PRIME Minister Thomas Thabane has urged voters to give him an outright majority of seats in Parliament to enable him to continue with his agenda of eradicating corruption which he described as being among the root causes of poverty in Lesotho.
The All Basotho Convention (ABC) leader also vowed to fire Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Leaba Thetsane and Attorney-General Tšokolo Makhete, if he is returned to office as prime minister.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with the Lesotho Times ahead of Saturday’s snap general elections, Thabane said he did not think the two officials will be helpful in his agenda to eradicate corruption. He accused both Advocates Makhete and Thetsane of letting down Basotho by failing to dispense justice.
“If I win, they (Makhete and Thetsane) should go immediately without waiting for me to tell them to go ….,” said a seemingly fired-up Dr Thabane. “They have failed the nation by not dispensing justice….”
Dr Thabane was particularly scathing against Advocate Makhete’s decision to sue King Letsie 111 over the appointment of Judge Kananelo Mosito as Court of Appeal President, describing the move to cite the King as a party to his court challenge as a “drunken decision”.
Dr Thabane last year ejected both Advocates Makhete and Thetsane from office, arguing that they had reached the compulsory retirement age of 55. However, Advocate Thetsane fought back and won his bid to be re-instated to his job in the Court of Appeal.
Since then, Dr Thabane believes Advocate Thetsane has been making political decisions in prosecutions not based on professional considerations to spite the premier. This, the Prime Minister fears, may scupper his anti-corruption drive.
Dr Thabane did not say how he would fire both Makhete and Thetsane in light of the latter’s court victory.
“I will deal with that….I have dealt with worse things before,” said Dr Thabane.
He also ruled out returning Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli to the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF).
“I had already pensioned him (Kamoli) off and that stands. He can lead his life whichever way he wants as a civilian but he cannot get back to the army. He is free to apply for a job at the University or elsewhere but he cannot return to the army as long as I am Prime Minister,” said Dr Thabane.
He said he was not bitter against Lt General Kamoli over the latter’s attempt to overthrow him on August 30 last year. Dr Thabane said the incident, which left a policeman dead after members of the LDF attacked several police stations, had taught him “lessons”.
On whether Lt General Kamoli would be charged with treason over the August 30 events, Dr Thabane would only say “that is a matter of other state organs to deal with”.
Dr Thabane also vowed to hand-over power smoothly if he loses the elections.
“I will pass power to the winner and shake their hand to congratulate them. I will then go to Parliament to oppose them democratically,” said Dr Thabane, further vowing that he would never cling to power if he lost the elections.
He was nevertheless ambivalent when asked about whether or not he would consider forming a coalition government with the Democratic Congress’ Pakalitha Mosisili, considered the ABC’s biggest competitor.
“Because he (Mosisili) is my senior….I would ask him to answer that question first. He is my senior, I worked with him in government for a long time and served as his minister in several portfolios. So it is only fitting that I let him answer that question first…,” said Thabane.
The Prime Minister also said this was his last election, meaning that if he wins, he will consider it his final term as Premier. He will then pass on the button to the next leader at the next polls.
“If elected, I will do my best to leave this country at a position that ensures that whoever takes over from me will not run it down again….,” said Dr Thabane.
He was confident of winning an outright majority if the election was free and fair, but said he would still form a coalition of choice.
“I am not planning to go to elections so that I can form a compulsory coalition but one of choice…,” he said.
“Even if I were to win all the constituencies , I will invite others into government and appoint ministers from other parties.
“There will be a coalition but that will not be because it is inevitable…,” he said.
He said he had confidence in the current Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) to deliver a good election and called upon all stakeholders to assist and cooperate with the IEC. He said the IEC had hitherto done good work despite financial constraints.
The Prime Minister vowed to “wipe out corruption” if elected, saying it was responsible for poverty and hardships for the poor.
“Corruption is responsible for poverty because resources meant to benefit the poor are often diverted to the pockets of officials, creating a vacuum of resources to benefit the people….If I am elected, I can tell you that corruption will become a thing of the past..,” vowed Dr Thabane.
It was in that context that he would not tire in seeking the removal of the DPP and AG from office, he added.
Dr Thabane said it would be wrong to dismiss his collapsed coalition with the LCD’s Mothetjoa Metsing and BNP’s Thesele ‘Maseribane as a failure, saying it had done so many good things for Lesotho.
“Failure of the coalition must be judged against its successes….”
He said the record of ministries under his ABC’s control was particularly impressive and “the public should regard us as people who can be trusted…”
ABC ministries had fostered improvements in health, agriculture, education and other areas. He said the Americans, who were known to be very strict over any abuses of their money, had hailed the projects they had funded under ministries controlled by the ABC, such as health.
“Americans have hailed us for the projects they funded us in areas like health. That is a great achievement considering that Americans are very critical of any abuses of their money….,” said Dr Thabane.
When the coalition government took over, chaos reigned at the National University of Lesotho (NUL), but Dr Thabane said he had moved in to restore order.
“There were chaos at NUL between management, academic and non-academic staff and students. We went together with Deputy Prime Minister Metsing – thanks for his cooperation on that – and we resolved issues. NUL is now doing well under the stewardship of Professor Mahao who has taken over as vice-chancellor and he will undoubtedly strengthen it as a key institution of learning,” said Dr Thabane.
He further said the Ministry of Health had undertaken several initiatives to promote primary healthcare. If returned to power, he would re-open Queen III as a district hospital of Maseru while keeping Queen ‘Mamohato as the referral hospital.
He said his government had also done a lot of work to improve police efficiency and capacity to fight crime. His major concern was the security situation insofar as it related to the army but vowed to resolve it within three months of being elected, the premier added.
Dr Thabane could not disclose how he would resolve the security problem but emphasized that it was vital for the army to be responsible and accountable to an elected civilian government.
“If I return to government, I will resolve the security situation effectively within three months of my government. I will do it effectively in conjunction with the management of those institutions (the army),” said Dr Thabane without disclosing further details due to the sensitive nature of security issues.