THABA-TSEKA – LEGENDARY American deaf and blind author, Helen Keller famously remarked, “I cried because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.”
This was a poignant reflection on how most human beings are ungrateful, always wanting more and never once stopping to think that other people could be in a much worse state.
Most Basotho are able to run free and wild.
They have access to running water, ablution facilities and other basic facilities that make life bearable and in wanting more, such fortunate people never once stop to consider that there could be others who can only dream of such liberties to run as they please, drink to their hearts’ content or even have the good fortune of answering the call of nature in a basic facility such as a ventilated pit latrine.
Twenty nine year-old Tšehlana Majooa from Ha Tšiu village in the Thaba-Tseka district would give anything just to enjoy the basic liberties and basic infrastructure that fellow Basotho take for granted.
Ablution facilities are already a luxury most people in his village have never had access to and when nature calls, they simply trek into the open fields and bushes to relieve themselves.
They have heard about sanitation and the need to drink safe, clean water but still the sad reality consigns them to a life of drinking water contaminated with their own fecal matter.
This is already bad enough for any citizen 51 years after independence but it is worse for Mr Majooa.
Lawyers would say he suffers double jeopardy- meaning double punishment because not only does he endure the hardships everyone in his village experiences, he has the additional burden of living with a disability that prevents from performing the mundane task of walking from one point to another.
Speaking to the Lesotho Times in a recent visit in Thaba-Tseka, Mr Majooa said lack of toilets was increasingly degrading him especially on days he had debilitating bout of diarrhea.
“Living with disability has never been easy for anyone but having to limp out of the village to find a spot to relieve myself is torturous, especially when I have a running stomach,” Mr Majooa said, adding that he had no option but to soil himself and deal with the degrading consequences afterwards.
“My legs are very weak and I have to use crutches to support them. So squatting on the margins of farms to relieve myself is very torturous. It degrades me and I hate it but what can I do when there are no toilets here,” he asked.
“The lack of water is another major challenge and although we have communal taps, they easily run out of water, especially in winter and entirely depend on collecting water from unprotected wells which are also used by dogs and livestock.”
Mr Majooa and so many other voters all over Lesotho have little if any idea about the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) which mandates government to ensure that every citizen has access to proper sanitation and clean water among other things by 2030.
And yet politicians often make promises to improve the lives of ordinary villagers like Mr Majooa, promises which have nothing to do with urgent needs of different communities.
Such promises are often heard while canvassing for votes in pre-election periods such as now when the country is preparing for elections on 3 June.
The elections were announced by His Majesty King Letsie III after last month’s dissolution of the Ninth Parliament.
His Majesty dissolved parliament after the opposition successfully carried a motion of no confidence against the coalition government headed by Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili.
And last Saturday, Mr Majooa and other villagers welcomed one of the newest kids on the political bloc, the Movement for Economic Change (MEC) whose leader, Selibe Mochoboroane made a commitment to address their needs for basic infrastructure.
Singing his campaign song of “roads, water and electricity,” Mr Mochoboroane pledged to take Lesotho from “ashes to riches,” adding “We will only partner with fresh blood that will help us to ensure the public has access to quality road facilities, clean water and electricity”.
And although he has heard many such promises before, Mr Majooa believes Mr Mochoboroane would be their saviour should his party win the elections.
“Ntate Mochoboroane has proven to be a hard-worker with people’s interests at heart. He won my heart as a former minister by lighting up Lesotho; he electrified even hard to reach areas most leaders had neglected or thought they didn’t need electricity,” Mr Majooa.
“We are tired of having to turn away each time we come across women and girls relieving themselves just outside the village so I trust that given a chance and if he doesn’t allow power to get to his head, he (Mr Mochoboroane) will develop our area.”
Mr Majooa’s sentiments were shared by 34-year-old Ha Makopoi, villager, Taele Rakaota who said “only few privileged villages have toilets while the majority of us defecate openly”.
“It is so embarrassing for our women and girls to be forced to use dongas and bushes even during their menstruation. Imagine how embarrassing that is, being found by herd boys while trying to fit in a pad,” Mr Rakaota said.
He said in addition to lack of toilets, the lack of a healthcare facility in the village forced many women to give birth at home at a time when countries including Lesotho should be working harder to reduce maternal and child mortalities.
According to the latest Demographic and Health Survey Report, Lesotho’s infant mortality rate stood at 59 percent per 1000 live births.
He said they had to walk for two hours to get to the nearest health centre at Mantšonyane Hospital and this often proved onerous for expectant mothers.
He said even telecommunications were so bad that they were forced to climb to the top of mountains to access signals for making mobile phone calls.
“This is why in less than two months MEC has managed to attract more than 200 registered members in Mantšonyane,” Mr Rakaota said, adding, “We want to vote for change and ntate Mochoboroane has proved himself to be a man of his word”.
Another Mantšonyane villager, Lineo Mathatela (18) said she had initially vowed never to bother voting, “but I have been convinced otherwise and I will vote MEC for access to quality education”.
These, as well as high unemployment, are some of the challenges voters in the Thaba-Tseka district hope MEC or whoever achieves power will address.
To attract at least 1000 locals to a rally in a remote district like Thaba-Tseka is not bad for a party that was only formed this year in January when Mr Mochoboroane the erstwhile Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) secretary general jumped ship and in the process lost his position as Small Business Development Minister.
Mr Mochoboroane made his name on the back of spearheading the rural electrification programme during his time in charge of the Energy ministry and it remains to be seen whether that will be enough to catapult him to power.
He has to contend with another 29 political parties and at a personal level, the LCD has set famo musician Bereng Majoro popularly known as Lekase against him in the Thabana-Morena constituency.
Mr Majoro leads the Seakhi famo gang which has been involved in a long-running deadly feud with another gang, Terene and their violent conflict is one of the most divisive topics in Lesotho due to its political undertones.
Some say it is an extension of the conflict between the congress and nationalist political movements.
And word on the ground is that Mr Mochoboroane also has strong links with the Seakhi famo gang and this has reportedly boosted his standing in the eyes of voters in the Semena constituency too.
According to a local source, “Mr Mochoboroane started his door-to-door campaigns here in Thaba-Tseka on Monday”.
“MEC spent the whole week here campaigning. Their most successful door to door campaigning was at Semena simply because of his association with Letlama (the blanket worn by the Seakhi gang).
“If you thought Mr Mochoboroane was only a celebrated politician in his home constituency at Thabana-Morena, you should have been here to witness his door-to-door campaign.
“He held small gatherings where he addressed Semena people and from the look of things, he was received with open arms,” the source said.
Allegations that Mr Mochoboroane was a member of the Seakhi group first surfaced during the Thomas Thabane-led government when the former was tasked to mediate between the Mafeteng-based famo gangs.