Is Thabane slowly  morphing into a dictator?

Is Thabane slowly morphing into a dictator?

THERE are worrying signs that Prime Minister Thomas Thabane is beginning to demonstrate signs that were exhibited by former premier Leabua Jonathan when he lost elections in 1970.
That is scary.
It is a fact that when Jonathan lost the 1970 elections, he suspended the constitution and ruled by decree until he was toppled by his own army in 1986.
“I have seized power. I am not ashamed of it. It may appear undemocratic, but I have most of the people behind me,” Jonathan said in a statement on 31st January 1970.

Our nation is supposed to be guided by the rule of law and that no man is above the law. This premise is being tested when it comes to the Prime Ministership of Motsoahae Thabane.
I would like to argue that Thabane seems to be borrowing and mimicking tactics that were used by Leabua Jonathan.
This week, the column seeks to explore warning signs that tell us about the Prime Minister’s dictatorial tendencies. The following tendencies are indicators of potential hazards:

1. Coup d’état in the All Basotho Convention (ABC)
Through Thabane’s permission, the old ABC national executive committee that lost elections has seized power to control the party illegally and unconstitutionally. It is clear that they are not ashamed of their behaviour even though it is undemocratic. A political faction in the ABC known as “State House” decided to overthrow the newly elected committee known as “Likatana”.

He refused to handover to the new committee saying the conference was still in progress and he is yet to close it. He was instructed by the old losers to refuse to vacate office and therefore created a crisis in his own party. This is typical dictatorial tendencies.

2. Making efforts to intimidate the media
At their rallies these days, the ABC faction aligned to Thabane is openly waging war against the media. At the Likhoele rally Thabane’s supporters attacked radio journalist Puseletso Mphana and called her names.
Thabane’s coalition government has also used its powers against critical media organisations like MoAfrica FM, his government has ordered that the radio station be shut down on several occasions.

3. Politicising the police
When they realised they were losing the internal elections, Thabane’s supporters instructed the police to stop the counting process at the ABC elective conference on the basis that the permit had expired.

4. Using state power to reward cronies
Favouring cronies and relatives is considered normal in this country and Thabane and his government are simply living up to that classic axiom, “What are we in power for?”
Immediately after the ABC conference, Thabane wanted to make a bold statement that though he has lost power in the party, he still has the power in government. He reshuffled principal secretaries.

5. Stacking the judiciary
When he got into power just two years ago, Thabane was determined to shake up the judiciary, sacking the Chief Justice and the President of Appeal Court. Thabane did everything possible to put his “own people” in these offices. Initially this was done to prepare for a battle against opposition leaders, but unfortunately, today his own party is in a never ending crisis in the courts of law.
By appointing a “compliant” Chief Justice and President of the Appeal Court, Thabane thought he could control the Chief Justice and the President of the Appeal Court.

He has openly declared that the President of the Appeal Court is not agreeable to his terms and it’s possible he could be kicked out of his job.
When he had decided to hijack the will of the people, he allowed his members to take the party to court and made sure the Acting Chief Justice delivered an interim court order that clearly disregarded the democratic process that took place.
The urgent case is now being postponed in the courts of law. According to Thabane’s philosophy, the judges who get paid by the government must not go against those that feed them.
The two ABC factions are claiming ownership of the Chief Justice and the President of Appeal Court. Recently, Thabane attacked the President of Appeal Court saying he has imposed Prof Nqosa Mahao on his party through a court order.
However, he categorically stated the ABC party will not be controlled by the courts of law.

6. Intimidating the opposition
Thabane is a master at exploiting the fears and anxieties of their political base and using them to foist policies that are unreasonable and even dangerous. The opposition within his party is crying foul and even fearing for their lives.
In conclusion: Prime Minister Thabane does not have much respect for the existing national and party laws and constitutional order especially when it impinges on his personal power and threatens his own position.

In other words, Thabane has dictatorial tendencies. He must be stopped now or else he will put this country in a hell of a mess.
Let’s suppose Thabane decides to take us to early elections. Is he not going to hijack the will of the people by refusing to accept the election results?
This is the key issue that Thabane must clarify if we are to defend our democratic gains.

By Ramahooana Matlosa

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