OP-EDs

LESOTHO IS STILL AN ECONOMIC NONENTITY: HOW (THE HECK) DID THAT HAPPEN?

By Nkopane Mathibeli

“Any hope that this tiny black enclave will play a significant independent role requires considerable optimism and possibly, credulity” – Weisfelder (1971)

Weisfelder was referring to Lesotho. In essence, what Weisfelder told us is that Lesotho would never become anything else except a labour reserve and a market for South Africa’s industry and that anyone who thought otherwise was not only overly optimistic but naive; a polite way of saying how stupid they would be.
This obviously worked wonders because with the exception of a PM Jonathan’s led government, none of the governments that came after his ever planned to emancipate Lesotho from its economic servitude to South Africa.

The book in which Weisfelder said this came out a year after Leabua suspended the constitution, ruled with an iron fist while simultaneously implementing an import substitution industrialisation strategy the goal of which was to end Lesotho’s reliance on South African imports for survival.

As ruthlessly dictatorial as he was, PM Jonathan gave Lesotho a foundation on which to build an economy while everybody else that came after him adopted Weisfelder’s prophecy of doom that Lesotho has no other prospect besides serving as South Africa’s reserve.

Unfortunately, even to date, a lot of Basotho, including economic experts, still believe that Lesotho is an economic nonentity largely because it is completely surrounded by another country. That is false.

Since the goal here is to demonstrate how it’s economic dependence on South Africa was engineered, a critical examination of the historical political economic relations of Lesotho, the Afrikaner nation and Britain, via its representatives in the Cape colony, particularly beginning with the 1848 invasion of Moshoeshoe’s land between the Vaal (Lekoa) and orange (Mohokare) rivers, is key.

This invasion, which breached an instrument of International Law, the Napier Treaty (1843), was led by Harry Smith, the Queen of England’s right hand man in the Cape colony then, very ironic, isn’t it?

It is this colossal act of impunity from a representative of the British Crown and the unashamed hypocrisy of the missionaries in who he became so confident as to make advisors, that led Moshoeshoe to utter his famous words, “litšoeu ha li tsoane”.

Through these words, it became clear that he had just got a rude awakening that the missionaries were essentially in connivance with the British Crown to undermine his power and accommodate the Afrikaners. This they did by consistently asking him to give up an ever increasing piece of his land.

Interestingly, Moshoeshoe died not only aware of this. He was also aware that the groundwork to compromise his nation’s economic independence was being laid fast and furiously. Besides the expropriation of its land, Lesotho was economically emasculated via institutional subjugation. Here is how.

Shortly after the formation of the Union of South Africa, which later became the Republic of South Africa, SACU was established. Within the SACU agreement (1910), a proclamation existed which gave South Africa sole control over SACU’s tariff structure. Secondly, South Africa passed the Customs tariff act (1925) which allowed it to protect its infant industries.

This act also decreed that none of the BLNS countries was allowed to do the same unless a domestic industry it wanted to protect was capable of satisfying 60% of the demand of the whole of Southern Africa. These are the only reasons why South Africa became an industrial powerhouse in Southern Africa – it was unfairly given advantage over the rest. That it’s success was entirely based on the Afrikaner’s work ethic is absolute garbage. If you did not know, now you know.

It is from this background that it becomes much easier for everyone to see why SACU is such a big fat farce. South Africa gets a lion’s share of the funds in SACU’s revenue pool. These funds are specifically from the excise component of SACU’s Revenue Sharing Formula (RSF). A country’s share from this component is determined by the value of its GDP which in turn is determined by the size and diversity of a country’s economy. Among SACU members, South Africa has the biggest GDP and economy and we already know why and how that came to be.

In summary, let us appreciate that another important instrument that ensured Lesotho’s economic subservience to South Africa is the Common Monetary Area (CMA). That’s right.

If however you happen to be part of those still convinced of its importance to the monetary wellbeing of our Kingdom, may you be kind enough to explain to the rest of us what was so important about the CMA that Botswana decided to withdraw only a year after it came into operation (1975).

There is really nothing so good about the CMA. In fact, there is no difference between the CMA and the CFA franc zone through which It was law that West African states deposit 65% of their International Reserves in the French treasury at Paris. Lesotho’s economic subservience to South Africa is manmade.

It can and must indeed be reversed. The question here is not whether we have capable leaders, it is whether we have a population that is capable of electing capable leaders. NW

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