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Lesotho at 56: let’s return to the founding values of our kingdom

Herbert Moyo

ON Tuesday, the nation will celebrate the milestone of our country’s 56th anniversary of independence from Britain. Were it not for the general elections which will be held three days later, politicians would probably be haranguing us with speeches about patriotism and resolutely defending our hard-won independence from colonialism.

However, it is our fervent belief that such occasions would be better used to reflect on where exactly we got off the rails and got left behind by our peers in terms of socio-economic development.

Our independence came just nine years after that of Ghana, the first African country to achieve the feat in 1957. Commenting on his country’s independence at the time, then Ghanaian President Kwame Nkrumah, said the achievement was meaningless as long as fellow African countries remained shackled with the imperialist chains.

Borrowing from his words, we say to our leaders, our political independence is meaningless as long as our people continue to be shackled by the chains of poverty and economic dependence on our former colonial masters and other countries.

It is easy for politicians to cite neo-colonialism as the reason why our people’s lives have not significantly improved despite more than five decades of independence. But it is not difficult at all to demonstrate the hollowness of such claims.

We don’t even have to look far to show why such claims cannot stand up to even the most cursory examination.

It is no lie to say that we are far, far behind our sibling Botswana who attained independence at the same time as us. Compared to Lesotho, Botswana was a veritable wasteland with fewer natural resources. Theirs is a largely desert country and yet they have used the few resources in the form of diamonds and tourism to transform their country. Some historians have even said that there were not more than 100 Batswana who were in the ordinary level class when the country achieved its independence!!!

But despite such humble beginnings, it would not be far-fetched to say Botswana is now very close to being a middle-income economy.

The same cannot be said of Lesotho, despite boasting diamonds, tourism, human capital and water resources which Botswana and South Africa have cast their envious glances at.

It goes without saying that there is a link between good governance and economic development and you cannot achieve the latter without implementing the former. Our political failings are so well-known and we will not bother to get into details at this juncture.

Rather, it is another failing in terms of our moral direction as evidenced by our sad and unfortunate culture of attaching little if any regard to the sanctity of human life that we are concerned about.

Every week we report about the killing of yet another woman and/ or child. We report about yet another rape and the victims vary in age from months-old babies to octogenarian grandmothers.

Even as we commemorate our independence, we need to do some serious soul-searching as more and more statistics of rape and murders confirm that our independence has turned out to be a harvest of thorns, depravity and heartlessness.

Ours seems to be a never-ending tale of violence and senseless killings and hardly a week ever passes without media reports of lives being lost.

Elsewhere in this publication, we report on the recently released Afrobarometer survey findings wherein most Basotho report that they fear crime and do not feel safe in their homes.

It is clear to that the murderers have no conscience or contrition at all. Rather, they seem to engage in even more macabre and brutal acts with each passing week as they seek to outdo each other in their depravity.

It does not help that our police force is wanting when it comes to combatting crime.

While Botswana has been ticking all the boxes of development indicators, we have been ticking all the boxes of infamy and achieving dubious distinctions in the process. By now, we are probably all aware that ours has become the murder capital of Africa and sixth in the world rankings of countries with the highest homicide rates.

No wonder there is a loud clamour for a return to the ancient lex talionis concepts of retributive justice. Some of the political parties now want us to implement the Biblical Mosaic law of any eye for an eye and tooth for tooth as a panacea to the rampant killings. They want the death penalty implemented.

We couldn’t agree more with Basotho Action Party (BAP) leader, Nqosa Mahao’s observation that ours is a society that has lost its moral compass. (See story on Page 7).

Let us all remember our nation’s founding values. We need to do some serious soul-searching.

Ours is a nation which was founded by His Majesty, King Moshoeshoe I, on the values of hospitality, tolerance and respect for the sanctity of human life.

And for all our professions of love and respect for our King Letsie III, we continue to turn a deaf ear to His Majesty’s pleas to retrace our steps and rediscover our humanity.

On every occasion that he takes to the podium, His Majesty always reminds us of the need to respect each other and value human life.

Sadly, such advice continues to be ignored.

We have even had priests murdering their lovers. Now this leaves us with more questions than answers about the path we are taking as a nation.

Will the violence against women and children ever end? Will this country ever know real peace and respect for its womenfolk and children? What needs to be done and who should lead the process of moral regeneration if those who are supposed to do so are found wanting?

We continue to lose so many women and children to senseless crimes. The situation cannot be allowed to go on any day longer. Something must give. But the key question is who will guide the flock and provide direction if those who are supposed to be the shepherds have also turned to ravenous wolves? These are the key questions we must grapple with and answer as we commemorate our independence.