Majoro govt has feet of clay: analysts

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Staff Reporter

ALLIES of All Basotho Convention (ABC) leader Thomas Thabane have declared war on Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro, saying they will “expose” his own “dirty secrets” if the new premier does not give in to their demands to have the murder charges against Mr Thabane dropped.

But analysts say this sort of blackmail should not even move Dr Majoro, unless of course he really has any skeletons in his cupboard.

His real concern- the analysts say- should be that the pronouncements and actions of the Thabane loyalists demonstrate that the factionalism and infighting in the ruling ABC are far from over.

The premier should be gravely concerned that even though he is no longer premier after being ousted by his own ABC party, Mr Thabane appears to retain strong support from a seemingly powerful clique of ABC supporters.

As if that is not enough, there is yet another powerful faction which does not owe allegiance to the premier but to the party’s national executive committee led by the ABC’s deputy leader Professor Nqosa Mahao.

In the two months that Dr Majoro has been in power, some of the Thabane loyalists have either ditched the party for the opposition AD while others have been voting with the opposition in parliament and holding not-so-secret meetings with AD officials.

What this means- according to the analysts- is that like previous governments before it, the Majoro regime has feet of clay. Given that he doesn’t even control his own ABC, Dr Majoro therefore has a real battle on his hands to ensure his government lasts its two-year term.

Even if it does, the analysts fear that he would be a lame duck who would be forced to defer to the competing ABC factions at every turn. Under such circumstances, it would be difficult for him to implement programmes aimed at stabilising the country and laying the foundation for socio-economic development.

The Majoro government has only been in place since May 2020 after Mr Thabane was forced out of power by his own party which considers him a liability due to his advanced age and allegations that he murdered his ex-wife, Lipolelo, on 14 June 2017.

Dr Majoro appeared to have overwhelming support when all ABC legislators including Mr Thabane himself eventually agreed to the termination of the previous government and endorsed him to become the new premier on 11 May 2020.

The ABC was able to forge a coalition with the country’s biggest opposition Democratic Congress (DC) and when several other small parties joined in, it appeared that Lesotho finally had a stable government for the first time in almost a decade.

But no sooner had the cabinet appointments been announced than the ugly head of ABC factionalism began to rear its head again.

Mr Thabane’s bitter loyalists did not waste time in telling Dr Majoro and the party that their allegiance lay with Mr Thabane still. They said their support could only be guaranteed if Dr Majoro used (or rather abused) his position to order the murder charges against Mr Thabane dropped.

Some like legislators like Mokherane Tsatsanyane (Stadium Area constituency) and Sello Mooki (Bobatsi) even defected to the opposition Alliance of Democrats (AD) in protest over their failure to land cabinet posts in the Majoro administration and what they said was the persecution of Mr Thabane by his successor.

Other Thabane loyalists who remained in the party caused headaches for Dr Majoro by voting with the opposition in parliament on issues like the election of the deputy speaker of parliament. Others like former ministers Chalane Phori (Small Business, Cooperatives and Marketing), Samonyane Ntsekele (Water), Tšehlo Ramarou (Public Works) and Mahala Molapo (Local Government and Chieftainship) began holding not-so-secret meetings with senior AD officials.

The AD was the second biggest party in Mr Thabane’s four party regime which lasted from June 2017 until 19 May 2020 when the former premier was forced to step down by his own party.

One such meeting was held at Mr Thabane’s Hillsview residence by the former premier’s allies and the AD officials a week ago to plot their response to the Lipolelo murder case.

A day later, Mr Phori, a self-confessed Thabane loyalist, told the Lesotho Times that they want Dr Majoro to instruct the police and the crown to drop the charges against Mr Thabane.

He said ABC MPs loyal to Mr Thabane met last Sunday to come up with a strategy to support Mr Thabane.

Asked what strategy they had agreed, Mr Phori said, “allow me not to say anything now. This is a political war”.

That same evening, he followed up his remarks with a video recording where he said Mr Thabane loyalists’ strategy is to go for broke and fight dirty by exposing what they say are Dr Majoro’s dirty secrets.

