MASERU — The leader of the main opposition All Basotho Convention (ABC) party, Thomas Thabane, on Monday repeated his call to stage mass protests next month to “straighten out this country”.
In an interview with the Lesotho Times a day after he made the protest call, Thabane said the mass job action will go ahead as planned on August 3.
The stay-away could put revamped opposition forces on a collision course with the government of Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili.
Thabane on Sunday told about 2 000 supporters at a rally in Qoaling in Maseru that the stay-away was meant to press the government to resolve the row over the 21 proportional representation (PR) seats.
“Stay-away campaigns are just one of the democratic ways to straighten out this country’s issues,” said Thabane.
Thabane said people had a right to engage in peaceful protest to demand change.
Thabane has over the past fortnight been breathing fire after the government snubbed mediation efforts by Sir Ketumile Masire aimed at resolving a dispute over the 2007 election.
Masire abandoned the dialogue in a huff citing unwillingness by the government of Lesotho to continue with the dialogue.
Thabane said Mosisili was part of a cabal of dictators in Africa bent on holding on to power against the wishes of their people.
He said Mosisili had single-handedly stopped “electoral experts” from coming into the country to help resolve the dispute.
Thabane was at pains to stress that the stay-away would be a peaceful protest against the government.
“We have no intention of disturbing the peace,”
Thabane said. “If there is going to be any violence it would not emanate from our side.”
He however added that “any protest action will have consequences depending on who provokes the other.”
Thabane lashed out at Mosisili’s government accusing it of fostering nepotism and corruption.
He said the government had failed to accord him respect as the official leader of the opposition in parliament.
“They have failed to recognise me as the leader of the opposition in the National Assembly for purely personal reasons,” Thabane said.
Thabane said the opposition does not question that Mosisili is in power legitimately.
“We are not questioning the legitimacy of this government. We are complaining that he has been in power for too long and that he does not deliver,” Thabane said.
Thabane cited the collapse of the country’s health delivery system and the lack of clean drinking water.
He said Mosisili had reneged on agreements signed between the government and international organisations such as the World Bank.
“The agreement with the World Bank was that proceeds generated from the sale of water from the Lesotho Highlands Water Project should be used for developmental purposes but this government is putting the funds in a consolidated fund,” Thabane said.
He said Lesotho was not a poor country as it had diamonds and water but the problem was that the “country was being managed poorly”.
The leader of the Marematlou Freedom Party (MFP), Moeketse Vincent Malebo, has thrown his weight behind the protest action plans.
The MFP took the electoral dispute to the High Court but lost the case last year.
“We are stopping at absolutely nothing to get justice. But if IEC goes to court to undo the damage it has done, then maybe we will be telling a different story.
“A stay-away campaign is necessary if everything else fails,” Malebo said.
Malebo said the IEC had grossly erred when it allocated the PR seats to an alliance led by the LCD.
“It was wrong for the IEC to divide by forty seats instead of 120 as the law says,” Malebo said.
He said had the IEC adhered to the law “the opposition would have had its 20 people while the government was entitled to only one”.
Leader of the Basotho National Party (BNP), Justin Metsing Lekhanya, said they will take part in the stay-away.
“The position of the BNP is that dialogue is the best answer. However when it fails the next option would be to resort to the courts,” he said. “But in our case the courts failed to decide (on the matter.) The next best thing when all else has failed is political action.”