ID card won’t salvage our battered image

Joang Molapo & Tom ThabaneTHIS is an open letter to Honourable Minister of Home Affairs Joang Molapo.

Honourable Minister, I greet you in the name of peace, freedom and prosperity of the Basotho nation!

I commend your good ministry for introducing the smart ID card.

I believe it will restore dignity to Basotho who have too often been subjected to humiliation as they seek to travel across our borders.

Mohlomphehi, I just have some reservations about this whole process of introducing these cards.

I know they were not of your making; you inherited the project from the previous government.

Here are my concerns.

First, Honourable Minister, did we really have to spend those millions of maloti to that dubious Israeli company which has got a bad track record in Africa?

Didn’t we have some more important things to do with that money, like supporting youth development projects?

How on earth did the government take a decision to plod on with this project despite the youth being marginalised?

Secondly, Ntate, there are allegations of corruption and collusion in the awarding of the tender to the Israeli company.

In light of the controversial manner in which the tender was awarded that ID tender should have been cancelled and the whole process put on hold.

Your government did not do that.

It went ahead with the project.

Your government went to bed with the Israeli company with an alleged chequered background as if nothing had happened.

Do we have to call these ID cards the proceeds of a possible crime?

Would it be wrong to tell you that you allowed Basotho to have in their possession tainted goods from an alleged criminal activity?

I think you should have acted more boldly and stopped operations and stopped taxpayers’ money from going to the company with dubious integrity.

My third point relates to the legitimacy of the smart card itself.

Why was it introduced in the first place?

Do we think and believe the card will deliver us from identity theft and global terrorism?

Do we believe it will make the UK reverse its decision of making us apply for visas to visit Britain?

Do we think our economy will be boosted just because of a small card?

To all these questions my answers are all “NOs”.

To me the whole issue of the smart card was just a public relations exercise without any tangible benefit to the Basotho nation.

There’s no concrete reason minister that can be given to explain why this project was introduced or taken forward by the coalition government.

My last point is that of thinking illegal immigrants will no longer be able to possess our identity documents.

Not long ago, Dr Tom Thabane was a Minister of Home Affairs.

He did away with that notorious “same time” passport believing it was more vulnerable to be acquired by non-citizens.

He then introduced a new passport.

Little did he know that the criminals are usually way ahead of us!

The proponents of this card think it will be safer.

I do not agree Honourable Minister.

As long as the people entrusted with service delivery are not serious about serving their country, we will introduce more and more documents only to find them more vulnerable than their predecessors.

I am worried minister that now I have to apply for a birth certificate again to get the smart card.

Hakeso re ke batla karete eno ‘na.

It’s only that it is such an inconvenience to go up and down seeking supporting documents.

If you knew the pain of going to government offices to get these documents, you would accept our old birth certificates.

How on earth am I told to bring my parents’ documents and them their parents’ documents and their parents’ parents documents?

That’s humiliation at its worst.

And it’s wasting our time too.

The exercise in a way vividly illustrates the assertion by the public that those in power sometimes are not bothered by the suffering of the ordinary man in the street.

How else would one explain the cumbersome procedures and requirements to get an ID?

God bless Lesotho!

 

Lekunya is a university student in South Africa

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