Not yet Uhuru on AGOA



BACK in 1992, just a few months after her return to South Africa from a long exile in the United States which had begun in 1965, Afro-jazz legend Letta Mbulu released the prescient blockbuster album Not Yet Uhuru which featured the eponymous hit single.

This was a profound warning about the premature celebrations that were sweeping across South Africa as it had become apparent that the iniquitous socio-political system of Apartheid which had officially confined the country’s majority black population to the status of second class citizens was on its last legs.

Many a time it has been said that the last minute is dangerous and those who followed the exploits of the famous Manchester United soccer team of 1999 can testify. The team scored two goals in the space of a minute to snatch the European Champions League trophy from their German rivals Bayern Munich.

Another metaphor refers to the last kicks of a dying horse and as we saw in South Africa, the celebrations over Apartheid’s impending demise in 1991 were indeed premature as Mbulu had so eloquently pointed out in her music.

Letta Mbulu’s advice was simply that there were always hurdles that needed to be cleared through diligent action before people could finally take their place in the sun and celebrate.

And while we do not anticipate tragedies of the magnitude that South Africa had to contend with in this country, it would still be wise for our political players to take heed of Mbulu’s advice not to engage in premature orgies of celebration before we cross the finishing line.

Only four days ago, we made a humble appeal to government not to claim any easy victories and desist from making emphatic claims about their achievements in securing the country’s eligibility for trade benefits offered to countries under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).

AGOA is a preferential trade concession which provides for duty-free and quota free entry of goods into the US market from designated sub-Saharan African countries, including Lesotho, and applies to both textile and non-textile goods.

Lesotho’s manufacturing industry is anchored on AGOA, and without it the estimated 40,000 jobs in the industry could be lost.

Our humble plea had been necessitated by Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s emphatic claims that the decision by Taiwanese textile company, Nien Hsing Group to inject a fresh US$20 million (approximately M270 million) investment in the country was proof that contrary to claims by unnamed detractors, AGOA eligibility had been secured for 2017.

“If they believed that AGOA was going, they would not have invested in Lesotho, and this has therefore dispelled those lies about it going away,” Dr Mosisili said as he attacked his critics.

We said it on Sunday and we will say it once again that the truth about AGOA is however more complex than Dr Mosisili’s extrapolations suggested.

And today, as we report elsewhere in this edition, the battle to secure AGOA is not over and the government’s celebrations were certainly premature.

Trade and Industry Minister Joshua Setipa, will on 13 February 2017 visit his American counterpart in Washington DC to “demonstrate” Lesotho’s commitment towards fulfilling AGOA eligibility criteria.

The country has until the end of the first quarter of 2017 to demonstrate that it has met all conditions for full eligibility which are specifically that we must have implemented all the measures geared towards restoring political stability and respect for the rule of law.

Government knows what it needs to do and with political will, it is still achievable within the remaining time.

Only then can we release the champagne bottles and engage in unbridled orgies of self-congratulation.

For now, it is Not Yet Uhuru until we have implemented reforms and secured confirmation of our AGOA status for 2017.

As another American rock music legend Lenny Kravitz put it in another hit song, It Ain’t Over Til It’s Over!

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