Thabane must go now:  Mochoboroane

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  • MEC leader says he thrice rejected the PM’s offer of a ministerial post
  • says Lesotho risks being a failed state if Thabane remains in charge

Staff Reporter

MOVEMENT for Economic Change (MEC) leader Selibe Mochoboroane says embattled All Basotho Convention (ABC) leader and Prime Minister Thomas Thabane thrice “dangled the carrot of a ministerial appointment” to entice him to join his governing coalition as the deleterious effects of the infighting in the ABC began to hit home.

But Mr Mochoboroane said he turned the prime minister down as he would never accept any offer to shore up the moribund Thabane administration.

The MEC leader said the premier’s shortcomings had brought the country to the edge of a cliff as evidenced by mounting anger of wool and mohair farmers, who have been deprived of their freedom to trade, as well as restive civil servants, who had been denied salary increments, among a plethora of things, that could have cataclysmic effects for Lesotho.

Mr Mochoboroane said it was now time all political parties mobilised in parliament, in the courts and in the streets to push out the premier whom he said had clearly lost control of government.

The former cabinet minister poured his heart out in an interview with the Lesotho Times in Maseru this week. Mr Mochoboroane broke away from the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) to form the MEC prior to the June 2017 elections. He scored an impressive six seats despite his party having only been in existence for a paltry three months. As an LCD minister in the previous Pakalitha Mosisili led coalition government, Mr Mochoboroane excelled in all the portfolios he held. He is widely seen as a leader of the future if he plays his political game right.

His calls for Dr Thabane’s ouster come against the background of the ever escalating power struggle threatening to split the ABC and collapse the two-year old coalition in which it is the lead party.

The ABC has not known peace since its 1-2 February 2019 elective conference which ushered Professor Nqosa Mahao into the national executive committee (NEC) as the party’s deputy leader. By winning the second most powerful post in the ABC, ahead of the likes of Finance Minister Moeketsi Majoro and Prince Maliehe, the former National University of Lesotho (NUL) vice chancellor was cast in a good position to succeed Dr Thabane when the veteran politician eventually bows out voluntarily or otherwise.

However, Prof Mahao’s election was against the express wishes of Dr Thabane and other members of the old NEC. Not even the 13 June 2019 High Court ruling which confirmed Prof Mahao and the rest of the new NEC’s election has been able to restore normalcy to the ABC.

Last week Dr Thabane announced the expulsion of Prof Mahao and three others, including his son in law Lebohang Hlaele, despite the High Court ruling upholding their election. The move has been flatly rejected by Prof Mahao and his colleagues in the new NEC who are now challenging it in the courts. The new NEC has also announced its plans to convene a special conference to clip Dr Thabane’s wings and possibly achieve his ouster.

This is all in addition to the no confidence motion which the Mahao camp has already filed in parliament in conjunction with the opposition.

And in the interview with the Lesotho Times, Mr Mochoboroane revealed that Dr Thabane thrice approached him with the offer of a cabinet post in return for joining the governing coalition and thrice he turned him down.

The governing coalition comprises of the ABC (53 seats), Deputy Prime Minister Monyane Moleleki’s Alliance of Democrats (AD – 11 seats), Communications minister Thesele Maseribane’s Basotho National Party (BNP-five seats) and Labour minister Keketso Rantšo’s Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL- one seat).

Twenty of the fractious ABC’s members of parliament have come out in support of Prof Mahao. Should these MPS and the opposition vote together as expected, then Dr Thabane would lose the no confidence vote. It is against this background that the premier approached Mr Mochoboroane, whose fledgling MEC has six seats, to help him pull his proverbial chestnuts out of the fire.

But the youthful chairperson of the parliamentary public accounts committee (PAC) said no amount of inducements, including the prospect of a return to cabinet, would tempt him to join forces with Dr Thabane.

Instead, he said it was time all political parties united and used every means including mobilising the people for mass protests to bring Dr Thabane down. He said it was necessary for the premier to be shown the exit door because “he was the author of the country’s socio-economic woes” through policies that had embittered farmers, civil servants and the whole Basotho nation.

