Let me state from the onset that I want you to succeed as a First Lady. I want you to be a great First Lady. I want you to build an admirable legacy. Basotho must remember you as the greatest First Lady we ever had.
However, true friends should always tell each other the truth. I of course cannot claim to be your friend in the conventional sense of the word. I have not had the privilege to meet you at State House or elsewhere to down our favourite red drink while sharing sisterly secrets. However, I still regard you as my sister. I still regard you a great friend. I, like most Basotho, regard you as my mother. Here is why.
You are the woman who has transformed our Prime Minister for the better. He obviously adores you. He clearly loves you. When a man is in love, he gets more focused. He performs his duties better. You have clearly made Ntate Motsoahae an energetic leader. You have made him more handsome. Just look at his disarming smile on his official portrait. Look at his glowing skin. He now looks much younger than his age. Instead of looking like a typical 79 year old, he looks like a sprightly 35 year old. He is clearly a man in love. Love surely makes a man look younger.
But more importantly for me, when those criminals from the Lesotho Defence Force tried to kill Ntate Thabane causing him to flee for a fairly long exile period in Ficksburg, you stood by him. That was the greatest thing you have ever done. It debunked any suspicions that you had fallen for an older man for the glamour, the glory, the cash and the status. You fell for him for love. You stood by him in good times. You stood by him in bad times. You stood by him in the baddest (my own Sothonglish) of times. For me, that’s principle. That is true love. You have been central to Ntate Motsoahae’s resurgence. For that, I respect you.
However, my sister we must face the truth for your own good, for the good of Ntate Thabane and for the good of this country. I know most people will not tell you this truth because they pretend to be your friends. I will tell you the truth because I am your true friend (the fact that we have never met notwithstanding). You are my friend by design as you are the mother of the nation.
By now, you must surely be aware of the widespread disenchantment over what many people in and outside the ABC see as your toxic role in the country’s body politic.
I am not sitting in judgment of you. Neither am I saying Ntate Motlohi Maliehe, was 100 percent right in his condemnation of you last week. Not at all. However, we have to take cognizance of Ntate Maliehe’s acerbic remarks. They represent an outburst of anger that has been residing not only in him but in the hearts of many other ABC operatives over a long period of time. These are operatives disenchanted with your very abrasive style in dealing with other humans.
It is common cause now that at many social gatherings, you become the topic of discussion from many exasperated party operatives. They complain about how you treat other people, they complain that you are rude. They complain about your interference in the politics of the ABC and the government. They say a lot of things my sister. In a nutshell, they share Ntate Maliehe’s remarks. When a man of Ntate Maliehe’s stature stands up and says the things that he said about you and then boldly declares that he does not care of the consequences, then things have really gone nasty. It’s a situation we cannot ignore.
The common thread is that there are many other ABC MPs, ministers and government officials who are unhappy with you over the way they say you treat them or the manner in which you conduct yourself. They will not dare say anything to you because they are afraid of losing their positions. However, they let anger build in their hearts.
Ntate Maliehe’s blow up is the culmination of that anger.
Again, I want to repeat that I am not sitting in judgment of you. I am not saying all the things that have been said against you are true. No. All I am saying is there is a common thread of disenchantment with your behavior out there. Whether the substantive reasons thereof have merit is a different story. I am not going to interrogate that in this column. I am just inclined to give you some advice to deal with this disenchantment against you because I want you to be remembered as a great First Lady and the mother of the nation. To that end, I advise you as follows;
- Please leave these ministers and MPs to perform their duties without your interference. When they fail, leave them to fail on their own without you being used as a scapegoat. If they succeed, all the better for your husband will take direct credit for appointing competent people.
- Give as much support as possible to your husband to ensure that he performs his duties diligently and he keeps in good health. Ensure that he keeps eating well, dressing well and looking handsome and younger. In fact make him look like a 28 year old than his current 35 year old good looks. But leave him to run government. Leave him to make his own decisions about appointments in lieu with advice from his professional advisers etc. If he succeeds, you are always going to get the credit anyway. If he fails, you will unfortunately take the flake because of Ntate Maliehe’s sentiments.
- Show respect to all and sundry and kindly avoid shouting down others. Respect everyone’s dignity. Remember, if God decrees that you die according to age, then you are likely to be around for a while long after Ntate Motsoahae has gone for dinner with St Peter. Think about future without his cover. Thing about the anger of all those you would have trashed.
- Humble yourself before us as Basotho. After all you are the mother of nation. Allow us to come and cry on your feet and accept us as your children.
- Allow Ntate Thabane to remain accessible to all and sundry. Allow him to continue with the humility that earned him the leadership mantle. Yes you have every right to keep his phone and avoid calls to him especially at unholy hours. But please remember that Ntate Thabane is a man of the people. The more accessible he is the better.
