OSISA in Lesotho
In a major boost for democracy in southern Africa, Lesotho’s 2012 elections saw an opposition coalition topple the government of Pakalitha Mosisili, who had been Prime Minister for 14 years. After a smooth and peaceful transition, Thomas Thabane was sworn in as Lesotho’s new head of government. But while it was a democratic landmark, the challenges facing the fragile coalition are numerous.
Landlocked and entirely surrounded by South Africa, Lesotho lives in the shadow of its much larger neighbour - relying on it for most of its trade, aid and remittances - and struggling to generate any international interest or attention. And yet, Lesotho faces a host of serious problems - from acute poverty and chronic malnutrition, to widespread unemployment and one of the highest rates of HIV and AIDS in the world. More than 8 percent of children die before they are 5 years old and the average life expectancy is just 46. Coupled with these alarming statistics, Lesotho's poor farming families are battling to produce sufficient food to feed themselves - let alone produce enough to make a profit - as years of irregular rains, environmental degradation, climate change and the impact of the HIV and AIDS pandemic slash their harvests. Indeed, the UN World Food Programme says that 2012-13 will require the biggest food assistance programme in Lesotho’s history.
Previous governments have been praised for their willingness to tackle these issues but the State simply does not have the capacity or resources to make much of an impact – and is still very dependent on donor assistance.
Lesotho's human rights record is generally good, although many of the poorest and most marginalised groups do not have access to many basic socio-economic rights and services. And women still suffer from a low social status and continue to be disadvantaged by discriminatory laws. In terms of civil society, the sector is generally weak, but there are encouraging signs of new forms of economic/environmental justice advocacy, particularly around mining issues as well as the Lesotho dam displacements and environmental degradation.