Zuma basks in ‘successful’ mission
South African president hails Basotho for holding peaceful elections and wishes new Lesotho Prime Minister a successful term
South African president, Jacob Zuma, has pledged regional support for Lesotho following Tuesday’s inauguration of Democratic Congress (DC) leader, Pakalitha Mosisili, as the country’s new prime minister.
Mr Zuma, who attended the inauguration in his capacity as Southern African Development Community (SADC) Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation chairperson, also emphasised the need for Dr Mosisili to ensure stability in the kingdom, while also congratulating Basotho for holding peaceful parliamentary elections on 28 February.
Lesotho held the National Assembly polls two years early following the continued deterioration of relations between the All Basotho Convention, Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) and Basotho National Party government, which came to power for a five-year term in June 2012.
The three parties had decided to form a coalition administration after the 26 May 2012 elections had failed to produce a single party with an outright majority that would have enabled it to form a government on its own.
However, last month’s elections also resulted in a hung parliament, prompting the DC, LCD, Marematlou Freedom Party (MFP), Basotho Congress Party (BCP), National Independent Party (NIP), Lesotho People’s Congress (LPC) and Popular Front for Democracy (PFD) to form yet another coalition government. The alliance then chose Dr Mosisili, whose party had the most seats in parliament at 47, to lead the government, culminating in Tuesday’s inauguration witnessed by hundreds of Basotho, as well as invited foreign dignitaries. Dr Mosisili was Lesotho premier from 1998 until he paved way for the ABC-led government on 8 June 2012.
However, the DC leader was back in familiar territory on Tuesday as he was handed the baton by the man he surrendered power to almost three years ago—ABC leader Thomas Thabane.
In his keynote address, Mr Zuma said it was important for Dr Mosisili to ensure stability in the kingdom as the masses had done their part in holding a peaceful vote.
Mr Zuma said: “Honourable Mosisili, I would want to first congratulate you on your election as the Prime Minister of Lesotho.
“We, as neighbours and SADC, assure you of our commitment to work with you as you execute your duties and responsibilities as the head of government of Lesotho.
“We would also want to urge you as prime minister, as well as all the political party leaders of Lesotho, to hear Basotho’s cries for peace, stability and development.”
Mr Zuma, who also commended Basotho for their patience, further urged the country’s politicians to put their differences aside and work for the country’s prosperity.
“Honourable Prime Minister and all political leaders in this country, like I said, Basotho are crying for peace and development; please hear their cries,” President Zuma said, adding SADC was on standby to assist Lesotho in whatever way possible, in particular constitutional and security reforms.
Political analysts have said Lesotho needs a constitution clear on the role of the prime minister and the extent of his powers in a multiparty government, which was the bone of contention in the Dr Thabane-led government.
The analysts have also emphasised the need for reforms to ensure appointments within the Lesotho Mounted Police Service, Lesotho Defence Force and National Security Service are based on merit and not political patronage.
According to the analysts, political interference within the three institutions led to the complete breakdown of relations between their respective commands, exacerbating Lesotho’s instability triggered by a bitter power-struggle between Dr Thabane and his deputy, LCD leader Mothetjoa Metsing.
However, according to Mr Zuma, SADC, which brokered the deal that led to last month’s snap elections, was ready to help Lesotho amend its laws to make sure there is lasting peace in the country.
Mr Zuma was also full of praise for his deputy, Cyril Ramaphosa, whose mediation led to the elections and Dr Mosisili’s return to power.
The South African president also announced that the SADC Electoral Observer Mission (SEOM) would be leaving Lesotho at the end of this month after being in the country since September 2014 at the height of the infighting between the coalition government partners.
“I would like to congratulate Deputy President Ramaphosa for a job well done and a successful peace mission in Lesotho. You and the SADC Mission deployed here played a pivotal role in assisting Lesotho resolve the challenges the country was facing.
“We equally take this opportunity to thank the outgoing government of former Prime Minister Thabane and the people of Lesotho for the hospitality and support extended to the SADC Mission over the past few months,” Mr Zuma said.