- Haranguing and harassing people is never a virtue but a vice. So please engage rationally with everyone you disagrees with.
- When a man loves a woman, he may not be truthful in his approach. In other words, a man in love will give his woman a free reign. He may not caution her because of deep seated love and fear of trying to offend his fiancée. As they say – love is blind. In that regard, strive to have an honest conversation with your husband and encourage him to censure you when he feels and thinks you are wrong. Don’t let him be a hostage to his love for you and vice versa.
- Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu. We are all what we are because of others. This old Nguni adage should be a guiding principle of how you treat others. You are First Lady because we voted for Ntate Motsoahae. If we withdraw our votes because we are treated like trash, you lose out as well.
- You have every right to participate in politics, seek political office and get elected if you so wish. But please, when your husband already holds high political office, it’s better to stay away from politics to avoid a conflation of roles. So assist your husband from the rearguard and concentrate on being a good wife.
- Above all else, focus on humanitarian and charity work through your Maesaiah Thabane Foundation. I think this is probably my greatest piece of advice to you. For that, I have to congratulate myself. You can make a massive difference to the lives of Basotho if you dedicate your time and attention to the work of your charitable foundation as is the norm with most First Ladies. You have already done excellent work in assisting the vulnerable through your Foundation. In fact, you can make the ABC stay in power if you concentrate on using your Foundation to help the vulnerable. The truth is that there is no investment nor economy to talk about in Lesotho. Money for efficient service delivery for the government is too few and far between. So effective service delivery by the government is always going to be a challenge regardless of who is in power. But it’s easier to attract resources to a charitable Foundation like yours. I, lady Scrutator, am ready, willing and able to use my worldwide profile and massive international influence to help mobilise resources for the Maesaiah Thabane Foundation to ensure that it has enough resources to go into communities and assist with charitable work. I read about how you helped that homeless woman in Mokhotlong build a decent home. I was touched by your kindness. It’s that kind of good heartedness and good work that Basotho expect from their First Lady. That is what will make a difference. Leave politics to the politicians. Leave government to the civil servants.
I love you Mme Liabiloe and I give you these 10 pieces of advice in utmost good faith. Follow it and let’s see what happens. If those MPs and ministers continue trashing you after you have followed this advice, then we can cut their balls (if they are men). They will not have any excuses as they will no longer have a scapegoat.
It would be remiss if I did not remind you of the destructive role played by Grace Mugabe in ending the iconic career of Robert Mugabe. As a journalist I follow closely the political developments in other countries especially regional countries. The Grace Mugabe story aptly amplifies the role a woman can play in either building or destroying her husband.
Grace and Robert Mugabe’s love story is a fairy tale. They have an age difference of 42 years with Mugabe being 94 now while Grace is just 52. They held their fairy tale wedding in 1996, attended by thousands including Nelson Mandela. Joaquim Chissano was best man. The two fell in love while Grace was a secretary in Mugabe’s typing pool but while his first wife was ailing with kidney disease. They sired two secret children then. For long after their marriage and after their dalliance became public (after the death of the first wife Sally in 1992), Grace did not participate in politics, preferring to spend her time travelling and shopping, earning the moniker Gucci Grace or the First Shopper (instead of First Lady). In 1997, Grace Mugabe was a runner up to Michael Jackson as the most prolific shopper at Harrods, the UK’s most expensive departmental store. Even though her shopping escapades were draining the Zimbabwean fiscus, most did not care since she stayed in the background. Then out of nowhere, she decided to join the political fray and grabbed a position as the ZANU PF women’s league secretary in 2014. Power got to her head.
She started addressing rallies where she trashed just about everyone including her husband’s allies of many years. Among the many who were trashed was one Emmerson Mnangagwa. Mugabe did nothing to restrain his wife. When Grace influenced Mugabe to fire Mnangagwa, it marked the beginning of the disgraceful end of Mugabe’s career. The rest of what happened is well known. Mugabe did not deserve that humiliation. But for the unrestrained antics of his wife Grace, he got it. Let’s avoid that scenario in Lesotho at all costs.
Telling Ntate Maliehe to “pack and go” is certainly not the right thing to do. What if other disgruntled MPs follow him? This government must surely last. We are tired of elections. Expectations are high of anyone who is in government. Ntate Thabane has surely not had enough time to deliver services. He needs more time. If his government is curtailed, there is no guarantee he will return to power. But the biggest problem sister happens if those you have antagonized come back to form any new government. All hell breaks loose and we don’t want that. Our experience in Lesotho is that governments are to ease to break. Let this one last and please pay your part. To that end, invite Ntate Maliehe to State House. Sit him down over a boiled egg and bottle of champagne. Talk things over. Find common ground. Not only with him but with all others who are disenchanted. Be the great First Lady that we all want you to be.