During times when the major percentage of news tilts heavily towards grim and depressing stories such as corruption, rape, murder, hunger, theft and Satanism, it is perhaps gratifying for one to look around and observe the capital city’s positive transformation taking shape right before our eyes.
Maseru is a hive of activity and the results are beginning to show a welcome makeover.
On approaching the first traffic lights after crossing Maseru Bridge, a visitor’s eyes are met by an aesthetically refreshing sandstone structure opposite the park bearing words of utmost hospitality: “Welcome to Maseru City.”
The symbolic flow of water from the mid-section of the structure reminds whoever arrives that this is the land of springs and rivers which run the length and breadth of the Mountain Kingdom and beyond.
It is a reminder of just how valuable this natural resource has become to government coffers and the promise it carries that Basotho’s fortunes can be transformed positively through responsible and forward-looking use of the accruing royalties.
The sandstone structure from which the water flows is equally symbolic.
Just like the Lesotho side of the border gate our visitors will have gone through, it sets the tone for their discovery of just how locally produced stone — one of Lesotho’s abundant resources — adorns the city’s unique landscape.
This stone gives Maseru an inimitable look, just as its name refers to a type of sandstone.
Other parts of the capital have also seen massive investment by Maseru City Council in their quest to give it a new refreshing look.
The park near the American Embassy, the area around the main traffic circle and the Thabong traffic circle being just some of the landmarks that have given Maseru its new shiny look.
It has often been suggested that people who live in squalor tend to be generally unhappy and depressed.
They may not be aware of it since one becomes part of their surroundings and ends up taking everything as normal.
A fresh coat of painting in a house or classroom and repairing of broken furniture can fill occupants and users of these spaces with a renewed outlook on life, thereby hugely improving their mood and filling them with positive energy.
The arrival of the capital’s two super shopping malls has furthered the general ambience of a city on the move.
People residing in some of the border-lying Free State towns probably now find good reason to make Maseru their prime shopping and dining destination.
One Friday evening while talking about some of these developments with friends at my favourite spot, we all agreed that something new about Lesotho is beginning to unfold right in front of our eyes.
The national stadium at times fills up with excited supporters even when the local teams play each other.
The Bantu and Lioli game last season — which was seen as a defining moment of who could be crowned league champions — was sold out and some people even failed to gain entry.
This usually only happened whenever South African teams visited our shores.
Basotho sports fans have seemingly renewed their patriotism to the local game.
The amazing run by our senior national team, Likuena, in the recent Cosafa tournament in Zambia as well gave us the heights we had not previously seen.
We had for too long been pressing our noses against a window envying the successes of other nations but our own.
There is every reason to be proud considering also our local marathon queen ‘Mamoroallo Tjoka who has sustained her brilliance over many years.
Perhaps the one sore point amid these recent developments around our capital is what I previously referred to, in this same paper, as “the worsening chaos on our roads” despite past and current improvements to our road infrastructure.
Some commentators have also written about our clogged roads but as I said in the past, lack of futuristic planning by previous governments and town planners has left us with a frustrating legacy.
Years ago when Maseru still had twenty vehicles no one seems to have thought that one day the number would multiply many times over.
Things can only get worse.
I spent many years thinking that true patriotism for this country is hard to attain.
Alleged corruption in high places and by those we voted into power had always been one of the main factors which made it difficult for my roots of patriotism to deepen.
My students even one day asked me what they should be patriotic about when nothing seems inspiring, but today some are beginning to speak a different language.
Perhaps for them the biggest worry now is the gloomy prospect of employment once they graduate.
The winds of change which blew across the country following the 2012 general elections are possibly beginning to be felt and have now turned into a gentle breeze providing a fresh scent of better things to come.
If successful, the tireless efforts by ministries such as agriculture and police point to a future of food security and general public safety.
We can only hope that this is the start of a better Lesotho many of us have been longing for. Perhaps the capital’s welcome transformation is a visible sign of more positive changes to come.
- Mahao Mahao is a lecturer in the Faculty of Education at the National University of Lesotho