Youths at the receiving end of poverty

The reality is that most of our fellow citizens in Lesotho whether young or old live a very deprived and dehumanising existence.

However, just because millions of people all over the world including some citizens of rich European countries experience poverty does not justify it but only serves to show its seriousness.

Being in the majority, the youth of this country are the ones at the receiving end of this poverty. Just walk the streets of any town and you will see it if you have not seen it yet.

Who is wandering all over town with big, brown envelopes full of curriculum vitaes and covering letters looking for a job?

It is the youth.

Who mills around street corners, pavements and alleyways patiently waiting like predators to rob unsuspecting law abiding citizens?

It is the youth.

Whose private enterprises fail to grow because they are held hostage by a hostile business climate which discourages and almost decapitates entrepreneurial ambitions?

Youth owned enterprises.

Who is on the streets every night peddling their bodies in the immoral, relentless and reckless quest for cash thereby desecrating the sanctity of womanhood?

It is the youth.

And again, which group of our population is being swept by a ruinous whirlwind of immorality that ultimately leads them to jail where they are packed like ancient Africans on a slave ship because they broke the law?

It is the youth.

Last but not least, whose bodies overfill graveyards due to premature and poverty related deaths? It is the youth.

However, this does not mean that the elderly ones are immune to all these because they also experience poverty.

I am only saying that as much as these affect every age group, the youth are the most affected.

However, I find it unacceptable that people, both young and old, seem hell bent on absolving themselves in the development crisis that our country finds itself in.

Ask any angry Mosotho why he is poor and unemployed and he will tell you that it is because of the LCD government.

Ask them why the crime rate is soaring out of control and they tell you that the government has neglected job creation and the police force.

You can ask them about almost anything that seems to be going wrong and somewhere in their answer they are bound to finger the government.

Does this then mean that we happen to be a group of innocent people whose lives seem to be an eternal tough time unilaterally caused by the government?

I might be wrong but I am of the opinion that as eloquently and passionately as we can rationalise our innocence, Basotho as a nation are to a certain extent, their own worst enemy.

I see our contribution to our own downfall playing itself out in two ways by two groups of the population, the urban and the rural.

We all know that the lives of  rural and urban people though citizens of a single country vary significantly due to factors that we all can see.

For example, due to the phenomenon of urban bias, our urban areas are more developed than the rural areas.

This is the reason why we have a constant migration of rural folks to the urban centres in search of jobs and better schools for their children.

By virtue of being centres of modernisation (even though a compromised one) our urban areas have attracted almost all educated Basotho to work in government ministries and departments, educational institutions from the primary to the tertiary level, health centres and in various private sector establishments.

This however does not mean that there are no people with formal education working in rural areas but only shows that the majority of them are in urban areas.

This leaves the rural areas with many people who could not access formal education due to various reasons, the most prominent being poverty.

It is on the basis of this difference in the composition of rural and urban populations that their contribution to their own demise can be seen.

For example, due to the large size of the public and private sectors in urban areas as compared to the rural areas, more urbanites as opposed to rural folks are either in formal or informal employment.

Urban centres have more schools, clinics, a larger bureaucracy, a burgeoning civil society and more private sector enterprises.

The fact that urban dwellers have guaranteed sources of income has bred their indifference to issues of national significance, in particular, governance.

The popular sentiment is that there is no difference whether one votes or in any way tries to influence state action because either way, the state reigns supreme.

This is wrong because in a way it gives a picture of us as being a people who have allowed hopelessness to creep into our psyche.

It is however to a large extent understandable because it happens in a subliminal way.

The hopelessness reflects itself in the utterances of the people on radio programmes and comments in newspapers and internet blogs reflecting their perception of the government.

The general point of view seems to be that the state should do as it pleases because the people no longer care.

Consequently most do not vote yet expect to be served, which defeats logic. Due to the viciousness of accusations levelled against the government, I am of the opinion that the latter has the right to be angered only when for a moment we compare its situation with that of teachers whether in primary, secondary, high school or tertiary institutions who are accused by society of incompetence when they in fact are incapacitated by various factors, including the indifference of students to their school work.

By not partaking in governance whether directly or indirectly, we sabotage our emancipation from the claws of poverty in a number of ways.

We deprive the government the motivation and the organised pressure it needs to be on its toes.

We sabotage the efforts of civil society organisations to effect change.

We disempower the opposition and we contribute to our voicelessness (sic) only to blame it on the government. This is our country and so we must work for its rise from these terrible times.

With a general election around the corner, let us all prepare to take our time out and participate.

On the basis of recent political developments, we must brace ourselves for what is coming because we might not expect it.

However, what we are definitely not expecting is a repeat of the 1998 crisis. We must look at the developments with the intention of making a rational forecast of the possible outcome so that all participants can better deal with it.

Nkopane Mathibeli is a freelance writer based in Maseru

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