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‘We’re still on track, says Motšoane’



IT was Sam Matekane’s rousing call to “revolutionise Lesotho’s economy” that eventually persuaded Moeketsi Motšoane, 45, to join the newly formed Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) party last year.
Almost a year after Matekane was elected Prime Minister, Motšoane remains acutely aware of the huge challenges his party is facing in transforming Lesotho’s anemic economy.
There have been “baby steps” towards economic transformation, but progress all the same, Motšoane says in an interview with thepost at the weekend.

Most of the challenges the business sector is encountering are due to “bad politics” that have been at play for the past five decades following Lesotho’s independence from the British in 1966.

Basotho are paying for the bill for the years of misgovernance, he says.

Matekane, who was elected amid euphoric scenes in October last year, had promised radical economic transformation by creating jobs for thousands of Basotho and reversing the political rot.

That is still to be realised, almost a year after he took office.

But for Motšoane that is not a sign of failure. Instead, he thinks Matekane is still on track to achieve most of his electoral promises. Chief among the key promises he made was to breathe life into Lesotho’s comatose economy.

“What the RFP has promised Basotho will not happen overnight,” he says. “But we are still on track.”

Motšoane says Matekane’s initial idea was to form a political party that would be business-friendly and be driven by businesspeople. That idea was later dumped, opening up the party to every Mosotho.

While that saw the RFP grow its base, it also brought in shady characters who are now brewing trouble for the party.

“They came here with the old mentality of fighting over seats,” Motšoane says.

The RFP is currently in the throes of a bitter internal wrangle that last weekend saw two top MPs, who include Dr Mahali Phamotse, suspended from the party for a period of six years. Another MP is Thuso Makhalanyane from Abia constituency.

Lithoteng MP Kobeli Letlailana was later slapped with the same suspension on Tuesday.

This means three MPs have been suspended from the party.

The decision to suspend the MPs was unprecedented and served to officially confirm that the party was in trouble.

Motšoane however remains buoyant, insisting Matekane remains in complete control of the ship of state, despite the challenges.

“Our fights are not that bad,” he says, in what appeared to be a feeble attempt to downplay the crisis.

He says the RFP government was elected to work for the people and those bent on enriching themselves should leave the party.

Motšoane says for years politicians saw politics as a vehicle for accumulation. They were taking politics as “work”, he says.

“Our argument is that we should work for Basotho and not ourselves,” he says.

He says the biggest problem is that some politicians think things have to happen for them as individuals.

“Basotho have elected the RFP into power and it should be given a chance to govern,” he says.

To transform Lesotho’s economy, Motšoane believes the key lies in persuading as many people as possible to venture into business.

Motšoane runs a number of successful businesses in Mafeteng district that include general dealerships and fuel stations.

From an early age, Motšoane had always been inclined towards business. He remembers vividly how he told his friends after writing his Cambridge Overseas School Certificate (COSC) final exams in 1998 that he was not going to proceed with school but would instead enter the business world.

This was not because his parents could not afford to pay for his tuition fees at tertiary level. Instead, he believed that the basic education he had acquired at that level was enough to see him succeed in life.

His mother was running a small shop in the rural area of Boleka in Mafeteng.

“She was also selling alcohol in that shop,” Motšoane says.

What he saw from his mother’s business at close quarters inspired him to join business and see it as a lucrative career path for himself that would keep hunger at bay.

“I started a small bar with just three cases of beer,” he recalls. “I was paying rent of M500 a month just outside Mafeteng town.”

It was a tough business. His lack of experience in business worsened the situation.

“Clients would come from bars in (Mafeteng) town already drunk only to cause trouble at my business,” he says, adding that those clients would buy only a few items and then leave.

“Mafeteng people are notorious for fighting and they would want to fight when drunk,” he says.

The bottle store business tested his patience to the limit, he says. Despite the challenges, Motšoane says giving up was never an option.

He eventually rented bigger premises right in the centre of Mafeteng that saw him move bigger volumes.

He says while trying to boost his business, he had to contend with an influx of Chinese businessmen who moved into Mafeteng, selling alcohol too. The well-heeled Chinese gave him a run for his money.

“The Chinese investors created a lot of problems for me,” he says.

Motšoane eventually diversified his business portfolio as he ventured into the public transport business in South Africa.

He says running a business is no walk in the park; it requires lots of hard work and perseverance.

“You have to save money generated in the business no matter how small it is,” he says.

“One can at least spend the profit and not all of it,” Motšoane says.

He says it takes real sacrifice to succeed in business.

“I remember spending a whole year without (meaningful) relationships. I was only concentrating on my business,” Motšoane says.

He says business is all about discipline and to cut off small useless things that could make one lose concentration on making money.

Motšoane bemoans the lack of access to finance to start businesses. Most banks in Lesotho remain hostile to fund new businesses. Those who seek to enter business are therefore on their own, he says.

He says his success was not through his own tears and sweat; there were others who had already succeeded in business who mentored him. He says he is grateful for their guidance and support.

Majara Molupe

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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

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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

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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

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