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Social development under the spotlight

A recent attempt to explain the mandate of the new Ministry of Social Development by officials needs to be examined. Minister ‘Matebatso Doti and senior officials’ explanation in the media left the impression among that leadership in the new ministry sees its mandate as simply expanded social welfare and not a launching pad for the renaissance of the development ideology.

The traditional mandate of the social welfare department should clearly remain with the new ministry but it would be completely wrong to make humanitarian intervention a flagship of the new ministry.

The main question asked should be: Why did the coalition government establish the Ministry of Social Development in the first place?

Was it established to expand the social welfare services or to advance the social development of Basotho nation?

While the coalition government knows better why the ministry was formed, the fact is that those who applauded the decision did not believe that it was done to expand social welfare responsibilities. If that was the case, it would have been better to name it the Ministry of Social Welfare, in which case no one would applaud.

Social welfare should be a safety net for the sectors of society which, because of different challenges, may not be able to realise the minimum living conditions.

However, the intention which one thought the Ministry of Social Development is mandated to carry on should be to place every Mosotho in a position where she/he will not be a social welfare case.

While the coalition government may find it necessary to explain its aim about the Social Development Ministry, it is a natural cause for development scholars and activists to see the Ministry of Social Development as a platform where the lost development ideologies of Basotho could be reclaimed.

It is a development policy formation school which should make it possible for other ministries such as planning, education, culture, tourism, agriculture, local government and trade to improve the lives of Basotho. The concepts of Letsema, where farmers would work collectively in the field of someone without pay so that tomorrow they would do the same in the field of the other and mafisa, where he/she who has three cows would lend one to the neighbour who does not so that he/she could be able to milk and earn livelihood, should be reclaimed to inform the new development policy thinking to address the contemporary poverty challenges.

If this article would make any difference in the thinking of those in government, the following advice would help. Redefine the mandate of the Ministry of Social Development into one that aims at building a strong development ideological consciousness among Basotho so that all development initiatives are guided by a framework which promotes communalism that characterises Basotho.

This would then be followed by the structuring of the ministry in such a way that there is a department of social welfare with a disability desk, a department of social policy development and a department of research.

In this way the ministry would be able to provide immediate and necessary intervention not only to the vulnerable sectors and individuals but also be able to research on the social challenges to development in this country and inform the national policy discourse accordingly.

There are a few examples already in place in our society. For example, the strongest movement in this country is the burial society.

With the advent of HIV and Aids, burial society funds are shrinking as more members pass on.

Why is it that government does not resolve to intervene by strengthening the movement to the extent that all the expenses societies normally incur are borne by them? It is because there is no proper social development policy thinking.

Several groups taking care of orphans seek donations to buy them necessities such as sugar, shoe polish, toothpaste, etc.

Why is it that this kind of perpetual dependency is entrenched?

It is a direct manifestation of the national thinking capacity that has been destroyed.

If there was a proper social development policy ideology, community-based organisations that demonstrate that they would produce and, out of their produce, cater for the children left by the parents would be the ones qualifying for such support.

There was once a strong Credit Union Movement in this country. Through proper social development policy thinking informed by research such a movement could be resuscitated and be used as a development finance vehicle for cooperatives in each community council.

In fact, the only effective way of fighting poverty is to help farmers/producers to produce and facilitate the market.

Today Lesotho is under food emergency. Lesotho has the capacity to mobilise the community to care for each other. Looking at the land that lies fallow, it is absolutely only the ideological poverty that prevents this country from engaging every community council to ensure that every arable piece of land is used productively.

This would mean that food crises are declared by the community council not by the Prime Minister.

Unless this ministry is used effectively to engage the capitalist development theory that pervades the policy discourse, Basotho will not have the opportunity to dream about their development but remain ever chained in the imperialist development jargon of poverty alleviation.

Basotho deserve better than poverty alleviation. They deserve development and ‘Matebatso Doti has got the key.

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