A WEEK ago, on 22 March 2020, All Basotho Convention (ABC) legislators chose Finance Minister Moeketsi Majoro (MM) to succeed Prime Minister Thomas Thabane when the latter eventually steps down. Dr Majoro polled 26 votes to beat his nearest challenger, ABC chairperson Samuel Rapapa who got 18. Ministers Prince Maliehe (Transport) and Samonyane Ntsekele (Water) polled one vote each.
ABC bigwigs including party leader Dr Thabane, his estranged deputy Professor Nqosa Mahao and secretary general Lebohang Hlaele all attended and witnessed the voting process. If the Mahao faction’s participation and subsequent pledge to rally behind Dr Majoro is anything to go by, then this means the power struggles in the ABC and the acrimonious battles to succeed Dr Thabane might just have come to an end.
Dr Thabane is on record saying he will retire at the end of July this year or earlier if his ABC party agrees on a successor. It remains to be seen if Dr Thabane will honour his pledge to relinquish power earlier now that the party’s legislators have unanimously agreed on Dr Majoro and the latter also enjoys the support of the party’s pro-Mahao national executive committee (NEC).
The Lesotho Times’ (LT) Senior Reporter Marafaele Mohloboli this week interviewed Dr Majoro who shared his thoughts on his prospects of taking over in the aftermath of his endorsement by the ABC legislators.
Despite his election, the soft-spoken minister remains coy and admits that there are several obstacles to be cleared including securing the buy-in of the ABC’s coalition partners before he can finally take over the reins.
Below are excerpts of the interview.
LT: It’s been a week since your party chose you to succeed Prime Minister Thomas Thabane. Even the Mahao camp has accepted your election and pledged to give you their full support. Dr Thabane himself publicly stated that he was prepared to step down as soon as his party agrees on a successor. What is the situation and where does the nation go from here?
MM: My election by the ABC’s members of the national assembly in the presence of our senate colleagues and the ABC’s national executive committee simply meant that in the event of our leader and Prime Minister Thomas Thabane leaving office I will succeed him in the office of the prime minister.
That is provided that other members of the current coalition (Basotho National Party, Alliance of Democrats and Reformed Congress of Lesotho) give their full support to my candidature. It is therefore premature to start talking as if I am the Prime Minister-designate. Much still has to happen before that point.
It has been quite a taxing exercise to get to where we are today and we still have not reached our destination. This (election) was just a response to the prime minister’s request for us to choose a successor.
There is still a lot that has to be done before he (Dr Thabane) leaves office and it is also worth noting that the ABC does not constitute the majority in parliament on its own. It is therefore imperative for us to go back to our coalition partners and consult to establish if they are still interested in being in partnership with us.
LT: Are you ready to succeed Dr Thabane?
MM: Our party caucus has made its decision on the succession and the prime minister has accepted this decision. When our prime minister decides it is time for him to go, we will of course be ready.
LT: In your view, what are the qualities of a good leader?
MM: Good leaders are those who will show you beyond the obvious, and seek to achieve things. Good leaders work with zest and enthusiasm to achieve things which many people think are not attainable.
LT: How would you describe yourself? Your background and curriculum vitae?
MM: I am currently Lesotho’s Finance Minister and Member of Parliament for Thetsane #33 Constituency. I have been in the public service since 2000. I previously served as an Executive Director at the International Monetary Fund from 2008 to 2012. Before that I was Principal Secretary for the Ministry of Finance from 2004 to 2008, Fiscal Analyst from 2000 to 2004, Economics Lecturer and Researcher at the National University of Lesotho (NUL) from 1991 to 2000. I was born in Tsikoane, Leribe many years ago and hold a Ph.D. in Natural Resource Economics and Master’s Degree in Agricultural Economics both from Washington State University and a BA in Economics from the National University of Lesotho.
LT: What inspired you to be a politician?
MM: In any country you need political power to make transformational decisions for the betterment of people’s lives. For the longest time my interest has been to be part of a team that can help improve the lives of Basotho.
I am a firm believer that you exist only in what you do. Therefore, I wanted to be part of men and women who would make Lesotho great.
LT: What would be your priorities upon assuming power?
MM: Lesotho’s future success lies in containing the impact of the Coronavirus. It also lies in the full implementation of the multi-sector reforms to restore good governance, ensuring justice, political stability and re-establishing and sustaining the rule of law.
Once these have been achieved we can ensure economic stability. All these need a concerted effort of all involved. There is no justice if it is delayed. Justice brings peace and so we should strive to smoothen the path for justice for everyone by reforming and capacitating the judiciary.
We need to think whether we need to import everything we currently import. We need to develop strategies to stimulate local production and import substitution. Most of our youth can be absorbed into formal employment if we focus on local production.
The agricultural sector needs to move from subsistence to intensive commercial production taking advantage of Lesotho’s abundant water resources. With climate-adapted agriculture we can reduce our food imports by half and achieve food security. The transformation to producing more fruit and vegetables has already begun but we need more investment.
Basotho should be able to make a living wherever they live in Lesotho. This means we should improve our infrastructure in the countryside and avail the necessary services to men and women in our villages.
LT: What is your take on the widely view that security agencies have been hamstrung by political interference and need to be freed from the clutches of politicians to enable them to properly fulfil their mandate?
MM: Political interference in the security agencies is a perennial source of political instability in Lesotho and consequently Lesotho’s inability to grow its economy and reduce poverty and hunger. Given its serious repercussions, political interference has to be seen as an illegal activity that should attract severe penalties.
On the other hand, the security agencies should be strictly subject to best practices on civil-military relations. However, the security agencies should understand that they are subject to lawful civilian authority.
LT: Corruption has also been identified as a major impediment to socio-economic development. How do you intend to tackle corruption when you assume power?
MM: Corruption is an impediment to economic growth. We tend to develop moral decay once we do not have our enforcement agencies functioning. This has to change.