OP-EDs

OP-ED: ARE BASOTHO YOUTH POLITICALLY CONSCIOUS?

Writes NKOPANE MATHIBELI

Bantu Biko once observed that the most potent weapon in the hand of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.

Though he made this observation in relation to the situation of racial oppression in South Africa, the current political situation in Lesotho reflects the same dynamics observable then in South Africa, minus the race issue.

The basic difference here being that unlike in South Africa where the Afrikaner minority openly oppressed blacks, Indians and coloureds on the basis of race, in Lesotho the oppression is purely political and based on mind control.

There is no issue of racism or tribalism here. Whether you are rich or poor and in spite of which side of the political divide you stand, you are affected by the electricity cuts every time the wind blows; the potholes turned dams on our roads are a nightmare for every driver both for safety and the depreciation visited upon the car; that our economy has thus far been starved of it’s annual wool and mohair income exceeding half a billion has contributed to inflation that will in the short and medium term affect the rest of us and the ticking time bomb that is the ever rising rate of joblessness will soon unleash a more sophisticated and violent breeds of criminals to terrorise us all.

That is the current situation in Lesotho, whether you vote or you don’t, we are all in the same boat which then begs a very concerning question particularly because the only way to beat our situation is through the ballot, what’s stopping all eligible Basotho from adding their voices to the determination of their collective destiny instead of always complaining about how pathetic Lesotho politics and politicians are?

POLITICAL PARTICIPATION IS KEY

For instance, in 2017 when we already had an estimated total population of more than two million, a total of 1,253,540 actually registered to vote in the 3rd June election but only a measly 581,692 actually voted.

Mind you, demographically, the youth translated to more than half a million souls and as we know, a lot of them are apolitical with a lot more constantly threatening never again to vote on account, as they say “that all politicians are alike”.
This general perception is in essence, an outcome of a misdiagnosis that the causes of all Lesotho’s political and economic problems are its politicians.

This is seriously flawed because within the context of a participatory democratic system, they are not the primary culprits in this political/economic mess.

This therefore makes this cowardly threat of some youth never again to vote in conjunction with the misdiagnosis of Lesotho’s political ills, a glaring example of a serious lack of political consciousness.

Regarding this senseless pride of some youth in never having voted or never again going to partake in voting, one German poet and playwright, Bertolt Brecht said something sixty-six years ago that frankly talks to them. It’s rather harsh but very true.

His observation concerned the then German situation.
He said: “The worst illiterate is the political illiterate. He hears nothing, sees nothing and takes no part in political life. He doesn’t seem to know that the cost of living, the price of beans, of flour, of rent, of medicines, all depend on political decisions. He even prides himself of his political ignorance, sticks his chest out and say he hates politics. This imbecile does not know that from his political non-participation comes the prostitute, the abandoned child, the robber and worst of all, corrupt officials who are lackeys of exploitative multi national corporations”

How long will it take for them to realise that none of the political parties have their best interests at heart in spite of having youth wings?

Will it take another lifetime for them to see that those leagues are mere ceremonial organs whose core mandate is to protect the narrow interests of the leadership which on the background of the challenges facing the youth, has literally become a political liability?

What more must it take for them to see that all the leaders of their youth wings ever do is to sing for their own supper, not to represent their general interests as youth?

It is possible that if as in South Africa, the youth of Lesotho were radically politicised, something politically meaningful would have long evolved from these circumstances, one of which is a youth oriented, alternative political party with detailed policies and grounded in a solid, progressive economic/political ideology to turn Lesotho’s situation around.

What is however very positive and of great significance, even though it doesn’t invalidate their lack of political consciousness, is their ever soaring levels of commercial consciousness as attested by their ever evolving and refreshingly innovative ways of making an honest living.

All in all, the current generation of Basotho youth falls under the most gifted, intelligent, hardworking and resilient. What is however pitiful is that they too, as Brecht had observed about the German youth population of his time, don’t seem to have fully appreciated and taken to heart the fact that the complete fruition of their entrepreneurial, artistic and other ambitions depends on political decisions and the current decision makers do not make decisions in their best interest.

Take for instance the issue of one of the sharpest and distinctively original TV productions ever to emerge from Lesotho, Our Times, being let to go by our national broadcaster because it cannot afford to keep it on air, allegedly because government coffers are empty at this moment.

Ironically, the same political decision makers have resolved to make a political decision that the government buys them iPads with money from the same empty coffers.

