Was friendship based on money?

By S’khulumi Ntsoaole

I HAVE always written articles about education but last week I felt challenged within the political arena when I was watching Lesotho Television news about the budget.

First I heard Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Motloheloa Phooko defending his ministry’s budget.

It did not make much of an itch for me. Then came the man I regard most highly and indeed my teacher and mentor — the Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohlabi Tsekoa.

I am not so sure if the defence for his budget is one of those things that fall under collective because I know him very well and I know that he has the ability to pick up things selectively, intelligently and in a discerning manner.

As he went along with the defence he mentioned why his ministry deserves such a chunk of money well above M200 million.

Within his speech he justified why Lesotho was hunting for new friends because according to him friends such as the United Kingdom seem to be slipping away and that there is really no need to keep relations with her because she has enlisted Lesotho among the countries that require everlasting ODA assistance.

I don’t usually comment on politics but as a citizen and a civilian for that matter, this utterance challenged me greatly.

“We must be given a big chunk of the budget because we shall use it to hunt for new countries with which to establish diplomatic relations for the sake of them helping us financially”.

Well, some people may find nothing wrong with the statement, but to me it really made a mockery of our independence.

In other words, we are a state that lives on foreign aid, otherwise we are a non-state.

This statement further explains why we probably don’t have resident diplomats in Third World countries — they are also looking for foreign aid for their survival.

Does this mean that all along our friendship with the United Kingdom was based on the ODA funding or on former master/former colony relationship, or was it equal partnership?

It brings me to also think deeply about why the United Kingdom decided to move its services to Pretoria and close its high commission in Maseru.

Was it because the UK no longer wanted to help Lesotho or was it because the UK no longer viewed Lesotho viably?

Did the UK see no need for two embassies in the seemingly same community?  What actually happened and why?

Why has the United States kept its embassy in Maseru and seems to be helping with all its might?

What benefit does the US get from assisting Lesotho which seems to base its foreign relationships on how much they gain financially?

Is there anything we are also doing for the US?

Is the hand shake logo on the US packaged food aid really showing equality of partnership or are we going to remain at the receiving end forever?

Let’s think about it. On what basis are the diplomatic relationships between and among the First World countries as well as between and among emerging economies such as India, China, Brazil and South Africa?

Do the latter keep their diplomatic missions open because they receive foreign aid as a principal?

I am not sure if the opposition parliamentarians spotted this, but this was surprising to me and if they did not pick it up, I must question their alertness on real national issues.

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