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Govt has gone to the dogs: Mahao

Ntsebeng Motsoeli

‘ACTING’ All Basotho Convention (ABC) leader, Professor Nqosa Mahao, says the government under Prime Minister Thomas Thabane “is going to the dogs” and only the passing of constitutional amendments to facilitate the ouster of the premier can save the country from the “greed” in the current administration.

Prof Mahao accused Dr Thabane and his government of lining up their pockets with public funds while ignoring the needs of more than 500 000 Basotho who are said to be in dire need of food aid as a result of the El-Nino induced drought during the 2018/19 farming season.

A fortnight ago the United Nations revealed that at least 508 125 or 25 percent of the country’s entire population will be in need of food aid from October 2019 to March 2020.

The total number of rural and urban people expected to be food insecure is 508 125 or 25 percent of the country’s entire population and the UN has so far mobilised US$ 5, 5 million as part of efforts “to ensure that the most urgent and life-saving humanitarian activities in key sectors are initiated”.

Thus far the government has not heeded the UN’s calls for it to do more to address the pressing challenges of food insecurity as its attention appears to have been diverted by the incessant infighting in the parties that make up the governing coalition.

The governing coalition comprises of Dr Thabane’s fractious ABC, Deputy Prime Minister Monyane Moleleki’s Alliance of Democrats (AD) and Labour Minister Keketso Rantšo’s Reformed Congress of Lesotho (LCD). While all the parties have their share of power struggles, the biggest is undoubtedly the bitter feud in the ABC between Dr Thabane and his party deputy, Prof Mahao, which threatens to tear apart the ABC and even collapse the government. The Mahao faction has even filed a no confidence motion against Dr Thabane and last week, parliament unanimously endorsed opposition Popular Front for Democracy (PFD) leader, Lekhetho Rakuoane’s motion calling for the amendment of the constitution to strip the prime minister of his arbitrary powers to dissolve parliament.

The adoption of the motion, seeking to amend the constitution to stop any unpopular prime minister from unilaterally advising the King to dissolve parliament whenever his power is threatened, is seen as a crucial first step towards ousting Dr Thabane. If the motion succeeds, then Dr Thabane would be effectively curtailed from advising King Letsie III to dissolve parliament in the event of a successful no confidence vote again him equally seeing the light of day.

The adoption of Adv Rakuoane’s motion means that the opposition leader can now bring before parliament a Private Member’s Bill “for an act to amend sections 82, 83, and 90 of the constitution with a view to protecting the life of parliament and its stability”.

Early this week, Prof Mahao appealed to legislators to vote for the constitutional amendment bill when it is eventually tabled in parliament. He said its passage will help address challenges including what he described as the unbridled greed by the current government which allegedly looted funds which could have been used to address the food scarcity.

Addressing ABC supporters at a rally in Maama, Roma on Sunday, Prof Mahao alleged that Dr Thabane, cabinet ministers and other top government officials had conspired to misuse funds on unnecessary foreign trips including the recent trip to Serbia instead of using the funds to address more pressing national challenges. Dr Thabane’s spokesperson, Thabo Thakalekoala, said the purpose of the Serbia visit was to strengthen the friendly relations that existed between the two countries.

However, Prof Mahao decried the trip.

“The government is going to the dogs and there is serious looting of public funds,” Prof Mahao said on Sunday.

“The leaders have paid themselves per diems to have fun in Serbia with money that was budgeted for the Disaster Management Authority. This is so disappointing in a country where thousands of people are said to be facing food insecurity due to the drought. The money was set aside to cater for people who are in desperate need of food. But it seems the leaders were more desperate for their per diems.

“The Public Accounts Committee has revealed that in the past eight months, about M90 million has been spent on international trips which were never budgeted for.” (PAC chairperson Selibe Mochoboroane says the figure was much higher at M200 million and not M90 million).

Prof Mahao then appealed to legislators to vote for the constitutional amendment bill when it is eventually tabled in parliament.

“Honourable members of parliament and senators, Basotho need your help. It is therefore imperative that the amendment be passed to rescue this nation from the greed that is happening in their full view,” Prof Mahao said.

He also criticised his supporters for heckling the ABC’s Maama legislator, Mankoe Maime, for refusing to pronounce himself on the infighting within the party.

The party supporters ignored deputy spokesperson, ‘Matebatso Doti’s pleas to stop heckling Mr Maime and demanded that he announce which side he backed in the ABC conflict.

The defiant Mr Maime had insisted that he would not pronounce himself on the issue.

Prof Mahao warned that heckling Mr Maime would only worsen the divisions within the party.

“You are ruining things for us by heckling Ntate Maime. We need Mr Maime’s vote to attain the two-thirds majority for the proposed constitutional amendments,” Prof Mahao said.

On his part, ABC secretary general, Lebohang Hlaele, said the heckling was uncalled for and went against the ABC’s values.

“Since the conception of this party we have always been taught to be patient with each other and that intolerance would not take us anywhere. I distance myself from any acts of mistreating ABC members as if they were from rival political parties. We have no room for people like those who insulted and humiliated the Mabote legislator (Fako Moshoeshoe) in May this year.

“We are here today because of people who wanted to make this party their own. We want peace and reconciliation in the party. However, that should not come with conditions such as ditching (Prof) Mahao. We have come a long way with (Prof) Mahao and we cannot dump him now,” Mr Hlaele said.

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