THE looming no confidence vote against Prime Minister Thomas Thabane and his government has sent shockwaves across the entire Southern African region.
So worried is the regional bloc that the Southern African Development Community (SADC)’s facilitator to Lesotho, Justice Dikgang Moseneke, jetted into the country for a crisis meeting with political parties to ascertain if the no confidence vote would scuttle the much-delayed processes towards the implementation of the multi-sector reforms.
For now, Dr Thabane’s government is safe after parliament was on Monday indefinitely adjourned ostensibly for its annual winter break. Opposition parties say the adjournment was rushed to prevent the no confidence motion from being tabled in parliament and put to vote. They say the adjournment was rushed without normal processes being followed.
A worried Justice Moseneke recently visited the country and met separately with opposition parties represented in parliament namely the Democratic Congress (DC), Popular Front for Democracy (PFD), National Independence Party (NIP), Democratic Party of Lesotho (DPL) and the Marematlou Freedom Party (MFP).
The retired former South African deputy chief justice also met His Majesty King Letsie 111, government officials, representatives of the National Dialogue Planning Committee (NDPC) and other political parties not represented in parliament.
The meetings were held in Maseru last Friday, two days after the filing of the no confidence motion. According to some of the leaders of the political parties, Justice Moseneke was informed that the motion poses a grave threat to the reforms process.
In 2016, SADC recommended the implementation of constitutional, security sector, media, judiciary and governance reforms aimed at achieving lasting peace and stability in the country.
Last year, the regional leaders went as far as giving Lesotho a May 2019 deadline to have fully implemented the reforms. But the deadline was missed due to an interplay of various factors, chief among them the bickering between the government and the opposition. The opposition initially boycotted the reforms process to try and force the government to meet its demands which included the formation of a government of national unity, the setting up of a truth and reconciliation commission, safe passage for exiled leaders and the release of what the opposition calls political prisoners. Most of the demands were not met but opposition leaders mainly Lesotho Congress for Democrats (LCD) leader Mothetjoa Metsing were allowed to return without being arrested for previous alleged misdemeanours.
But even after the opposition eventually agreed to participate, the reforms process hit a new snag after a vicious power struggle rocked Dr Thabane’s All Basotho Convention (ABC).
The infighting ensued in the aftermath of the ABC’s 1-2 February 2019 elective conference which ushered in Professor Nqosa Mahao and others into the party’s national executive committee (NEC). Prof Mahao and his group have nonetheless been prevented from assuming control of the party by the old NEC which persists in questioning the legitimacy of the conference that elected them.
Last Wednesday, the Mahao faction hit back by filing a no confidence motion against Dr Thabane. The motion was immediately supported by the opposition parties in parliament.
Perturbed by the latest turn of events, Justice Moseneke jetted into the country for a crisis meeting with the political parties. They candidly told him that the reforms process would not be treated with urgency as the country would prioritise the no confidence motion and the snap elections that are likely to follow if the motion succeeds and Dr Thabane opts to call for elections instead of bowing out quietly.
Foreign Affairs and International Relations Minister Lesego Makgothi and opposition Democratic Congress (DC) leader Mathibeli Mokhothu were not reachable on their mobile phones for comment.
ABC spokesperson Tefo Mapesela declined to comment, saying he was not aware of the meeting with Justice Moseneke.
However, National Independence Party (NIP) leader Kimetso Mathaba this week told the Lesotho Times that the political parties informed Justice Moseneke that a successful no confidence vote was likely to derail the reforms if Dr Thabane decided against resigning and chose to advise His Majesty King Letsie III to dissolve parliament and call for fresh elections.
“It is true that we had a meeting with Ntate Moseneke who was here representing SADC in his capacity as the mediator. There is nothing to hide because the reforms are a national issue,” Mr Mathaba said.
“We have shared the latest developments with him and how they could affect the reforms. Firstly, the reforms are an ongoing process but if we are to go for fresh elections, the polls will be a serious national issue that would take precedence over everything else.
“If the no confidence vote succeeds and Lesotho goes for elections, the politicians will focus all their energies on the elections for at least three months until they are held and during that time, no leader will entertain any other business besides preparations for the elections.”
Mr Mathaba added that Justice Moseneke was more interested in ensuring the successful implementation of the reforms than in the dogfight within the ABC.
“Although he was told about the no confidence motion, he still wants us to focus on the timetable of the reforms process which includes getting and reviewing reports on the recently-concluded district consultations with the public to solicit their input into the envisaged multi-sector reforms,” Mr Mathaba said.
Popular Front for Democracy (PFD) leader Lekhetho Rakuoane concurred with Mr Mathaba.
Advocate Rakuoane said the reforms process would still proceed with minimal disruptions if Dr Thabane chose to forego elections in the event of a successful no confidence vote and allowed parliament to elect a new leader.
“If parliament is dissolved and a change of government is done in parliament, then whatever is on the reforms timetable for the months of July and August can still be in implemented,” Adv Rakuoane said.
He said that parliament should pass the enabling act for the creation of a statutory body to deal with the reforms so that the processes and implementation would not be affected by any changes of government. He said the creation of a statutory body would also ensure that whichever government came in was bound to fully implement the reforms.
“If we sit down to discuss the creation of the reforms body, we could come back to parliament in the next few weeks to enact the enabling law,” Adv Rakuoane said.