I don’t envy being Prime Minister

During the time when the entire world is still gripped with the passing of the larger-than-life Nelson Mandela, I and others hope we are successful in persuading you to read about something different; though it will be hard to avoid talking about this once-in-a-lifetime colossal figure.

My main interest this time is the position of prime minister which may appear glamorous to those viewing it from a distance.

After all he is hardly ever stuck in traffic as his vehicles simply blow their sirens and the rest of us make way. He flies first class to those far-flung destinations where many hours in a cramped space are a must for most.

There are many pecks that go with the position but is it really as glamorous as it appears?

At almost every political rally addressed by Prime Minister Motsoahae Thabane, the local people where the rally is held are usually given the opportunity to talk and shed light on the issues directly affecting them.

I have observed a similar pattern in their speeches. All of them immediately sense an opportunity to make their grievances known to the second highest office in the land.

This moment usually triggers an avalanche of requests from the spokespersons of the local community.

These are the most common grievances: bad and inaccessible roads, lack of water and electricity, hunger and joblessness.

Some, as in the case of Kolo in Mafeteng, painfully point to a clinic right in their village but which has never been opened and they are forced to make the long arduous trip to Motsekuoa to access health facilities.

The people of Tšakholo in the Thaba-Phechela constituency plainly told Thabane during a rally last month that they actually have abundant water but simply require the means to get it closer to their homes.

These requests from different areas, so strikingly similar in content, can be likened to a teacher standing in front of a class full of crying children and the poor teacher wondering who to attend to first.

I would certainly not wish to occupy the Premier’s office.

But, as with every other job, someone has to do it.

Perhaps the Prime Minister also thinks I’m crazy to have chosen to be a teacher and constantly attempt to get into the minds of students; some with zero interest to study.

Still someone has to do this job and I happen to be one of them.

I always wonder what goes on in the Prime Minister’s mind whenever this long list of requests is brought to his attention.

Does he note down what each community needs? Does he decide on a plan of action? Does he intend to approach the relevant ministry or department for appropriate action?

Which area does he plan to attend to first and how does he determine? Does he decide the request is not a priority since it isn’t part of the current budget?

Does he just shut his mind off and say “I’ve heard this over and over again, nothing new?”

I have genuine interest to find out exactly what his reaction is to all these needs by those who have not allowed their expectations to diminish despite being let down by a series of successive governments.

For years they have seen promise after promise yield nothing.

If the Prime Minister could invite me to share his opinions I would jump at the opportunity.

This again makes me wonder about those leaders who cling to power for years and even over-stay their welcome and in the process attracting insults and howls of discontent from the public. Africa is full of such and Lesotho was no exception on two occasions.

Angola and Zimbabwe are the states closest to us with leaders who don’t want to move an inch. Don’t forget Robert Mugabe is just eleven years shy of his 100th birthday!

I wonder if these endless requests do not wear such leaders down; unless they have developed the I-don’t-care attitude.

Anyone who governs a country with conscience and genuine intentions must surely feel the heavy burden of attempting to better the lives of their people, and would reasonably be looking forward to transferring this burden to a successor.

Do they hang on because they are immune to stress? Why are they reluctant to leave office despite serving multiple terms? Even in a country with a population of just 300 people there surely must be someone to take over.

Some of course are smitten by this false sense of being “loved” by their people as if they are the only ones pre-ordained to govern their countries.

Unfortunately, some of them (Muammar Gadaffi and Laurent Gbagbo come to mind) ended up with bloody noses; with Gadaffi paying the ultimate price and an unmarked grave in the middle of an isolated desert being his final legacy.

In their thinking they were still being loved.

Many African leaders simply don’t understand the meaning of the phrase “leaving office with one’s integrity intact.”

Once again I would welcome an invitation to find out why some of these leaders tend to cling on and seem hesitant to transfer the reigns to fresh blood.

Please invite me to your homes or offices; I will use my meagre family resources to come over and learn more about why you stay long in the saddle. Your invitation will give birth to another article.

Even the great legacy left by selfless leaders like Nelson Mandela has apparently not influenced some of our leaders to voluntarily leave office.

He was aware early on that his age would not allow him to go beyond one term and that South Africa needed a younger leader to address its myriad socio-economic problems.

He had a clear plan of succession in place and the world will respect him forever.

Others, who choose the path of selfishness, will not even attract five tourists a year to their final resting places.

In fact their passing will be one huge sigh of relief. Perhaps only their families, close friends and those who benefitted from their corrupt and despotic rule will feel a sense of loss in their final departure.


  • Mahao Mahao is a lecturer in the Faculty of Education at the National University of Lesotho


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