- says ruling party has lost its luster
- and the country is sinking
Professor Nqosa Mahao, the vice chancellor of the National University of Lesotho (NUL), has finally confirmed that he will contest for the post of deputy leader of the ruling All Basotho Convention at the party’s elective conference in February next year.
If Professor Mahao succeeds in his bid, he will stand in good stead to eventually succeed Prime Minister Thomas Thabane when the latter eventually bows out as both leader of his party and country.
Dr Thabane’s position is not up for contest at the February conference. But with the Prime Minister nearing 80, whoever wins the deputy leader’s race is seen becoming his obvious successor.
Professor Mahao finally confirmed his candidature in Koro-Koro at the weekend saying he had agreed to stand after years of relentless pressure, from some ABC members, which had left him “without a place to hide anymore”.
He nonetheless faces a tough battle for the post amid indications that Finance Minister Moeketsi Majoro and the incumbent, Public Works and Transport Minister Prince Maliehe, will also throw their names in the hat. Messrs Majoro and Mr Maliehe have however not confirmed whether or not they are in the running.
Mr Majoro is still to respond to email questions from this publication on the issue though officials in the party confirm he will contest.
Mr Maliehe refused to pronounce on whether or not he would be competing for the position he currently holds, albeit in an acting capacity, though he hinted he would if nominated.
“I am not sure if I have been nominated. The secretary general would be in a good position to know if I have been nominated or not but as things stand, I am not sure if I have been nominated,” Mr Maliehe said.
ABC Secretary General Samonyane Ntsekele remained tight-lipped about the names of the candidates, saying that nominations had been submitted to the party and prospective candidates were still being vetted for eligibility.
However, ABC sources said Dr Majoro and Mr Maliehe were in the running for the post which is seen as the inevitable stepping stone to succeeding Dr Thabane when he eventually bows out.
All top party posts except that of the leader are up for grabs at the February elective conference.
While the others have been reluctant to speak on the issue, Professor Mahao finally declared his intentions to run- at a public event -and in yesterday’s exclusive interview with the Lesotho Times at the National University of Lesotho (NUL) in Roma.
Addressing Koro-Koro constituency members this week, Professor Mahao said he had no choice but to throw his hat into the ring and contest the elections because “today you have exposed me and there is no place for me to hide anymore”.
“At first I did not want to give in because I was still busy with my work at the university but you kept coming until I gave in to your demands,” he added.
And in yesterday’s interview with the Lesotho Times, Professor Mahao said he was ready to venture into politics because “when I look back in the four years I have been in the (NUL) office, I am satisfied that the university has turned around its fortunes”.
“The negative perceptions that the public had about the university when I came in have all gone away and so I think I have discharged my historic duty to the university and to the nation because this is a national asset.
“But now here is the problem. As we are doing all of that, the country itself is sinking. So, it is like racing in a high-powered boat in a turbulent sea and unless the storms are calmed in the sea the boat will sink. When people coming from all walks of life and some members of the party kept approaching me to say ‘you have the leadership capabilities, would you come forward and avail yourself for the (ABC) position’, initially I was reluctant because I was not yet satisfied that this institution has been turned around.
“But early this year, we had a retreat to review the progress we made since adopting the strategic plan for the university. We came out highly satisfied that so much progress has been made and then this says to me, focus on the other main issue in our ecosystem – the political and economic situation in the country. It is for that reason that I buckled up and accepted the invitation to be nominated for the (ABC) position.”
He said if elected one of his tasks would be to work on reinvigorating the ABC which had lost its lustre after just 18 months in power. He did not hold back in his criticism of the ABC, saying the national executive committee (NEC) needed to reconnect with the electorate that had voted the party into power. “Initially it looked like there was a positive movement but in less than a year a degree of disillusionment and disgruntlement in the nation is palpable. And therefore, what that says is there is every imperative to inject a new sense of hope. We have to go back and rediscover why the people voted for us.
“The gap between those who are in power and the sentiments of the people on the ground has to be breached. Where does the problem lie? A political organisation is as good as its national executive. When you see an organisation that is as rudderless as this university was a few years ago, it says something about the leadership and it is my sense that colleagues in the leadership of the ABC lost their focus on why they were elected into leadership.
“So, if you want to deal with the issue of how to reconnect the party with the electorate and how to ensure that the party supervises what happens in government, the main source of the ABC troubles is the NEC of the ABC. That is where you have to redress the problem and that is where I believe the first correction has to be made.
“It is very interesting when you tune into radio that the most critical people about the government are members of the ABC. “But you must have institutions within the party that are able to respond to those concerns. It does not look like with the present NEC we have that capacity.
“Whether it is the economic situation, the lack of service delivery or the failure to respond to human rights issues, all these are creating a lot of disenchantment against the party. So, one hopes that come February we would have a re-energised NEC that will go back to the basics and be able to impose its authority on how government works. If we do not that, I dare say we must bid farewell to winning the elections if we will get to 2022.”
He also said the party appeared to lack a robust international relations strategy and did not have good relations with other organisations beyond Lesotho’s borders. He said the ABC has been outmaneuvered by the much smaller Mothetjoa Metsing-led Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) on the diplomatic front.
“Does the ABC have international relations with other organisations beyond Lesotho? It does not look like the ABC does and you know why a small little party such as the LCD always outmaneuvers us? It is because the LCD has friends elsewhere and those are the buttons it presses to put pressure on the government. You would have seen this obnoxious clause 10 (of the government-opposition agreement on the formerly exiled leaders) which came with backing from elsewhere because that (LCD) party is able to press the buttons elsewhere.”
On 26 October this year, SADC brokered a deal between the government and the opposition which enabled Mr Metsing and other then exiled opposition leaders to participate in the ongoing reforms process.
Clause 10 of that Memorandum of Agreement states that “Mr Metsing and similarly placed persons in exile will not be subjected to any pending criminal proceedings during the national dialogue and reforms process”.
Others who returned home from exile are Mr Metsing’s deputy in the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD), Tšeliso Mokhosi and the leader of Socialist Revolutionaries (SR), Teboho Mojapela.
However, the Constitutional Court later outlawed clause 10 saying it “is unconstitutional in as far as it undermines and is inconsistent with section 99(3) of the constitution” which empowers the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to decide whether or not to prosecute criminal cases.”
This was after a court challenge by the Mahao and other families who lost their relatives during the instability that characterised the tenure of the previous government of Pakalitha Mosisili.
See Full interview on Page 10.