I cannot lead an unprincipled party: Thabane
Ruling All Basotho Convention (ABC) leader Thomas Thabane (Mr Thabane) has largely been consigned to the margins ever since his own party’s national executive committee (NEC) forced him to step down as premier in May this year.
Over the weekend, Mr Thabane, who is also the party’s Abia legislator, addressed his ABC members and gave the party three weeks to decide if it still wanted him to remain in charge.
Yesterday, the Lesotho Times (LT) senior reporter Pascalinah Kabi caught up with Mr Thabane for an elaboration of his weekend remarks. He also spoke about his future plans. Excerpts;
LT: What influenced you to give your party an ultimatum to decide whether they still want you as the leader or not?
Mr Thabane: There has been some naughty behaviour (in the party) which any adult could not tolerate. I decided to talk to them (other party officials) as my children because none of them is my age. They are your age-mates and some are age mates of some of my children.
So, I was disciplining them as their elder, indicating that if they have reached a position where they cannot be controlled by an adult, they should be clear and communicate their position to me so I can part ways with them. They have been doing as they please. It was just a matter of an adult having a tough talk with his children. I was not talking to people whom I regard as my equals but people who are younger than me.
LT: Ntate Thabane you formed the ABC at a time it was not very easy to branch out of the congress movement and make an impact. You did so and succeeded nonetheless. You changed the status quo in local politics. Looking back, are you happy with the current state of affairs in the party you formed….?
Mr Thabane: Not at all. It is regrettable. There is a Sesotho adage which says leloko ha lea baneng lea senyeha — loosely translated to mean families perish as values are passed onto young generation. This adage was used to admonish parents to be strong willed and instill good teachings in their children. I have instilled discipline where I had to. Where I needed to advise, I advised.
It is now up to the people that have taken over the baton. I told them to continue with this legacy. I even cut my term by more than 20 months. I made a decision to cut my tenure short as premier because I wanted to rest so that young people can take over.
I told them to caucus and decide on a name amongst themselves to succeed me but they went and did their own thing.
I am shocked at what they did. Are they punishing me for giving them a chance to run with the baton? Each and every one of them wants the position for themselves and there are squabbles over that position.
I maintain that they should give me a name (of successor), allow us all to discuss the name or names that they forward to me so that when I bless a name, they do not accuse me of forcing their hand and doing as I please without their input.
I was giving them that rare opportunity because of the training I got from those who trained me into the democratic system. These are the British and senior officials that I worked under. I worked under different prime ministers from the first Mosotho Prime Minister, Chief Leabua Jonathan.
Chief Leabua had a nickname for me, he called me le Congress la hae (my congress person). He would tell people to leave me alone because I was le Congress la hae. He was overprotective of me. I worked under his administration and never in a day would I leak confidential government business to the congress movement.
However, if the present generation of people cannot cope with such subtle issues, it makes our contributions gained over the years to ensure that Lesotho is today independent useless.
LT: Will you stay on as ABC leader and lead the party into the 2022 elections or are you planning to retire as party leader?
Mr Thabane: I am working on remaining in charge but only if the party is principled. I cannot lead an ABC that is unprincipled. I will go away and leave it. I will leave anything that is unprincipled. Only by being principled can we get the international community to respect us and see us as a good partner and invest in our country.
Nobody is investing here, only the Chinese are investing in the factories. Nobody is investing here because they are not sure of what is happening. We are changing governments day and night and an investor cannot take their M50 million into Lesotho, only to be met with someone a few days later saying “I do not know you, this is a new government”.
LT: What are your views of the current situation in the country?
Mr Thabane: We are selling water to South Africa. But are you aware that the price of that water has not increased in a very long time? Which product in the world has maintained the same price over a 20-year period, more so when it is a rare and sought-after commodity and when the buyer has the money to pay more?
We are actually subsiding South African economy with our water. Some of us lost our houses, our houses were burnt to ashes while we were trying to assist the African National Congress (ANC) and Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) in the liberation struggle.
How then are we going to make ends meet? Even today we are still dependent on food donations from America.
There is nothing wrong with the Americans giving us excess food, they do that all the time to the many people in the world but should this be our way of life to always depend on donations?
We are the cause of our own problems. Even now as I sit in my house, looking out into the Ha-Bosofo, Makhoathi and Lenono plateaus, I see no vegetation there. I am confronted by a desert because we have not planted anything there. All I am saying is that let us do everything in our power to deliver as we would have promised and if we fail to do that, we must leave office and let those who can take over.