“At a personal level my relations with Ntate Thabane are very good,” Mr Mochoboroane told the Lesotho Times.

“He even invited me to his birthday and I gave a speech as his colleague in parliament and in political leadership. But the story is totally different when it comes to politics… On three occasions he proposed to have me join government but on all occasions I declined on the basis of principle not because I had anything against the old man.

“The principle on which I declined his offers was simply that he should not try shortcuts to solve the problems within ABC and the government as those shortcuts would only trigger even more problems….I urged him to look for sustainable solutions. I counter-proposed to him that he should summon all the political leaders in parliament and ask for help in coming up with solutions.

“I said to him now that the government is at the edge of the cliff, it is best to sit around the table with all the leaders so they can help him come up with solutions. His method of trying to pick people from the opposition one by one and bringing them into government will not solve the problems at all. Firing ministers in his party and then attempting to paper the cracks by just appointing somebody else, even from the opposition, will not solve the problems. The solutions will only come from bringing all the leaders to discussions. That is what I proposed and he did not listen to that.”

Mr Mochoboroane said he proposed the establishment of a transitional government because “this a kind of government that is temporary and deals with specific issues”.

He said because of the premier’s intransigence and refusal to heed his advice, the MEC had joined with the Mahao faction and other parties to file the no confidence motion to be tabled and voted on whenever parliament re-opens after it was indefinitely closed more than three weeks ago.

“The transitional government would have ensured the implementation of the multi-sector reforms and dealt with other pressing issues to restore the credibility of the government.

“But he (Dr Thabane) would not heed my advice on the three occasions that he came to me proposing to have me as a minister….This has now brought us to this situation where we have proposed a motion of no confidence against him. What has to happen now is that he should resign and let Ntate (Samuel) Rapapa take over and lead a transitional government.

“We are in a serious crisis where we are bound to ensure that Ntate Thabane is removed from power. If he remains in charge we will still have a problem of farmers crying about their wool and mohair. We will still have teachers mourning over the government’s failure to pay them their salary arrears and increments. We will still have a problem of police lamenting that they haven’t got their six percent increments. We will still have nurses also demanding salary increments and local business people rendering services to the government not being paid, among a plethora of other problems. All this says to us we need to change the regime immediately.

“If he remains in charge we will see Lesotho becoming a failed state in a short space of time… The old man has lost control over the government. He is not the one who is controlling the government. I don’t know and I can’t say who is controlling the government but Ntate Thabane has lost control completely.”

Mr Mochoboroane described as unfortunate fellow opposition leader Mothejoa Metsing’s offer to rescue Dr Thabane from the no confidence vote in return for the premier agreeing to the creation of a government of national unity (GNU).

The MEC leader insists Dr Thabane must go at all costs even if this means court action to force him to re-open parliament and mobilising the masses for street demonstrations such as those that have toppled some long-serving leaders elsewhere in Africa. Long term leaders of Sudan and Algeria have fallen to mass protests with Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe being ousted in a coup supported by the masses.

“It is unfortunate for Ntate Metsing to propose the GNU to save Ntate Thabane’s skin. But if the GNU had been proposed to address real issues with a clearly defined agenda for the betterment of Basotho, then that would be understandable and worth of consideration. But a GNU to save Ntate Thabane from his inevitable demise is to invite disaster.

“The MEC supports a transitional government which is temporary and meant to address specific issues. Once it completes its task of addressing those specific issues, the transitional government prepares the country for elections. And a transitional government differs from the GNU in that it will have an opposition. There’s no way that we can have a government without an opposition to hold it accountable for its management of the public purse.

“After the closure of parliament we have been consulting and one of the things we will do is to file a case in court to have parliament re-opened for the no confidence motion to be moved. We are also going to join the masses for protests against this government…We are not playing…It is advisable for Ntate Thabane to wake up immediately and smell the coffee…He must quit now and save himself from impending humiliation if he clings on,” Mr Mochoboroane charged.

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