Connect with us


Victory is certain, says Mahao



MASERU – Professor Nqosa Mahao, the leader of the Basotho Action Party (BAP), sees tomorrow’s watershed election in simple binary terms.

It is a battle of good versus evil; a battle between the old political parties that have given birth to their “little cousins” through splits in the last 56 years and a new, dynamic formation in the form of the BAP.

It is a battle between those with ideas to take Lesotho forward and those without.

“There are only two parties in this election,” Mahao, a distinguished professor of law, says.

“It’s the rest of them that the electorate has experienced over the last 56 years and the BAP on the one hand which is coming out with a truly transformational agenda for this country,” he says.

That is a bold statement on its own. But what he does not say is that there are other new players – such as business tycoon Sam Matekane’s Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) – who are also contesting the election for the very first time.

It is a congested arena that will have Basotho spoilt for choice. A total of 65 political parties will be on the ballot box tomorrow.

A week from tomorrow, Lesotho will likely have a new government in place and Mahao believes that his BAP will be right in the mix as that discussion unfolds.

In an exclusive interview with thepost this week, Mahao was adamant that his BAP represents a break with Lesotho’s toxic politics that are often blamed for the country’s economic malaise.

The people have been drinking from the same poisoned pool over the last 56 years and it is now time for a break, he says.

The BAP represents a break with that toxic past and the beginning of a new era of clean politics and governance, he says.

Mahao puts his hand up, insisting that he is the best candidate for the biggest job in Lesotho – that of Prime Minister.

It is a claim that will be severely put to the test as Basotho trek to the polls tomorrow.

At the core of Lesotho’s political and economic malaise is the absence of “a leadership with a vision”, Mahao says.

He says that is why he is putting himself up for election tomorrow.

Mahao says Lesotho is currently ranked “the lowest income country in southern Africa” yet the country is endowed with huge natural resources in the form of clean water and minerals such as diamonds.

“Lesotho counts among the poorest in the region and in the world. So something is missing and that is a credible leadership with a vision,” he says.

Once elected into office, Mahao says it will not be business as usual for Lesotho. He wants to set up a “deliverable programme of action” to drag the country out of the mud.

“Everything will be done differently. We have an unprofessional public service and alarming levels of corruption. The result is a very poor mismanagement of public assets,” he says.

“So we have to fix these; that’s why we are talking of good governance and respect for the rule of law.”

Mahao says Lesotho has over the years “lost its way in terms of adhering to the centrality of law in societal interactions”.

It is for that reason that Lesotho now has the dubious distinction of being the country with the highest crime rate in the region and the worst homicide rate, he says.

‘Regimes that have been in charge over the last 56 years have deliberately undermined the rule of law by ensuring we have a very weak legal regime which is not even enforced,’ he says.

Mahao says the BAP wants to see a full restoration of the rule of law to create a better platform for direct foreign investment.

“External investors must be convinced that their investments will be safe and that if there are disputes they must be convinced that the courts of law will preside and arbitrate quickly informed by the law,” he says.

“And they must be assured that their own lives will be safe. But all these things do not exist at the present moment.”

A BAP government will move swiftly to address these concerns, Mahao says. Mahao says the BAP is alive to the frightening disparities between the haves and the have-nots in Lesotho.

That gap must be bridged if we are to have a cohesive society, he says.

“You can’t have a cohesive society when you have such a gap in our midst.”

“Now when you look at all the political parties that are contesting the election, do you see any that has a profound understanding of the structural problems that have put this country where it is today and have come up with concrete policies to address the challenges?”

Asked if he thinks he is the best candidate among the entire crop contesting the polls, Mahao was blunt.

“Who would ever doubt that? I come into politics with a track record in administration and people leadership. I have led at institutions of higher learning. Some of them were literally wild,” he says.

Mahao was at one time the executive dean in the Faculty of Law at the Mafikeng campus for the North West University in South Africa. He also had stints at the University of South Africa (UNISA) and Wits University.

He is the former vice-chancellor at the National University of Lesotho (NUL). He says he came to the NUL at a time when there were serious calls within government corridors to “shut down the university”.

“But within four years, I had transformed that institution. It is now a respectable institution with a focus on socio-economic issues,” he says.

Mahao says it is those leadership qualities that he wants to bring into politics. He however admits that he was not always a political animal and had to be dragged by individuals who felt he should have a role to play in national politics.

“The people were saying, ‘Look at what you have done for the NUL. On the other hand the country is sinking. Why don’t you come out and help in the national effort to salvage the country?”

