INTELLIGENCE is a quality that people genuinely admire in other people. We all love to be around that person who is knowledgeable and good at solving problems. We all know a person; maybe a teacher, a classmate or a colleague who is both smart and sincere and who as a result, inspires us with their thoughtfulness and intellect.
There is also such a thing as being too clever for anyone’s good. It starts to happen when the humility and compassion disappear and are now replaced by arrogance and bravado. It’s easy to see how it happens.
Everyone around you keeps telling you how brilliant you are. Whenever there are problems like African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) or Challenge Corporation (MCC) eligibility, your bosses come to you and put you on the frontline. You’re the man. They trust in you. Without even realising when it happened, you wake up and have to confront the reality that you are now the only person in Lesotho who knows anything. This is why it’s so important to talk down to the rest of us.
I’ve always liked Trade and Industry Minister Joshua Setipa for exactly the reasons I outlined above. He is naturally a clever guy. However, since he has become the go-to-guy for the government he has taken to pontificating on issues he clearly knows little about.
His comments in this week’s Sunday Express (“Setipa blasts exiled leaders”) a case in point. Smart people who know the realities of Lesotho’s situation and who know the nature of international relations knew from the moment that the Justice Mpaphi Phumaphi-led Southern African Development Community (SADC) Commission of Inquiry Report came out that then Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) commander Tlali Kamoli was doomed. Smart people would have accepted the reality of the situation and would have made viable alternative plans.
Instead, they held on to the fantasy that they could keep Kamoli in place thereby putting Lesotho’s other international interests like AGOA, MCA and European Union budget support at risk.
Now Minister Setipa has taken to commenting on the return of opposition leaders and the reform process which is okay so long as you stick to the facts. You don’t need to be a genius to see that this government is on life support and in its last days.
It has lost its parliamentary majority and cannot even move a simple motion to close for Christmas without resorting to cheap tricks and underhand methods. Without the support of the opposition, the current government can hardly order a glass of water in a restaurant let alone implement any of the decisions that may emerge from a reform process.
We all have a genuine interest in an equitable and inclusive reform process. No one has any interest in the exclusionary and self-serving process the government has so far spearheaded. Does Minister Setipa really think we don’t know the difference?
A smart person in a smart government would see that this current stalemate is a cue for dialogue and consensus building rather than hurling insults while you stand naked in your glass house.
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His recent comments on the exiled opposition leaders are particularly hurtful because they are so blatantly untrue. Minister Setipa accuses them of “constantly shifting the goalposts’”. He has conveniently forgotten that the SADC decisions talk about the entire criminal element within the LDF.
The safety of the leaders is dependent on all criminals being out of leadership positions in the LDF not just the Big Boss. I know that for someone of the intellect of Mr Setipa this is obvious. The problem is that he is now so smart that he thinks he can sell the rest of us any old story that comes into his head irrespective of what the facts say.
2017 is going to be a red letter year in Lesotho history. We will either move our country forward or push it dangerously closer to the cliff. Our best and brightest minds be they in the government, the opposition, churches, non-governmental organizations or civil society must be willing to engage each other in a patriotic, genuine and sincere way. The recent statements from Minister Setipa fall far short of that.
Chief Molapo MP is the deputy leader of the Basotho National Party. The opinions expressed here are his own and do not reflect a policy position of the BNP or the opposition.