ALL Basotho Convention (ABC) leader, Nkaku Kabi, says after his party’s humiliating performance in the 7 October 2022 elections, he had to hibernate and gather new strength. He claims that he is now ready to venture into the world and push his party to reclaim its position in the country’s political space.
Mr Kabi this week told the Lesotho Times his party’s three-day annual general conference slated for this weekend would be a platform for members to confront their defeat and advise the party’s leadership on the way forward.
Mr Kabi also berated Prime Minister Sam Matekane’s three-party coalition for failing to create jobs and instead, resorting to firing people from the government “to create space for their supporters who danced at their political rallies”.
Below are excerpts from the interview with Special Projects Editor; Bongiwe Zihlangu:
LT: It has been almost four months since the ABC performed dismally at the 7 October 2022 general elections. What are you doing to heal the party and convince Basotho that your party will become relevant again?
Kabi: We went to elections and Basotho made their choice. When a storm comes, the aftermath is destruction. After a storm, we take time to rejuvenate and gather new strength. Storms come and go. They are not permanent. We have reached out to ABC members to give them comfort and assure them that we will survive this setback. Talking to them gives them new hope and the strength to rise and rebuild their party. We have already toured South Africa, where we have been meeting workers’ associations. We were at Carletonville this past weekend. On February 10 we will be heading for the North West where we intend to hold a rally for workers’ associations. We are moving forward and currently in the process of drawing a roadmap which will dictate the direction our party should take. We must revive our constituencies and start selling ABC ideas and conveying our message to Basotho.
LT: Your party is headed for its annual general conference in Leribe from tomorrow until Sunday. What are your expectations from that indaba?
Kabi: We are going for our first annual general conference after the October 2022 elections. This will give us an opportunity to go on a journey of self-introspection as a party. We will discuss in depth where we might have gone wrong to have performed so dismally. Members of the ABC will also be given a platform to express themselves and give the national executive committee advice on what they think should be done going forward.
LT: You are now part of the opposition, whose primary mandate is to keep an eye on the performance of the government of the day. Having served as a minister in different portfolios, what would you say about Mr Sam Matekane’s government performance thus far?
Kabi: We are keeping a close eye on the new government. They had promised that they would give a progress report of their first 100 days in office. They are at 90 days now, meaning that they must report back to the nation in early February. However, it seems they have not achieved much of what they had promised to do for Basotho within that timeframe. Reforms are a good example. They have not done much thus far. The rate at which Basotho voted for RFP (Revolution for Prosperity) got them so excited that they began to make promises that have proven to be difficult to deliver on, especially for political amateurs without experience like them. One would assume that it would only be natural for Mr Matekane’s coalition partners; Selibe Mochoboroane (Movement for Economic Change leader) and Monyane Moleleki (Alliance for Democrats leader) to advise and guide the new government. But they (RFP) could not be bothered about engaging them on critical issues. They could be a nasty fall-out if they don’t deliver. They might have achieved some of the smaller things they had promised, but I doubt that they will have achieved everything at the end of their 100 days in office, when they have not yet lifted a finger on reforms. I am afraid they have a lot of sweet talk, but we don’t want to rush them lest they blame us for their failures.
It is a cause for concern that they are expelling people from government whose contracts are yet to expire. That creates an impression that the new government doesn’t have a plan to generate jobs as they promised. They are making space for their members who supported them during election campaigns. They are no different from the ones that came before them if they appoint people solely on the basis on political affiliation.
LT: What do you have to say regarding promises that the RFP and its partners made to factory workers, that are yet to be met? At this week’s press briefing by workers’ unions, unionists berated Trade, Industry and Business Development and Tourism Minister, Mokhethi Shelile, for making reckless statements such as that the M2500 minimum wage earned by Lesotho’s factory workers is still enough. The RFP leader had promised them that he would push to make sure that they earn M4000 per month should he become prime minister?
Kabi: Ntate Thabane (the former prime minister) built factory shells in Butha-Buthe, with the view that Basotho would group themselves and use these facilities to create jobs. But those shells are not being utilised to date because this government says it awaits investors to come to Lesotho and create jobs. They are now reneging on the M4000 salary promise for factory workers arguing that it is too much of a demand and it will chase away investors. If they can carry on like this, I see a revolution looming. The same people who voted them to power are the very people who will unseat them.
I suspect that factory workers gave RFP their votes because it pulled wool over their eyes and made them promises it never intended to keep. But people are returning to ABC in droves, scores of them are rueful. There are indications on the ground that while Basotho voted for RFP in their numbers, they feel like they were misled and are now flocking back to their old parties. Don’t forget also that former Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro’s ABC-led government negotiated a 16 percent salary increase for factory workers although nobody paid much attention to it. That 16 percent was in addition to the increment negotiated by former premier Thabane’s 2012-15 coalition government.
LT: You are passionate about agriculture and also served as Minister of Agriculture and Food Security. How would you say Mr Matekane’s government is faring in that department thus far?
Kabi: They have dismally failed. My wish is for them to return to the drawing board while there is still time. When the RFP was campaigning for elections, Mr Matekane promised that food production would top his agenda. He said that the fields of this country would be adorned by greenery as his government would embark into large-scale summer cropping. But that has not been the case. I recall how his supporters would post photos on different social media platforms, of state-of-the-art tractors and other agriculture machinery. We praised them because we believed that they were going to relieve Lesotho of the burden of hunger. It turns out it was their way of wooing people, a make-believe that the change Basotho yearned for was imminent. The PM’s excuse has been that government did not do enough this season because of time constraints. He further promised that the government would do wonders for the winter season. If the plan was to go big with the winter cropping, there should have been noise already out there, with the ministry of agriculture’s extension officers already going to villages to consult with farmers. But none of that is happening. Almost every year we allocate M100 million for agriculture. If we don’t increase that money to at least M350 million or M400 million, we will give only a handful of farmers fertiliser and seeds. Not only should inputs arrive on time, it is also imperative that every Mosotho has access to such. What was bought for the summer cropping season does not even cover 15 percent of the population. We have not reached that stage where we will hear government saying, ‘we are revolutionising agriculture’. I will only have hope and believe that the game has begun when the new government dedicates more funds towards food and agriculture. We are not wishing them bad, not in the least. But if they don’t get their business in order, we will not allow them to get away with it.
LT: What do you make of statutory appointments by Mr Matekane’s government? This is being done despite the fact that it was agreed when Lesotho embarked on the journey of reforms, that such appointments should be made only after the process had been completed. For instance, the DCEO has a new director who will be in office from February 1. On the other hand, there seems to be a purge of principal secretaries. What is your opinion on these developments?
Kabi: My fellow opposition peers had actually proposed that we instigate a lawsuit against government to challenge those appointments, but I cautioned them against getting excited. It is because I want Basotho to see things for themselves. When we were doing it, we were crucified yes, but I still maintain that Basotho should be left to make their own judgment. We also don’t want to be seen to be destabilising this government. We don’t want to rush. Lately we are told to sit down and drink some water whenever we complain about government’s mistakes and the like. I know we can win against them, especially if it is clear that the reforms have a bearing on new appointments to statutory positions. They had said that within three months reforms would be passed but to this day, there are no indications there are plans in place to deal with the reforms. We have reached out to about 32 MPs of the ruling party and taking into consideration the infighting in the RFP, I suspect that the reforms will be under the control of the opposition…..