Asked if the BAP had conducted any internal surveys to gauge their level of support, Mahao was non-committal insisting their strategy was focused on mobilising the grassroots by meeting villagers at lipitso (community gatherings).

“Our strategy has been to hold public gatherings where you sit down with people, talk to them at a community level and engage with them. They ask questions, they challenge you. That has been our strategy – to revolutionise the way we do politics by empowering the electorate.”

He says the BAP that is seen as “the new kid on the block,” is coming into an arena that is already heavily saturated.

That made the campaign extremely tough, he says. But despite the challenges Mahao says it has also been extremely gratifying “with our message being roundly accepted wherever we have been”.

“We haven’t been disappointed by the response of our people and that has been gratifying. On the basis of that we think we will do very well.”

But we also know that any credible election requires a clean voters’ register. Mahao says the current voter register is deeply flawed and could trigger serious post-election disputes.

The fault, he says, lies entirely with the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) which had ample time to clean up the register but spectacularly failed to do so.

He says the current IEC commissioners were inaugurated into office in 2020 when he was still Minister of Law and Constitutional Affairs.

Despite clearly spelling out what needed to be done, they did not respond quickly enough, he says. The result is a messy register, the worst that Lesotho has ever had in decades, he says.

“We are going into an election with a database that may be the cause of unnecessary controversies relating to the outcome of the elections. So we are not happy with that.”

But Mahao says the crisis is not entirely of the IEC’s own making. This is an institution that is terribly underfunded by the government.

To make matters worse, the IEC then suspended “a very experienced operations director a few months before going to elections”.

“We don’t know why they did that. So, yes we are not happy. We don’t think the IEC is doing its best in terms of managing the process.”

He says they had conducted their own analysis of the voter register and what they picked was not so good.

In his own constituency, Mahao says they found people at voting stations that are not known in the community.

“Names of people that are known to be deceased (were on the register) and we brought this to the attention of the retaining officer in the constituency. But we haven’t received any feedback yet.”

“So a few days before the elections, we are likely to go to the polling booths with precisely the same mistakes that we spotted.”

Asked if he sees this as a deliberate ploy to massage the election result, Mahao was non-committal, only adding that “this is Africa, anything is possible”.

Mahao says this great country does not deserve the kind of leadership it has been getting over the last 56 years.

It is now time to turn the page by voting for the BAP.

If he is elected Prime Minister, Mahao says he will quickly turn his attention to resuscitating the agriculture sector which he says is central to Lesotho’s economy.

“Our policy thrust is very revolutionary,” he says.

“It (agriculture) is the mainstay of this economy and so it will be accorded the place it deserves. It is a pity that previous regimes have been destroying the little that remains of our land instead of growing crops, we are ‘growing’ houses over the most fertile land.”

He says despite poor governance of our natural resources, we still have a very reasonable reservoir of fertile land.

“We have an abundance of water, clean air and sun as well as the altitude. We must revolutionise our approach to agriculture. We must move away from subsistence production to large scale commercialised agriculture.”

This election has not been without its lighter moments. Thanks to Zheng Yu Shao, a Mosotho of Chinese descent, who is standing in the elections in Ha-Tsolo constituency.

Music and dance are central to Lesotho’s elections, providing relief at a time when Basotho engage in serious national discourse.

Basotho have however watched first with amusement and later with outrage as Shao wowed the crowds at his political rallies in Ha-Tsolo.

While Shao’s decision to contest the election has rattled the political establishment in Lesotho who see his entry as a threat to Lesotho’s sovereignty, some kind of “china-fication” of Lesotho politics, Mahao says they do not hold any grudge against him or any other Chinese national.

We hold no anti-Chinese sentiments against Shao or anyone else, Mahao says.

He however says Shao’s entry into Lesotho politics is a symptom of a serious malaise where Basotho have slowly given up control of their own economy and country to foreign interests.

“They (the Chinese) have taken over the retail trade. If you look at any of the hardwares, it was only a matter of time before they would come into the political arena. The problem is with those who manage the state.”

“Because of corruption we have allowed people who come in here on a clear mission to invest in large scale industrial development to encroach onto the terrain of small businesses and they have captured that now. They also know that the political system is weak and they are now invading that space as well.”

Mahao insists that this is “not about Shao but how we got here”.

“As for Shao, if he impresses the electorate at Ha-Tsolo to vote for him, so be it. We hold no anti-Chinese sentiments against him.”

BOX: Illustrate Elections

80 seats up for grabs
40 seats to be distributed through Proportional Representation system
Explain how this model works

Abel Chapatarongo


Continue Reading


MP defies party, backs opposition



MOHLOMINYANE Tota, the only MP for the United for Change (UFC), has defied the party’s order to stop voting with the opposition in parliament.
Tota, the UFC’s deputy leader, told thepost this week that he will vote, guided by his own conscience, and not the party’s instructions.