What more do you need to see that they care less about you?

Don’t you think that it is about time you stop allowing these political decision makers to continue using you as pawns on this political chess board but instead strive to be knights and bishops while silently and strategically taking positions?

This is because objectively speaking, in their current form, the current political parties will never usher-in the Lesotho that Moshoeshoe, through Mohlomi, had in mind. Youth, please free your minds.

WHAT HAS ENSLAVED THE MIND OF THE YOUTH

For a long time, politics has been the preserve of the elders in all countries the world over.

Originally, that was very sensible because it has always been assumed that old age logically translates to wisdom. This has in the long run proven to be false particularly in Africa.

The youth have however not only been kept away from politics by the tradition of leaving it to the elders.

True to their Machiavellian tactics, the elders have throughout history to the present day ensured that politics in Lesotho is chaotic, dishonourable, violent and completely without dignity.

This went a very long way in controlling/managing the youth’s perceptions with regard to politics thereby guaranteeing that they stay under the yoke of their masters.

This however doesn’t explain even half of how politicians in Lesotho have controlled the mind of the youth with regard to politics.

The bulk of this mind control was achieved through a very generous application of lies and most unfortunately, these lies were knowingly mainstreamed into everyday media content and because we have proven to be a nation that does not seek knowledge but wait for “knowledge” to be presented to us by politicians, a lot of youth were fed lies and they consumed them without question.

There are quite a number of periods in Lesotho’s political history but since the issue at hand is the political consciousness of the youth of today, let’s begin at the year 2006 when a lot of them quickly became politicised.

Let’s note here that there is a difference between becoming politicised and becoming politically conscious. 2006 was the year in which the All Basotho Congress was born thereby politicising the bulk of a previously dejected and apolitical youth.

Before then, the political landscape was occupied by the ever quarrelling, never debating congress and nationalist movements.

In summary, let’s look at how as a result of the birth of ABC and the cobbling up of the first coalition government, the old nationalist/congress rivalries once again reared their stinking selves and how because of the youth’s naive reliance for both information and knowledge, on politicians and political activists masquerading as journalists/political analysts, they were bombarded with a hail of misinformation.

My suspicion that some of these journalists and political analysts were indeed political activists has been validated by their respective political appointments.

It is their misinformation that ensured that the youth never know the real truth and could therefore never make up their mind and chart their own path.

This intentionally engineered political ignorance of the youth is the most powerful weapon that the politicians have used to keep them yoked.

How so?
Here is how.

When as Deputy Prime Minister and by virtue of being a leader of a party birthed by the congress movement, Mothejoa Metsing fell out with the Prime Minister, all rifles were trained and fired at the congress movement and in retaliation, patrons of the movement fired back and the fiasco began.

Very interesting here regarding the political consciousness of the youth of this country is not the accusations or counter accusations that followed.

It is how the youth allowed themselves to be used to insult and hate either Mokhehle or Jonathan without understanding the politics of either man. As disappointing as it is, this is important so I want to emphasise it just to demonstrate how the mind of most youth was politically doctored.

To those aligned to political parties considered to be on the nationalist side of the political fence and purely because of what they heard from their political masters, Ntsu Mokhehle is regrettably known as a useless, clueless political persona non grata while to the youth aligned to the congress movement, Leabua Jonathan is nothing but a bloodthirsty murderous lunatic without an iota of morals.

Both these views are completely out of order.

This is because for a start, just like Moshoeshoe, Mokhehle had been mentored by a great political mind and just like his mentor, he raised the most pertinent issues of his day winning many hearts and minds before Leabua cheated him of his glory.

In the same way, Leabua remains unmatched in service delivery and economic growth even thirty-three years after leaving office.

He is arguably the only post independence leader who strove to direct this nation on the basis of the principles on which through Mohlomi, Moshoeshoe founded it.

What about your political masters who have only lied to you?
As smart, intelligent and capable as you are, are you perpetually going to allow yourselves to be used as political pawns on Lesotho’s political chessboard?

As it were, youth is a hopeful age and inevitably, the youth live on hope.

What do you hope for?

That at one point in time your favourite political leaders and their political parties will have your best interests at heart? The truth is that your total emancipation will only come through yourselves.

Only you can free yourselves from the claws of the selfish, mind controlling politics of today but first, free your minds.

As Frantz Fanon once said, each generation must find it’s mission, fulfill it or betray it. The ball is in your court. What do you plan to do?

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