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HIV: Politicians should lead by example

FORMER labour minister Sello Machakela found himself in the headlines this week for the wrong reasons.

Police are investigating allegations that he beat up his lover.

Only the police can determine whether he has a case to answer or not.

And because we are not a court of law we cannot judge the MP. 

For now, our concern is that Machakela, a married man with four children, has admitted that he had an extramarital affair.

The MP, whose wife and children are based in South Africa, admitted in two newspaper interviews that the woman he is accused of battering was his mistress.

The opposition All Basotho Convention party deputy chairman blamed his behaviour on loneliness.

We are not the “moral police” but we believe Machakela, a respected politician and former cabinet minister, should have behaved more responsibly.

With 23.2 percent of its 1.8 million people infected with HIV and Aids, Lesotho has the third highest prevalence rate of the disease in the world.

Only Swaziland and Botswana have more people infected.

This country is losing much-needed human capital to the pandemic.

The number of children orphaned by the disease was approaching a massive 200 000 at the last count.

More people are dying and more are getting infected.

Our national resources are already too tiny to provide infected people with life-saving drugs so we rely on help from donors and rich nations.

Feeding the orphans has become a huge challenge because of the recent global financial crisis and reduced revenue from the Southern African Customs Union.

Health experts blame people with multiple sexual partners for the spread of the pandemic.

Given such a gloomy reality we would expect our politicians to be exemplary in their sexual behaviour.

They should set a good example by living on the straight and narrow.

While such exemplary behaviour should be expected from everyone if we are to conquer the scourge, the moral bar is especially high for politicians because of the position they hold in our society.

With political power comes responsibility.

Machakela, as a married MP, owes it to the people of this country to show that there is gain is sticking to one sexual partner.

Of course, to err is human.

Yet we believe we would not be asking for the impossible if we appeal to our politicians to have high moral standards.

Once every five years they come to us, literally begging for our votes.

Surely we should be able to demand that they be good role models for our communities.

There are those who will argue that Machakela’s marital affairs are his private business. 

We disagree.

Machakela ceased to be a private figure when he joined parliament and became a minister.

In fact, that privilege ended when he became a politician.

It is encouraging that Machakela himself understands that his behaviour does not help foster the good behavioural change that we urgently need if we are to win the battle against HIV and Aids.

He has since admitted that he made a mistake and has said he does not condone extramarital affairs.

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