2 May 2019

Lesotho: Brace for Polls, Mokhothu Tells DC Supporters

THE leader of the opposition Democratic Congress (DC), Mathibeli Mokhothu, has urged supporters brace for snap elections, saying the Thomas Thabane government is on the brink of collapse.

Mr Mokhothu said that the DC's return to power was imminent, adding, "it's not a question anymore, we will be back in power very soon and we need to change the political landscape of Lesotho for the betterment of the people like we did with the education system and other things".

"We should be given a chance to save the working masses including the teachers and everyone else," Mr Mokhothu said in his address to DC supporters at a Monday rally in Hloahloeng in Mohale's Hoek. His remarks came against the background of the infighting within Dr Thabane's All Basotho Convention (ABC) which threatens to split the party into two and even collapse the government.

The ABC has become a theatre of conflict between two warring national executive committee (NEC) factions ever since the party's 1 and 2 February 2019 elective conference. A new NEC which features the outgoing National University of Lesotho Vice Chancellor Professor Nqosa Mahao as the deputy leader, was elected in February. However, the old NEC which reportedly enjoys the support of Dr Thabane and the First Lady has dug in and refused to hand over power allegedly because the February polls were characterised by vote rigging.

In addition, some of the old NEC members have insisted that they cannot allow Prof Mahao to take up his new post and be the frontrunner to succeed Dr Thabane in both party and government. They say this is because Prof Mahao is a relative newcomer having joined the party in 2015 whereas they are veterans who formed the ABC in 2006.

And on Monday, Mr Mokhothu made reference to the ABC power struggle, telling DC supporters in Mohale's Hoek that he had come to ask for their votes "because the party is almost over in town and we can see that elections are just around the corner and when they come we should be prepared and ready to win".

Mr Mokhothu also called on Dr Thabane to re-open parliament which was indefinitely suspended early this month amid widespread speculation that the move was aimed at starving off a possible vote of no confidence against the premier while creating time for him to resolve the power struggle within his ABC.

Parliament was suspended at a time when the ABC's pro-Mahao legislator for the Mosalemane constituency, Samuel Rapapa, was pushing for the amendment of parliamentary Standing Order Number 111 to enable legislators to vote in secret on a motion of no confidence against a sitting prime minister.

Some government and ABC sources subsequently told this publication that the indefinite adjournment of parliament was a direct response to Mr Rapapa's motion, which despite the latter's repeated denials, is seen by Dr Thabane's loyalists as part of an elaborate move by the new NEC to get rid of Dr Thabane because of his apparent support for the old NEC. Mr Rapapa is the incoming chair in the new NEC.

And on Monday, Mr Mokhothu said Dr Thabane had suspended parliament "because he saw that things were not looking very good for him".

"When he closed parliament a motion had just been tabled that there should be an amendment of the constitution, that in the event of the Prime Minister losing power through a vote of no confidence, he should hand over power to someone else who is voted for by most members of parliament (MPs).

"The MPs said they are tired of going to the polls and more so they are costly. ABC MPs have also suggested that they be allowed to cast a secret vote whenever there is need to vote, so he (Dr Thabane) must have seen the writing on the wall.

"But this time we earnestly pray that you do not dissolve parliament. Do not dissolve or prorogate it but rather let us debate the issues facing us, we beg you," said Mr Mokhothu.

He alleged that the judiciary was under attack and would never be independent under an ABC government which had hauled it into the political arena.

"The judiciary is in trouble at the hands of the 4 x 4 government. They have fragmented the judiciary and today the All Basotho Convention is in tatters, hence the Team 'State House' (the old ABC's NEC faction) and the 'Rags' (faction led by Prof Mahao).

"They (ABC factions) have shared the judiciary among themselves and are impeding justice. There is simply no way the courts can be independent but it serves them right because it's their own doing. It is their own bed and they should lie in it."

He also alleged that 44 people have died at the hands of the police under the current government.

"It is sad how police are entrusted with protecting lives and property yet they are busy killing suspects. They have turned themselves into animals, against the constitution and the word of God that says 'thou shall not kill'."

Contacted for comment, the spokesperson of the ABC's old NEC, Tefo Mapesela, said "whatever he (Mr Mokhothu) says is his opinion and his party is free to approach the courts of law (over the closure of parliament) if it feels the need to do so".

"As for the issue of parliament being closed indefinitely, he is not factual when he says our leader (Dr Thabane) feels threatened. I would advise that he sits at the back and play his role as an opposition leader and I laud him that he is doing quite a good job," Mr Mapesela said.

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