‘We don’t want a GNU’ – Mokhothu
DEMOCRATIC Congress (DC) leader Mathibeli Mokhothu has ruled out joining a government of national unity (GNU) with Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, saying the latter should just step down and hand over power to whoever is chosen to replace him if a parliamentary no confidence motion succeeds.
Mr Mokhothu, who leads the country’s biggest opposition party, recently joined forces with the Professor Nqosa Mahao-led faction of Dr Thabane’s All Basotho Convention (ABC) to file a no confidence motion against the veteran leader.
The youthful opposition leader said in the event of Dr Thabane’s refusal to step down, his party was ready to go for elections rather than join a GNU that would only perpetuate the rule of a regime that he said had caused so much suffering to Basotho through its “self-aggrandisement”.
Mr Mokhothu made the remarks during a weekend rally in Matelile, Mafeteng. His stance has set him and his party at odds with longtime ally and fellow opposition leader Mothejoa Metsing of the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) who has consistently touted the GNU as the best way out of Lesotho’s perennial instability and economic stagnation.
A fortnight ago, the pro-Mahao ABC legislators joined forces with the opposition to file a no confidence motion against Dr Thabane. The Mahao camp decided on the move after the premier sided with the party’s old national executive committee (NEC) which had refused to hand over power to Prof Mahao and others after their election at the ruling party’s February 2019 elective conference.
The ABC’s Koro-Koro constituency legislator, Motebang Koma, filed the no confidence motion and proposed ABC chairperson Samuel Rapapa to replace Dr Thabane. Mr Koma was immediately seconded by DC deputy leader Motlalentoa Letsosa and the entire opposition bloc except for the LCD which is holding out for a GNU deal in exchange for any support for Dr Thabane. Parliament was indefinitely closed before the bill could be tabled last week and brought to vote.
But on Sunday, a defiant Mr Mokhothu insisted that there would be no GNU deal to rescue a “greedy self-serving regime” that had lost its majority in parliament.
“We have filed a no confidence motion in parliament because we are convinced that this government doesn’t have numbers, we have challenged them.
“A member of parliament who has been nominated by the majority to lead should do so without us having to go for elections and we are totally against the government of national unity that has been proposed by others,” said Mr Mokhothu in a thinly veiled reference to Mr Metsing.
“They should not bother this nation by going to the polls if they don’t have enough numbers to stay in power. They should do an honourable thing and hand over power. But if they run to His Majesty King Letsie III and dissolve parliament and call for elections, we are ready and we shall claim victory.
The DC was one of the staunch advocates of a GNU soon after being toppled in the June 2017 elections when it was still led by former premier Pakalitha Mosisili. Together with the LCD and other opposition parties, the DC even made the creation of a GNU a precondition for its participation in the multi-sector reforms process. It reluctantly gave up the position and joined the reforms talks after being persuaded by SADC.
But under the leadership of Mr Mokhothu, who assumed the reins in January this year, the DC has completely changed tack and now wants Thabane to give up power without even going for elections. Mr Mokhothu said the DC would not allow itself to be used to save Dr Thabane’s regime from imminent collapse by agreeing to a GNU.
“They (ABC) didn’t heed our call (for a GNU in 2017) because they thought they had won and now that they are on the verge of collapse they want us to consider it. No. We are not going to do that because it is not in the interest of the people.
“The judiciary has collapsed, the education, the security sectors have collapsed and now they (government) want us to wash them of the stench they have. They are stinky to the public and they ought to open parliament and let the stench escape the August House. The DC will not let itself be used to stabilise Ntate Thabane’s government. We stand for democracy.
“We dare them to open parliament and see if indeed they have the numbers they claim to possess to save themselves. Let them open it. The motion of no confidence is meant to challenge the legitimacy of the government and if they are an honourable government they should let democracy take its course.”
Mr Mokhothu said the government was led by “crooks” as some of the leaders had only joined the coalition to save themselves from criminal prosecution. He suggested that those who were now advocating a GNU were probably doing so to save themselves from possible prosecution.
“This government comprises of crooks and we have seen it before that a criminal docket belonging to one of them disappeared in court. One wonders what they are promising each other now that they are talking of a GNU comprising of all parties.
“What are these ones (who want to be part of a GNU) putting up for collateral because in the past one put up his docket? We don’t want anything to do with a GNU because it’s not for the good of the people,” Mr Mokhothu said.
Mr Metsing, the most vocal proponent of the GNU, has a criminal charge hanging over his head. He fled the country in 2017 citing a government plot to assassinate him. This was dismissed by the government which insisted that he had fled to escape prosecution for alleged corruption during his time in government. He only returned to the country last November after SADC brokered a deal to halt prosecution and enable him to participate in the multi-sector reforms process.