- says govt could have long collapsed had it not been for the DC,
- but defends coalition of the “two giants” saying it gives hope to the nation.
DEPUTY Prime Minister and Democratic Congress (DC) leader, Mathibeli Mokhothu, says his party’s coalition with Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro’s All Basotho Convention (ABC) would have long collapsed had it not been for the DC’s determination to overlook the challenges and focus on the bigger picture of ensuring peace and stability in the country.
Mr Mokhothu said the DC’s philosophy was firmly rooted in nation founder King Moshoeshoe I’s values of unity and cohesion. The DC did therefore not let the challenges of having a “restless partner” affect its commitment to the stability of the government.
“If that was not the case, this coalition would have collapsed a long time ago. But when you are a leader, you should have a major goal and all these other issues will just be side issues,” Mr Mokhothu said.
He hinted at challenges within the governing coalition, saying his party had put in place dispute resolution mechanisms to deal with them. Although he would not been drawn into naming the challenges, the two parties have clashed on several issues since the 20 May 2020 formation of the coalition.
At one time, they publicly fought over allegations that senior DC officials were linked to human trafficking activities involving Pakistani, Rana Qamar.
Senior ABC officials including its secretary general Lebohang Hlaele even called on Mr Mokhothu and other DC officials to step down and clear their names.
They said their own leader, Thomas Thabane, had been forced to relinquish the premiership last year after being accused of the June 2017 murder of his ex-wife, Lipolelo. (See https://lestimes.com/fresh-threat-to-governing-coalition/ and https://lestimes.com/bring-on-the-fight-hlaele-tells-mokhothu/).
The two parties have also fought over the holding of by-elections in five constituencies which are currently without representation as well as the delimitation of constituencies ahead of next year’s elections. Their biggest fight, so far, has been over the proposed Peace and Unity Bill of 2020.
Tabled in parliament in May this year by Justice and Law Minister, Lekhetho Rakuoane, the Bill seeks to establish a National Peace and Unity Commission to probe rights abuses over many years. The envisaged Commission will have powers to grant high-profile criminal suspects amnesty provided they testify truthfully, disclose their alleged crimes in full and show remorse.
Among those currently in the courts who could benefit from any such amnesty are politicians Mothetjoa Metsing, Selibe Mochoboroane and former army commander Tlali Kamoli as well as other serving and former members of the security agencies, accused of various crimes ranging from treason to murder.
The Bill has sparked outrage with both the ABC and victims of human rights abuses outrightly rejecting it, claiming it was aimed at saving DC’s members and supporters who have been implicated in various crimes from facing justice for their actions.
ABC spokesman Montoeli Masoetsa has even publicly claimed that his party was not consulted in the drafting of the Bill.
On the other hand, Mr Mokhothu, DC deputy leader Motlalentoa Letsosa and fellow congress politicians have all defended the Bill, saying the establishment of the National Peace and Unity Commission is a sure way to achieve, peace, reconciliation, unity and stability in the country.
Mr Mokhothu has previously labelled opponents of the Bill as “haters of peace”. He has encouraged them to fully understand what the Bill seeks to achieve. The Bill was not aimed at helping a few high-profile individuals currently in the courts for various alleged crimes in recent years. It was meant to uncover and explain a whole lot more abuses that had occurred over a long period of time and help bring closure to the families of many victims. Still, the ABC has vowed to oppose the Bill in parliament.
Despite the fights, Mr Mokhothu says the DC has remained focused on the bigger picture of achieving peace and stability. He said dialogue with their coalition partners had helped address the challenges they faced.
“The major goal of the DC is to achieve peace and stability and development in the country. Even if we have a restless partner that is all over the place, we should work to bring calm and peace now that we are part of the government.
“As the DC, we have regular talks with our partners. If three days pass without talking to a coalition partner, I call and ask if everything is okay on the other end.
“We need to check at all times if we are still on the same path. If the other side is irritated, we ask what or who is causing it. We ask whether it is the DC. We should be a nation that is able to engage in talks at all times because it is only when we are talking to each other that we will be able to identity where the problems lie and come up with solutions.”
