BNP ready for poll: ‘Maseribane

 

Bongiwe Zihlangu

The Basotho National Party (BNP), a junior partner in Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s coalition government, says it has made enough inroads to “shine at the 2015 poll”.

BNP leader and Sports Minister Chief Thesele ‘Maseribane, whose party formed the coalition government with Thabane’s All Basotho Convention (ABC) and Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) Mothetjoa Metsing’s Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) in June 2012 , says despite the BNP being perceived as a the junior partner in the coalition government “we have made our mark”.

Chief ‘Maseribane also speaks candidly about why the coalition government collapsed, heaping most of the blame on DPM Metsing “because he slept with the enemy”, but also asserting that coalition governments need to be embraced because they are for the good of all and “not just one political party”.

By the enemy, Chief ‘Maseribane is referring to the LCD’s decision to abandon the coalition government in favour of entering into a new coalition administration with former Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s main opposition Democratic Congress (DC).

The BNP leader adds for Lesotho to progress economically and mature politically, floor-crossing in the National Assembly should be regulated because “without some management, people just cross the floor with other parties’ mandates”.

Chief ‘Maseribane  also insists Lesotho needs to have a clear national agenda on issues such as education, security, health and water as “a vast resource”.

In addition, the sports minister tells the Lesotho Times (LT) that although many people have, to this day, believed that Dr Thabane prorogued parliament for nine months on 10 June 2014 because he was avoiding a no-confidence vote in his government, “there are much deeper reasons than just running away from a no-confidence vote”.

Below are excerpts from the interview:

LT: In four months’ time, Lesotho is holding a fresh poll following the collapse of the coalition government. Is the BNP ready for this election?

‘Maseribane: Yes, we are ready to go for elections. Preparing for elections is an everyday job where you ensure that the executive committee mobilises the party’s committees at village, regional and constituency level. To say you are ready for elections, you have to perform well where you work, so that your political party is satisfied. That is why I am saying the BNP is ready for the elections.

LT:  Are there indications on the ground that the BNP is indeed ready for this coming election?

‘Maseribane: I am saying the BNP is ready because it supports progressive politics that can usher this country into a new era. Basotho should be given the liberty to vote whichever way they want and give a government of their choice, the mandate to be in office for the next five years.

What I am saying to you is I am ready to go and campaign and the BNP is more than ready to contest in this coming election.

LT: You are from the Mt Moorosi constituency currently represented in the National Assembly by the main opposition Democratic Congress (DC) MP Kose Makoa. Would you say you are in a position to give Makoa a run for his money?

‘Maseribane: The BNP has been in government for two years and in that time, I can’t say I know if you’ve noticed that we’ve built roads leading into villages in that constituency, there’s electricity which was but a dream, not so long ago. All these the reigning MP failed to do in all the years that his party was in government.

Very soon, I will be opening a vocational school, agriculture has been developed at a much higher level and plans are also in the pipeline to open a mine in the area. Stock-theft in Quthing has also gone down and a bridge between Seaka and Phamong leading to Mt Moorosi has been built.

I had to lobby government support to develop Quthing as it had been abandoned for so long by previous governments. Being the only cabinet minister from Quthing, one would say these are remarkable improvements.

People vote for candidates for various reasons, but I can say I’ve tried my level best.

LT: There are concerns from political analysts that because the ABC is being seen a lot lately in the company of the ABC, which is a much bigger party, sharing platforms frequently increases chances of the BNP being cannibalised by the ABC. What’s your take on this analysis?

‘Maseribane: I’ve a got a programme, that I’m going for elections as BNP. For now we’re being seen together in public as government. You know why? It’s because you can never see the BNP which is in government, with the opposition, like the LCD is doing. It does not happen because it’s a cardinal sin.

There’s got to be a line of demarcation. How do you expect us to engage the DC about cabinet matters? You, as LCD decided to leave me and Ntate Thabane, yet we know of your existence as our partner. It shouldn’t be perceived that the two of us seen together is a sign that we’re sidelining you. There was a time when we were seen together, the three of us.

But, you left us with a problem and you’re going up and down, while we remain steadfast to our commitment. I avail myself for meetings with the PM at State House, but Metsing never does. But I have to be where the PM is.

LT: There is talk that the ABC and BNP have established a working relationship with a faction of the LCD called Bolekana, despite it not being endorsed by the LCD executive. How true is this?

‘Maseribane: We need to be seen with the LCD when we go around performing our government duties, but the LCD is never there. So if the LCD’s Bolekana is willing, yes we’ll appear together with them in public because they are part of the LCD.

LT: What would you say led to the collapse of Lesotho’s first coalition government?

‘Maseribane: With our coalition agreement from the beginning, there were indications that it needed serious reviewing, as there were a lot of loopholes which some people used to fight internal political battles, without taking much interest in learning more about coalition formations. Issues like learning how to be strategic about the running of coalitions, the controlling of political parties and making them understand the operations of coalition governments.

LT: Any lessons learnt from being part of the first coalition government in Lesotho?

