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Is another Lesotho possible?

IS ANOTHER Lesotho possible?

This is the question Basotho are asking as the number of people living in poverty increases, the gap between the rich and the poor widens and the government fails to harmonise policy pronunciation of its commitment to poverty reduction with practical actions.

Whether it is democracy, development or peace which needs to come first for an alternative Lesotho to be born what is clear is that things will have to change either way.

The status quo cannot be sustained for long.

It is dangerous to have a country in which the difference between the haves and the have-nots is so wide.

As a nation we can ignore this grave situation at our own peril.

It will be a grave mistake for our government to pretend that the current polices, which have failed dismally over the years to pull thousands out of squalor over the years, will suddenly start working to alleviate poverty. 

Supposing those who claim that poverty is a construct and a consequence of policy deficit are correct, would there be hope that another Lesotho is possible?

What if those who take it to be a given and an immutable reality were right?

Political statements which parade democracy as a prerequisite for development and peace are well known. 

In Lesotho the Basotho National Party (BNP) is normally blamed for ruling the country for too long without popular political mandate resulting in the country lagging behind in terms of development. 

Botswana is normally given as an example of a country which attained independence at the same time with Lesotho, adhered to the democratic principles and progressed.  

The armed struggle by the Lesotho Liberation Army which was a clear manifestation of the absence of peace was also attributed to the absence of democracy. 

While Lesotho’s democracy, perhaps like of any other country in the world is far from being perfect, what is encouraging is a determination to improve. 

This is witnessed by the commitment of the government of Lesotho to Principles of Election Management, Monitoring and Observation of the Electoral Commissions Forum of SADC, Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance of African Union and many others.

Afrew months from now Lesotho will have local council elections and general elections but the question is whether these polls wil make the country more developed and peaceful.

Surely this step confirms that the country is in full gear for democratisation of the otherwise traditional society, but do elections promise an alternative developed and peaceful Lesotho? 

Since 1970 to 2010 Basotho have experienced civilian unelected governance (BNP 1970-86), military rule (1986-93) and democratically elected governance (Congress 1993-2010).

Because the military has no claim on the development delivery credentials in governance, their seven year rule could be put aside.

It would then be seen that there is first 16 years of unelected Nationalist rule and 16 of elected Congress.

If judgment of an ordinary citizen is anything to go by what would be a response to this question: In which 16 years has poverty been worse?

Sixteen years of unelected or of elected rule?

And why?

Whatever response one gets, the point is that it is political arrogance and naivety to think and even try to impress upon people that peace and development shall be achieved when people are able to elect government.

People can still be free to elect government but their government turns into a choiceless democracy.

Or be a self serving group which is primarily concerned with and occupied by its well being.

It is equally erroneous for one to imagine being in power without popular approval to deliver the so-called development.

You have to be elected.

The trio are intrinsically bound and one influences, much as it is influenced by the others.

Democracy becomes meaningful when it translates into the people’s power to control the institutions that improve their lives.

Peace exists when people relate with their governance in a manner that their voice prevails.

One way through which Lesotho can attain this situation is giving genuine attention to decentralisation programme.

The ideal decentralisation is one where councils are democratically elected and people continue to defy political party domination by electing their candidates even when their party executives do not approve.

It is where all government ministries decentralise their operations and the manpower responsible for those operations becomes accountable to councils.

This is the ideal where through Lesotho Cooperative Credit Union League type of savings and credit scheme is incorporated in the local government system to finance community initiatives on income generation, the area which local government has neglected yet so vital to fighting poverty.

This could actually replace rural banks idea articulated in the National Food Security Policy but which the government is unable to implement. 

The local government councils should be allocated money on which communities themselves can allocate according to their priorities.

It is therefore democracy and development and peace that struggle for independence sought to attain, and not one before others as if they automatically follow.

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