FORMER Democratic Congress (DC) leader Pakalitha Mosisili has criticised Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s decision to seek another term of office, saying he will be too old to rule and should pass the baton to a younger person.
The 73-year-old Dr Mosisili said this while addressing the media on the sidelines of the DC rally in Ha Foso, Berea early this week.
The rally was held in the aftermath of the DC’s three-day elective conference where the party’s deputy leader Mathibeli Mokhothu convincingly beat former deputy secretary general Tlohang Sekhamane to win the leadership contest.
At the Sunday rally, Dr Mosisili handed over the reins to Mr Mokhothu. Dr Mosisili said it was a momentous occasion which reminded him of 1997 when the baton of the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) leadership was handed over to him by former premier, Ntsu Mokhehle.
Dr Mosisili subsequently led the DC from its formation in 2012 as a splinter party from the (LCD) which he had led from 1997 after succeeding Dr Mokhehle.
He was also prime minister from 1998 to 2012 and again from 2015 until he lost the 3 June 2017 snap elections to Dr Thabane’s All Basotho Convention (ABC).
Addressing the media on Sunday, Dr Mosisili said, “It feels great (to be handing over power) and I can assure you, this is the day that the Lord has made so let us rejoice and be glad in it”.
“We should not really wait to die in office, we must play our part and exit the stage. Somebody said, ‘it does not matter how good a dancer you may, when it’s time for you to get down, you must get off the stage”.
He criticised Dr Thabane for seeking to extend his mandate, saying the premier who will be 83 in 2022 should instead be handing over the reins to a younger person.
He said that it was important for every leader to know when to call it a day and pass the baton to young leaders like he had done by handing over to the 41-year-old Mr Mokhothu.
“Well he (Dr Thabane) said it and I heard him say that he is preparing to run in the next elections and I asked myself, at 80 years of age?
“Is this old man serious, running at 80 years of age? I have handed over the leadership to a young man (Dr Mokhothu) but I would not bother to advise him (Dr Thabane). He was a minister in my administration and I know him. I would not bother to advise him because the advice would fall on deaf ears,” Dr Mosisili said.
Dr Thabane, whose first stint as premier was from 2012 to 2015, recently announced that he would seek re-election when his current tenure ends in 2022. Should Dr Thabane succeed in his re-election bid in 2022, he will begin a final term which will end in 2027 when he will be 88.
Dr Mosisili communicated his decision to quit to DC supporters in a moving letter dated 9 November 2018.
In the letter Dr Mosisili likens himself to a dancer who must eventually relinquish the stage regardless of how good his dance moves are.
He said the “shocking levels” of infighting in his party ahead of the recent elective conference and accusations that he favoured some members at the expense of others had compelled him to announce his decision to quit in writing instead of communicating it orally.
And on Sunday, he said he would not seek re-election to parliament in the next elections. He is currently the legislator for the Tsoelike constituency in the Qacha’s Nek district.
He said he had already communicated his decision to the DC’s Tsoelike constituency leadership.
“Well I am still a member of the parliament…but also as a senior member of the DC, I will be there to advise the party. He (Mr Mokhothu) was already the official leader of opposition in parliament and now he is taking over the leadership of the party.
“Of course, I will retire in due course and I have told my constituency that I will not be running for elections in the next general elections.
“He (Mokhothu) will be equal to the task, I have no doubt about him. I have full confidence in him, absolutely so. I know that he will champion issues of good governance such as freedom of communication in all its forms,” Dr Mosisili said.
Looking back on his tenure as prime minister, he said while his time had been characterised by good governance and socio-economic development, he said he felt he should have done more to uplift the lives of rural people.
“We relentlessly pursued good governance, the rule of law and not the law of the jungle. We relentlessly pursued development that impacts positively on the lives of ordinary men, women and children in our villages.
“You know development is an unfinished business so there are things that I wish I had accomplished and it is incumbent on me and the leadership of the party to see that we can develop and improve the lives of our people in our villages, in our communities and the country,” Dr Mosisili said.
This was in stark contrast to his remarks on the opening day of the electoral conference on Friday where he apologised to the nation for all his shortcomings during his time as prime minister and leader of the congress parties.
The former premier, whose tenure was blighted by allegations of human rights violations and corruption, had said it was never his intention to commit any mistakes. He said such mistakes were committed in his pursuit of the betterment of the country and the parties that he led.
“I have served you since 1997. It is therefore, not surprising that like any human being in leadership, I have wronged you so many times and for a long time.
“I need you to know that my wrongdoings were not intentional. I did everything in my power for the betterment of my country and this party. I ask for your forgiveness where I wronged you,” Dr Mosisili had said on Friday to chants of “we forgive you”.
Dr Mosisili’s tenure as premier, particularly from 2015 to 2017 was characterised by reports of widespread human rights violations by the police and army as well as corruption in government.
The June 2015 assassination of army commander, Lieutenant General Maaparankoe Mahao, by fellow soldiers and the July 2016 near fatal shooting of Lesotho Times editor Lloyd Mutungamiri by soldiers are some of the major incidents that happened under Dr Mosisili’s watch.
The unprocedural government vehicle fleet services contract with South Africa’s Bidvest company which happened during Dr Mosisili’s tenure not only further damaged his reputation but also contributed to the DC split which spawned the Monyane Moleleki-led Alliance of Democrats (AD). A multi-million-dollar contract to produce passports and identity documents was awarded to an Israeli company, Nikuv, without going to tender during Dr Mosisili’s reign.
And on Sunday, Dr Mosisili said corruption had increased under the current Thabane administration.
“I must say it has become worse; they castigated us for corruption and I was clear that if indeed there were incidences of corruption the law should take its course.
“I could not and I would never protect any minister or any public officer who indulges in corruption. Nobody is above the law.
“As it is now, there are so many incidences of corruption and so many incidences of naked brutality. Can you believe that a government that is 20 months in office has killed 37 people?
“I am saying the government has killed them because those people died at the hands of police. The police are supposed to protect the lives and property of citizens but in this case, it is the opposite,” Dr Mosisili said.
Two months ago, Dr Mosisili claimed that at least 23 civilians had lost their lives at the hands of the police since the advent of the current government.
“This government has only been in power for 18 months but it has already claimed the lives of 23 civilians who died at the hands of the police. There could be more deaths.
“I blame the government because the police are only civil servants. The police were acting on orders which were given by the head of government (who) directed that those suspected of crimes should be beaten up,” Dr Mosisili had told DC supporters at a rally in Mount Moorosi in the Quthing district last November.