A few words of counsel to Ntate Majoro
Dearest Ntate Majoro
I sincerely hope I find you well. I also hope you have settled down well in State House. I no longer see you these days at our favourite watering spring at Lancers. So, I will wait in anticipation for an invite to State House for a brief catch up over our favourite green bottled drink. I fully understand you are now extremely hectic running the affairs of state. But we cannot allow your new responsibilities to sever our friendship. In fact, we probably need each other more now in light of all the tsunamis that appear headed your way. What with all and sundry wanting a place in your cabinet and threatening to revolt if you don’t make them minister of this or that. As a good friend, I will always proffer good honest advice to you not out of self-interest but out of love for this country which I want to see succeeding.
In terms of my public work for this column, I am glad that we are still in a honeymoon period. So, this installment is not meant to attack you but to help you. In fact, I had not intended addressing you directly before the completion of your first 100 days in office (your honeymoon period). Remember what I said to you in May about any new leader’s first 100 days in office. This is usually a period to set out a leader’s clear vision, craft their plans and get them off the ground. The first 100 days are vital in determining the future course of any new leader. In fact, leaders who fail to set the tone for their tenures in the first 100 days always inexorably fail. So while I had not intended to address you directly during this crucial period to allow you to find your feet and lay the foundation for your programme of action for the betterment of our God foresaken people, I am prompted to jettison that ambition and engage you now. I just can’t resist the temptation
And since I have no hope of bumping into you at Lancers for a private chat, I have no option but to reach out to you via this column.
I am deeply worried by a few startling things that you have done since you took office. The sooner your address these the better. Before I go into detail, let me reiterate that I want you to succeed. As I have argued before and as I will repeat now, you represent the great hope for Lesotho. You and Mathibeli Mokhothu are a perfect match, not least because you are immensely beautiful people. One would be forgiven for confusing you to FMH models instead of politicians.
To get to my point, let’s go back to the day of your inauguration on 20 May 2020. This was your day. This was the perfect day for you to shine. Never mind that you did not wear a face mask despite being in the proximity of our beloved King, who wore won. I forgave you for missing out on your face mask because this was your important day. All and sundry from Lesotho’s quaint diplomatic sector were present. The rest of the world was watching you. The new sheriff had just landed in town. Everyone wanted to hear what the new sheriff had to say. The bad publicity the country had earned — thanks to Ntate Motsoahae and Lady Dee’s shenanigans had made this event the more important. All and sundry were anxious to hear how the new sheriff would stop the country from careering towards a cliff.
In any event, the occasion of the swearing in of a new leader is always auspicious.
This is the moment when any new leader shines. This is the time any new leader grabs the attention of the world.
I can tell you that the foreign press corps — under the banner of the Foreign Correspondents Association — based in Rosebank were following your live swearing in on Lesotho television’s channel on DSTV. I can tell you that Lynsey Chutel and Elian Peltier — the two prominent journalists who had authored that very hard-hitting piece against Lesotho on May 18 2020 in the New York Times had been eagerly awaiting your address. So was David Mckenzie of CNN and others. So was Peter Harding of the BBC.
This was your moment to showcase that things had changed in Lesotho. This was your moment to tell the world that Lesotho, the perennial laggard, was now on the cusp of new things under a new sheriff. Why you therefore decided to squander this opportunity is a matter that shall forever astonish history. There was nothing wrong with whatever you said. But whoever advised you that this was the perfect moment for you to deliver your entire acceptance address in pitch perfect Sesotho deserves to be castrated. Who was it? Was it Thabo Thakalekoala? If so, can someone find him for me so I pull out his one remaining tooth and disable him from ever chewing anything again.
