The end is nigh and the governing coalition is on the verge of collapse.
This is the stark admission by the coalition partners barely two years into the Thomas Thabane administration’s five year term.
The spokespersons of the governing coalition parties, namely, Tefo Mapesela of the All Basotho Convention (ABC), Thuso Litjobo of the Alliance of Democrats (AD), and Machesetsa Mofomobe (Basotho National Party -BNP), all fingered the power struggle within the ABC as the main cause of the government’s instability and its likely collapse.
This month, the country marks two years since the ABC, BNP, AD and the Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL) cobbled the governing coalition — popularly known as the 4X4 government in the aftermath of the 3 June 2017 snap elections which did not produce an outright winner in the form of the 61 seat threshold required for a party to go it alone in government. ABC came closest with 52 seats but it had to form a coalition with the AD, BNP and RCL.
The governing coalition got off to a promising start, recording some significant breakthroughs which included the discovery and exhumation of the remains of slain Police Constable Mokalekale Khetheng in August 2017 and the arrest of his suspected killers.
These included the former Minister of Defence and National Security, Tšeliso Mokhosi. In line with the Southern African Development Community (SADC) recommendations to bring to book the killers of former army commander, Lieutenant Maaparankoe Mahao, as well as other perpetrators of gross human rights violations, the governing coalition secured the arrest of high profile suspects including former army commander, Lt-Gen Tlali Kamoli who remains behind bars awaiting trial.
But with just two years on the clock, the ‘two year curse’ which has seen three successive governments collapse just two years into their five year terms appears to be striking again.
One of the biggest failures so far has been the government’s inability to achieve economic growth and cushion the most vulnerable Basotho from poverty.
Finance Minister Moeketsi Majoro has previously told the Lesotho Times that attracting foreign direct investment (FDI) has been a huge challenge as international investors continued to sit on the fence waiting to satisfy themselves that the government is here to stay and will last its full five year tenure.
But Messrs Mapesela, Litjobo and Mofomobe all concur that the infighting in the ABC and not the grave economic situation is the real reason why the government is on the verge of collapse.
The ABC has not known peace and stability in the aftermath of its 1 and 2 February 2019 elective conference which ushered in a new NEC with former National University of Lesotho Vice Chancellor Professor Nqosa Mahao as the deputy leader.
But the new NEC has not been able to assume office due to fierce resistance from the old NEC who say Prof Mahao is a newcomer who should not be in the driving seat to succeed Dr Thabane when the latter eventually leaves office. Prof Mahao and the rest of the new NEC’s election has since been challenged in the High Court by ABC cabinet ministers, Habofanoe Lehana, Keketso Sello and ABC legislator Mohapi Mohapinyane who allege Prof Mahao’s victory was due to “massive vote rigging”.
In March this year, ABC leader and premier, Dr Thabane said there were “now clear signs” that his coalition government was headed for collapse unless his party’s warring factions urgently resolved their differences.
Dr Thabane spoke amid revelations that the head of the National Security Service, Pheello Ralenkoane, had also warned him that the rifts in the ABC were likely to collapse the government unless the elected new NEC was allowed to assume the reins.
This week, Mr Mapesela echoed Dr Thabane, telling this publication that it would be “self-deception to overlook the evident signs that the government is rickety”.
“We have lost the numbers in parliament and some of our people have even gone to an extent of voting with the opposition. This shows that the government is rickety,” said Mr Mapesela who is also Defence and National Security minister.
Mr Mapesela, who was also Acting Police and Public Security Minister until last weekend, bemoaned alleged acts of police brutality against civilians, saying these had tarnished the image of the government.
“The torture and killing of suspects in police custody is unwarranted and police brutality has left a bad mark on our government.”
On his part, BNP spokesperson Machesetsa Mofomobe said that, “No one can turn a blind eye to the fact that this government is unstable and there are evident signs that we are headed for a collapse”.
“In politics there are always signs before the fall of a government and in our case, there are clear signs that we are headed for an end. Political signs never lie.
“In 1993 before the Ntsu Mokhehle-led government collapsed it was already evident that it was going to collapse. Similarly, there were signs before the collapse of all the previous governments and so it would be naive to pretend that we cannot see that we are headed for a hard fall. The intra-party fights within the All Basotho Convention have placed us in this position. The infighting is clear sign that our government’s days are numbered and no one can deny these facts.”
Mr Mofomobe also bemoaned the alleged police brutality against civilians, saying the torture and killings of suspects shouldn’t have happened at all but “they have and we have to deal with them because this is an unfortunate situation which the people are going to use against us”.
He said in the event of a government collapse and in as much as the government did not have the money for elections, “the Prime Minister shall have no choice but to call for early elections”.
“I’m afraid he (Dr Thabane) might just do as all other prime ministers before him did. He will run to His Majesty (king Letsie III) to dissolve parliament because he has no option,” added Mr Mofomobe.
AD spokesperson Thuso Litjobo said even though the coalition partners were still working together, “we can’t overlook the fact that the government has lost numbers and it is not as stable as we would have wanted”.
The coalition partners’ fears of an imminent government collapse are not misplaced after this week’s statements by the Professor Nqosa Mahao faction of the ABC, saying they would file a no confidence motion in parliament if Dr Thabane does not allow them to assume the party reins within a week. (See story on Page 2).