Basotho should learn to tolerate each other

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TWO weeks ago Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili launched Lesotho’s seventh five-year National Strategic Development Plan.

The ideas behind the plan are good and the objectives and concept behind the plan are also clear.

It is not surprising that the plan was received favourably by Basotho and the donor community.

It has been hailed as a panacea to Basotho’s economic woes.

The strategic plan runs from 2012/2013 – 2016/2017 and will be implemented beginning April 2012.

But my worry is whether it will not gather dust just like other blueprints that have come before it such as the Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRS) and the Vision 2020. 

The government is currently engaged in a consultative process that collects ideas from a wide pool of participants to incorporate into the plan. 

But I think the consultation exercise has been too brief and not transparent enough to give all stakeholders time to digest the content of the plan.

There has not been enough dialogue and debate on the content of the plan so that Basotho can have their views taken on board.

What we have seen are boardroom meetings with selected participants.

The main objective of the plan is to reduce poverty by creating jobs for Basotho.

But we are not being told what happened to the PRS that was hailed as the most consultative approach that took on board the views of Basotho.

I do not share the Finance Minister Timothy Thahane’s view that it was a short-term measure because poverty continues to affect the majority of Basotho in the long-term. 

Vision 2020 also dictates that there should be measures taken to reduce poverty.

There are a few poverty reduction projects in place.

The planting of trees through the Ministry of Forestry and Land Reclamation is the only project in place so far. 

At the turn of the 21st century, the government of Lesotho came up with the Lesotho Fund for Community Democracy as a poverty reduction measure, but it later became a white elephant.

The project was supposed to see the royalties from the Lesotho Highlands Water Project trickle down to the people by creating jobs.

It was a good plan on paper in that it would see the sale of water directly benefitting Basotho.

But that was not to be.

All the proceeds now go straight to the government’s consolidated fund where there is no direct benefit that filters to the people.

Another objective of the strategic plan is to transform the country’s education so that it responds to the skills shortages in key areas of the country such as information and communication technology.

The intention is that graduates who are produced by our tertiary institutions have technical and vocational skills that help them venture into business upon completion of their studies and create jobs instead of seek jobs.

This is not new.

The government has embarked on an education reform exercise for years, but little has come out of it.

The establishment of the Limkokwing University of Creative Technology was received with hope that it would respond to the technological needs of the country.

But the university is fraught with governance challenges that have rendered it difficult to attain this noble goal.

The transformation agenda that sought to radically change the National University of Lesotho to help the university meet the needs of industry was mishandled by those who were in the driver’s seat.

The university’s mission statement states in unequivocal terms that it is intended to produce world-class graduates who can compete on the international market.

However, the university has now been relegated to a high school as a result of governance challenges that have rendered it unviable, and as a result, it has not been able to transform itself to meet the needs of industry.

In my opinion, the main focus should be on crafting core values that we cherish as a nation.

Lesotho has one advantage as a nation, that is, the homogeneity that sees us differentiated only by political affiliations, church denominations and a few clans and totems.

This is a strength that we should be exploiting to our advantage that we are in agreement in many things given our homogeneity.

Unfortunately we as Basotho have so far squandered this great asset.

We seem to be driven by partisan politics which tends to divide us so much that we fail to recognise each other’s strengths.

When we set out to start something, we fail to drive it because we do not have a culture that supports it.

Our tertiary institutions have colourful visions but lack the academic culture needed to ensure that the vision becomes a reality.

Another critical point that I think hampers our ability to translate the blueprints into working documents is that we rush into making them and drawing conclusions before completing the sensitisation exercise to get the buy-in of many Basotho.

We have no culture of debate and dialogue that informs the content of our strategic national plans.

We also fail to share information and knowledge across a wide spectrum of thinking and as a result we close the door for contributions that would add value to the plans.

We also lack tolerance of one another and do not accept criticism when it comes because we tend to label those who do not see things our way as foes and antagonists.

The culture of not tolerating dissent has made us unable to see the other side of issues.

Much has been said about the national planning board and the debates held so far show that Basotho want this structure to drive the economic growth and the development agenda of the country.

But the government continues to make it a less effective structure by making it only advisory.

They have ignored the views that come from Basotho that this body has to have executive powers so that it becomes effective.

How will they succeed to implement the national strategic development plan when they do not listen to people’s views?

I think the starting point is to have the national planning board that has executive powers before we can think of a new plan.

We should work hard on instilling the confidence of Basotho in our processes to create ownership and trust.

We should adopt change of attitude towards criticism, be open and listen to dissenting voices so that we have a rich and diverse package of ideas that goes into the process of facilitation.

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