Fresh start for Lesotho

Fresh start for Lesotho

WHEN Parliament re-opens next Friday Prime Minister Thomas Thabane must quickly seize the moment and initiate a process that will eventually see him step down from power.
Thabane, who has so far kept his cards close to his chest, must inform the House when he intends to step down.
If Thabane fails to do so, Lesotho runs the risk of prolonging what has become one of its most embarrassing crisis.

That will have devastating consequences for the country’s economic recovery.
By informing Parliament when he intends to vacate office, Thabane would help break a political stalemate that has gripped his deeply divided All Basotho Convention (ABC) party.
That would also pave way for the country to close this sad chapter and chart a new course.

The reputational damage to “brand Lesotho” has been massive.
As we have argued in this editorial section before, Thabane, 81, has surely run his course. Now is the time for him to pass on the baton.
The tragi-comic events of the past two months have entrenched our belief that it is surely time for the old man to step aside.
His political party has been torn apart by bitter factional fights. Despite public pronouncements of a détente it is becoming clearly abundant that the ABC is still bitterly divided across factional lines.

A silent civil war is still raging within Thabane’s own party as key leaders fight for the sole ticket to succeed the premier.
That fight has unfortunately now trickled down to other key levers of the state, particularly the judiciary. We know that whoever controls the judiciary will call the shots.
That is why we have seen a parallel fight over the position of Chief Justice.
Thabane, perhaps wary of being chased and hounded when he steps down from power, has already indicated a desire to appoint Justice ’Maseforo Mahase as the substantive Chief Justice.
The judge is perceived to be fiercely loyal to Thabane.

But that decision has already been challenged by Lebohang Hlaele, Thabane’s son-in-law, who is in Professor Nqosa Mahao’s camp.
Justice Mahase has however not helped her cause following a spate of court cases in which she delivered contentious judgments in favour of the Prime Minister.
That has only added to the perception that she is Thabane’s acolyte.

By granting bail to ’Maesiah Thabane last week under what critics have said were very controversial circumstances, Justice Mahase appeared to confirm that those fears were not unfounded.
With all these things taking place in the background, Basotho would have expected Thabane to resign and pave way for a fresh pair of hands on the levers of power.
Each day that passes, however, appears to confirm our worst fears that Thabane is not going anywhere anytime soon. It appears he wants to dig in and leave power on his own terms.
That will likely create a very toxic and combustible political environment.

Of course, MPs from the ABC will likely rally behind the party as they would not like to lose the trappings of power.
The opposition, which currently does not have the numbers on their own to pass a vote of no-confidence, will be kicking and screaming in their push to get Thabane out.
But without the numbers they will likely bank on rebel MPs from the ABC to force through a vote-of-no-confidence.

If the crisis drags on any longer, Lesotho will be the biggest loser.

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