His defiance comes after the party publicly chastised him for voting with the opposition in parliament.
A fightnight ago, Tota angered his party when he sided with the opposition to vote against the government’s motion to continue discussing the reforms’ Omnibus Bill despite that it was being challenged in the Constitutional Court.

The government however won with 57 votes against the opposition’s 50.
The UFC issued a statement reprimanding Tota for defying its decision to always vote with the government.
But Tota told thepost this week that he was unfazed by the party’s warning.

“I will continue to vote with the opposition where need be, and I will also vote with the government where need be,” Tota said.
He said he respects the party’s position but “I also have a right to follow my conscience”.

This, he added, is because “it is not mandatory for an MP to toe the party line even when his conscience does not allow it”.
He said whether he will vote with the government or the opposition will depend “on the issue on the table”.
He said his conscience would not allow him to vote with the government on the Omnibus Bill motion.

“It was wrong,” Tota said.
“I will do the same again given another chance.”

Tota’s response comes three days after the UFC issued a statement distancing itself from his stance in parliament.
The party said its national executive committee had an urgent meeting over the weekend to discuss Tota’s behaviour.
It said its position is to always support Prime Minister Sam Matekane’s coalition government.

“‘The issue has caused a lot of confusion in the party and among Basotho at large,” the statement reads.

The party also said Tota did not bother to inform the national executive committee about his decision so that he could get a new mandate.

“He did not even inform the committee before voting,” the statement reads.
“The national executive committee held an intensive meeting with Tota about the matter because the purpose of the party is to support the government,” it reads.
The UFC said where the government goes wrong “the party will continue to confront it with peace and not with a fight” (sic).

“We have confidence in the current government because it was voted in by Basotho.”
The UFC’s statement makes it clear that the party “will not support anything against the government”.

Nkheli Liphoto

Continue Reading


Inside plot to oust Matekane



THE plot to topple Prime Minister Sam Matekane thickened this week amid allegations of brazen vote-buying ahead of the opposition’s planned vote of no-confidence.

The opposition is said to be ready to push out Matekane when parliament reopens sometime in September. They accuse Matekane’s government of incompetence, nepotism, corruption and using the security forces to harass opposition MPs.

But as the lobbying and touting of MPs reaches fever pitch, there are now allegations of each side using bribes to secure votes crucial in the vote to remove the government.
Democratic Congress leader, Mathibeli Mokhothu, this week accused the government of bribing its MPs to defeat the motion against Matekane.

Mokhothu, who made the allegations at the opposition’s press conference yesterdday, did not give further details or names of those bribed and those bribing.
But on Monday, the Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) MP, Puseletso Lejone, told thepost that Mokhothu offered him a M2.2 million bribe to support the opposition’s motion to upend the government.

Lejone said Mokhothu made the offer at a secret meeting, attended by almost all opposition leaders on August 14, at Monyane Moleleki’s house in Qoatsaneng.
The Thaba Moea MP said the leaders claimed that 60 MPs were supporting the motion against Matekane and wanted his vote to make it 61.

“The money was to come directly from Mokhothu,” Lejone said.
“They asked me to provide them with my bank account so that they could transfer the money.”
Mokhuthu denied the allegations, saying he wondered if Lejone “was smoking socks”.

Lejone repeated the same allegations on the sidelines of yesterday’s press conference where Matekane assured Basotho that his government has enough numbers to fend off the opposition’s attempt to push him out.
He said apart from Moleleki and Mokhothu, other political leaders who attended the meeting were Lekhetho Rakuoane, Machesetsa Mofomobe, Nkaku Kabi, Professor Nqosa Mahao, Teboho Mojapela, Tefo Mapesela and Tšepo Lipholo.

He said the leaders gave him a document showing that six RFP MPs had pledged to support the vote of no confidence. Lejone however refused to name the RFP MPs, saying he still wants them to remain in the ruling party.
He said four MPs from parties in the RFP-led coalition had signed.

They are Mohlominyane Tota (UFC), Reverend Paul Masiu (BAENA), Mokoto Hloaele (AD) and Motlalepula Khahloe (MEC).
The deal, Lejone said, was that Mokhutho would become prime minister and be deputised by Dr Mahali Phamotse.
He said the RFP’s faction was going to be rewarded with 10 ministerial seats for their role in toppling Matekane.
Nearly all the political leaders mentioned by Lejone denied attending the meeting at Moleleki’s house.

