. . . deputy premier says LCD ministers the only targets
Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) Mothetjoa Metsing, who is reportedly under investigations over his alleged role in a multi-million maloti roads tender scam, has denounced Prime Minister Thaomas Thabane’s anti-corruption crusade saying it seemed designed to target ministers from his Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) only.
While he was not opposed to any investigations to unearth any corrupt activities, Mr Metsing said any crusade against corruption must be genuine and sincere and not be directed against ministers from one party only. He was speaking at a rally in Thabana Morena this week.
He questioned why only ministers from his LCD were being investigated and none from the All Basotho Convention (ABC) and the Basotho National Party (BNP).
“Today, we hear rumours that Metsing, Selibe Mochoboroane (LCD spokesperson and Minister of Communications, Science and Technology) and Tšelios Mokhosi (Minister of Energy, Meteorology and Water Affairs) are going to be arrested (allegedly for corruption).
“Are we saying it is only the Democratic Congress (DC) and LCD members who are corrupt? Surely, this cannot be true,” Mr Metsing told his supporters.
The LCD leader, whose party formed a coalition government with the ABC and BNP after the 26 May 2012 general elections, is reportedly being investigated for alleged corruption, alongside several senior officials from his party. Mr Mochoboroane is also understood to have been put under the probe over some equipment purchases when he served as Mr Metsing’s deputy at local government before his promotion to a full cabinet post. It is not clear what Mr Mokhosi is being probed over.
The Lesotho Times reported on June 26 2014 that Mr Metsing, who is also the Minister of Local Government and Chieftainships Affairs, was being investigated over his alleged involvement in a hotly contested M120 million contract to build roads around Maseru. It has since emerged that the contract was awarded to a company called Big Bravo Construction despite opposition from a professional consultant and amid as yet unsubstantiated kickback claims.
Metsing said if it were true that such investigations were indeed taking place, then they amounted to a witch-hunt against the LCD and would herald what he described as a dangerous precedent in Lesotho politics.
“Of-late, I’ve heard over the radios and in newspapers, that we are being accused of corruption as LCD Ministers.
“We really need to treat these issues very carefully; I was thinking we had passed such times a long time ago, when African leaders would persecute each other to pursue a political agenda,” Mr Metsing said.
He said any such investigations would amount to politics of hatred solely designed to tarnish the LCD in government.
“We should not go back to politics of hatred, which are now a thing of the past in our region because such a route only leads to our demise as a people,” he warned.
Mr Metsing said the LCD had considered exposing those reportedly waging personal battles against its ministers but had decided against doing so at this stage. He implied that Thabane’s anti-corruption crusade was fuelling hatred among Basotho and urged the population to oust the premier in the 2017 general elections.
“Come the next elections, you will see someone being stripped of power by the people,” said Metsing in clear reference to Thabane whom he accused of using corruption allegations to fight political opponents.
“We, as the LCD, stand for democracy, hence our name. We agree to the fight against corruption, but it should not be a political gimmick used by politicians to fight political battles; it should be a genuine fight against corruption, period.”
Relations between Dr Thabane and Mr Metsing are frosty after the LCD leader announced last month that he was walking out of his pact with the ABC leader to forge a new coalition deal with the main opposition DC.
Dr Thabane immediately moved to prorogue (suspend) Parliament to prevent Mr Metsing’s bid to oust him.
Attempts are underway to save the coalition from total collapse by revisiting the 2012 Coalition agreement on the basis of which Dr Thabane, Mr Metsing and the BNP’s Thesele Maseribane formed the government. If these efforts succeed, Mr Metsing has promised to rescind his deal with the DC.
If they fail, it is suspected that authorities would then move against Mr Metsing and his crew much more vigorously, especially if the current investigations prove any impropriety on their part.
Mr Metsing said Lesotho should try and avoid the experiences of Liberia, Zambia and Malawi were sitting presidents had charged their predecessors “under the guise of fighting corruption”, but while in fact pursuing what he called personal vendettas.
“Former Zambian president, Kenneth Kaunda, was a respected leader during his time — a leader who was as cherished as Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana.
“Kaunda led the Frontline States, which fought for the freedom of our people.
“But when Frederick Chiluba came to power (in November 1991), Kaunda was always in and out of court, after being accused of corruption and all sorts of things.
“The time came for Chiluba to be removed from office (in January 2002), and later Levy Mwanawasa became president and also took Chiluba to court, in turn accusing him of dishonesty.
“The same thing happened in Liberia, where the leadership used to fight each other using the courts of law, with the aim of tainting each other’s image.
“President Samuel Doe was always taking Charles Taylor to court until Taylor escaped to Libya for military training.
“Upon his return from Libya, Taylor fought and killed Doe, and became president of that country.
“Unfortunately, he also committed crimes against humanity and is now in prison after being convicted by the International Criminal Court at the Hague. The sad thing is what has been happening in other African countries seems to be happening today in Lesotho,” said Metsing in reference to the anti-corruption drive targeting members of the previous government.
Meanwhile, Mr Metsing reiterated his party’s opposition to the current nine-month prorogation of parliament, which began on June 10.
Mr Thabane suspended parliament until February 27, 2015, saying the break would allow the three governing to resolve their differences without undue interruption by Parliament.
But Mr Metsing and his LCD are adamant that the prorogation was an effort by Dr Thabane to save his job only.
The coalition parties have feuded over Dr Thabane’s alleged failure to consult on key issues.
Mr Metsing said his party would not back down on its demand for the prorogation to end unconditionally.
“The LCD is a party founded on ideals of democracy and it will continue to stand by its condemnation of the decision to have parliament prorogued.
“The government accounts to the people through parliament and Members of Parliament (MPs) take ministers to task and keep them under check in parliament.
Mr Metsing said there was no incident in which Parliament had been prorogued even during disturbances that rocked the country previously.
“Parliament is the foundation of our democracy and it should not be suspended, as doing so is tantamount to suspending the views of the people,” Mr Metsing said.
He equated the prorogation to former Prime Minister Leabua Jonathan’s refusal to hand over power after his BNP had lost elections in 1970 to the Basutoland Congress Party (BCP).
“We know the history of having powerful ministers without any parliament to keep them in check.
“That is why we cannot be intimidated into allowing our forefathers’ fight for democracy be in vain.
“We cannot sell our forefathers’ legacy and will not betray the people’s mandate, hence our call for the reopening of parliament before 27 February 2015.”