Do we really love our country?

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mohaoBy Mahao Mahao

Coming from an area that has become world-renowned for tourism, I have had many opportunities to interact with visitors from many different parts of the world inclusive of Europe, America and Australia.

Many tourists truly love most of their experiences in this country, chief among which is the opportunity to see a different lifestyle to what they are used to.

This could partly be the reason why rustic lodges such as Malealea (where I come from) and Semonkong are popular with tourists who obviously view cities as not having much that’s new to offer.

Some of those I have made friends with have been to Lesotho up to five times and have loved each of those experiences.

In fact through the generosity of foreign donors, Malealea Lodge has become more than just boarding and lodging but has turned into a beacon of hope in an area ravaged by HIV/Aids and unemployment.

The Malealea Development Trust was born out of the numerous donations which flooded the owners of the lodge.

In the 2011/2012 season, donations amounted to well over a million Maloti (M1, 370, 884.05 to be exact).

These funds are ploughed back into the communities living in about 18 villages in the Malealea valley focusing on four main areas: education and learning, community development, health and well-being, and orphans.

Needless to say, this has made a huge difference and has turned around whole livelihoods.

If so many non-locals love Lesotho, it might be ideal to ask just how many citizens of this country truly love it and are genuinely patriotic.

This would need a survey to gauge and give us an estimate.

But as in any research of this kind, three main categories of respondents are bound to emerge: those who hate Lesotho, the undecided and those who declare undying and unconditional love for the Mountain Kingdom.

My interest is mainly in those who hate this country.

What could be their reasons? What would need to happen to make them change their negative outlook? What is their dream about Lesotho?

Surveys have been done in certain parts of the world to find out some of the world’s happiest nations. While it is hard to come across citizens who are entirely happy with all aspects of their countries, some positive indicators could have something to do with how citizens generally feel about their nations.

Factors such as access to quality healthcare and education, low levels of crime and valuing the safety of women and children, high standard of living, efficient public transport and lower levels of corruption and unemployment could be important in cultivating a mood of happiness.

On the other hand, widespread poverty, low wages and poor service delivery in many areas would surely emerge as some of the key factors driving negativity.

I was relieved last week when none of my third year students — in a class of 99 — declared their hatred for Lesotho.

While they still look forward to further improvements in certain areas, they are largely positive towards the country.

If I may personalise the issue a bit, rampant corruption by those I entrust with my tax is simply too hard to swallow and has — for many years — affected the deepening of my patriotism.

Please do not doubt my love for this country. I just would not want to be anywhere else.

But at times  even when one has reason to be optimistic about Lesotho’s future in view of improvements like roads, increased access to education, clean water and healthcare, any media reports about corrupt politicians or officials dampens all that optimism.

Even more disheartening is the subsequent discovery that some of these improvements are a result of corrupt tender processes and bribery.

Their unveiling for public use turns into a bitter-sweet experience owing to the controversy that often shrouds them.

Real or alleged, corruption is just sickening but has unfortunately been part of human nature for centuries.

Any politician or official who declares deep love for this country yet steals from it or partakes in shady deals immediately loses my respect.

They are no different from a husband who constantly subjects his wife to physical abuse but always crawls on his knees with flowers and gifts declaring love and asking for forgiveness.

Some of these monies that disappear are generously donated by Western nations whose citizens forgo a certain amount of their monthly earnings to make life better elsewhere in the world through what is referred to as Official Development Assistance (ODA).

Pocketing it is tantamount to spitting into the faces of these givers.

For some people, not even an inch of conscience is still left in their souls. Stealing and dubious deals have become their favourite pastime and no amount of salary or benefits can stop their trail of looting.

While the usually lengthy legal procedures are yet to yield a guilty or non-guilty verdict in cases such as the ID tender, block farming and mining licences, one’s conscience — in my view — must be way beyond reproach; after all, a brilliant legal team can dismantle a case that appears to have already sunk the suspect to the bottom of the sea.

In any country where corruption in high places threatens to plant its seed of moral decay, the voter is forced to think how best to use their vote the next time an election comes.

It makes no sense to keep rewarding those who give Lesotho a defiled international profile.

This country still has many dreams to fulfill and many services to deliver to the citizenry.

It is utter selfishness to pocket its resources when at every turn we are confronted with hungry orphans and a mounting backlog of services such as roads, water, electricity, health and clinics to deliver.

Large sections of our nation have been waiting for some of these services since long before and after independence in 1966. How further on should they wait?

Government agencies alone cannot wipe out corrupt practices by those we should be trusting instead of viewing with suspicion.

While a strong and loud civil society and free media are key to weeding out graft among our leaders and officials, the voting public is even more important.

Of course with a population that is still largely rural-based, this can be a slow painful process for those who are impatiently waiting to unleash their punishment.

Changing mindsets of certain sections of the population will take long to achieve and until most of us start singing with the same voice, some of those whose questionable morals should disqualify them from top government positions will always find gullible people to manipulate with food parcels and T-shits whenever an election draws near.

If we took service delivery much more seriously, it would never be necessary to try to appease voters every now and then.

These once-off donations cannot solve the problems they really face.

While doing a short course on curriculum in Dar-es-salaam, Tanzania in 2011, I and a team of about 20 other people visited a secondary school on the outskirts of the city.

The grade nine students we addressed discovered — during our introduction — that most of us were non-locals and after our brief talk, a boy who couldn’t have been older than 14 stood up and asked if we could help them.

With unmistakable anger in his voice, he told of his worry that he and his classmates would not grow up to fulfill their ambitions as corruption threatened to engulf their country.

He was so young yet his concerns and lamentations were like those of a mature adult.

His words still clearly ring in my head and point to the desperation that makes some of our people wonder if the future is worth looking forward to.

The gravity of corruption in Africa was recently alluded to in connection with the much-publicised cyber spying by Americans on other world leaders such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande.

During a panel discussion in one BBC television programme one of the panelists –—who is an African — wished the Americans could tap into the phones of some African leaders including ministers.

His wish was for the Americans to uncover some of the deals that often cause shock to citizens when they hit the headlines.

 

  • Mahao Mahao is a lecturer in the Faculty of Education at the National University of Lesotho 
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Lesotho's widely read newspaper, published every Thursday and distributed throughout the country and in some parts of South Africa. Contact us today: News: editor@lestimes.co.ls Advertising: marketing@lestimes.co.ls Telephone: +266 2231 5356

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