Strangely enough, Ntate Motsoahae, whom you had just ousted delivered a very lucid, engaging and eloquent address in PERFECT ENGLISH in which he asked Basotho for forgiveness for his many errors of commission or omission during his short lived-reign. His speech captivated me. I am sure it did so for many. I promptly forgave him. Unfortunately, he was not the man of the moment. He was not the man all and sundry were expecting to hear from. Enter the man of the moment. Enter the man who the entire world was waiting to hear from — one Moekesti Majoro and the man disappoints by delivering a long monologue in Sesotho. This is the man whom the New York Times had earlier hailed as an International Monetary Fund trained economist — among many accolades. Yet the world could not understand a single word of what this brilliant economist had in store for his country. Any investors who had anticipated your address would have been equally dumbfounded at your decision to exclude them.
You have certainly experienced, the inaugurations of American presidents. Even George Bush, attempted to speak English. Imagine if Donald Trump had addressed his inauguration event in a native American language. Or in Greek.
Granted, you are accountable to Basotho and you probably wanted to engage the people over whom you were just about to begin reigning over in the language they best comprehend. Nothing wrong with that. But you could have split your speech into half Sesotho and half English. You didn’t. Why did you not spare a thought for the Maseru based diplomats who were present in person at the inaugration. Why did you think it was a brilliant idea to show them the middle finger by not acknowledging them directly using the language they understand? I could see afterwards that Christian Manahl — the European Union Ambassador to Maseru — was not impressed at all. I am not speaking for him. But I could see the frown on his face as he walked out of the event. Let’s hope the EU dollars to your government don’t dry up soon.
The effect of your goofing on the occasion of your swearing in is that you missed a critical opportunity to advertise yourself to the world. A few clips of you on CNN and BBC would have immensely boosted Lesotho and you. Remember, a Lesotho Prime Minister only get coverage in the international media on either their inauguration or if they are toppled in a coup.
This time, we only wanted the world — and investors in particular — to know that the Motsoahae era had ended. That there is new sheriff in town with good policies for investors and employment creation. That did not happen. The correspondents for the Washington Post and New York Times — monitoring your inauguration from SA were not impressed. A lot others were angry. This was a perfect opportunity to re-engage with the world. You squandered it. After you spoke, all the international media packed their kits and focused on other news. A journalist for Sky News phoned me shortly after you spoke and asked me; “Does your Prime Minister expect us to get translators for him…Does he really expect any international coverage when he speaks in a language that excludes us…Why is he behaving like an Eskimo” . I had no answer for him.
Aljazeera, the respected Arab station which had been prolific in covering Lesotho, also ignored the story of your inauguration, preferring to run a brief liner below the news bulletin screen.
The problem is that there is a lot of news out there competing for coverage. So, there are no international journalists who will be bothered translating Sesotho clips into English. Unfortunately, Lesotho is not that important in world affairs. So, you Ntate Majoro ought to provide international scribes with ready to use material in English.
As if this monumental goofing on your inauguration day was not enough, you have gone to address every other important event since you took office in Sesotho. You have also issued all your press releases in Sesotho. Just this week, you elected to address an important event at the national command centre on Covid-19 in Sesotho. This is despite that Covid 19 is an international pandemic and the language of lobbying for support is English. Unfortunately, your hatred of English will only ensure that you get local coverage. You will continue missing out on international coverage. That means you won’t be able to have any meaningful engagement with investors whose decisions are influenced by the international media.
Again, there is nothing wrong in you engaging your subjects in the language they understand, Sesotho. The tragedy is that economic salvation is not going to come from Basotho. The FDI that Lesotho badly needs to industrialize and create jobs will only come from foreigners. Those foreigners speak English. They are not going to get translators to try and understand you. Please get yourself a good media advisor. You certainly need one.
Again, I reiterate that I want you to succeed. And if you fumble, I will tell you. I end by expressing my regret over the troubles you continue encountering from your party’s MPs who want to be appointed ministers. I don’t know how they can be made to understand that it’s not possible to have cabinet of 70 plus MPs. By the way, I remind them that the Ministry of Law and Justice’s call for proposals for the cleaning of its toilets is still open. They must go into business to make a living and not only think about becoming ministers.