‘Basotho can’t afford to ignore politics’


Tsitsi Matope                                                                                                                           

PUBLIC Works and Transport Deputy Minister, Tšehlo Ramarou, never saw his rise to political prominence coming.

A Member of Parliament for Leribe Number 12 constituency since 2015, Mr Ramarou says his active participation in politics as a member of the All Basotho Convention (ABC) was motivated by the need to influence change and champion developmental issues for his neglected constituency.

He had tried to bring development to his constituency through his own resources but later realised this was difficult to achieve.

Mr Ramarou saw active participation in politics as an effective way to push for the development he had envisioned for his constituency as he would be able to participate and influence policy changes in parliament.

For many years, his passion was managing his public transport business based in Leribe.

In 2010, Mr Ramarou diversified his enterprise, purchasing three heavy-duty trucks to ferry material for the construction of roads in various parts of the country.

However, he soon realised the country’s economic and political environment was deteriorating and this was also affecting the performance of his business.

He worked hard, but breaking even was becoming difficult, with his colleagues in other areas of business having similar concerns.

Mr Ramarou says what broke his heart even more was the fact that life was also becoming tougher for many families in his community of Qoqolosing in Leribe district, where he grew up.

He was one of the few people from his village who had overcome abject poverty and wanted to see his community live a better life.

Through his business, Mr Ramarou had managed to support his siblings in furthering their education while, on the other hand, employing some of the most vulnerable people in his community.

However, he later realised his own resources would never bring the change he wished for his community, which had been deprived of among others, roads, electricity, clean water and sanitation for many years.

“I could not provide everything that my community needed through my own resources. The needs were just beyond my capacity. It broke my heart to see that many poor families I grew up seeing were still unable to break from the intergenerational cycle of poverty, mainly because their parents could not afford to send their children to school. I decided to take the bull by the horns by joining the then new ABC in 2006 because of their message of hope to the down-trodden. I wanted to become an agent for change but with a difference,” Mr Ramarou said in an interview this week.

There are many reasons why Mr Ramarou has always hated poverty with a passion. The eldest child in a family of four boys and one girl, he has seen and endured hardship no minor should be allowed to go through. His family survived on working in other people’s fields for food and some money they invested in the education of their first son.

“The most painful thing for any parent is to be helpless and watch your children suffer and be unable to do much about it. It’s the worst thing that can happen to a parent. It’s hardest on the eldest child who, at an early stage of his life, feels responsible and is forced to contribute towards providing for the family,” Mr Ramarou said, adding, that feeling of responsibility by children had multiplied the challenges Lesotho faces today as some end up making bad choices to cope with the hardship.

However, Mr Ramarou said he was one of the lucky few from his community, as he opted to sell fruits at the age of 17, to save money for driving classes. Soon after acquiring his driver’s license, he was employed as a commuter omnibus driver, and continued saving money with the hope of one day starting his own transport business.

At the same time, he did not abandon his studies, and continued doing business courses through distance learning.

“I had a lot on my hands, taking care of myself and also supporting my family back home. I felt good that I was able to help my siblings. Looking back now, I see the hand of God, because with the little resources I had, I managed to buy a second-hand commuter omnibus taxi in 1992. This enabled me to start my own transport business.”

Through hard work, Mr Ramarou managed to save enough money to buy a new commuter omnibus in 1995, which improved the performance of his business, and saw him owning 12 omnibuses by 2010. As his hunger to see development take shape in his constituency grew, he also noticed many hurdles which threatened his own business.

“Growing up, I never followed politics very closely. It is when you link the quality of your life or your conditions and the challenges you face to governance that you realise this is an area that we can all not afford to ignore,” he said.

Mr Ramarou further explained while most people’s participation in governance is reflected during elections when they vote for their preferred candidate, they also need to strengthen their participation through forums established at constituency level to air their views and needs.

“The masses have the power to bring the change they want by electing the candidates they trust. They can easily take away that power if they are not happy with the performance of their candidates,” he said.

A father of three sons and a daughter, Mr Ramarou said through his appointment to cabinet in June this year, he would like to contribute towards establishing an environment that would ensure equal distribution of wealth and provide equal opportunities to all Basotho in terms of education, starting businesses and employment.

“Through well-informed policies and programmes that are continuously reviewed to meet current needs, we can set a good precedence for our children to ensure a bright future for all Basotho. Importantly, we need to work on improving our systems and institutions for them to work towards reducing challenges such as poverty, hunger and diseases such as HIV and AIDS and Tuberculosis.”

In his constituency, Mr Ramarou said he would focus on improving a number of areas, top among them the road network. An improved road infrastructure would entice investors to the constituency and also make it easy for people to access services such as health and education.

“Roads are constructed to enable ease of travel. For instance, better roads mean farmers can easily transport their produce to the market; pregnant mothers are transported comfortably to health centres; and businesses and other services are brought much closer to the communities,” Mr Ramarou said.

The future of people in his constituency, he emphasised, lies in their ability to increase food production and secure markets for their produce.

“The creation of a green-belt needs to be accompanied by longer-term plans on how to maximise benefits through value-addition cooperatives and small businesses. This means we need to further develop areas such as Qoqolosing, for example, because evidence has shown us that it can be a hub for fruit-production. With good planning, capacity-building and resources, we can process the fruits into jam and beverages for both the local and export markets.”

He said developments such as electricity, which the government has already started to introduce in the constituency, clean water and factory shells to operate from, could go a long way in contributing towards creating jobs for local communities.

“I am also happy that exploration for diamond mining will soon take place in the Phats’oe-Nqechane area. This is a big development for the local communities with potential to create jobs and to improve the area in many ways, once mining activities start,” Mr Ramarou said.

He further said although he was elected by people from his constituency to represent them, his cabinet position makes him a servant for all Basotho.

“In this portfolio, I would like to advocate for multi-modal transportation because the transport sector is an enabler of sustainable development. If we can create a vibrant transport sector, we can help promote investment and alleviate poverty. Sound and evolving policies are essential to meet economic growth while ensuring a cost-effective, safe, reliable, and competitive transport sector that supports urban and rural mobility.”

Mr Ramarou also said through major public works projects coming up in 2018, his ministry was looking at creating thousands of jobs, especially in the construction sector.

The refurbishment of Moshoeshoe I International Airport, he further noted, was expected to create over 50,000 jobs while the construction of the Senate building near parliament was also expected to employ thousands more.

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.