Ha Foso was a sea of red on Sunday as the Democratic Congress (DC) held a massive rally during which the party unveiled its manifesto for the 28 February 2015 national election.
DC leader Pakalitha Mosisili was the key-speaker at the star-rally, which drew thousands of supporters decked in the party’s predominantly red regalia. Lesotho Times (LT) reporter, Lekhetho Ntsukunyane, this week speaks with DC Deputy Leader, Monyane Moleleki, about the manifesto and the party’s prospects in the snap election.
LT: The DC appears to have completely shifted its focus on the upcoming election, judging by what the party’s leadership said at Sunday’s rally in Ha Foso. Could you tell us more about the manifesto the party unveiled during Sunday’s rally?
Moleleki: We have decided that we are going to produce and publish a smaller version of a full programme of action that we have authored. The bottom line is we have put together a programme of action. It’s finished. We took our people with special skills, including but not limited to former principal secretaries and our other people who are well-informed with the philosophy of our party and thinking, and they came up with a very comprehensive document which is thick and not user-friendly, and not usable as a manifesto per se. It’s a programme of action which we have approved at National Executive Committee level. Now out of it, we teased 13 points for ease of reference and for user friendliness, so that you could sit down and read it for over 10 to 15 minutes and have a rough idea of what we, the DC, plan to do for the country. We have two important reasons why we did this – first that the document should be user-friendly and not too time-consuming. Secondly, that we have not included in that simpler document everything that we intend to do. We would rather not say what we are going to do than say we are going to do something and not do it. So the other parties, because they knew they were not going to win the elections in 2012, made unrealistic promises which they hoped that if the DC had won, they would come back and say we had promised to do A,B,C and D but this coalition government (of the All Basotho Convention, Lesotho Congress for Democracy and Basotho National Party) is not doing it. To their surprise and shock, they found themselves in government. So the wild promises that they made, they couldn’t live up to. As the DC, we are different to them in that we always have hope of winning an election and becoming government by ourselves. That is why we don’t want to raise the expectations of the electorate beyond what we can do. So we have summarised what we hope and intend to do and just gave prominence to the 13 points.
LT: After your leadership had been in government for quite some time, for instance your leader Dr Mosisili was prime minister for 15 years, you still failed to win an outright majority to remain in power after the 26 May 2012 poll. That paved the way for the ABC, LCD and BNP alliance and the end of Dr Mosisili’s rule. What have you learnt from this failure?
Moleleki: I don’t think we have particularly pin-pointed something that we did not do right. On the contrary, we did everything right, but maybe not fast enough. And because of that, we are taking advantage of the holiday that we are having outside of government to put together programmes so that when, and I am not saying if, when we take back government, we hit the ground running. So we are now busy putting together programmes of action. Yes, not just the plans on the document that I have referred to, but even actions on issues that we deliberately keep under wraps so that we will spring a surprise on the public and our opponents when we get into office. We were satisfied that we were doing things right. So I cannot, in fairness to ourselves, say we have pin-pointed something that we did wrong. We did things right. And we are more deeply and profoundly convinced on the correctness of the direction which we have taken when now we view that against the backdrop of what is taking place.
LT: Could you please elaborate.
Moleleki: Government had respectability. We worked hard to build good, sound principles of a democratic society. These have all been torn apart now. They have been ruthlessly attacked and torn to pieces. We have to go and put them back again. The independence of the three pillars of democracy have been attacked so ruthlessly by this government; by this prime minister (ABC leader Thomas Thabane). It has to be restored to the people of Lesotho. So, you will hear that word or phrases, namely restoration of democratic principles; separation of powers; Latin House principles; that the Judiciary is not answerable to the Executive, often in our programmes. The Judiciary should not be answerable to the Executive. Neither should the Legislature. It is the Executive which has to be answerable and accountable to the Legislature. All of these three pillars of democracy have been mercilessly attacked and destroyed by the prime minister. There is no respectability, acceptability, credibility of the courts now as independent dispensers of justice. The prime minister attacked the Court of Appeal, he attacked the Chief Justice, he attacked the courts, messed up everything and he messed up the Executive itself. All of these have got to be restored with determination and vigour. We had worked for 20 years to build these pillars of democracy. And somebody, in two years, has attacked and totally ruined them. It’s a shame because he has taken us back 20 years. And putting them together; making sure that the people have belief that a judge can judge against the prime minister, if he or she finds so, it will take another 20 years for the people of Lesotho to believe that because Ntate Thabane has just thrown it out through the window.