“By the living God, I have never been in a meeting with that man (Lejone),” Mokhothu said, adding that Lejone’s allegations are “defamatory”.

Mahao said he last visited Moleleki’s house, which is up the road from his, 22 years ago. Mofomobe said Lejone is lying about the meeting because he wants to curry favour with Matekane, whom he had been criticising for months.
Mofomobe said all his meetings with Lejone were at the BNP Centre and their agenda was toppling Matekane.

“We were discussing his (Matekane) incapability to rule this country,” Mofomobe said.

Rakuoane and Mapesela said they have never been to Moleleki’s house.
So did Kabi who implied that Lejone could have smoked something intoxicating “to talk about a meeting that never happened”.
Lipholo, Rev Masiu, and Tota said they were not at that meeting while Moleleki said he had “no comment”.

Staff Reporter

Continue Reading


Matekane abusing state agencies, says opposition



THE opposition has accused the government of weaponising security agencies to harass and intimidate their MPs.
The accusations come as the opposition plots to push a vote of no confidence against Prime Minister Sam Matekane when parliament re-opens in September.

Opposition leaders told a press conference yesterday that the government has resorted to using the army and the police against its MPs because it is afraid of the motion.
Democratic Congress (DC) leader, Mathibeli Mokhothu, said the security bosses have been willing tools for the government because their bosses are desperate for Matekane to renew their employment contracts.

He was talking about Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli, army boss Lieutenant General Mojalefa Letsoela and National Security Service (NSS) boss Pheello Ralenkoane.

“Employment contracts for the security agencies’ bosses are the ones causing these problems because the commanders end up working towards pleasing the government for their contract extension,” Mokhothu said.

He said the army has also started setting up roadblocks closer to parliament to search MPs. Mokhothu said the army searched Nkaku Kabi and Advocate Lebohang Maema KC at the parliament premises last week.

“The government is now bringing back the security agencies into party politics,” Mokhothu said.
“This was the first time the army entered the parliament premises to search members and other people there. It is an embarrassment.”
“The responsibility of our soldiers is to guard the borders and ensure security, not to enter politics or set up roadblocks on the parliament roads.”
“They are now running the country like a shop or a company.”

Basotho National Party leader, Machesetsa Mofomobe, alleged that Matekane had a meeting with the security bosses in Teya-teyaneng to discuss how they could use their institutions to clip the opposition’s wings.

“The LDF, LMPS and NSS boss’s contracts have expired, and now they are using the institution to get extensions,” Mofomobe said.
“The LDF and LMPS are doing this deliberately to protect the government.”
thepost could not independently verify this allegation.

Tefo Mapesela, the Basotho Progressive Party leader, said Matekane’s government is taking Lesotho back to 2014 when the army was wooed into politics.
He warned that officers who allow themselves to be used as pawns in political fights might find themselves in jail while their political handlers enjoy freedom.
He referred to Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli who has been in remand prison for seven years as he faces charges of murder, attempted murder and treason.
Mapesela however said the opposition will not be intimidated because it is their democratic right to bring a motion of no confidence against the government.

“When there is time to enter a motion of no confidence it is time, it is written in the law, there is nothing wrong there,” Mapesela said.
“I once launched a motion of no confidence in the previous parliament, but I was never arrested or threatened.”

“We do not owe Matekane anything. When the time has come he has to go. We will lobby others as it is not a crime.”

The Basotho Action Party’s Nqosa Mahao criticised the police for issuing a press statement with political undertones.

In a controversial statement last week, Commissioner Molibeli said the police were aware that some MPs were coercing their colleagues to support their plot to topple the government.
Molibeli also said they were aware that such MPs were surrounding themselves with armed groups.

“Police warn those perpetrating these acts to stop immediately to avoid action that could be taken to protect the country,” Molibeli said.

Matekane made the same allegations at his press conference yesterday.
Professor Mahao said the statement shows that the police have now been entangled in politics.

“Every time parties experience internal problems the leaders conspire with the security agencies,” he said.
“The opposition leaders are now being harassed because the government wants to stop them from exercising their rights.”

The opposition’s charge sheet against Matekane

  •  Filling of statutory positions despite the reforms aiming to change the system.
  • Corruption
  • Nepotism
  • Using security agencies to deter MPs from ousting Matekane.
  • Job losses.
  • Lack of job creation.
  • Failure to fulfil campaign promises.
  • Protecting mining companies’ interests at the expense of Basotho.
  • Incompetence and lack of communication skills.
  • Arrest of MPs by the police.
  • Cherry-picking reforms that insulate his government.

Staff Reporter

Continue Reading