MP wants Thabane out

MP wants Thabane out

MASERU – OVER the last five months, Prime Minister Thomas Thabane has squandered the goodwill and respect he commanded within his own party and the only option left for him now is to resign.

That is the view of one of his MPs, Motlatsi Maqelepo, a “Young Turk” within Thabane’s embattled All Basotho Convention (ABC) party.

Maqelepo says after the February internal elections, they expected Thabane to accept the “will of the people” and work with Professor Nqosa Mahao who was elected deputy leader and the new National Executive Committee.
But instead of respecting the electoral outcome, Maqelepo says Thabane chose to fight Mahao and the new committee by instituting new court cases and capturing the judiciary to reverse the will of the people.

The court battles saw the Mahao camp, which Maqelepo is backing, taking the unprecedented step of “suspending” Thabane as party leader two weeks ago pending a disciplinary hearing.

There is now a real possibility, frightening as it sounds, that Thabane might face expulsion from the party he formed 13 years ago.

Maqelepo says their plan after the elective conference was to come up “with a strong team” that would work behind the scenes “to help Thabane with all honesty”.

“But he did not want to accept that. We have now lost our patience with him and our love towards him has waned. The only thing left for him is to resign as party leader,” he says.

Maqelepo says in saying this they are not oblivious to the immense role Thabane played in the creation of the ABC and his tremendous input in dismantling the 15-year rule of his predecessor Pakalitha Mosisili.

He says because of that recognition they will leave Thabane in the party “as an icon because of the sterling leadership” he provided in forming the ABC”.

Maqelepo, who turns 40 next month, says he entertained big dreams after Thabane was elected Prime Minister for the second time in 2017.

But the premier has proved to be a huge disappointment, he says.
He says he knew Thabane as a leader who was bold enough to give strategic direction, a leader who could deliver, a man who ensured accountability.

“I had hope, and we fully trusted him but unfortunately he has not been able to deliver to our expectations.”
Maqelepo says Thabane’s biggest mistake was to surround himself with deadwood.

“His worst mistake was to surround himself with people who were not good enough to support him; that’s where the problem started in Cabinet,” he says.

Besides surrounding himself with deadwood, Thabane’s other mistake was to allow his wife, ’Maesiah Thabane, to meddle in government operations.  Instead of rebuking his wife, Thabane overlooked his wife’s excesses, he said.
“Even though most people would want to run away from that fact, we know the Prime Minister was under the influence of his wife and a group of people who are surrounding his wife for their own benefit.”
That has proven a toxic mixture that has now infuriated Basotho, Maqelepo says.

“We have tried as members of the ABC to influence the Prime Minister’s wife to stop interfering with government issues but we failed because Thabane himself did not accept (that there was a problem),” he says.

“That is why I say the only way to get his wife off government business is for him to resign. We need a new leader. The majority of our MPs are fed up with him.

“They are no longer comfortable having Thabane as leader because of issues that are well known to Basotho such as the economy, the hunger, the unemployment and poor service delivery.”

Having backed the wrong horse, Thabane should have been humble enough to work with the new committee that was supporting Mahao. Instead he chose to fight to reverse a clear democratic outcome.

“He (Thabane) seems not to be accepting the will of the people. That is terrible for the democratisation project in Lesotho,” Maqelepo says.

But what makes the situation worse is the Thabane camp’s attempt to use the judiciary to fight its battles after losing the election.

A “captured judiciary” doing Thabane’s bidding is a scary prospect, Maqelepo says.
“When you see the ABC using its power to influence and interfere with the judiciary that scares us as to what example we are setting to ordinary citizens. Will we expect them to have faith in the judiciary?”

“The judiciary is a key cog in a democratic state. The instability in government has been caused by the Prime Minister and unfortunately it is now affecting every Mosotho. That is why I am insisting that he must now do the right thing and resign.”

With Thabane out of the way, Maqelepo says Lesotho needs a “visionary leader” along the lines of Rwanda’s Paul Kagame.

