THE government has moved to gag outspoken Thaba-Bosiu Principal Chief Khoabane Theko who has consistently called for the ouster of All Basotho Convention (ABC) leader and Prime Minister Thomas Thabane for fueling divisions in his party over his refusal to accept the election of Professor Nqosa Mahao and others into the ABC’s national executive committee (NEC).
Chief Theko said he was summoned to a meeting on Monday by the Local Government and Chieftainship ministry’s Director of Chieftainship, Advocate Tšeliso Molise, whom he said told him that the government wanted him to steer clear of politics. There were also widespread reports on social media this week that the principal chief had been served with a letter to that effect.
However, Chief Theko is not taking this lying down. He this week told the Lesotho Times that he had demanded an audience with Local Government and Chieftainship Minister Litšoane Litšoane to get clarity on the government’s directive that he immediately stops participating in politics.
He said although he was, like any other human beings a political animal by nature, he had not been actively dabbling in politics. He nonetheless insisted he had every right to comment on issues of national interest in his capacity as a chief and a senator. Chief Theko is also the senate chief whip.
He said while it was not true that he had received a letter, he still wanted the government to explain what it meant when it sent Adv Molise to tell him to immediately stop participating in politics.
“Honestly speaking, I have not received any letter from the government (to stop participating in politics),” Chief Theko said. “I had a meeting with my director (Adv Molise) who told me that he had been sent to tell me that I should stop speaking on politics”.
“I asked him (Adv Molise) to point out issues that would cause government to come to a decision that I was participating in politics. He said that he was just a messenger and didn’t want to get himself involved. I told him that this was a vague message and he had not explained what I had done for it to be said that I am dabbling in politics. He did not give me a clear answer”.
Efforts to obtain comment from Adv Molise were unsuccessful as his mobile phone rang unanswered.
The outspoken chief recently made headlines when he gave an interview to this publication calling for Dr Thabane’s ouster for allegedly ceding control of both the party and the governing coalition government to his wife, ‘Maesaiah Thabane.
The ABC has become a theatre of conflict between two warring national executive committee (NEC) factions ever since the party’s 1 and 2 February 2019 elective conference which ushered Professor Nqosa Mahao and others into the NEC despite opposition from Dr Thabane.
There are widely held perceptions that left to his own devices, Dr Thabane would easily have no problems in accepting Prof Mahao and the rest of the new NEC. However, critics like Chief Theko believe that the First Lady is calling the shots and is steadfastly opposed to the advent of Prof Mahao and his colleagues.
“If my own wife causes confusion and instability in the government that I am leading in Thaba-Bosiu, the people of Thaba-Bosiu should recall me. That way my wife would have been removed from power and the problem solved.
“Honestly speaking, the only way is for him to step down. The ABC people are wasting their time and energy by trying to deal with this matter by other means.
“What they must do is to call a special conference and resolve that Ntate Thabane should step down. He wants to play God with this government through his wife. The ABC are wasting time because this might even lead to the collapse of the government because if he (Dr Thabane) loses the majority in the ABC, he might call for fresh elections and find that he cannot form government,” Chief Theko recently told this publication.
He followed this up by penning an affidavit in support of Prof Mahao and others’ in their June High Court application to have Dr Thabane held in contempt of court by purporting to expel them from the party despite a 12 June court order which recognised them as the new ABC’s NEC.
This week, Chief Theko told this publication that he believed it was these “things that I regularly say that they have chosen to interpret as (dabbling in) politics”.
He said there were no provisions in the Chieftainship Act which prohibited him from speaking out on politics and any other issues of national interest.
“It is true that he (Adv Molise) called me for a meeting on Monday and I told him that I want an audience with my (Local Government) minister for him to educate me on the sections of the constitution that say a chief cannot speak on politics.
“My stand is simply that chiefs are part of the lawmakers. The senate is a reviewing chamber and can you imagine senators just passing laws without a meaningful participation. Do they expect us to pass laws without reviewing them and suggesting amendments when we have a constitutional obligation to review and suggest amendments? So it is neither here nor there to say that we are participating in politics”.
He said in any event traditional leaders like him needed to speak out and keep politicians in check whenever they persecuted citizens. He said the government had lost focus of its electoral mandate of ensuring service delivery to the nation due to the debilitating power struggle in the ABC.
“As a parliamentarian, I cannot sit quietly and watch government making mistakes for fear that it will be said that I am talking politics. I am duty bound to point out the misgivings or misdemeanors of government against the law and principles of good governance.
“Politicians don’t even have morals…they don’t even respect the mandate given to them by the masses. They go into parliament with a clear mandate of developing this country but when they get there, they start fighting among themselves. The ABC is fighting from within and could split. Is that what they have been mandated to do?”
He said the nation had grown tired of the politicians who had repeatedly failed them and it now wanted His Majesty King Letsie III to be given a greater role and say in national politics. The latest findings by the respected Afrobarometer research institute show that at least 75 percent of Basotho want more powers to be given to the King as they feel that the current governance institutions fall short of their expected effectiveness in addressing the economic, social and political needs of the nation.