- as PM Thabane promises to consider the LCD’ leader’s demands.
LESOTHO Congress for Democracy (LCD) leader, Mothetjoa Metsing, dropped a bombshell over the weekend, telling LCD supporters in Butha-Buthe that he will not settle for anything less than the post of prime minister in a government of national unity (GNU) with current Prime Minister Thomas Dr Thabane.
Mr Metsing has held talks with Dr Thabane and some of his key demands include the establishment of a government of national unity (GNU), a truth and reconciliation commission (TRC) as well as the release of detained former army commander, Tlali Kamoli.
However, Dr Thabane yesterday told the Lesotho Times that it was not up to him to decide on any of Mr Metsing’s demands. He said although he had “no permanent quarrel of any sort” with Mr Metsing, his All Basotho Convention (ABC) would meet under his chairship to consider any proposals brought forward by Mr Metsing.
Mr Metsing, who served as deputy prime minister under the previous governments of Dr Thabane and Pakalitha Mosisili, addressed a Butha-Buthe rally on Sunday where he said he had already served in lesser portfolios before and could not get into a GNU to “become a minister again”.
Dr Thabane and Mr Metsing met on 11 September 2019. The meeting between the two former arch foes appears to be part of spirited efforts by Dr Thabane to thwart a no confidence motion against him when parliament, currently on indefinite suspension, re-opens next week.
The no confidence motion was moved by a faction of ABC legislators loyal to Dr Thabane’s estranged party deputy, Nqosa Mahao.
The pro-Mahao faction’s motion is supported by the biggest opposition, the Democratic Congress (DC) and other opposition parties. The LCD remains on the fence and Mr Metsing has said his party will only support Dr Thabane’s bid to remain in power if he agrees to its demands for a GNU, a TRC as well as the release of Lieutenant General Kamoli.
If Dr Thabane manages to win Mr Metsing’s support and all 11 LCD MPs vote against the no confidence motion, the prime minister might just survive by a narrow margin of two votes. That is of course assuming that all the MPs backing Dr Thabane and all his coalition partners vote against the motion and all of Mr Metsing’s MPs comply.
LCD spokesman Teboho Sekata recently said that Mr Metsing used the 11 September 2019 talks with Dr Thabane to push for the LCD’s demands for the setting up of a TRC to probe all alleged rights abuses and “heal the nation”, the establishment of a GNU and the release of Lt-Gen Kamoli.
Mr Metsing returned to Lesotho last November, after a brief exile. He had fled the country in August 2017, citing a plot to kill him. The government, nevertheless rejected his claims, insisting that he had fled to avoid prosecution on several corruption allegations.
Mr Metsing was Dr Thabane’s deputy in their ill-fated 2012 – 2015 coalition arrangement which also included the Basotho National Party (BNP). Mr Metsing walked out of the coalition, claiming he was being ignored by Dr Thabane in key decision making.
He then retained his position as deputy prime minister in a new coalition with former premier Pakalitha Mosisili, who won the right to form government, after Dr Thabane was ousted in the February 2015 elections which followed the collapse of his coalition with Mr Metsing.
That fallout had created bitter enmity between Dr Thabane and Mr Metsing and a meeting between them would have been almost unimaginable. However, pressures for their political survival seem to have made it possible for them to meet and discuss a possible deal that will facilitate the LCD’s inclusion in government.
Mr Metsing now insists he cannot be part of a GNU as a junior partner. He wants the top job of prime minister in any GNU that is formed as a result of his renewed dalliance with Dr Thabane.
“I do not want to be part of the GNU unless they (current coalition partners) talk among themselves and agree to appoint me as prime minister,” Mr Metsing told the LCD supporters at the weekend.
“Only then (as prime minister) can I be a part of the GNU. I just can’t be a minister again. I have served in that position and I can’t put up with being told that I’m underperforming,” said Mr Metsing.
Yesterday, Dr Thabane responded to Mr Metsing’s demands for the premiership by telling this publication that the latter was free to stand on any platform and express his wishes to his supporters. He said although he had heard Mr Metsing’s thoughts about many issues including a GNU, TRC and the release of Lt-Gen Kamoli, he did not “make decisions by myself”.
