ALL Basotho Convention chairperson Samuel Rapapa (SR) is one of the candidates vying to replace Prime Minister Thomas Thabane who announced last month that he would soon step down. So eager is Mr Rapapa to step in and lead after he has been overlooked several times in ministerial appointments.
In this interview with Lesotho Times’ (LT) senior reporter ’Marafaele Mohloboli, Mr Rapapa concedes that he feels used and would do all he can to ensure that he becomes the country’s next prime minister.
LT: The race to choose Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s successor has been tense and seems to have divided the ABC. It is even said that although you are one of the front runners, your name has not been seconded for nomination. How true is this?
SR: Yes, I am contesting and wish to indicate that when the position of the leader of the party comes up, I will also be contesting. In terms of seniority of the party; the leader comes first, followed by the deputy and then the chairperson; the position that I hold.
I am third in the hierarchy and it is my understanding that under normal circumstances, we should have just come up with one name although the NEC came up with three names.
There are no fresh fights in the party but just some differences and after a sudden decision to come up with a list of requirements as part of the criteria, which now shifts the goal posts. There are other people who suddenly feel that now that there is contest the hierarchy should not apply.
LT: Are you ready to succeed the Prime Minister given the chance?
SR: I am very ready. Remember when there were still divisions in the party, there was a motion of no confidence last year and some parts of the ABC felt that I was rightly placed to step in as caretaker prime minister if Dr Thabane was to be ousted.
This idea was sold to the opposition that is why deputy chairperson of the Democratic Congress (DC) Motlalentoa Letsosa seconded the name because we had discussed and agreed that I would stand because the man next in line (Professor Nqosa Mahao) is not in the National Assembly.
This is where it all started. We had identified what needs to be done because our government is notorious for letting loose corruption, lack of service delivery, lack of cohesion either in the executive or in the party with people who refuse to accept the results. I decided that should there be a change of government, these are some of the things that needed to be addressed.
However, the motion of no confidence did not see the light of day as it was quashed by the Speaker of Parliament. Fortunately for some of us and unfortunately for others, the premier announced that his intention to step down and that opportunity created itself. And now there are people who are shifting the goal posts. The decision had been that I would step in but some are now talking about qualities.
Many people have confidence in me because I am influential and have been steadfast to my party throughout the years with a difficult opposition and difficult party of our own. Myself and others have weathered many storms when others left and I think I am still of good age to lead and now that the opportunity has availed itself, I am grabbing it.
I would also like people to note that I’m not for any reason backing off in the contest and I shall also contest for the party leadership the day the leader steps down.
I will wait patiently for any opportunity that will avail itself, whether it is now or five year down the line, or tomorrow, I will contest because I have experience in different sectors.
LT: In your perspective, what exactly are the qualities of a good leader?
SR: A good leader should have listening skills. He should be one who can negotiate, and can lead and supervise. This should be someone who can delegate so that the objectives can be achieved.
This should also be a person who can identify problems and communicate with the international community. I have all these qualities and have displayed them in my party since its inception.
LT: What does it take for someone to communicate with the international community? Is it education?
SR: Yes, definitely. The PM must address the United Nations, the African Union (AU) summit, the Southern African Development Community (SADC), bilateral and international meetings and it would not be right to have a prime minister who is not proficient in the business language.
LT: You have been accused of going deserting your duties. How do you respond to that?
SR: This is not true and there is only one time that I actually left a job because of miscommunication in my contract hence I did not agree with the employer.
Even then, I did not just abandon the job. I made it known that I was leaving and unfortunately, I hear people using that to discredit me for the premier’s post. It is an outright lie.
LT: There are people who would like to see Ms Doti being given a chance as the first female leader. Would you in any way be willing to compromise to give a female contestant and colleague a chance?
SR: Not at all! We should all be treated as equals in. Let us just get on with the contest. Woman can do better for themselves without being given an unfair competition.
One thing I am sure of is that should I lose, I shall accept and bow out gracefully and support the winner which is what I have always done when I lost in other contests. That wouldn’t be the first time if I lose.
LT: Do you it is a good idea to withhold the name of Dr Thabane’s successor?
SR: I think it is a good idea especially when they are saying the name should be given only when the PM has given the exact date of his departure. I think it’s for the best and in the interest of the security of the candidate.
LT: In 2012 you were promised a Senatorial seat but it did not materialise. What happened?
SR: I don’t know what happened and have never had an interest to take the matter up because promises can be kept or broken. It was no obligation on the PM’s part.
LT: You have been with the ABC since its inception and being in the frontline of calming most of the party’s fights, however you have never been appointed in a ministerial position, how does this make you feel?
SR: Of course, it makes me feel bad but there is nothing I can do about it.
I have always been on the receiving end and have had to compromise in many situations and this has even cost me being pushed down the party’s proportional representation (PR) list but I have always maintained my cool for the love of my party and not power.
This is not the first time that I have been compromised but this time around I feel that it’s enough and I have to stand my ground.
I have realised that when things are tough, strong weapons are used and once the war is over, they are discarded.
LT: Do you feel used?
SR: Yes, I do feel used in a way and this I can justify in so many ways. For instance, when we filed a motion of no confidence against the then Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s regime, and it was agreed that it be moved by MP Temeki Tšolo, he flatly declined citing that the matter could become an emotional issue. He recommended that I file the motion because I could stand my ground and I did. The motion was passed and it collapsed the government but I was never considered even when the cabinet was appointed. I felt used.
It is not surprising that today there are people who feel that I am not eligible to take part in the contest. I have seen these things happening.
LT: Should you not be considered for the premiership, what are you going to do?
SR: I don’t think I will just sit back but I will ensure that I am given a fair chance to compete like all else. The only thing that I will not do is to fight people if I lose. I shall accept the results.
LT: What highest qualification do you hold?
SR: I am a chartered accountant with a Bachelor of Commerce in Accounting. I acquired the qualification in three years instead of the set five years. I also hold a post graduate degree in financial management from the Institute of Financial Management and Research (IFMR) in India.
LT: If win this race, what are we likely to see you changing to turn-around the country’s fortunes?
SR: I would first deal with corruption and ensure that court cases are heard speedily without interference in the judiciary and administration by the government.
We should seek assistance from the international community to help us combat corruption where there is need. We lack financial management skills and we can’t get anything right unless we generate revenue while also paying our suppliers timeously.
We must also rectify the Morocco saga and the high rate of police brutality. All these issues must be corrected. Cabinet must be shuffled; we can’t just change the guard and leave the cabinet as is.
LT: Our cabinet is inflated, what are your plans should you become the next prime minister?
SR: This is one thing that’s costing us so much in the name of rewarding loyalty and it must stop. The size of cabinet must be reduced and there is need to appoint people on the basis of experience and skill.