Mr Phori said Dr Majoro’s closet was ‘full of skeletons’ that the premier would not want the world to know about. To ensure that those skeletons remain hidden, Mr Phori said Dr Majoro would have to ensure that the charges against Mr Thabane are dropped.

But according to a lawyer who asked for anonymity, Dr Majoro should not fear such threats and never give in to blackmail.

“No one is above the law and Dr Majoro should not give in to demands to subvert the rule of law. Giving in would not only reduce Lesotho to a banana republic and Orwellian state where some animals are seen to be more equal than others.

“It would also damage Dr Majoro’s own reputation and that of the ABC in the eyes of the electorate and international community,” said the analyst.

He said instead of losing sleep over the threats by Phori and others, Dr Majoro’s real concern should be that despite his seemingly overwhelming endorsement by ABC MPs, factionalism in the party is very much alive.

“In fact, the ABC divisions are widening and Dr Majoro has no control over the two powerful factions that are loyal to Mr Thabane and Prof Mahao. It does not bode well for a prime minister not to have control of his own party.

“This reduces him to a lame duck who cannot implement critical decisions to stabilise the country and lay the groundwork for socio-economic development. It will be difficult for his government to last the distance unless he panders to the whims of the ABC factions. Under such circumstances, he will likely focus on ensuring that he doesn’t antagonise the factions instead of service delivery.”

Political scientist and former National University of Lesotho (NUL) lecturer Kopano Makoa concurred saying the remarks by Mr Phori were nothing but “blackmail’ aimed at arm-twisting Dr Majoro to giving in to “impossible demands”.

He said in a democratic dispensation that observed the rule of law and separation of powers, the executive should never interfere with the work of the judiciary.

Prof Makoa said Mr Phori’s threats reveal that when the ABC ousted Mr Thabane as prime minister, it however, did not resolve the deep divisions among its members.

He said the fact that Mr Thabane remained ABC leader and retained his own faction was evidence that he was still a powerful, albeit divisive force within the party.

This not only threatens to destabilise the party. More worryingly for Dr Majoro, it may affect his ability to deliver on his mandate as prime minister, Prof Makoa said.

“Although the ABC parliamentarians appeared to bury the hatchet and united to vote against Mr Thabane’s government, the various factions have remained to this day.

“Dr Majoro’s position as prime minister is on shaky ground. But he can survive if he remains steadfast as leader of the coalition government and allows the rule of law to take its course in line with the constitution,” Prof Makoa said.

NUL political science lecturer Mohlomi Mahlelebe described Mr Phori and other Thabane loyalists’ demands for the murder charges to be dropped as “political grandstanding”.  He said Dr Majoro should not be pressured into violating the constitution by interfering with the work of the judiciary. Like Prof Makoa, he said the Thabane loyalists worryingly painted a picture of a dysfunctional ABC riven by internal divisions which could affect Dr Majoro’s ability to deliver on his mandate to stabilise the country.

Dr Mahlelebe said apart from the threats by Mr Phori, the defections of Messrs Tsatsanyane and Mooki to the AD, showed that there were deep-seated divisions within the ABC which did not augur well for Dr Majoro’s government.

“Although the factions within the ABC appeared to unite to bring down Mr Thabane’s government, some ABC members were against the move, hence the defections to the AD which later occurred,” he said.

Prominent scholars, Khabele Matlosa and Victor Shale, concurred saying getting rid of Mr Thabane does not appear to have solved the divisions in the ABC.  They said Dr Majoro got a rude awakening when Messrs Tsatsanyane and Mooki defected to the AD shortly after his ascension to power.

They said the subsequent decisions by 24 ABC MPs to vote with the opposition on crucial issues such as the election of a deputy speaker of parliament pointed to the “fragility” of the new government and that of Dr Majoro himself.

When all has been said and done, the analysts say, Dr Majoro should not lose sleep over the “outrageous and vile” threats aimed at blackmailing him into subverting due process. Those are empty threats and there is probably nothing to them.

What the premier should focus on is proving that he is a good leader by delivering a clear vision and programme of action to improve the lives of Basotho.  The fact that he has not done so in any comprehensive way is a cause for worry.

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