TRUE to the adage that there are no permanent friends and permanent foes in politics, Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) leader Mothejoa Metsing has emerged as the potential saviour of the embattled Thomas Thabane administration.
Mr Metsing, who only recently returned from more than a year in exile in South Africa, allegedly to escape a government-sponsored assassination plot, is dangling an offer of assistance to Dr Thabane. The beleaguered premier desperately needs help to survive a looming no confidence vote by an alliance of disgruntled legislators from his own All Basotho Convention (ABC) and various opposition parties.
Last Wednesday, Motebang Koma, the ABC’s legislator for the Koro-Koro constituency, filed the no confidence motion in parliament and the motion was immediately seconded by the Democratic Congress (DC)’s deputy leader Motlalentoa Letsosa. Mr Koma proposed that the ABC’s Mosalemane constituency Member of Parliament (MP), Samuel Rapapa, takes over as caretaker prime minister, presumably pending processes that would lead Professor Nqosa Mahao to assume the reins of power.
The no confidence motion is the culmination of the protracted war of attrition between the newly elected national executive committee (NEC) of the ABC fronted by Prof Mahao and the old NEC which has steadfastly refused to vacate office. Prof Mahao is not a legislator and could therefore not be nominated to replace Dr Thabane despite his election as the latter’s deputy at the party’s contentious February 2019 elective conference.
While the Mahao faction, which is believed to be supported by at least 20 ABC legislators, is counting on the entire opposition bloc for the success of the no confidence motion, they could come unstuck after Mr Metsing this week left the door open for a GNU deal that could save Dr Thabane.
The LCD has 11 seats and without it, the no confidence motion would not succeed as the Mahao faction along with the rest of the opposition can only get a maximum of 59 votes out of 120.
Addressing an LCD rally early this week in Qacha’s Nek, Mr Metsing said although his party supported the no confidence motion, that could change if Dr Thabane agreed to the formation of a GNU in return for their support against the motion.
“We fully support the motion of no confidence but we don’t want a government comprising of two or three parties and even if we oust the Prime Minister we will still have to invite others and form a government of national unity,” Mr Metsing said.
“However, if the government engages us before the tabling of the motion and they discuss with us a better way of improving Basotho’s lives, we shall stop (supporting the motion.
“We are ready to support the government against the no confidence motion only if they accept our idea of a GNU. We don’t just want a change of faces but we want a system that will change Basotho’s lives,” Mr Metsing said.
The former deputy premier’s stance comes against the background of last week’s widespread allegations that he had inked a deal with Deputy Prime Minister Monyane Moleleki and Dr Thabane to fight the no confidence motion and thereafter form a new coalition comprising of the ABC, LCD and Mr Moleleki’s Alliance of Democrats (AD).
A document allegedly crafted by the three parties, purporting to outline their agreement went viral on social media. According to the document, Dr Thabane will be prime minister while Messrs Moleleki and Metsing would become the two deputy prime ministers in the new three party coalition which would feature an ABC shorn off the Mahao loyalists.
According to the document titled, Draft Corporation Agreement for the formation of the 4th Coalition for inclusive administration entered into between ABC, AD and LCD, Dr Thabane comes in as prime minister and leader of coalition, Mr Moleleki as the first Deputy Prime Minister responsible for parliamentary affairs, economy and the social sector and Mr Metsing as second Deputy Prime Minister (responsible for security sector, reforms and stakeholder management).
The ABC will have 15 ministers and seven deputy ministers, the AD will get six ministers and two deputies and the LCD will also get six ministers and two deputies.
Speculation was further fueled by the LCD’s no show at the press conference that was held in Maseru last Friday by the Mahao faction of the ABC and the other opposition.
The press conference was called to reiterate the parties’ commitment to pushing the no confidence motion to its logical conclusion. The LCD subsequently joined the AD and the pro-Thabane old ABC’s NEC in denying the claims of a deal for a new coalition.
However, Mr Metsing’s latest comments showed that he is not averse to a deal with Dr Thabane or the Mahao faction as long as he can be assured of a return to government via a GNU.
On Sunday he said a GNU was the country’s best hope because no party was “fit enough to rule on its own and successfully implement the multi-sector reforms” that were recommended by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) in 2016 as part of efforts to achieve lasting peace and stability in Lesotho.
“We have all wronged one another at some point and we only have to agree on that and forgive one another. The fact that today there are two factions within the ABC is a clear sign that we will always have differences.
“We simply can’t go on like this. No faction of the ABC is better than the other; to us they are the same. This is the same ABC which made us suffer.”
The GNU issue was for a long time a sticking point which almost derailed the processes towards the implementation of the reforms. The reforms process was stalled by the intense bickering between the government and the opposition which for a long time refused to participate until the government meet their preconditions including the establishment of a GNU, a truth and reconciliation commission (TRC) as well as the release of the likes of murder-accused former army commander, Lieutenant General, Tlali Kamoli.
And on Sunday, Mr Metsing took a dig at fellow opposition parties for allegedly abandoning the quest of a GNU in favour of the apparently easier option of ousting Dr Thabane through the no confidence vote. He said the country’s challenges needed everyone in a GNU. He suggested that a successful no confidence vote would push Dr Thabane to advise the King to call for fresh costly elections which only benefit politicians who would come in as ministers in a new government.
“Today some of our own, who used to sing the same tune of GNU as us, have turned against us saying that the idea is outdated simply because now they see that there is a better chance of winning the no confidence vote against the government.
“If at all I were a selfish person, I would be the first one to jump at the idea of ousting Ntate Thabane because I have suffered immensely at his hands. Even today I am still not getting my benefits as former deputy prime minister.
“People just want elections after which they will become ministers and principal secretaries while our people remain destitute and without a choice but to watch us and ululate as we ascend into power.
“We should only go for elections as a last resort when all other avenues have been explored and failed,” Mr Metsing said.