‘Maseribane: I’ve learnt that coalition governments are what Lesotho needs going forward. Even after these years in office, post the coming election we’re going to have yet another coalition government because there won’t be an outright winner at the polls.

We’re going back to where the ABC and BNP will have to negotiate with the LCD and the DC also. There’s going to be a time when we will have to sit down and look at the numbers.

And, for the sake of taking the country forward, which is peace in itself, we’re going to have to give each other the opportunity to run government for five years. Coalition governments are ideal because ideas from many and not just one political party, are used to take the country to the next level

LT: What should the coalition government have done differently?

‘Maseribane: We should have engaged other political parties. In other countries, coalitions bring peace and stability instead of conflict because they are proportional; everybody has a stake and a platform to speak, whether big or small.

It would also have been of utmost importance to look into including these other parties in government so that after the allocation of the national budget, for example, they also have a say in how money is used.

LT: Tell us in earnest why the PM prorogued parliament.

‘Maseribane: There’s this school of thought, which has been turned into the truth, that the PM prorogued parliament because he wanted to avoid a no-confidence vote. But as someone who shares secrets with him, let me tell you the truth.

Parliament was prorogued because we wanted to manage floor-crossing without a mandate. The policy of managing floor-crossing, as per the Rajen Prasad recommendations, should be implemented by way of reforming the National Assembly standing orders on floor-crossing.

Why do you think it does not happen in South Africa? They scrapped it because they understand that for the economy to grow, people should not be focused on crossing the floor week in and week out. It’s time our people matured politically.

Granted, it’s every MP’s right to cross the floor. But there should be an element of management, that whoever wants to cross the floor, should first resign then go to his constituency to seek a new mandate.

I am one of the people who proposed that Lesotho should go for a fresh poll for MPs to seek a new mandate. I’m supporting a policy that the days of forming governments in parliament are long gone.

So, if the BNP stands for principles like this, then I say we’re ready for elections.

LT: But floor-crossing resulting in the formation of new governments has been done before in Lesotho. Why not now?

‘Maseribane: Indeed it has happened on many occasions. In 2007, Ntsu Mokhehle defected from the BCP to form the LCD and immediately assumed government, hence the state the BCP is in today.

Thabane was part and parcel of Mokhehle’s decision to kill the BCP.

Then in 2006, Thabane also broke away from the LCD to from the ABC and he knew that he was cheating democracy in the process. He knew because he planned it. Then via another floor-crossing incident, the DC was formed by Mosisili, resulting in a minority government that led us to the 2012 elections.

In this case, the DC wanted to do the same to form a new government and we would have none of it

TM: Finally, you are part of the security and must be privy with how far government is, in resolving the security situation in Lesotho, particularly the removal of LDF Commander Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli from office, to be replaced by Brigadier Maaparankoe Mahao. Could you please brief the nation on progress made so far?

‘Maseribane:  This is not about Mahao replacing Kamoli. From the first day the PM entered office, he was asked to remove Kamoli but firmly refused, saying whoever had a problem with the man, must give him a chance to change.

The PM was warned that the military, under Kamoli’s command, had been involved in some atrocities and human rights violations, and that he should go. But the PM was adamant that people would change if the environment was made conducive for them. This, despite advice given, that Kamoli was not the right man to advance Thabane’s government’s policies.

TM: You talk of atrocities and human rights violations. Please could you elaborate.

‘Maseribane: The PM, at the time, had a report on Kamoli’s command, compiled by the CIA on acts of crime and human rights violations, but he was insistent that the man would change, given the chance.

I remember reading the report myself and being shocked beyond words, on learning that he had refused to handover some of his military men, to the police on suspicion of criminal acts and human rights violations.

(During a press conference in May, the LDF Commander denied the allegations, suggestions that he was reluctant to handover his men for fear that they would just be tortured as there was no evidence against them. He added that some of the cases, like the incident where soldiers allegedly killed people in the Mafeteng district, had been dealt with by the police.)

LT: Despite the PM’s attempt to remove him from office, Lt General Kamoli still runs the show. What should we expect, as the public, going forward?

‘Maseribane: If it’s said that the government has taken a decision, we should abide by that. The King has urged us to respect the laws of our country. Some of the laws dictate that senior officials should be appointed solely by the PM and be removed by him. Whether or not he’s short, and whether he does or doesn’t have the majority, his decisions should be respected.

The manner in which Kamoli ascended the ranks, going on top of many of his seniors, should not be forgotten that easily.

Instead of resisting expulsion, Kamoli should have just taken his package and left. Now he has made things tough for himself and damaged his credibility as he cannot be redeployed anywhere. He should have challenged the decision to fire him in the courts of law.

But he resisted and the commands he issued resulted in the death of policeman during the raid of police stations at the end of August this year; this means his sins are piling up.

We told him to go a long time ago. Even the support he enjoys from the Deputy Prime Minister will soon be all over. Kamoli has to go and Kamoli will go.

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