The reluctant old-timer

The reluctant old-timer

MASERU – IT is hard to say what Motlohi Maliehe wants.
Is he in the race?
“No, I don’t think I am interested being Prime Minister,” he says.
Why?
“I don’t want to be competing against young people who don’t know what they are doing.”
But would you consider it now that your name has been mentioned?
His answer to that is as clear as mud. First, he says it’s not something he will even consider.
When that question comes again he says: “Well, only time will tell.”

He has a different answer when the question is asked again. “I am saying I will wholly support anyone who is elected to take over.”
It is a cautious approach from a seasoned politician who has mastered the pitfalls of rubbing the leader the wrong way. In 2018 Maliehe had a public tiff with Prime Minister Thomas Thabane.
Maliehe was angry at Thabane for allegedly allowing the First Lady to interfere in party and government affairs.

He complained that Thabane had side-lined him as the party chairman and was having secret meetings with a small cabal at the State House.
He lamented that Thabane was now abandoning him after they formed the All Basotho Convention (ABC) together.
Thabane hit back with venom and said Maliehe is abusing their familiarity and he will regret his words. And sure enough Maliehe was fired as minister a few weeks later. He however made a surprise return to cabinet after a reshuffle late last year.

At that time Maliehe said he didn’t know why Thabane had reappointed him but some observers said it was more out of convenience than a sign that the two had mended bridges.
Thabane was facing unrelenting pressure from a camp that had defeated his favourite candidates in the national executive committee elections.
His nemeses were plotting his demise through a no confidence vote and he was eager to consolidate support among the ABC MPs like Maliehe who might have thrown his lot with the opposition and other renegade party MPs.

Maliehe did not say much about the reappointment and he quietly returned to cabinet. His fights with Thabane and his wife have ceased.
So when Maliehe says he is staying out of the succession race it could be that he doesn’t want to burn his fingers again.
Despite keeping his cards close to his chest, Maliehe is not short of advice “for whoever will be Prime Minister”.
“He or she should be the people’s leader. He must listen to everyone,” he says.

Incidentally, he used the same words when accusing Thabane of being captured by a clique he said had “no respect for the party’s constitution”.
Maliehe likes to describe himself as a rare politician because he believes in socialism.
“I believe that everything belongs to Basotho. So anyone who takes over should defend Basotho, their government and their resources. That means that person should fight corruption in all its forms”.

The question of whether he wants to be Prime Minister is asked again and this time the answer is different again.
“You know I am a socialist so I cannot say I want to lead people. The people will nominate me. I am a people’s person.”
And what does he think are his chances if nominated?
“I only have matric but politics is my trade. I don’t care whether you are a doctor or professor because in politics I can challenge anyone”.

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