Sunday

Lesotho Economy: Where are we headed? (Re leba kae?)

So what is the highest diamond mine in the world? It is Letseng in Lesotho, a chilly 3100 metres above sea-level. Letseng is 76% owned by JCI and its empowerment partner Matodzi Resources, and 24% owned by the Lesotho government. That’s 24% more than what the Lesotho government owned from 1976 to 1982 when the Letseng mine was operated by DeBeers, who unearthed a grand total of 280,000 carats during that time. When one knows that
Lesotho is one of the world’s poorest countries with a GDP of US$929. Heavily dependent on remittances from migrant workers employed on South Africa’s mines - which contribute to around half of Lesotho’s GNP - its economy is highly integrated with that of South Africa. As such the increasing number of redundancies over the past 6 years, from 104,000 to 60,000 has compounded a massive unemployment problem estimated to be some 35 - 40 percent. Lesotho has begun to transform its economic prospects with the exploitation of its rivers to sell water, and possibly also hydroelectric power, to South Africa. Economic growth is also being pursued through the development of export-oriented manufacturing, led by the clothing and footwear subsectors. Growth in construction has been twice that of manufacturing, but this has since levelled off with the end of the construction boom associated with the Lesotho Highlands Water Development Programme,
one is almost heartened.

But one still wonders how 2 108 000 people who dispose of M15million per month [One Loti = 11.8798 Sterling pounds, 112.06 Zimbabwe dollars, 0.14 US dollars and 1.0 South African rands] from their water, of revenues from the 24% stake in the Letseng diamond venture, of our yet-to-develop potential to attract tourism, of the fact that
Lesotho’s external position is characterised by low debt burden and service, as well as a strong external liquidity position. Net external debt in 2001 was 23% of export receipts, compared to 76% median for all countries assigned a 'B' rating by FITCH IBCA. The low debt burden reflects the country’s excellent debt servicing history as well as success in attracting foreign investments, mainly for the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP) and manufacturing, and concessional financing from official creditors,
[ Quoted from www.centralbank.org ],
of the potential to produce and export to wider international markets, evidenced by the clothing industry that provides much of America with Gap jeans, although the clothes factories themselves turned out to be sweatshops, one wonders how such a people can go hungry and be afraid and not have one of the most stable economies and governments on the continent. And I don’t think I have mentioned everything we’'ve got going for us, like being from only one ethnic group and speaking one and the same language, etc.

The army. Get rid of the army, for Christ’s sake. It's been nothing but trouble from day one. Who are we gonna fight with the army, South Africa? Come on. That’s money badly spent. We must have a strong police force that has several special branches (a riot squad, for example), but let there be not a single tank, fighter plane or bazooka. We don’t need those. They will just be used to knock off more Basotho than they already have.

Where are we headed? Our economy took a bad knock and nose dived right after the 1998 riots (When the army mutinied). The economy is still struggling to get back on its feet. The capital city was torched during those riots. Bad idea. Tons of cash down the drain. The reason? The party that had lost the election wasn’t happy, so they torched the town (stop snickering). One of the things that we seem to believe in Lesotho, or even in Africa as a whole, is that the country must serve the interests of the party or of the party guru. Look where that has gotten us, today.

Forget yourself, forget your party, think Lesotho, think my children's future, think oh shit, we've been fucking up all along, think Botswana did it. Between the early 1970s and the early 1990s, Botswana had the fastest growing economy not only in Africa, but in the whole world. I'd like to be able to say something to that effect about my country, even by confining myself to SADC countries.

The botched 1998 coup attempt had another major impact on the Lesotho economy: our brains promptly left the country and settled in South Africa! I don't blame them, although I'm ready, right now, to go down on my knees to ask them to go back home, or at least to invest heavily in Lesotho. Please?

After having studied and worked hard to prepare for your future and the future of your children, some nut goes and jeopardises all of that by questioning the outcome of an election that was internationally supervised and declared free and fair. I understand your decision to get the hell out. But look at the situation now and ask yourself what would happen if most of us went back, rolled up our sleeves and clanged our pots like there was no tomorrow, because there may not be? What if we started by removing the army and replacing it with a well-trained police force? Then voting for the party that sounds like what we want to see done (jobs, no corruption, etc). What if, what if, what if. What if you started by telling us what you think, using these very pages? At the bottom of this post there's a hypertext link entitled "comments", or "no comments yet". Why don't you click on that and spill your guts? If you don't, who will? The Batswana? No, because those guys are busy building their own country. What if you sat down, took a piece of paper, wrote down your feelings, pro or con my feelings, stuck the paper in an envelope and sent it to the concerned Lesotho cabinet minister? You can get the address easily enough. What if you wrote to me and suggested ways of beating poverty, HIV, fear, starvation, underdevelopment, for me to post your ideas on this blog? Don't worry, you'd get full credit for your ideas. Or you'd get full anonymity, if you so desired. The main thing is I wouldn't steal your ideas, because I've enough of mine but no time to carry them all out.

Where are we headed? Wherever we're going, we will not get there unless all of us are pulling. The Kenyans call it Harambee. We're a team, remember?