Mochoboroane speaks on joining Thabane-led coalition

  • says no to joining governing coalition
  • calls for all-inclusive transitional govt that will spearhead reforms ahead of fresh polls

Pascalinah Kabi

THE Movement for Economic Change (MEC) leader Selibe Mochoboroane says his party has no interest in forming or joining the current Thomas Thabane-led coalition government.

Rather than seeking to prop up what he said was a “troubled coalition which has wide cracks”, Mr Mochoboroane said he was more amenable to an all-inclusive transitional government whose primary objective would be to ensure the country implements multi-sector reforms before going for elections when they are due in 2022.

Mr Mochoboroane said this in an exclusive interview with the Lesotho Times. His remarks come against the background of widespread rumours that he has been courted by Prime Minister and All Basotho Convention leader Thomas Thabane for possible inclusion in the governing coalition.

Dr Thabane’s ABC is the main party in the governing four party coalition along with Deputy Prime Minister Monyane Moleleki’s Alliance of Democrats, Communications minister Thesele Maseribane and Labour minister Keketso Rantšo’s Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL). The ABC has been caught up in vicious infighting whose most visible symptom is the current stalemate over who should be in the party’s national executive committee (NEC).

The ABC’s 1 and 2 February NEC elections ushered in National University of Lesotho (NUL) Vice Chancellor Professor Nqosa Mahao as the deputy leader, the then Law and Constitutional Affairs minister Lebogang Hlaele as secretary general and legislator Samuel Rapapa as chairperson. However, the election of the new NEC particularly, that of Prof Mahao has been bitterly opposed by members of the former NEC who are believed to enjoy the backing of Dr Thabane.

In the run-up to the party polls, Dr Thabane publicly stated his disdain for Prof Mahao who he described as a useless rag who should not be allowed to succeed him. He later apologised for his harsh criticism of Prof Mahao but the latter and his colleagues have not been able to take up their places in the NEC due to a court challenge by two cabinet ministers, Habofanoe Lehana (Trade and Industry) and Keketso Sello (Mining) and the ABC’s legislator for the Rothe constituency, Mohapi Mohapinyane.

The trio want the court to nullify the election of Prof Mahao and others to the party’s NEC. They also want the court to order fresh elections within three months of the finalisation of their court application.

It is against the background of the vicious infighting within the ABC that there have been widespread rumours of Dr Thabane courting Mr Mochoboroane and other opposition parties about forming a new coalition or joining the current one to boost his own support which is being threatened by pro-Mahao members of the ABC.

And in an interview with this publication this week, Mr Mochoboroane replied “no comment” when asked whether he had met Dr Thabane over a possible coalition deal.

He said his past experiences as a member of two coalitions had made him realise that the legal frameworks were silent on the formation and operationalisation of coalition governments and that is why they were bound to fail to last their full terms. Mr Mochoboroane, formerly with the Mothetjoa Metsing-led Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD), was a member of the first Thabane-led three party coalition from 2012 to 2015. He was also a member of the Pakalitha Mosisili-led seven parties’ coalition from 2015 to 2017.

“With my experience in the past two coalitions (in 2015 and 2017), I can tell you straightaway that there are clear signs that there are wide cracks in this current government,” Mr Mochoboroane said, adding that conflicts within the senior coalition partner, the ABC were “clear indicators of a troubled coalition”.

He said the former Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s coalition collapsed in 2017 due to the internal conflicts that wrecked his Democratic Congress (DC) party in 2016.

“Similarly, the ABC’s internal conflict will not only end within the ABC, it is going to negatively affect the stability of this government and there are two immediate solutions that we can opt for.

“Firstly, the current coalition government should strive to rule us until 2022. This is a mess of their own making, they will have to get themselves out the very same way they got themselves in it because the opposition is not going to pass a no confidence vote against this government. We will not do that because we know that we will be signing an agreement for the dissolution of parliament and fresh elections,” Mr Mochoboroane said. He added that the solution would be the formation of an all-inclusive transitional government that will oversee the reforms process and lead Lesotho to the next elections afterwards.

“A transitional government should be all-inclusive. They should not handpick certain parties on the basis that they share something in common to form a transitional government. That will not be a transitional government but rather another coalition government.

“Approaching MEC to form another coalition government will not work for this country. Approaching the DC to form another coalition will not work. Doing so would only mean that we will continue to have a huge number of people locked outside the door and those locked out will work hard to ensure that such a coalition is not stable at all.

“Changing the current arrangement, replacing it with another coalition government will not work but what will work for this country is an inclusive transitional government. Or else these people must deal with their mess behind closed doors and govern this country. We are ready to be governed.”

In response to whether or not he had actually met Dr Thabane to discuss a possible coalition deal, Mr Mochoboroane said “no comment, ka ‘nete (for sure) no comment on that one”.

“On that one no comment but you have heard my views on the current situation.

“This country needs a sustainable solution. Shortcuts will not work, approaching an individual to be part of the coalition government is a shortcut that will not solve anything but if you want a sustainable solution to a problem, you look for a sustainable solution by including everybody for this transitional period and once we have completely dealt with the reforms, we can go for elections knowing that there is a strong basis for a sustainable government that will last for five years.”

Mr Mochoboroane, who is also chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), said his party would not support a planned motion by some of the aggrieved ABC legislators to reject the budget when the National Assembly reconvenes tomorrow as that would automatically send Lesotho to its fourth general elections in a space of six years.

“We went for elections in 2012, 2015 and 2017 and if we go for elections again in 2019, it will be the fourth time in just six years. This week we summoned the political parties and the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) to appear before the PAC to account for the funds they received for previous elections.

“The IEC spends about M300 million per election and going for the fourth elections in six years would mean that the country would have spent M1, 2 billion on elections alone. The cost of elections is therefore very high and as the MEC, our opinion is that the country should not go for elections just because of political intolerance in our political parties, especially those in the coalition government.”

Mr Mochoboroane further said that the costs of the elections were much higher than the M300 million per polls if the millions of maloti that the government spent on settling the M500 000 interest-free loans that were awarded to each legislator and head of statutory bodies every time a new government came into office.

“It would be wrong to think that the masses are happy with the government settling the M500 000 interest-free loans every time a new government assumes power.

“The loan settlements have become a burden for this country because we are incurring unnecessarily huge costs just to address political issues and the MEC will not be party to such arrangements.

“The MEC is very clear on its position which is that we are not going for elections. The infightings should not force us to go for elections and elections are not a priority at the moment. Our priority should be the reforms process because our current constitution never anticipated a coalition government. It (the constitution) is silent on the formation and operationalisation of coalition governments.

“No coalition government will last for five years as long as our constitution is not reformed to cater for such arrangements in terms of regulating floor crossing and restricting the powers of the prime minister.  Even if we wanted to oust the Prime Minister through a vote of no confidence in parliament, we would not succeed because our two former prime ministers (Dr Mosisili and Dr Thabane) have already set a precedence (where they responded by dissolving parliament and calling for fresh elections,” he said.

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