TWO months have passed since the Democratic Congress (DC) and the All Basotho Convention formed a coalition government. This after ABC legislators forced their leader and former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane to step down on 19 May 2020.
The ABC’s Thetsane legislator and former Finance Minister Moeketsi Majoro was sworn in as the new prime minister on 20 May 2020. DC leader Mathibeli Mokhothu was sworn in as deputy prime minister.
The Lesotho Times’ (LT) senior reporter ’Marafaele Mohloboli caught up with the DC deputy leader and Home Affairs Minister Motlalentoa Letsosa (Mr Letsosa) to discuss the DC’s time in government thus far.
Mr Letsosa touched on various issues including the ABC infighting and the lengthy incarceration of former army commander, Tlali Kamoli.
Below are excerpts of the interview.
LT: It’s been over two months since you formed the governing coalition with the ABC, what has the experience been like thus far?
Mr Letsosa: Since we came into power, we have had challenges in balancing the budget to meet our needs including funding the response to the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
We have been trying to source funding needed to combat Covid-19 and we want to think that we are gradually getting there and finding our feet too.
LT: Have you been affected in any way by the persistent infighting within your coalition partner, the ABC?
Mr Letsosa: Intra party fights can only be handled by the party members. We have tried to keep our distance from our partners’ internal issues as a matter of respect and we will continue doing so as long as their issues do not spill into the government and affect its business.
They (ABC) are the only ones who can resolve their differences. We think we have conducted ourselves very well as the DC and we are tempted to think that they will learn a thing or two from us about how to conduct their party affairs.
Although we have not been affected by their infighting, this doesn’t mean that we are not aware of things that could be happening in their party. We have just decided not to interfere or be swayed by their problems. We have decided to focus on how best to deliver services to the public.
LT: Rumours are rife that your partner is giving you a tough time as they are not engaging you in some of the decisions they make. It is said that you have even approached the Monyane Moleleki-led Alliance of Democrats on the possibility of forming a new alliance. How true is this?
Mr Letsosa: It is not at all true. We enjoying a very cordial working relationship with our partners and we always consult each other.
We have not at any point approached the AD for a new coalition.
LT: Some ABC MPs have threatened to topple the government if Prime Minister Majoro does not give in to their demands to stop the courts from trying Mr Thabane for the 14 June 2017 murder of his ex-wife, Lipolelo. What is the DC’s take on these threats?
Mr Letsosa: Anything is possible and irrefutable because a government is composed of numbers. Anyone who is in parliament and has numbers is eligible to take over. It is all about numbers and not what anyone wants and this can even happen with this government.
LT: The long-awaited multi-sector reforms are still to be implemented. The delay is largely down to the political instability in the ABC. What are your plans to expedite the implementation of the reforms? Which areas will you prioritise and why?
Mr Letsosa: Luckily enough we are all on the same page that the national reforms need to be expedited but it is quite difficult to put a time frame for the implementation.
We believe that all sectors need equal attention as they are all necessary. We have also placed our hope in the National Reforms Authority (NRA) and agreed that it shall be empowered through the allocation of enough resources to help it deliver on its mandate.
LT: The Director of National Security Services (NSS) Mr Pheello Ralenkoane recently defended the expulsion of 89 NSS officers, saying they were unprocedurally hired by the then DC-led government under former Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili. You have previously condemned their dismissal. Has your position changed now that you are in government?
Mr Letsosa: We have not changed our stance on all issues that we raised while we were in the opposition and that includes this NSS officers’ issue.
We still maintain that they were unlawfully expelled and should therefore be reinstated.
The only tricky part is that this is a matter that is pending before the courts of law. Discussing it in greater detail would therefore be prejudicial of the court processes.
Were it not for the fact that it is before the courts, we would have discussed it with our partners. But because we respect the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law, we shall wait and see how it will be dealt with by the courts. We cannot and will not tell the courts what to do.
LT: Former army commander Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli remains in detention and his release is one of the many issues which you have always campaigned for. Do you still maintain that stance that he should be released?
Mr Letsosa: The issue of General Kamoli is still very relevant. We are not against the law taking its course. We just want is fairness in every trial.
All suspects have a right to bail and so does General Kamoli. All we are saying is that he should also be given bail like everyone else because he has always been cooperative even up to the time of his arrest.
He should not be treated differently. Let him be heard and given conditions for his bail until there is progress in the court proceedings.
LT: Time waits for no man and the novel Coronavirus has grounded all party rallies and other activities political parties normally hold in preparation for elections. The next elections are not far off in 2022. What plans have you put in place as a party to campaign and reach out to your voters?
Mr Letsosa: We have to admit that this pandemic has really hit us hard and negatively affected our plans as a party. But we are working on other ways of reaching out to the electorate while at the same time adhering to the Covid-19 regulations on limiting gatherings and practicing social distancing.
On a positive note, we had already started on our national campaigns before we came into government. However, we still need to do more because politics is a game of numbers and we have to continuously woo voters.
But we cannot give away some of the strategies we are using to appeal to voters lest our rivals copy our methods and beat us at our own game.