THE Deputy Foreign Affairs and International Relations Minister, Halebonoe James Setšabi, says he has set his eyes on making Lesotho a peaceful country.
Though it might seem a daunting task, the 41-year-old Kolonyama legislator strongly believes that it is every Mosotho’s responsibility to contribute towards a peaceful country where everyone matters.
It is that belief which drove him to join the All Basotho Convention (ABC) even when he has harbored reservations about being involved in politics.
When he was approached by ABC officials to represent the party in the 2015 general elections, he said he had to think hard about his involvement in politics before making the decision.
The decision was eventually influenced by his admiration for Prime Minister Thomas Thabane and his desire to serve his country.
“I have always had a soft spot for the ABC leader and Prime Minister Thomas Thabane,” Mr Setšabi said.
“I followed the party around and made a sober decision that I wanted to start something new, away from the formal employment that I was in and had planned to do that in 2017. I knew I needed to move out of the formal employment and make way for fresh blood.
“While the invitation came two years earlier, it presented an opportunity for me to bow out of formal employment so I pondered whether or not I was doing it for myself or the people. I concluded that I was only doing it for the people.”
At the time, he was working as a manager for the Road Fund where he said he had comfortable earnings coupled with attractive perks compared to the salary of a legislator.
“It would be wrong if I did it for myself. I took a bold decision for the people. Even my boss was shocked by my decision to resign and join politics,” Mr Setšabi said.
Mr Setšabi said when he decided to join politics, he had learnt that Lesotho was in its poor state because of arrogant leaders. He said such leaders sadly continued to hang onto power even when their sell-by date had long passed.
To ensure that he does not follow the same route, he said he has only nine years remaining to make his mark and contribute to the peacebuilding mission that the country has embarked on.
The ex-Liqhobong mining site administrator said he is fully aware of the need to respect the people around him in his quest to build the Lesotho that he wants.
“I do not want to live a shameful life. I want to respect myself and those around me regardless of their status. The message that I want to pass is that Lesotho is a small country and we need to start loving each other and ensure that we build a peaceful country. I advocate for peace and that is my mission,” he said.
He said he was going to use his position as a Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Relations to influence a change of attitude towards one another regardless of one’s political affiliation.
Mr Setšabi said he was a living testimony that political affiliations should never influence people’s hatred towards each other.
Soon after he won the 2015 election, Mr Setšabi organised a celebration for his party.
Contrary to the popular belief that ABC and Democratic Congress members do not mix, Mr Setšabi invited his rivals to the same event. The rival in the polls, now High Commissioner of Lesotho in South Africa, Ralechate Mokose, who contested on a Democratic Congress (DC) ticket, honoured the invitation.
Together with his fellow party members, Mr Mokose danced to DC party music that was played at an ABC celebration.
“Most people from my party were not happy with my actions. However, I demonstrated that at the end of the day we are all Basotho and should never allow party politics to divide us. We need to learn to love each other and collectively work towards building a peaceful country,” he said.
Mr Setšabi said this principle was instilled in him at a tender age by his parents – ‘Mahlomelang and Fako Setšabi – who respectively worked as teacher and police officer.
He said both his parents influenced him to desire to be educated enough to make a living for himself.
“There is a stage where you decide your fate and I decided to be an accountant.”
He said for one to be an accountant, they have to be disciplined and shun crime as the profession comes with a huge responsibility.
“I developed that conscience when I was very young. I was one of the naughtiest children in school but I have never stolen. If you look around, most of the people raised by parents of security related professions are afraid of committing crime. This is attributed to the teachings instilled by the parents,” he said.
Mr Setšabi went to Ratjomose Primary School from 1983 to 1989 and later went to ‘Mabathoana High School from 1992 to 1994. He said while he knew that at some stage he wanted to be an accountant, he followed the wind by enrolling at the National University of Lesotho (NUL) to study towards a Bachelor of Commerce Degree in 1995.
“I went to NUL to study Bachelor of Commerce but dropped out in the middle of the course in 1998 because at the time the student-lecturer relationship determined one’s fate as a student. If a lecturer did not like a student, that student was likely to fail the subject and I wanted to avoid that,” he said.
That same year, he then applied to study at the Centre for Accounting Studies (CAS).
While waiting for admission, Mr Setšabi realised that the centre had opened up places for students who were not studying at the centre to write examinations and he seized the opportunity. He sat for an end of year examination for first year students.
A year later, Mr Setšabi was admitted as a first-year student at the centre. However, two weeks after his enrolment, he realised that he had passed the exams and he moved to the second-year class.
He also secured employment as a part-time teacher at different schools during his time at CAS. However, it was during this time that he decided to stop attending classes at the centre to avoid paying fees.
“I decided to study hard but only went to the centre to write end of year examinations and that worked for me. I graduated at the centre in 2000 and I got a job at the Auditor General’s Office in the audit department. I was lucky to work at one of the most disciplined institutions in the country,” he said.
He added: “Three years later I joined the Lesotho Revenue Authority (LRA) as a Revenue Collector but moved to the audit side as a Tax Inspector in 2003. That is when I decided to finish my commercial studies and pursued a Bachelor of Commerce Degree in Applied Accounting with University of Canterbury on a part time basis until 2006.”
Armed with this qualification and experience, Mr Setšabi was shortlisted for a position of site administrator at Liqhobong Mine in 2006 after being head-hunted together with three other candidates.
“In December 2009, I made one of the most difficult decisions in my life. It was at the peak of a global recession and as part of management, we decided to shut down the mine within a week. The decision was kept confidential and would be delivered to the workers on the same day that they were retrenched.
“I lived with that secret watching my fellow compatriots going about their business as usual and that was hard, let alone breaking the news to them,” Mr Setšabi said.
While he successfully shutdown the mine, he has struggled to live with the fact he was part of the team that cut short people’s dreams and expectations.