ALL Basotho Convention (ABC) leader Thomas Thabane has said the army should abide by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) summit directive to remain in the barracks during Saturday’s National Assembly elections.
Addressing thousands of supporters at the ABC’s last rally at Sethaleng-sa-Mopapa in Maseru on Sunday ahead of the polls, Dr Thabane said SADC had deployed a large contingent of police officers to Lesotho to assist the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) during and after the snap elections.
The premier further said the SADC Heads of State and Government Extraordinary Summit held in Pretoria last Friday resolved that the army, which he said was “out of order”, should not conduct patrols on the day of the elections or perform any related role.
“The SADC Heads of States and Government agreed that Saturday’s elections would only be manned by the Lesotho police assisted by the regional police,” Dr Thabane said.
“They said the army should remain in the barracks on Saturday because they seem to be out of order. SADC does not trust the army to protect the electoral process. As government, we are not the ones who came up with the decision to keep the army away from the elections; it was SADC.”
The ABC leader also said SADC came to that decision after realising the army was “out of control” and “destabilising” the nation.
“They (army) have been defying my instructions as Prime Minister and Minister of Defence and Police. This is the first time I am confessing to you that the army actually made me run from the country for my life last August because they wanted to kill me,” Dr Thabane said.
“I am not a coward but I don’t want to be killed by people I don’t know, which is why I had to run for my life.”
Turning to the party’s candidates contesting in the country’s 80 constituencies, the premier said they must deliver on the promises they made while canvassing for votes, should they win the elections.
“I can assure you that most, if not all, of you will become Members of Parliament (MPs) after the elections,” said Dr Thabane.
“However, I am more concerned about how you will behave afterwards. Once you are in Parliament, you will be approached by other MPs tempting you with all sorts of promises so that you can renege on your promises to the people who voted for you.”
He urged the candidates not to emulate former ABC MPs who crossed the floor during the Eighth Parliament, based on “empty” promises from the party’s opponents.
“I urge you to forever remain faithful and loyal to the people who elected you into Parliament because their hopes for a better life lie in you,” the premier said.
“The hundreds of elderly people who came to this rally used their meagre resources to pay for busfare. It is not that they don’t have anything else to do, but because they have hope that with the ABC, Lesotho can prosper.”
Dr Thabane also told the candidates to always visit their constituencies every weekend if they are elected as MPs.
“There is a bad tendency among some MPs to quickly forget about their constituencies once they reside in Maseru. You find them socialising in Maseru on weekends when they are supposed to be in their constituencies reporting back to the people about what is happening in Parliament. I condemn that behaviour and do not expect it from you,” he said.
The premier also urged party supporters to vote for the ABC in their numbers on Saturday, “so that we become a government that brings hope to the people”.
“It is only through your votes that the hope you have placed in us will materialise and bring about change. There is no turning back,” said Dr Thabane.
“I am appealing to you to wake-up very early on Saturday so you can cast your votes. Don’t just come in large numbers to rallies and then decide not to vote. Your vote, and not just your rally attendance, will bring change.”
He also took a swipe at those supporting Attorney General Tšokolo Makhethe’s lawsuit against King Letsie III, in which he is contesting the appointment of King’s Counsel (KC) Kananelo Mosito as President of the Court of Appeal.
“I don’t know where these people (applicants) come from that they do not know that our King cannot be sued,” Dr Thabane said.
“They are disrespecting our tradition and norms. The funny part is that some of them are not even credible lawyers.
“Their qualifications are questionable because they were just made to pass their law examinations at the National University of Lesotho when they actually failed.”
Meanwhile, Popular Front for Democracy (PFD) members, including the party’s sole MP in the previous parliament, Ntšepase Mahao, and former Lesotho Congress for Democracy activist, Teboho Motšeleli, also joined the ABC at the rally.
Speaking on behalf of the defectors, Mr Motšeleli said the ABC had shown its readiness to take the nation forward and “seems to be the only party which respects the King”.
“Our hearts are filled with such pain as we leave our former parties,” said Mr Motšeleli.
“We have realised that the ABC is willing to improve this nation and feel we should also be part that process.”
Prominent Mafeteng-based famo artiste and leader of the Terene (train) faction, Rethabile (Mosotho Chakela) Mokete, also addressed the rally and vowed that his group and that of Fito (knot) would continue to support the ABC.
Mr Mokete said: “Ntate Thabane was the first to show interest in how Basotho artistes were being treated. We used to be undermined by the past governments until Ntate Thabane took the initiative to pledge, in the ABC manifesto, to address the issue of the initiates, which is us, when nobody cared about us.”