“The intellectual freedom of man, without which progress cannot take place, is confined by the prison wall of dogmatism.” – Kambarage Nyerere (from Freedom & Unity)
If there is one thing that has deflated the electoral spirit of Basotho, it is the political dogma of personality cults. For instance, voter turn-out in the 1993 generIal elections was 72% and only 47% in 2017. At the root of this is one of Basotho’s worst traits; many whether so classified educated or otherwise, have traditionally and unwittingly so, leased their brains to political leadership only to later turn against, not only that leadership but the whole electoral process.
When leaders in whose glorious entrepreneurial/political/academic stature as opposed to tangible developmental plans the electorate believed-in fail to deliver, a common chorus becomes “if even these ones have failed, what then is the use of ever voting again”. Well! It is to effect change fellow compatriots but only if we all apply our minds before voting as opposed to voting on the basis of our infatuation for any candidate.
THE ILLOGICAL LOGIC OF THE POLITICAL PERSONALITY CULT
The greatest and most vulgar absurdity of the political personality cult is that the masses unquestionably and to near religious proportions, believe in the virtue of a political leader despite the absence of his/her solid plan of action regarding the path towards the ideals he/she stands for. What then is the logic of this absurdity and what is illogical about it?
First, I look at its logic by picking/using four of the most near perfect examples Lesotho has of leaders with a cult like following;
(a) Teboho Mojapela
His claim to fame is not only his wealth but his close knit comradeship with the politically powerful, specifically the top leadership of the then burgeoning All Basotho Convention. Ever since trouble crept into ABC, Mojapela has since formed a political party of his own and radically named it Socialist Revolutionaries. Is there anything revolutionary/socialist about his party? Absolutely not but the man has followers. How come? His wealth naively convinces many that he can also make the country and its people wealthy. That’s the logic behind his cult.
(b) Monyane Moleleki
He is a political stalwart of note; an oratorical maestro the mischievous sarcasm of whose statements endeared him to thousands. His colourful charisma is the backbone of the political cult that evolved around him. Many got mesmerised by his political wit and naively assumed it was an end in itself; a panacea of Lesotho’s woes. They missed but only because they were in a cult-induced trance. Purely because of his combined ministerial experience of twenty (20) years and as is typical of victims of a personality cult, they believed without question.
(c) Motsoahae Thabane
Love him or hate him, he is Lesotho’s undisputed Godfather of political dribbles; a high priest of mind control; a Machiavellian par excellence. With exceptional ease, he not only brainwashed the reportedly enlightened urban middle and upper classes; he became a demigod to many of Lesotho’s downtrodden. Consequently, many defended his indefensible errors. When IT eventually hit the fan, all faces except his were egged. But how did he successfully dribble so many “clever” souls? In typical cult victims’ craze, all naively equated his political stature with a panacea of Lesotho’s ills.
(d) Nqosa Mahao
A decorated legal academic turned politician; a man whose endearment to the public began transcending legal academia and administrative circles post the demise of his sibling, Lieutenant General Mahao. He was later elected Deputy Leader of the All Basotho Convention before spending the next year and a month fighting for acknowledgement by the leader. Saved only by Prime Minister Majoro’s bell during the May of 2020, he became a Cabinet Minister only to be fired eleven months later before announcing a new political party.
Purely on the basis of his political trials and tribulations, a cult evolved around him many subscribers of which are Thabane’s former hero-worshippers. After being embarrassingly dribbled, this bitter horde left and got newly infatuated.
What then is illogical about these cult followings? It is that the issues that endear subscribers to the men at their respective centers have absolutely nothing substantive to do with, primarily, the reversal of Lesotho’s economic status. Every rallying call is purely rhetorical and strictly based on a love on first impressions basis.
HOW CAN BASOTHO RISE ABOVE THE MEDIOCRITY OF POLITICAL PERSONALITY CULTS
Nothing else can assist except the rational assessment (by the electorate) of each political candidate/party. What then must be the basis of this assessment; what exactly will make it rational? As opposed to the usual election manifestoes of naked populist statements, the electorate must assess each political party first on the basis of its policy document; a document that must primarily state in clear terms what it stands for i.e. its (political/economic) ideological leaning.
It must thereafter, on the basis of its ideological leaning, explain in similarly clear terms how it will achieve each milestone of the overall journey towards a country’s developmental destiny. This is not rocket science. It is pure national economic/political/social developmental logic from a perspective of a participatory democratic society.
A society that must also be rational i.e. it must not be driven by a herd mentality. It must not be a sheepish nation mobilised by personality cults. On the contrary, it must be a nation that applies its mind to issues to make an informed decision as to the eligibility of a political candidate/party to take the country forward.
As an extension of the education system and in the ideal sense, the media is best placed to instill this virtue in the people but only if it divorces itself from being a public relations hub of politicians. Ideally, it must lean more towards being a catalyst in the breakdown of the prison walls of our cult induced dogmatism while inching us closer to robustly exercising our intellectual freedom in determining our own destiny.