Finance minister Moeketsi Majoro, who was recently unanimously chosen by All Basotho Convention (ABC) legislators to succeed Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, says he is ready to take over when the veteran leader eventually retires.
The soft-spoken minister said upon assuming power he would work to ensure the full implementation of the multi-sector reforms to lay the foundations for lasting peace and stability in Lesotho.
He however, said despite his endorsement by the ABC MPs, he was still not a shoo-in to succeed Dr Thabane. He said the premier remained in office until he decided to go. He said even then, the ABC still had to secure the support of its coalition partners before he could take over.
Dr Majoro polled 26 votes to beat his nearest challenger, ABC chairperson Samuel Rapapa who got 18. Ministers Prince Maliehe (Transport) and Samonyane Ntsekele (Water) polled one vote each. The voting was conducted last Sunday at parliament in Maseru.
ABC bigwigs including party leader Dr Thabane, his estranged deputy Professor Nqosa Mahao and secretary general Lebohang Hlaele all attended and witnessed the voting process.
Over the weekend, the minister told the Lesotho Times that he accepted his election by the ABC legislators to succeed Dr Thabane when the latter eventually calls it a day.
The former National University of Lesotho (NUL) economics lecturer said he was inspired to join politics by the realisation that "you need political power to make transformational decisions for the betterment of people's lives".
He however, cautioned that his election by ABC legislators was not on its own a guarantee that he would succeed Dr Thabane, adding much more needed to be done before he could be called the "prime minister-designate".
"Our party has made its decision on the succession and the prime minister has accepted this decision," Dr Majoro said, adding, "When our prime minister decides it is time for him to go, we will of course be ready (to take over)".
"My election by the ABC's members of the national assembly in the presence of our senate colleagues and the ABC's national executive committee simply meant that in the event of our leader and Prime Minister Thomas Thabane leaving office, I will succeed him in the office of the prime minister.
"That is provided that other members of the current coalition (Basotho National Party, Alliance of Democrats and Reformed Congress of Lesotho) give their full support to my candidature. It is therefore premature to start talking as if I am already the prime minister-designate. Much still has to happen before that point.
"It has been quite a taxing exercise to get to where we are today and we still have not reached our destination. This (election) was just a response to the prime minister's request to choose a successor.
"There is still a lot that has to be done before he (Dr Thabane) leaves office and it is also worth noting that the ABC does not constitute the majority in parliament on its own. It is therefore imperative for us to go back to our coalition partners and consult to establish if they are still interested in being in partnership with us."
He said upon assuming power his priority would be to ensure the full implementation of the multi-sector reforms.
"Lesotho's future success lies in containing the impact of the Coronavirus. It also lies in the full implementation of the multi-sector reforms to restore good governance, ensure justice, political stability, re-establish and sustain the rule of law. Once these have been achieved, we can ensure economic stability. All these need a concerted effort on the part of everyone."
He also spoke of the need for "professional security agencies free from interference by politicians" who often meddled in these institutions with negative effects on the stability of the country. He however, emphasised the importance of striking a balance between a security sector free from political interference and one that remained subject to civilian authority.
"Political interference in the security agencies is a perennial source of political instability in Lesotho and consequently Lesotho's inability to grow its economy and reduce poverty and hunger. Given its serious repercussions, political interference has to be seen as an illegal activity that attracts severe penalties.
"On the other hand, the security agencies should be strictly subject to best practices on civil-military relations. The security agencies should also understand that they are subject to lawful civilian authority."
He identified endemic corruption as a major impediment which had to be tackled to ensure economic development. He said the country needed to develop strategies to stimulate local production and import substitution.
"Most of our youths can be absorbed into formal employment if we focus on local production. The agricultural sector needs to move from subsistence to intensive commercial production taking advantage of Lesotho's abundant water resources. With climate-adapted agriculture we can reduce our food imports by half and achieve food security. The transformation to producing more fruit and vegetables has already begun but we need more investment."
While Dr Majoro has been talking about taking over when Dr Thabane eventually steps down, authoritative sources this week told the Lesotho Times that the ABC's NEC was in talks with the opposition Democratic Congress (DC) to form a new government to replace Dr Thabane.
The sources said Dr Majoro will be prime minister in the new coalition and he would be deputised by DC leader Mathibeli Mokhothu.
Yesterday, Dr Majoro's mobile phone rang unanswered and he did not respond to messages from the Lesotho Times seeking comment over those later reports.
If the reports are correct, then it puts Dr Majoro in good stead to be the next prime minister because he is now universally accepted by all and sundry as the best candidate to replace Dr Thabane. He would have won the bet from the two strands from which the next prime minister will likely emerge; that is from his own party and from the main opposition.