LT: You once predicted that this coalition government would not last two years. What were you basing yourself upon, because this is what has transpired? Instead of ending its tenure in 2017, the coalition has failed to last the distance and Lesotho finds itself going for an early poll.
Moleleki: We had realised that they only met to force us out of government. But they did not have unity of vision. And that is a matter of principle. But this government collapsed not so much because of lack of unity of vision, but due to arrogance and the recklessness of one man, the prime minister. He destroyed the coalition himself. And the worst thing is that it will take a long time for Basotho to have their confidence back in any coalition government. Not until it can last for at least five years, and another one maybe lasting another five years. And speaking of which, we of the DC, would rather we didn’t have an early election. Not that we are scared of an election. If there is anybody in Lesotho who is scared of an election, it is the ABC and the coalition partners. Not ourselves. They came up with the idea, and maybe they were bluffing, saying rather than to recall parliament (after it was suspended for nine months on 10 June 2014 by Dr Thabane who feared being removed from power through a no-confidence vote), we should have a fresh election. And then when they were taken up for the offer, they started to dillydally. They are scared for their lives.
LT: So why don’t you prefer an early election?
Moleleki: An election is too expensive for a poor country like Lesotho. Over M200 million would have been used to build a clinic or two, or a hospital in a district, or a road. Now we are just going to hire people, buy material and run a very expensive election, over and above the attack on the public treasury that has been done by Ntate Thabane.
LT: What do you mean by that?
Moleleki: Thabane looted treasury. He attacked it. In many cases, senior government officials were hired in double or even triple in some cases; paying somebody who was not in office and somebody in office; and two police commissioners, two army commanders, two PSs, two government secretaries, two this, two that and a much bigger cabinet than we had when we were in power, first when we were the LCD before we formed the DC (in February 2012). All of these things are national catastrophes; disasters. So the man is mercilessly looting the public treasury. Senior government officials who are not otherwise entitled to a whole convoy of cars, including people he purports to have installed in certain positions but which have not been accepted. Ntate Maaparankoe Mahao (who was appointed Lesotho Defence Force commander in August this year but has not entered any barracks after the man he was supposed to replaced, Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli refused to vacate the post arguing his dismissal was un-procedural) is a case in point. Don’t forget Ntate Thabane fought Ntate Mosisili while the latter only used three cars for his convoy as the then prime minister. All this is a ruthless attack on the poor treasury. He officially abolished the office of the First Lady and then it erupts with two First Ladies. Ntate Thabane has paid M850, 000 for two years to his former wife or to his current wife. And then he is still running around with another woman. So he has two First Ladies. So everything is in double if not triple under Thabane.
LT: Do you appreciate a coalition government yourself?
Moleleki: Very much so. I do. Do I like it? No, I don’t. Emphatically, I don’t. Do I appreciate it? Yes. And there is a misconception out there that we will never have a single party running government in future. That is not true. Whether it will be the ABC or DC, but one day, one party will rule this country. We went to the 2012 election with a fresh split in mind. The DC had only been in existence for three month when we went to the election. And our party is now growing. We might not be able to make government alone, but we will be pretty close to it. But that is not to say that we will insist upon running the government alone even if we were to win 62 constituencies, which would be a majority. We would still go into a coalition because the people of Lesotho have been re-polarised. Where they had remained with some harmony, they were polarised again. You can see Principal Chiefs now supporting the ABC and BNP. So the societal split that has happened now clearly calls for the congress to congregate together.
LT: So in other words, you are saying that you are already working on forming a coalition government with the LCD and other congress parties?
Moleleki: Correct. And we are going to collaborate with them even if they don’t have members in parliament. In positions that are politically appointed, we will give them something. We declare that now. As congress parties, we are all pro-poor. We are on the side of the poor. We were separated by personality differences, but not the philosophy. The platform is identical.
LT: Could you explain further what Dr Mosisili meant at the star rally on Sunday, when he said the legal fees of ritual murder-accused Lehlohonolo Scott, who is in remand prison in South Africa awaiting extradition to Lesotho, are being paid by the government through Durban General Consul, Lerato Tšosane?
Moleleki: No. But he had the facts himself. I’m sure that if you were to check with him, he would be able to substantiate that. But actually I am convinced that this government consciously and deliberately freed that very dangerous criminal (in 2012). And if that is not corruption you tell me what corruption is.