, it is unfortunate that there you find people who don’t attend sittings consistently, who are not focused and barely contribute, but rather waste precious time arguing unnecessarily.
I went to change its complexion by inspiring young people to join politics and play an active role in shaping their future. I wanted to influence people so that they see that politics is not only meant for a particular class, but for us all. We should view it as a vehicle to influence policy direction.
LT: You touch on the need to change the complexion of parliament. Do you think that it is time for educated people to claim more space in politics? Has your academic background helped you navigate the political landscape?
Tšita-Mosena: That is very necessary. I got into parliament with the aim of changing its composition by encouraging more young people to enter into politics. I want to change the way people see parliament, that it is not only a place for old people who are seeking a retirement home where they continue to draw salaries. However, I don’t want it to change me. Instead, I should be the one to change it.
However, we must also be careful not to rely too much on our academic background in politics. In politics, you are made by the people. It’s about democracy and how many people believe in you. You are not in a particular position because you are better than others. You are there because they figured that you are the person they want there and they can remove you when they want.
That’s what I’ve learnt about politics. Yes, my academic background has helped me to articulate on policies, to interrogate issues and interact at many different levels: local, regional and international. I have claimed my space because of the way I embrace politics.
LT: Has parliament changed you and the way you see things?
Tšita-Mosena: Yes, it has. Parliament has made me more confident and conscious to other people’s situations that need address. I was somehow scared at first because politics is not any easy space for women. You are called names and as a first timer you are attached to so many indecent things.
I wondered how I was going to cope as I had worked so hard for my brand, fearing that it would be damaged by politics. I finally decided to go for it but tread carefully all the same. I think I’ve done relatively well during my term in parliament.
LT: What would you say have been some of your achievements since becoming an MP?
Tšita-Mosena: Everything that I do in parliament is driven by policy and geared towards efforts to improve the country, as well as empower women and other marginalised communities. One of the motions that I proposed in parliament is the protection of businesses owned by indigenous Basotho.
This resulted in the Business Licensing and Registration Act, 2019. I had noticed that foreigners were operating businesses reserved for indigenous people on the basis that they were naturalised Basotho. This is not right. There were policies already in place stipulating which businesses were reserved for natives. By when foreigners become acquired naturalised status, it means they had no barriers to go into businesses reserved for native Basotho.
For instance, if I can sell fat-cakes, a naturalised foreigner can do the same. If you can recall there were questions on how so many foreigners are being naturalised through the Ministry of Home Affairs. We have so many foreigners who are holders of the Lesotho passport. Allowing naturalised foreigners to operate businesses that indigenous Basotho are into is a recipe for disaster. If you are naturalised, we appreciate that you are a Mosotho “but not really a Mosotho”.
LT: Has venturing into politics changed you and your view of life?
Tšita-Mosena: Very much. This has been a totally new world for me. I was like, where have these people been? Where have I been? What have I been doing? When you’re an MP you begin to interrogate issues from other people’s perspectives, not your own. When you think you can do without other people, it is because you have everything at your fingertips and life is easy for you.
You must think about other people and put yourself in their shoes. I realised that I had not moved around the country enough to observe how other people live. As MPs we must ask ourselves why we are in politics. Why is it that we don’t show concern for people but are quick to go to them when we need their votes? What should we be doing for these people? What are we doing to make life easy for them?
I also discovered that when you are in the private sector you make bold decisions, but it’s not like that in politics. The latter is a democratic process where you engage others and lobby them for their buy-in. We shouldn’t get into politics with the mindset of running a company.
LT: In recent times we have seen women emerging from the corporate world to occupy leadership positions in different political parties. What message do you have for those still trying to cut a niche for themselves in politics?
Tšita-Mosena: For the women that are coming in, I say this is a step in the right direction. But I warn them that jumping into politics is not necessarily a guarantee for success. They should ask themselves why they are getting into this space. As leaders we are pushing for the empowerment of women.
So, when I see a woman entering into politics, irrespective of their party, I say here comes my buddy. Here’s somebody that’s going to help us speak the same language, with whom we are going to push the same agenda.
We must remain dignified and focused for the world to accept that it is possible for a woman to make decisions in the interest of the country, not just for women.
We need to support each other. In 2019 I was elected MEC deputy leader because women voted for me in their numbers. That is why when women get into politics they must not forget that empowering other women, is also empowering themselves.