REVOLUTION for Prosperity (RFP) leader, Sam Matekane, has promised to lure foreign investors for joint mining ventures with Basotho if he wins the upcoming general elections.
Unveiling his party’s manifesto agenda before an estimated 2 000 supporters in Qacha’s Nek this week, the business mogul said contrary to claims by his detractors that he joined politics to protect his interests in mining, his desire was to use his experience to help locals venture into the lucrative sector.
There have been allegations that Mr Matekane ventured into politics partly because he wanted to protect his lucrative mining contract at Letšeng Diamond Mine which expires in 2024. The contract for earth moving at the giant mine is said to be worth tens of millions of maloti every month.
The Democratic Congress, which controls the mining ministry, and its anchor coalition partner, the All Basotho Convention, are said to have been eager to have the contract broken up among several Basotho owned companies to empower more entrepreneurs than having it remain loaded in one person.
Although the government owns a minority 30 percent stake in all major mines, including Letšeng, it has some level of influence over how they are run.
It has been suggested that the desire to preserve this lucrative Letšeng deal was a key driving factor in Mr Matekane deciding to venture into politics, though he would face a huge ethical dilemma and massive conflict of interest issue if he became prime minister and tried to keep the deal for himself. It would mean a prime minister doing direct business with the government he leads. The state by law maintains shareholding in all of the country’s major mines.
In an interview with the Lesotho Times in May this year, Mr Matekane denied that he had gone into politics to protect his business interests.
“It is a fallacy that I have formed the RFP party to protect my business interests. It is not that one is merely after the premiership of Lesotho to protect their interests. That is not the case. We want to make a difference, to steer this ship in a different direction. We have gone past the stage of clamouring for government tenders.
“Businesspeople who are members of RFP are prominent people who have retired and handed over their businesses to their successors or are in the process of handing over to their children. When we assume government power, the last thing on our minds would be advancing our own interests,” he said.
Still, that statement did not fully explain how the businessman would handle the conflict of interest situation that would remain if he became prime minister but ceded control of his companies to his children. They would still be doing business with the government- led by their father – should they maintain contracts like the Letšeng one.
But Mr Matekane maintained at the Qacha’s Nek rally that his aim was to help Basotho venture into mining instead of protecting his own interests.
“If you vote for me, my government will help you to get investors to form joint ventures.
“You have told me that there are some mines here in Qacha’s Nek and I promise to invite investors to join hands with you to create employment for yourselves and others,” he said.
His government, he said, would also support small businesses to boost their production and contribute to the economy.
“We have realised that you all have the potential to be in business and you don’t want to live on hand-outs, hence we are going to give you all the support that you need to succeed,” Mr Matekane said.
Former Lesotho Television personality, Ntšiuoa Sekete, will represent the RFP in the Qacha’s Nek constituency in the 7 October 2022 elections. The area is a stronghold of former Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili, a known friend and close ally of Mr Matekane. It is not known whether their friendship is still holding strong after Mr Matekane’s move into politics. Mr Mosisili used to be a regular feature at the businessman’s events before he entered politics. He nonetheless has not commented on Mr Matekane’s move into politics. The ex-premier remains loyal to the DC, now run by his protegee Mathibeli Mokhothu.
Mr Matekane said an RFP government would set up a development bank to support small businesses.
“We are also going to introduce mobile clinics for our elderly, sickly and disabled to make their lives easier. We’ll consult with our youth on the projects they would like to have and help set them up so that they create their own money and contribute to the country’s economic growth,” he said.
His government would also fight corruption and other crimes bedeviling the country.
“We are killing one another every day. Our people are dying and I appeal to criminals to cease their actions immediately,” he said.
Six people were killed in various parts of the country in the past five days.
Mr Matekane said his government would support agriculture to ensure that Lesotho produced enough for local consumption and export. For this to happen, his administration will set up factories to manufacture seeds and fertilisers locally.
There was also a need to revamp the tourism industry by setting up more accommodation facilities.
“We will work on the already existing hospitality facilities and even consult with you to improve your houses so that they can be used to accommodate tourists,” he said.
He reiterated that there was serious need for Lesotho to introspect and determine where it went wrong because other countries like Botswana and Eswatini were faring far better than it economically.
“We got our independence in 1966 and eSwatini in 1968. But looking at where they are today, one just wonders where Lesotho got things wrong and what’s happening. eSwatini is doing thrice better than us and Botswana six times better. This calls for serious introspection,” Mr Matekane said.