Shape up or ship out
NOW that the national executive committee (NEC) of the ruling All Basotho Convention (ABC) has nominated its chairperson, Samuel Rapapa, to succeed outgoing Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, the decision should be accepted by everyone in the party so that the government can move on to the more pressing task of getting development programmes back on track.
As we report elsewhere in this edition, Mr Rapapa has been chosen ahead of other party stalwarts who include the likes of the party’s deputy secretary general Nkaku Kabi, deputy spokesperson ‘Matebatso Doti and Finance Minister Moeketsi Majoro.
Although ABC secretary general, Lebohang Hlaele, says the NEC’s decision is final, Mr Rapapa’s ascension is by no means guaranteed as some senior ABC members especially ministers Chalane Phori (Small Business Development, Cooperatives and Marketing) and Tefo Mapesela (Health) have vowed to oppose his nomination in parliament. The duo and some legislators are said to favour Dr Majoro for the top job.
As chairperson, Mr Rapapa is the third in the party hierarchy after the outgoing Dr Thabane and ABC deputy leader, Professor Nqosa Mahao who is ineligible for the top job on account of the fact that he is not a member of the National Assembly as per the constitutional requirements for one to be prime minister.
Mr Rapapa had previously been nominated by the Mahao camp to take over from Dr Thabane when they filed a no confidence motion against the latter last June at the height of the ABC’s power struggle pitting Dr Thabane against Prof Nqosa Mahao. Mr Rapapa’s critics say he lacks clout for the top job because he has never been a cabinet minister. They say that Dr Majoro is better placed because the soft-spoken Finance minister has experience negotiating and driving forward the country’s development agenda at various fora including in meetings with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank (WB) and other crucial international development partners.
It is not for us to say who between them is the better choice. All we want is progress. The ABC’s intra-party squabbling has been a major drag on this country for a prolonged period now. Any solution that brings sanity in the party and the country at large should now be accepted. If it is accepted that the NEC is the highest decision-making body in the ABC outside congresses, then let’s play by the rules. The decision should be respected by all the party members for the sake of progress. We are sick and tired of the ABC infighting. We cannot take it anymore. Give Mr Rapapa his turn to fail or succeed as Prime Minister if that’s what the NEC has decided.
Messrs Phori, Mapesela and others must bear in mind that the settling of the succession issue is not an end in itself. It is only the beginning of a long process to ensure the political stability which this Kingdom so badly needs before the government can focus on the real business of addressing poverty, high unemployment and other challenges militating against socio-economic development.
This is not the time for ABC officials to be going back to their all-too-familiar terrain of self-serving factional politics and power struggles.
For the whole of 2019, this country was treated to the power struggle between Dr Thabane and Prof Mahao to the detriment of the national interest. In that time, service delivery ground to a halt while natural factors worsened the nation’s plight. A debilitating El-Nino-induced drought ravaged the country. As things stand more than 500 000 or a quarter of the country’s 2 million people are in urgent need of food aid. All that the government has done is declare the drought and the resultant food insecurity an emergency. It has merely watched as international donors have –out of their own initiatives – led efforts to mobilise aid to save Basotho from famine. Service providers withdrew their services due to government’s failure to pay them. Dr Majoro has revealed that the government owes service providers in excess of M1, 1 billion.
There are other crucial programmes which can be affected by the continued paralysis in the ABC, including the implementation of the much-delayed multi-sector reforms and the construction of the Polihali Dam as part of the second phase of the multi-billion-dollar Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP).
This country cannot afford any more bickering in the ruling party which could ultimately collapse the government. Now is the time for all ABC officials to stand and be counted among those who put away their personal interests for the sake of national progress.
We can only urge the ABC to respect its own constitution and decisions. Yes, Mr Rapapa maybe unpalatable to many. But if he has been selected through a transparent democratic process in terms of the ABC’s own rules, then he must be accepted. The ABC must then seek the support of its coalition partners for his overall endorsement so that the government can move onto its core business of spearheading socio-economic development. The ABC cannot hold the nation to ransom anymore. It must either sort itself out or ship out.