A strategic retreat

A strategic retreat

IN what could have been a humbling experience, Prime Minister Thomas Thabane this week apologised “for not handling some issues correctly”.
The apology comes after a dramatic week that saw Tourism Minister Motlohi Maliehe launch a scathing attack on the premier for “failing to control his wife”.

He accused Thabane of allowing his wife to run the affairs of the government and those of the party.
Maliehe appeared to voice what ordinary All Basotho Convention (ABC) members were saying in shrilled tones in the privacy of their homes.
When everyone expected Thabane to lash out and wield the axe, what we saw at the weekend was a mellow premier coming to terms with the wishes of his own party supporters.

Our assessment is that Thabane’s wife, ’Maeasiah, regardless of her personality which critics say rubs people the wrong way, is only a footnote in this matter. The real issues have something to do with the disillusionment with the coalition government almost a year after it took over the reins.
There was just so much hope and expectation surrounding this government. The current noises are a sign of this disillusionment.
The coalition is now battling a serious crisis of expectation. The people voted this government into power hoping there would be swift change.

They wanted jobs and more jobs. They expected that the government would swiftly tackle issues of poverty. They wanted this government to fight corruption. They also wanted a restoration of the rule of law and the taming of an army that had gone rogue.
Now almost a year after it took over power, very little has changed on the ground and the people’s patience is beginning to wear thin.
Unless something dramatic happens this government could soon be battling a major public relations nightmare, with its own people turning against it.

That is why it is urgent that the government moves swiftly to address the people’s grievances and seek to score quick-fix “victories” on some of the issues that it found in its in-tray when it assumed office last June. This government cannot continue to bank on the people’s anger against the excesses of the Pakalitha Mosisili-led administration. Of course terrible things happened under Mosisili’s watch.

But the people expect more than mere criticism of the Mosisili-led government.
At another level, the response by Thabane was a political masterstroke. When everybody expected him to lash out, Thabane has made what appears to be a strategic political retreat.

In one swoop, he has succeeded to pull the rug under the feet of his critics. He has managed to buy time.
Yet that strategy will only succeed in cooling the tempers for the time being. Unless the coalition government delivers on its pre-election promises these tensions will come to the fore again.

That is why it is pretty urgent that the government begins to deliver on its pre-election promises. It must quickly address the people’s perception that it has been sluggish in its attempts to bring transformation. Lesotho’s anaemic economy needs a quick jolt. The people want jobs and better service delivery. It must also fight corruption and not be seen to be replicating the same corrupt tendencies that we saw in the previous government.
This government has its work cut out.

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