MASERU — All Basotho Convention (ABC) leader, Thomas Thabane, says the stay-away called by the opposition had failed “because the people let us down by going to work”.
Speaking at a press conference held at his home in Ha-Abia on Tuesday, Thabane said some of the workers could have chosen to report for work because they were afraid of being fired.
“The public defied the agreement we had entered into by going to work. They are the ones who let us down,” he said.
Government spokesperson Mothetjoa Metsing had prior to the stay-away announced on national television that those who participated in the action risked losing their jobs.
Thabane said he could see people boarding taxis early in the morning to go to work “maybe for fear of expulsion”.
“One could see people especially factory workers boarding taxis to work, maybe for fear of expulsion,” he said.
“We have to strive to enlighten people about what is beneficial to them and instilling such values is going to take a lot of hard work.”
The Lesotho Opposition Parties Forum pulled the plug on the stay-away claiming they wanted to give dialogue a chance.
Opposition parties had called the protest to pressure the government to resolve the dispute over the proportional representation seats which they claim were not properly allocated.
Thabane said the move to abandon the stay-away would not affect the “public’s confidence in the opposition because it was they (public) that had defied the stay-away by going to work”.
Thabane said the business community urged the opposition to call off the stay-away because it was affecting their businesses.
“We were also requested by the business community to stop the stay-away campaign. What we did was not out of pressure from anyone. It is a deliberate and calculated move,” he said.
“We did not abort our mission out of cowardice. We are seeking peaceful and friendly ways to pursue our cause so that we can protect this population and minimise pain to the public.
“I will continue to find other ways of enlightening them until they appreciate about their rights.”
But despite the clear failure of the stay-away Thabane has remained scathing in his attacks on the government.
“Right now nobody negotiates issues such as labour agreements with South Africa because nobody really cares about the plight of our people,” Thabane said.
He said it was misleading for the government to say the stay-away would affect the country’s economy “because there is no economic policy to begin with”.
“There are no clear economic policies in this country. The Chinese have taken away from the Basotho even small businesses,” he said.
Thabane said the economy the government was trying to protect was Chinese businesses “whose owners do not even invest in this country”.
“They are only interested in protecting Chinese businesses which do not invest in this country at all,” Thabane said.
Thabane said they wanted to give the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) a chance to address the disputes over the seats.
“We will fight with the government until they hear us.” Thabane warned. “Note this very carefully — 2007 was the last election victory for LCD.”
Yet the government sees the failure of the stay-away as a victory.
Metsing has dismissed the opposition’s explanations of why the stay-away failed “as clutching at straws”.
“The opposition stay-away was a colossal failure. Had it been a success people should never have boarded taxis and gone to work.”
Metsing took a swipe at the opposition for disrespecting the public by attempting to disrupt their daily routine.
“Nobody could justify how the stay-away could have made a difference in people’s lives. What could they have gained anyway?”
“This should serve as a valuable lesson for the opposition to never again use the public for their own gains.
“There will be talks between us. However, the outcome will depend on what we agree upon. Talks are a matter of give and take,” Metsing said.
He said there was a common agreement that experts should be called but the difference was how their recommendations will be applied.
Metsing said it would not be easy to have a fruitful election in 2012 “if we have this dark cloud hovering over us.
“If we don’t fix these nagging problems effectively, it would be difficult for us to avoid elections clouded by complications.”