Youths should take up leadership: PM

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Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili
Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili

Pascalinah Kabi

PRIME Minister Pakalitha Mosisili says it was time youths took up the baton of leadership to create the Lesotho they want to see in the next 50 years.

Addressing thousands who filled up Setsoto Stadium to celebrate Lesotho’s main Independence golden jubilee celebrations on Tuesday, Dr Mosisili said the country was facing a myriad of challenges that could be resolved by young people. Lesotho turned 50 on Tuesday, after having attained independence from Britain in 1966.

The celebrations were held amid pomp and ceremony, with a 21-gun salute for King Letsie III as he inspected the Guard of Honour. Among the dignitaries in attendance was Swaziland’s King Mswati III, Botswana President Ian Khama and Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe as well as South African Justice Minister Jeff Radebe, who stood in for President Jacob Zuma.

The crowd, which mostly consisted of children and young people, was entertained by spectacular displays and marches by the army and police as well as performances of traditional dances – mokhibo, mohobelo, liphotha, ndlamo, setapo le mxhentso and mothetho. Choral and famo groups also kept the crowd, which also included more than 10 envoys from various countries, entertained.

Dr Mosisili said he shared the same sentiments with Lesotho’s founding fathers who put a premium on the need for self-determination.

“When the pioneers of Lesotho’s independence sought to throw off the joke of colonialism, they said and I quote: ‘It is better to misgovern ourselves than being governed well by others’,” Dr Mosisili said.

“Lesotho’s journey of 50 years of independence has been turbulent and full of challenges, full of failures but also full of successes,” he said, before chronicling the Mountain Kingdom’s history of instability, from the 20-year autocratic rule of Leabua Jonathan to the era of the military regime in 1986 which ended in 1993 to usher a democratic dispensation.

“It has not been an easy 50 years of independence and therefore we need to thank God for having sustained this country during the challenges we went through,” he said.

“You might have noticed that we now have the third national flag. That again is an indication of the turbulence of the journey of Lesotho.”

Despite the challenges, the premier said, Lesotho had recorded massive development.

“The British left us with 1km of tarred road. The tarred road was constructed during King George’s (VI) visit in 1947, and the 1km was from the railway station to his residence,” he said, adding successive governments had managed to construct approximately 2 000 kilometres of tarred road.

“In 1966 when we took over the reins, Lesotho’s main biggest river – Orange River Senqu – had one single bridge in Seaka, Quthing. Today, we have five bridges and we are continuing to build more.”

Dr Mosisili, however, conceded the country was still beset with many challenges such as the disease burden and acute poverty.

“Even though clinics are many nowadays, the majority of our people still walk long distances to access health services,” he said, adding that young people held the key to addressing the challenges.

“These challenges are still facing us and it is in your power, young people, as we celebrate 50 years of independence to take the baton and run with it.

Dr Mosisili added: “Take the baton and run with it. Create the Lesotho you want to see in the next 50 years. Empower Basotho with skills so they can enjoy their lives.

“Let us all be united and accept that this is the only country we have. We need to mend our ways for the betterment of this country.”

He said having different opinions did not mean people could not cohabit peacefully.

“It is ok to differ on how this country should be governed. As you will recall, we are in our second coalition government with the first one, made of three parties, lasting for only two and half years. The current one is made up of seven parties,” he said.

“I am told that just yesterday (Monday) another party was launched and it is good that we agree to disagree on how this country should be governed. The future is in our hands to protect and ensure there is peace and stability.”

Speaking on behalf of the Southern African Development Community region, the bloc’s chairperson King Mswati III congratulated Basotho on the milestone, saying they should “leave a legacy that will stand out” even when they are all gone.

“A key catalyst to achieving sustainable development for all is peace and stability,” His Majesty said.

“Let us keep peace at all times to avoid reversing the independence gains, which we are all here for.”

King Mswati III said the two countries and Botswana shared cordial relations.

“We have worked together in areas such as education helping each other, together with Botswana, to establish our own universities and we continue to have educational exchange visits equipping each other with relevant skills to better our people’s lives,” the monarch said.

King Mswati III also noted Lesotho and his country shared similar problems in terms of unemployment and the disease burden.

Swaziland’s unemployment rate is 28.5 percent, according to the country’s Central Statistical Office, while for Lesotho its 25.3 percent according to the Lesotho Bureau of Statistics. Swaziland is number one in the world in terms of the HIV-prevalence rate at 26 percent, with Lesotho closely following with 25 percent.

“We need to come up with solutions to these problems and mobilise funds to ensure we meet the 2063 African Agenda,” King Mswati III said, in reference to a strategic framework for the socio-economic transformation of the continent over the next 50 years.

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