The current ABC and DC led coalition replaced the previous Thabane-led four party administration on 20 May 2020.
Mr Mokhothu said the ABC and DC were the biggest parties in the country as they won the most seats in the 3 June 2017 elections. As such, their unity was key to achieving peace and stability in the country.
The ABC won 53 seats while the DC got 30. But due to defections to other parties, the ABC now has 35 seats while the DC has 27. Despite this, they still remain the biggest parties in parliament and Mr Mokhothu said this was a clear message that Basotho have faith in the two parties.
The two parties should therefor continue working together for national development, he said.
“Ours are the biggest parties and the nation has placed its hopes in us to improve livelihoods. That message is even stronger when we are both in government. The nation’s belief, that sense of hope is strengthened because when these two giants are working together, we will reach Canaan where there will be milk and honey in abundance. No other party except for the DC and ABC commands such hopes. If we fail, our people will lose faith in politics. They will see politics as useless.
“People should see politics as something that gives them hope. People should understand that their vote gives them an opportunity to live a good life. This will make them take elections as a serious exercise because they will be voting to reap rewards from their votes. After every five years when they do evaluation, they should see a change.
“If there was no water in their villages, they should have water; if there were no toilets, roads, clinics and schools, they should have these.
“If the business sector was struggling, they should see it exporting and thriving. It is only when Lesotho exports its products and brings in foreign currency earnings that we can make a meaningful impact on people’s lives.”
The deputy prime minister said politics should bring positive changes to people’s lives providing they made “a good choice” when voting.
Although he was guarded in not saying what the “good choice” was, he has previously appealed to the electorate to resoundingly vote for the DC in next year’s elections, saying it was the only party capable of achieving peace and sustainable economic growth.
He also called on the nation to live up to its Christian values of peaceful co-existence.
“Let us do unto others as we would have them do to us. If we were to live this way, this country would be at peace and nobody would kill the next person. That way, God will open doors for us and we will be a rich nation,” Mr Mokhothu said.
Asked to comment on Mr Mokhothu’s claims that the coalition would have long collapsed had it not been for the DC, ABC spokesperson, Montoeli Masoetsa, dismissed the notion that their partner had high-minded altruistic interests. He said the two parties were constantly “stepping on each other’s toes” and the government had only survived thus far because the politicians from both parties were only maintaining it to serve their respective political interests.
He did not say what those interests were.
“The DC is not entirely genuine when saying that they are managing relations and that is not healthy for this coalition,” Mr Masoetsa said.
“We agreed on a solid working plan and how to implement it in different ministries. We agreed on how to conduct our affairs but anyone can see that we are not doing as we had agreed. We are both failing to appreciate that there were already appointed civil servants as per the Public Service Act when we took over. Each party came in with its political appointees to its allocated ministries.
“Their (DC) handling of this matter leaves a bad taste in our month. They have chosen to fire or suspend civil servants to enable them to hire their own people whom they want to use to put their naughty plans in motion.
“We cannot tolerate a situation where someone wants civil servants to violate procurement regulations by using selective tendering to influence the outcome for their own interests and pushes for procurement officers to be removed when they refuse to bow down to the pressure.
“That is unethical to violate administrative rules and purge people for refusing to push our interests as politicians. Their approach does not demonstrate that they are committed to the stability of this government,” Mr Masoetsa said.
He said Mr Mokhothu was one of the DC officials going after ABC members in the civil service.
“There is a person whom Mokhothu found working at Cabinet. Cabinet falls under the Prime Minister’s Office which is allocated to us. Cabinet principal secretaries are our deployees yet there is one person Mokhothu is relentlessly pushing to be fired. Mokhothu’s wishes are not being realised because responsible PSs and the ABC have refused to entertain his demands.
“In the same fashion, they have suspended a chief legal officer at the Ministry of Mining who was employed before they were allocated that ministry,” Mr Masoetsa said.