Mokhothu speaks on Lesotho’s economic independence

…..as King Letsie III laments voter apathy among Basotho

BONGIWE ZIHLANGU

MASERU – Just eight months shy of Lesotho’s highly anticipated general elections, Deputy Prime Minister Mathibeli Mokhothu has made an impassioned plea to Basotho, to turn away from politics of power struggles and bickering, but instead “vote for economic emancipation” when they go to the polls in September.

According to Mokhothu, Basotho should primarily focus their minds and resources on building Lesotho’s economy in the pursuit of economic emancipation, which he has described as a prerequisite to political stability and attainment of a better quality of life for citizens.

Mokhothu, who was addressing mourners at last week’s burial ceremony of founder and director of 357FM Arthur Majara, who had also built a solid name for himself as a political and economic commentator on local and international media, further appealed to Basotho to shift their mindsets from politics of bickering and divisions, to building Lesotho’s economy.

Mokhothu who is DPM by virtue of being leader of the Democratic Congress (DC), said the likes of the late former Premiers Dr. Ntsu Mokhehle and Chief Leabua Jonathan and their peers, fought tooth and nail for Lesotho’s political independence, thus “laying the groundwork for our generation to focus on growing the economy”.

“The onus is now on us to engage purely in progressive politics aimed at growing the economy. Our politics should therefore revolve around economic development in order to emancipate Lesotho from the clutches of poverty,” Mokhothu said.

“We cannot have a conducive political environment, if we are not economically self-sufficient. Political emancipation breathes life into political independence. A country that only boasts political self-governance, because that is the stage Lesotho is at, but is paralysed economically, might as well boast about nothing. We are a country that relies on external food aid, whose citizens are clothed, educated and protected by other nations.”

Mokhothu said he was painting that scenario to create in Basotho’s minds a clear picture of the state of their country, adding that services across the board had deteriorated to the extent that “your country has not much to offer you now”, adding that Lesotho also lacked internal conflict management and resolution systems, which meant “we always resort to external interventions”.

“I want to believe that by painting this picture, your country Lesotho immediately comes to mind. You see your country. When you want schools offering quality education, those with the financial means ship their children abroad. This is to say that the standard and quality of education on offer here in Lesotho is not up to scratch. It is just not good enough in the eyes of this country’s citizens,” Mokhothu said.

“When there is a political impasse, we are wanting in conflict management and resolution skills hence we cannot help ourselves. We always seek intervention from such bodies as SADC, to come to the rescue because we are incapable of helping ourselves.”

Failure to build a thriving economy, the DC leader noted, had rendered Lesotho “mere consumers and a market for other countries”.

“We buy food and clothes from other countries, meaning that our independence is not absolute. A contributing factor to this situation is that we failed to establish a thriving economy thus rendering our citizens mere consumers instead of producers. And a nation that does not produce anything for itself automatically becomes a market for other nations,” Mokhothu said.

“Indeed we are a market for other countries. We eat food that we have not produced, wear clothes and blankets that we have not manufactured. The irony though, is that the very blankets we pride ourselves with yet don’t manufacture are at the core of famo music gang wars that have resulted in thousands of deaths over the years. We consume the meat of chickens, cows and sheep that we have not reared. We cannot even produce enough eggs to meet local demand.”

It is only through “business for production” that “we can build a thriving national economy for Lesotho”, Mokhothu said.

“We need to build an economy that caters for quality education for the younger generations, protects citizens and funds welfare allowances for marginalised and vulnerable groups like orphaned children, the disabled as well as the elderly,” Mokhothu said.

“We must therefore do our best to create a conducive environment for investment and also build our capacity to export investors to other countries in order to generate a better income for ourselves. As things stand, our market is such that we export money to other nations, primarily because we don’t produce anything.”

It was at that juncture, that the DC leader pleaded with Basotho to only vote for politicians advocating for economic growth saying “you must be vigilant come election time”.

“Politics of the economy are where our focus should be. We should fight and live for politics of the economy, and vote for those advocating for such. Hence when election time comes, we should be vigilant. For decades Lesotho’s politics have always been of power and not service delivery. When we live for politics of power, all we will do is fight, humiliate and undermine each other. Ours will be a vicious circle of toppling each other from government power in pursuit of the cookie jar, at the expense of the country’s poor citizens,” Mokhothu said.

“Indeed some might succeed to topple their nemeses to reach the top. But question is, what do you do when you reach the echelons of power if you never had a plan to begin with? People will be hungry and unemployed because of a paralysed economy. We need to pull all the stops to ensure that we cease to be a market for other countries, whereby money is eroded in that it is spent outside Lesotho instead of stimulating our own economy. But that can only be achieved if we resolve to turn our backs of politics of vulgarity, divisions, hatred and lies.”

Mokhothu further appealed to Basotho to refrain from judging politicians based on social media content they read and watch, as most of it was the result of malicious intent by political competitors to “destroy their contenders”.

“I am referring to the nature of politics where people are not ashamed to coin lies and scandals about their political competitors, which are then posted on social media platforms like Facebook before entering the mainstream media like radio and print. The police, who are often in cahoots with dirty politicians, will then pick up the lies, call their subjects for questioning based on sheer yet damaging allegations. The intention is to humiliate their political contenders, knowing full well that once prominent figures have been interrogated by the police, public perception automatically becomes a guilty verdict,” Mokhothu alleged.

“The best we can do, is reject insults and refrain from ululating in jubilation at political rallies when politicians attempt to drag each other’s images in the mud. But let us not hold back from ululating when they lay down before you how they intend to build the economy, strengthen and empower the business community; improve the quality of education, security and the general livelihoods of Basotho.”

He added: “One might get away with insults and slander at political rallies. But holding high office is a different story altogether. That is where you are confronted with your obligation to deliver services to the people. It is an environment far removed from the circus that election campaigning has been reduced to.

“Once in office, it is solely about how do you govern the country, grow the country’s economy, strengthen our education, security and improve the quality of Basotho’s lives? Lesotho’s politics are fraught with nonsense as things stand. We need people who are concerned with building the country’s economy instead of engaging in silly political games and uttering vulgar speech.”

Meanwhile, delivering his year-end speech also last week, His Majesty King Letsie III echoed more or less similar sentiments to Mokhothu’s, appealing to Basotho to be vigilant when exercising their democratic right to vote.

According to the King, Basotho should be vigilant when exercising their democratic right to vote, by electing men and women of good standing, of whom they were assured would advance the interests of the electorate before their own.

Moreover, the King said, Basotho should elect to power politicians who would plant in the hearts and minds of their supporters, the spirit of love, unity and peace, cognisant of the fact that any person aiming for high office should be one who also respected and upheld the rule of law.

The King further noted with concern the voter apathy demonstrated by Basotho in the 2017 elections where only 46 percent of registered voters headed for the polls, lamenting that the low numbers were indicative of a nation that had lost faith in its politicians and democratic rule.

“I therefore appeal to every man and woman who aspires for government power to make a pact in their hearts, to honour and respect the electorate and commit to serving the nation with loyalty, trustworthiness, love and compassion. I am assured that should MPs stay true to their vows, the public’s confidence in democratic rule will be restored,” the King said.

 

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