Of Banana Juice and Mothetjoa Metsing
Generally, most businessmen are like chameleons. They change their skins regularly. They blow with the wind in any direction it goes as long as it leads them to their moolah. If the ABC is in power, you see them clad in bright yellow. As soon as Ntate Motsoahae is out and Ntate Mosisili is back, you see them clad in very bright red. When it appeared Ntate Mokola could cause an upset, after walking away from Ntate Mosisili, you would see them sampling both bright red as well as black white and red. Unsure of the endgame, they were all trying to play it safe.
But perhaps I am being unfair to chameleons who have a legitimate interest in changing their shades to protect themselves from predators. Most businessmen are best comparable to one Mothetjoa Metsing, the most mercurial politician in Lesotho. The businessmen go wherever the moolah takes them with no regard to principle. Just as Metsing will go into bed with any Prime Minister willing to make him deputy.
Witness how Metsing seamlessly charms his way through the political minefield called Lesotho. Today, he is Ntate Mosisili’s deputy. Tomorrow, he is Ntate Thabane’s deputy. The day after tomorrow, he is Ntate Mokhothu’s deputy. The following week he is Professor Mahao’s deputy.
Considering Metsing’s acrimonious split with Ntate Thabane during 2014/15, who would have thought Metsing could be now charming or worming his way back into Ntate Motsoahae’s king size bed? But with Ntate Metsing, nothing is impossible. The word principle is completely alien to his political vocabulary. As long as he is deputy prime minister, under whomsoover, he is okay. Only a political snake — to borrow from Jacob Zuma – is able to crisscross coalitions run by ideological opposites as Metsing has so successfully done.
There is no love lost between boNtate Mathibeli Mokhothu and Metsing. Ntate Metsing sees himself as the leader of the Congress movement. He cannot be led by a “child”. He wants all the Congress power vested in him, notwithstanding that his LCD only commands one elected seat in Parliament against a whooping 22 constituency seats for Ntate Mokhothu. That surely can’t be. But not in Metsing’s world. Ntate Mokhothu was probably right to trash him this week when the DC leader exhorted Ntate Motsoahae to continue with his dialogue with “useless parties” that won’t be able to save him. Even though Ntate Mokhothu did not mention the “useless” party by name, it was obvious that he was referring to Ntate Metsing’s once venerable LCD.
Despite all this acrimony, I vouch if Ntate Mokhothu wins the now inevitable snap elections, he should expect to see one man in his front door — soon after he is sworn in — pleading to be deputy prime minister. That man would be one Mothetjoa Metsing. If the world ends and God resurrects it and Bokang Ramatsella becomes prime minister, he too can also expect to see Metsing pleading for the deputy premiership. In seeking to achieve that end, Metsing will resort to every linguistic gymnastic; government of national unity (GNU), truth and reconciliation commission (TRC), etc. So as long as the LCD is able to cling on to its sole Mahobong parliamentary seat, then we might as well create title deeds for the deputy premiership for Metsing. If Ntate Motsoahae is to survive the impending vote of no confidence, he knows there is only one sure way of achieving that; give Metsing the DPM post.
But this is all digressing. I am just trying to justify my contention that rather than compare businessmen with chameleons, and in the process besmirch an innocent species, there are other better things from which to draw comparisons. The best of them being our ubiquitous politician; Mothetjoa Metsing. The one who blows with the wind and finds succour in any political formation, without any regard to principle, as long as he ends up being called deputy.
Kudos to Ntate Matete
Just like Metsing, businessmen are immensely hypocritical. As long as they fill their fat wallets, they have no regard to their source of moolah. This is why trying to find a principled businessman is akin to looking for good governance in Zimbabwe or Yemen. Or looking for a needle in a haystack. Scrutator is nonetheless happy that Lesotho has been able to unearth that elusive needle in the haystack in the name of Ntate Nkau Matete. Ntate Matete, the first indigenous CEO of Nedbank Lesotho in its two decades plus of existence, decided to break ranks and become the first and only businessman to exemplify principle over expediency. He has spoken out publicly against the political rot currently unfolding in His Majesty’s Majestic Kingdom at the expense of the national interest.
“We can’t continue like this…,” roared Ntate Matete while imploring our political class to put the interests of ordinary Basotho first and address the instability that has caused untold suffering in the nation.
Mr Matete’s instructive frank remarks were published in the Lesotho Times edition of 29 August 2019. However, I am only belatedly commenting on them now because something bad is happening at the Lesotho Times. I really don’t know what to do with the situation. Whenever there is a glut of advertising at the last minute, the Editor of the Lesotho Times effortlessly cancels my column to accommodate such advertising. As a result, I have been canned on many weeks during the previous months. Can someone tell the editor that this country needs my wisdom more than anything else. Please send him a barrage of smses ordering him never to cancel my column again unless I am at Tšepong. Please note each sms costs 100 Maloti. Anyway, back to Ntate Matate.
