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Matekane dismisses plot to oust him

by Lesotho Times
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… condemns plotters as “day dreamers”

… but opposition leaders vow to eject him from power

Staff Reporters

PRIME Minister Sam Matekane has come out guns blazing, dismissing legislators plotting to oust him as day dreamers.

But opposition leaders have vowed to press ahead with plans to oust him and his coalition, describing Mr Matekane as the most incompetent prime minister ever”.

Mr Matekane scoffed at the alleged plot to unseat him and his government – through a parliamentary no-confidence vote – at a press conference in Maseru yesterday.  He insisted his administration enjoyed a 71-seat majority in the National Assembly. Those planning to eject him from power were therefore just “dreaming”.

But the fact that the premier convened the press conference over the issue – his first ever presser since he became prime minister last year – suggests that he is taking the plot to eject him from power seriously. As he spoke, however, leaders of eight opposition parties represented in parliament also convened their own presser at which they vowed to press ahead with plans to oust the PM and his coalition.

They accused the PM of failing to deliver on his “lofty” promises to the electorate, almost one year after he was elected. Time had thus come to eject him from office, they vowed (see story below)

Mr Matekane meanwhile declared that his three-party coalition, comprising his Revolution for Prosperity (RFP), the Alliance of Democrats (AD) and Movement for Economic Change (MEC) remained strong and would not be deterred from bringing change to the lives of Basotho through threats of a vote-of-no-confidence.

He spoke while flanked by coalition partners Ntoi Rapapa, leader of the AD, and the MEC’s Selibe Mochoboroane, as well as the leadership of smaller parties in parliament that have pledged support for his government.

In his five-minute long speech, Mr Matekane reassured his supporters of his government’s stability and partly blamed the talk of plots to unseat him on some of his party’s MPs frustrated at not getting ministerial positions.

“Talk that there is a plot to overthrow this government is but a dream intended to sow confusion in the minds of Basotho and cause them to lose confidence in our government over unfounded reasons. These people who are instilling fear in Basotho don’t have numbers in parliament. Here we are. We are all here as you can see,” Mr Matekane said, pointing to his coalition partners, some of the MPs present and representatives of the smaller parties supporting his government.

“It has come to our attention that some MPs and their families are being threatened and coerced into supporting the planned motion for a no-confidence vote in this government. We have also discovered that they are being promised ministerial posts.”

While a no-confidence vote was permissible in a democratic dispensation, Mr Matekane said it becomes illegal if people are threatened and coerced into being part of it.

“A no-confidence vote in parliament is legal. But where MPs are being threatened and coerced, and their lives are being endangered for the purposes of forcing them to support the no-confidence motion, that is a direct violation of the law,” Mr Matekane said.

“We want to assure Basotho that this government of theirs is standing firmly and making concerted efforts to bring changes that will improve the quality of their lives. With this alliance (RFP, AD, MEC, Lesotho People’s Congress (LPC), United for Change (UFC), Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) and HOPE) we have 71 seats in parliament.”

Mr Matekane, who showed little emotion during his address, further said his detractors were only driven by selfish interests.

“Politics is not easy, but we are grateful to have experienced people’s support; for them to be in our corner. Our challenges started when we were forming a cabinet. Some people had interests and they started influencing others to rebel against the party when they did not make it (into cabinet). It is unfortunate that our innocent members of parliament were dragged into this whole thing,” Mr Matekane said.

The premier, a prominent and successful businessman before joining politics and winning a landslide at the October 2022 general elections, made a veiled threat against people who had pending cases in the courts or were being investigated before he assumed office. He said they must still face the music and should not expect his government to extricate them out of their troubles. This could have been in reference to one of the rebels in his party, former cabinet minister Mahali Phamotse, who is in court over fraud and corruption allegations arising from her role as a former Minister of Education in the 2015 to 2017 coalition government of ex-premier Pakalitha Mosisili.

“Some people, when we came here, they already had cases in the courts of law; cases that had nothing to do with us. But here we are saying everyone who has cases before the courts will face the music, regardless of their status and positions. As RFP, we are still committed to delivering changes that will improve the lives of the nation,” Mr Matekane said.

He added his stance had the support of his coalition partners and the other four parties supporting his government namely LPC, UFC, LCD and HOPE.

Mr Matekane’s press conference came just two days after Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli issued a public statement accusing some MPs of plotting to unseat the government by using coercive force to recruit others to support the plot. The police chief said the legislators were threatening and coercing some of their colleagues to support their plan.  He vowed such plots would not be allowed under his watch.

“The Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) has noted with concern, acts that are aimed at brewing instability in Lesotho. There are Members of Parliament who have been identified as having threatened and tried to coerce other MPs to be part of the plot to rebel against government,” Compol Molibeli said.

“The acts by this group of MPs are purely in the pursuit of self-serving purposes of securing cabinet posts for themselves. They are not for the benefit of Basotho. This is a sad situation that could culminate in bloodshed as some (MPs) are being strong-armed.

“We have also noted that the masterminds of this plot move around with heavily-armed bodyguards, and that has the potential to render this country unstable and instil fear in those who might express displeasure (sic).

“As such, the police warn the masterminds behind the plot to render Lesotho unstable, to immediately cease with their actions for the avoidance of serious measures being taken against them in order to protect the country’s stability.”

Before Commissioner Molibeli’s statement, the Lesotho Times had secured a WhatsApp voice clip in which RFP legislators Thuso Makhalanyane, Rethabile Letlailana and Lejone Puseletso who represent Abia, Lithoteng and Thaba-Moea constituencies respectively, could be heard in a heated discussion over the plot to oust Mr Matekane.

In the clip, Messrs Makhalanyane and Letlailana were prodding Mr Puseletso to append his signature on a pledge other MP had already allegedly signed, undertaking to support a no-confidence vote against Mr Matekane’s government, once parliament re-opened after its winter break.

But in the clip, Mr Puseletso could be heard telling his colleagues that he was not refusing to sign the pledge but only needed more time to think about it because of the ramifications of such a move.

“My constituency is neighbours with that of the prime minister. A decision like this could have political implications for me,” Mr Puseletso said.

In the same clip, Mr Puseletso could also be heard saying he wanted Dr Mahali Phamotse to be present in that meeting as she had allegedly promised him a cabinet post as if to suggest she was the ringleader of the planned rebellion against Mr Matekane.

Mr Letlailana could again be heard saying Mr Puseletso had already been promised the post of local government deputy-minister, to which the Thaba-Moea legislator retorted: “I don’t want to be a deputy-minister (ha ke batle bo deputy). I want the whole ministry of local government.”

Messrs Makhalanyane and Letlailana as well as Dr Phamotse were suspended from the RFP for six years a fortnight ago, after being accused of failing to protect their party’s interests after they had voted with the opposition in parliament. They trio swiftly approached the High Court for redress and their case continues tomorrow.

The RFP has been in turmoil over the infighting. Its disgruntled MPs have been allegedly plotting with the opposition for Mr Matekane’s ouster.  A new coalition in which Democratic Congress (DC) leader Mathibeli Mokhothu would become prime minister with Dr Phamotse as his deputy would then be forged

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