For him Professor Mahao perfectly fits that bill.
He says Mahao, just like Kagame, is a visionary leader who has the intellectual gravitas to take Lesotho forward.
“Mahao’s track record as a seasoned administrator speaks for itself,” he says.

At a time when the National University of Lesotho (NUL) was almost on its knees, Mahao managed to resuscitate the institution. The university is no longer the laughing stock that it, he says.
“He did wonders for a university that was on the verge of collapse.”

But critics say Kagame is no model of democratic governance. He has been accused of stamping out criticism of his rule and chasing his political opponents even outside Rwanda’s borders.

Maqelepo says he is even “willing to accept a dictator (in the form of Mahao) to get things done” – some kind of benevolent dictatorship for Lesotho.

Despite going through a violent genocide in 1994 that saw close to a million Tutsis being slaughtered within a 100-day period, Rwanda has risen from the ashes to become a model country with modern infrastructure.
It is a route Lesotho might have to take, if Maqelepo’s idea gains traction within the party.

Maqelepo insists that his faction stands ready to govern if Thabane is ousted through a vote-of-no-confidence when Parliament re-opens in September. The candidate they have nominated for Premier, Samuel Rapapa, also has a “solid track record which speaks for itself”.

He says Rapapa, who will hold forte while processes are underway to pave way for Mahao to take over as Prime Minister, has held different senior positions in Lesotho and is an excellent team player. “He will have a solid back-up team and most of his decisions will be informed by the party’s National Executive Committee.”

Once they form government, Maqelepo says they will ensure “they set up a strong team that understands very well the issues affecting the country”.

“We will need to assess our competitive advantages as a country and build strong institutions. With strong institutions we will be able to set up a strong base of public service, the economy, fight corruption and create jobs.”
Maqelepo takes issue with what he says is the shocking inefficiency within the government and its ministries.
He says the problems are mostly due to “a lack of clear leadership” to tackle the challenges.

“If you do not have a clear leadership which gives direction and ensures accountability, we are just not going to turn around the economic situation.”

He says while Lesotho has clear strategic visions such as Vision 2020 and Vision 2030 as well as clear strategic plans within ministries, the problem is that “the people who were appointed to lead the ministries do not understand the vision and their mission”.

Maqelepo says as the ABC MPs they had created a platform where they could sit as MPs to discuss these issues to have clear policies to achieve their goals but the initiative was snubbed.

“We tried to have ministers come to our caucuses in Parliament and present their short and long-term plans for their ministries but only a few came.”

“As MPs we were not clear as to what the government was planning to do because we were not on the same page. And when we asked them tough questions we were now labelled opposition sympathezisers.”

Maqelepo, who holds a BSc in Computer Science and Statistics from the National University of Lesotho, has always held strong political views, thanks to the high levels of political conscientisation he received from his family while growing up.

In a family of five boys from his father’s family, two of his father’s younger brothers skipped the country in the early 1980s to join the Lesotho Liberation Army (LLA), a military wing for Dr Ntsu Mokhehle’s Lesotho Congress Party (BCP).

His father’s other brother, Mabala Maqelepo, served as an MP in the first Parliament after the restoration of democracy in 1993. He served as MP from 1993 until 2002.

Maqelepo says even when he was as young as eleven, he found himself engaging in political acts by singing BCP songs as they helped his uncle campaign during party rallies. He left politics for school and was not politically active until Thabane formed the ABC in 2006. He was working as a civil servant in the Bureau of Statistics by then.
Lesotho’s civil servants are not allowed to be politically active.

Yet even though he was politically inactive, he remained a political animal to the core.
“As I followed the Mosisili regime, I was disappointed with the manner in which he was handling national issues particularly the economy and the civil service. I therefore decided to join the ABC when it was formed in 2007.”
Maqelepo was elected MP in 2017.

Staff Reporter

Previous Farmers pile pressure on Thabane
Next Move to block conference

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