Crack the whip

IT is now almost two weeks after our sister paper the Sunday Express exposed the scandals involving the issuance of passports and other travel documents at the Passport Office.

We have noted with satisfaction that the story about the corrupt issuance of passports has triggered a response from those charged with running the department.

The police, we understand, are reportedly on the case as they seek to get to the bottom of the matter.

They have promised a thorough investigation to deal with the corrupt activities at the Passport Office.

At least one person, a man in his 20s, has already been arrested in connection with the scandal.

But the police believe he is only a runner — a small fish in a sea of big sharks fleecing poor souls of their hard-earned money.

The police say the net is closing in on other suspects.

We are watching these developments with interest.

It is our fervent hope that the police investigation will unravel the corrupt web of activities at the Passport Office.

We hope the investigation will result in the ring leaders behind this shameful scandal that gives Lesotho a bad name answering for their corrupt deeds.

We want to see the chaotic scenes at the Passport Office come to an end.

As is so often the case, corruption thrives in a situation of chaos.

It is important for the government to decisively deal with the festering cancer of corruption.

For the government to deal with the problem it needs to make an explicit admission that we have a serious problem in the department of home affairs.

Burying our head in the sand and trying to shift blame to journalists will not solve this problem.

It would be scandalous and gross dereliction of duty for anyone within the corridors of power to suggest we as journalists have an ulterior motive in exposing corruption.

We reject any such insinuation with the contempt it deserves.

Any shameful attempts by senior officials within the department to cover up for their incompetence by attempting to shift blame to journalists should be vigorously rebuffed.

We believe there is absolutely nothing criminal in exposing corruption.

We want therefore to acknowledge and applaud the sober minds within the government who seem to understand how a free press should operate.

The scandal at the Passport Office gives the government of Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili an opportunity to demonstrate that it does not tolerate corruption in any form.

We expect the government therefore to show courage and leadership in cracking down on this national scourge.

We would like to believe that the government has the political will to deal with this festering cancer.

Failing to act could have devastating consequences for the country’s reputation as a squeaky clean country that tolerates no corruption.

In 2006, Lesotho made the headlines when it cracked down on corrupt activities at the Lesotho Highlands Water Scheme.

We built a solid reputation as a country that does not tolerate any form of corruption.

This reputation could be soiled if we miss this grand opportunity to thoroughly investigate the corrupt activities at the Passport Office.

We need to inculcate in Basotho a culture of zero-tolerance for corruption in whatever form.

But while these police investigations are going on, we think it is important to highlight several issues that have arisen as a direct consequence of the publication of the story.

As journalists we will not waver from our constitutional duty as a watchdog of society.

We have done our duty to expose corruption.

The ball is now in the police’s court.

To effectively deal with corruption in all its forms we need a complete change of mindset among Basotho.

The government must crack the whip and let everyone know that corruption under whatever form will not be tolerated.

Those who blow the whistle against corruption should be protected and shielded from harm.

Shooting the messenger will not solve this problem.

If we are to fortify our nascent democracy, we need a strong press that keeps all in government, civil service and private sector walking on the straight and narrow.

We need a strong press that can keep a microscopic eye on the corrupt among us.

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