By Poloko Mokhele
Hundreds of Lesotho youth on Monday braced the blistering cold weather as they marched in Maseru to tell Prime Minister Thomas Thabane and his government that there is no point in learning when their future is at risk.
They look around and see a bleak political landscape: Parliament is adjourned sine die; ministers are issuing contradicting statements on the future of the National Manpower Development Secretariat (NMDS) and unemployment rate is one of the highest in the world.
The unemployment rate is consistently measured above 20 percent. This is a national crisis that feeds two of the country’s other big socio-economic challenges: poverty and inequality.
Meanwhile, Thabane is still pushing his unloved plan of surrounding himself with yes-men in the ruling All Basotho Convection (ABC) and purging those opposed to him, even though this plan has been rejected by staunch party supporters; and the frightening prospect of breakdown of the ruling coalition seems to be gaining more credibility every day.
The way many young people see it, the political chaos and government’s dysfunction are not working in their favor.
There was a clear feeling of antagonism among the youth yesterday as they marched from the race course near Maseru mall through Katlehong to Moshoeshoe I monument where they converged to give their petition to the minister in the prime minister’s office Temeki Tšolo.
They called on government for a major shift in thinking around the country’s budget, calling for a raft of policies that will boost economic growth and create jobs in the country.
They want the government to keep to its promises and reduce wasteful government spending. They took a swipe at Finance Minister Dr Moeketsi Majoro, who they accuse of making empty promises concerning austerity measures.
They said despite Majoro announcing comprehensive spending review, aimed at identifying sustainable savings, over the medium term, “there are always imprudent spending decisions, from brand new luxury cars for government officials, repayment of MPs loans and the recent spending on the Prime Minister and First Lady’s health checkups,” which they said, “has sucked our weak economy.”
First lady ‘Maesaiah Thabane recently went on a medical checkup in Johannesburg, South Africa with a delegation of eight government officials, with each of them receiving a staggering M67 000 in per diems.
Tšolo Kabane, a representative of Transform Lesotho Initiative, an organization which organized the march, stated that, “the government proposed a reduction in government expenditure and detailed a series of ways in which this will be achieved, however we have not seen any changes”.
Kabane said the government should prioritize expenses that will lead to the development of the country saying “we therefore propose that, lunch allowances for members of parliament should be scrapped”.
He added that: “There should be a special attention to infrastructure development including human development, poverty reduction and reliable energy and transport.”
Kabane indicated that Lesotho is one of the countries with the highest youth unemployment and said government should increase the ease of doing business including the reduction of red-tape such as high businesses registration fees as well as increasing efficiency in the issuing of licenses.
“Government should give more financial support to Small and Medium Enterprises which are crucial to the development of the economy,” he added.
“It is everyone’s democratic right to petition the government whenever you are not satisfied. I have received the petition and I will pass it to the cabinet and make sure that your grievances are heeded,” said Tšolo when receiving the petition.
Some of the grievances outlined in the petition include:
- An end to the abundant nepotism that is becoming a norm in our government institutions and equal job opportunities to all without prejudice on the basis of political affiliation.
- And end to corruption by elected government officials and public servants.
- An end to the use of state institutions and resources to fight petty party politics.
- Commitment to lowering youth unemployment for both graduates and unskilled labour.
- Make available to all schools of higher learning sanitary towels for free.
- We demand a politically stable country that is making economic headway for the good of its entire people. Majority of who still live below the poverty line.
The youth demanded that the office of the Prime Minister should respond to their grievances “with a clear implementation road map in seven days.”
The youth’s march comes hard on the heels of the march to parliament by thousands of wool and mohair farmers last Friday.
The farmers want government revoke the Agricultural Marketing (Wool and Mohair Licencing) Regulations No. 65 of 2018 which force farmers to sell their produce in Lesotho only. NW