Let me recap his wisdom. “The political leaders (in Lesotho) need to grow up and stop looking at their own personal gains and think about the man in the street and how we can move this country forward. We have become an embarrassment to the region and the world. So we (businessmen) need to play our role by engaging them to take the country forward.” Mr Matete said.
He said while they had approached government leaders to register their concerns, it was always “a big challenge when you know that people’s (politicians) minds are focused on (party and government) succession”.
“It is a challenge when people are preoccupied with who wins and who loses as well. It’s a challenge to talk to the politicians when all they are thinking about is when the next vote of no confidence will be held,” said the Nedbank boss.
“Such people are just not in the right state of mind to listen because their focus is on politics and not on moving the country forward. So even when you engage them, they will speak to you but without any commitment. It’s like you’re speaking to a person who doesn’t know whether or not they will still have a job tomorrow. The unfortunate part is that there’s lack of focus and continuity in what government thinks or tries to do.”
Now tell me, where and when in Lesotho have you ever heard a businessman speak so frankly? Imagine if all our businessmen were frank enough like Ntate Matete to speak truth to power. Imagine if our businessmen took the lead in challenging rapacious, gluttonous and ravenous politicians who are busy plunging Lesotho from the gutters straight into the sewer? Things could be a bit different because the business sector has money and money is power. Money can be deployed to evict useless politicians in favour of competent ones. But alas, our businessmen won’t do that. They would rather extract whatever they can from any sitting government and dine on their choicest whiskies at Maseru Golf Club. Once a new regime comes in power and gets its turn to destroy Lesotho, they pander to it as well.
So for breaking with tradition and speaking publicly, I say kudos to Ntate Matete. Lesotho needs more like you. We now need businessmen in politics. Career politicians have destroyed us. Imagine a cabinet led by Ntate Matete. It might just be the right prescription for a Kingdom currently languishing in the intensive care unit and in desperate need of economic boom to recover.
Thanks to Ntate Matete, we now know that Ntate Moeketsi Majoro is now sleeping on the job as his sole focus is how he can best outwit Nqosa Mahao for the soul of the ABC.
Ntate Matere tells us that the informal meetings they (business leaders) used to hold regularly with Ntate Majoro have stopped due to the infighting that has gripped the ABC for much of this year.
“….As business people we have engaged government. In our case, our political head is the Finance minister (Ntate Majoro). We had informal dinner meetings with Dr Majoro that were held regularly last year but we have not had them for the past six months and that is not good. And this (failure to hold the meetings) is precisely because of politics because since February you can’t speak anything to government or the All Basotho Convention because there is this never-ending dispute over which one is the right leadership of the party….”
Most of you will recall how I heaped praise on Ntate Majoro when he was appointed Finance Minister after June 3 2017. Having worked at the IMF, I thought his technocratic skills would bestow light on the Majestic Kingdom. To be fair to Ntate Majoro, he made all the right noises at the beginning. He exhorted his cabinet colleagues, to jettison their love for the finer things in life, including lavish but useless foreign trips with concubines in tour. Ntate Majoro even opted to lead by example and fly economy instead of business class. I am told he has stopped the practise after telling himself, “why suffer when everyone else is doing it….” Ntate Majoro nevertheless started very well. So in love with him was I that I even saved him from being fired or reshuffled after he annoyed the boss by refusing to fund certain luxuries for Lady Dee. There is not much that Ntate Majoro can do if his exhortations are not enforced by Ntate Motsoahae. It is regrettable that Ntate Majoro is now on course to becoming one of the worst finance ministers the country has ever had. The economy is at a standstill. There is no growth, no innovation, no movement.
If you have done business with the government, you must now get the best sangoma to do rituals at Ntate Majoro’s office in the middle of the night before you get paid. The government is broke. It has no money because of lack of economic activity. Yes, Ntate Majoro’s wish to lead the ABC and become prime minister is understandable. But he must know that there will be one impediment that opponents will deploy against him; his increasingly poor record as finance minister. The sooner he gets back to work with the business community, like he used to, the better.
And the sooner the rest of the business community heed Ntate Matete’s call to speak out the better for everyone.
“Quite often, business is shy to talk but there comes a time when somebody just needs to say, ‘hey we can’t continue like this’. I think that’s what we, as the business sector, need to start telling our political leaders. And it’s not just government but also the opposition. Our politicians need to consider the people and not just themselves.” You could never have said it any better Ntate Matete.
At least one opposition leader has all the answers to our economic woes. He is the same Mothetjoa Metsing. His ideas to grow the economy and end poverty are straight forward; release Tlali Kamoli from jail, set up a truth and reconciliation commission, release all other criminals from prison, give Metsing all his benefits. The economy will then take off and everything shall be honky-dory. With “brilliant” ideas like this, perhaps Metsing will soon tell us how to make banana juice; a feat that all food manufacturers the world over have thus failed to achieve.