“I think that when anybody stands on a political platform they express their wishes, the way they see things and what they think about themselves. So he (Mr Metsing) is perfectly entitled to his opinions. I do not see anything wrong with him standing on a platform before his followers and saying exactly what he sees as a way forward for himself and his party.
“Metsing and I have no permanent quarrel of any sort. No, no we don’t have a permanent quarrel and when we meet we talk and then I go my way and he goes his way. But he has his thoughts and it will be up to him to push them forward. When he comes and tells me or any of my (ABC) executive people, my party will consider his views. I certainly don’t make decisions for the party, they are made by the executive with me chairing.
“I have heard his thoughts on things but I don’t make decisions by myself. My party will look at his statement and then we will take it on from there.”
Asked if they had agreed on the release of Lt-Gen Kamoli and other detained soldiers, Dr Thabane said a decision could only be made after consultations with my legal advisors and “my Justice Minister (Semano Sekatle)”.
“The Kamoli case is an issue on its own. He’s in prison, isn’t he? And that is because of the course of law and I did not tell the court to take him there. So, when people are in prison and associate their imprisonment with politics, it is up to the people I work with and my legal advisors to say whether or not General Kamoli’s being in prison is political or because of a criminal act. At the moment I am not able to pronounce on that because it (the judicial process) is a field that is totally independent.
“I support a completely independent judiciary. But even people who have committed known crimes can be released from prison earlier than what the judge or magistrate had ruled. And when people want us to look at their cases (for them to be released), it would be a democratic obligation for the government to do that. And of course on these matters I will be advised by my Justice Minister, who is also responsible for the prison service,” Dr Thabane said.
When asked if he was any closer to resolving the infighting in the ABC to enable the party to take a collective decision regarding Mr Metsing’s demands, Dr Thabane said he was “yet to meet with my people” as he had just returned from the recent United Nations General Assembly in New York.
“I have been out of town. I went to New York for the UN General Assembly and I have just come back. I will be getting reports from my people about what is happening and as soon as that is done I will make a statement and then we can take it from there.”
Addressing his Butha-Buthe rally this week, Mr Metsing said it was wrong for anyone to criticise him for holding talks with Dr Thabane as the latter was prime minister. He said for that reason, the LCD considered Dr Thabane the rightful leader of the ABC and urged the Mahao faction to submit to his leadership to ensure peace in the country. His remarks came against the background of declarations by the Mahao faction that Dr Thabane cannot represent the ABC in talks with other political parties because he is currently on “suspension” and does not have the power to transact on behalf of the party.
“Ntate Thabane was voted into power and there is no reason why I should explain myself whenever I have a meeting with him. We are praying that they (Mahao faction) refrain from their ways of hatred because it is taking them nowhere.
“We consider Ntate Thabane as their leader even though they (ABC factions) don’t see eye to eye and it is important for them to make peace with one another. But if they can’t then the other faction should establish its own party to make life easier.”
He also alluded to his fallout with DC leader, Mathibeli Mokhothu, saying in as much as the latter was the official leader of opposition in parliament, he (Mr Metsing) deserved respect as the leader of his own party.
The two opposition leaders have disagreed on critical issues including the no confidence motion which the DC unconditionally supports.
“We don’t owe any party any explanation and it should be clear that even if Ntate Mokhothu is the official leader of opposition that does not make him a leader of other opposition leaders. I would really appreciate it if I am respected because I lead my own party and I stand guided by my party’s constitution and not by other opposition parties,” Mr Metsing said.
He repeated his call for the establishment of a TRC and the release of Lt-Gen Kamoli.
“We are not apologetic for remaining true to the fact that we want a TRC and the release of Kamoli. He (Lt-Gen Kamoli) protected the government unlike some people who tried to topple it and are today being glorified as heroes. I am always told that I’m vouching for his release because we killed people with him. Only the courts of law can find him guilty after trying him and until then he remains innocent. It is wrong in a democracy to see that Kamoli has been denied bail for the past two years and remains in detention.
“We should all refrain from petty politics. Even if I was to be prosecuted, I am ready but I believe that there are other people out there who have been wronged and need a TRC to heal.
“People are very angry out there because they feel we have wronged them as politicians and I only think it’s only right that they be given an opportunity to find closure (through a TRC) and heal,” Mr Metsing said.