WHAT is happening in the kingdom of Lesotho is a microcosm of what happens in many an African nation and, to be fair, much larger emerging market nations in the world, such as China and India. In developing countries, the state is the central character in establishing the classes.

And to be in the 1% of Lesotho’s society is to hold political power.

With that country’s best and brightest all looking outside its borders for a better life, the old establishment has the space to battle for control of the country, whose GDP is under a tenth ($4,1-billion) of Naspers’s market capitalisation.

The prescribed solution to Lesotho’s political deadlock — bringing elections closer — isn’t a solution at all.

At best, it will bring some short-term relief in the form of an inauguration that will promise a new path for our troubled neighbour.

But in truth, there’ll be no sober and thorough examination of the long-term prospects of the nation, and most importantly what to do about the Southern African Customs Union, a union that is the lifeblood of its economy and the world’s oldest.

Proceeds from the union make up 35%-45% of the national budgets of both Lesotho and Swaziland.

A review of the union promises to change that and may leave the already struggling nations even worse off.

The reason I think electing a new regime won’t address any of the country’s long-term shortcomings is quite simple. It will amount to musical chairs, with the likelihood of the discarded bunch from the previous polls, including its former prime minister, restored to the comforts of power.

The economic malaise will continue and as the country’s coffers get emptier, tensions will one day return to destabilise the one-time British protectorate.

In this cabal of politicians, there are no new ideas. The only goal is state power.

While some South Africans snigger at Lesotho’s prospects and use its situation to show why it can no longer exist as an island surrounded by SA, I think there are many lessons that we should take from our small neighbour.

Much like the Lesotho experience, the SA state is becoming more and more of a feeding ground for an ever-growing number of people, and from all spheres.

To rise within the ruling party is to get a bigger piece of that pie, a higher-paying job in the public sector, or to get preferential status in the awarding of tenders.

The more this particular promise seems to be delivering, the more difficult it becomes for the state to deliver on its many promises.

We are only in 2014, and already the ANC is in the throes of a leadership contest that will take place in December 2017.

To the ruling party and its bloated executive, the issue of the economy should be foremost in their minds. Any leadership change will amount to reshuffling of the cards. Removing the incumbent will not be the panacea for the organisational problems that tarnish the party.

The year 2008 took a lot out of the global economy and, from the SA perspective, it took away the private sector’s swagger. How many major empowerment deals have been announced in the years since then? Deeper transformation has also taken a back seat and corporate expansion plans are gathering dust.

The longer this paralysis defines corporate SA, the more the state becomes the larder to feed the emerging economy. And when it can no longer provide, what next?

A leadership reshuffle, but to what end exactly? Is it to change the longer-term prospects for the country, or to ensure one person and his "slate" sits at the head of the table?

That is what Lesotho politics has boiled down to. Ours is surely heading that way — if it isn’t there already.

Much like the Lesotho experience, the SA state is becoming more and more of a feeding ground for an ever-growing number of people, and from all spheres.

 

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