Former Finance minister Moeketsi Majoro yesterday took over as the new premier of Lesotho amid high expectations that he will revive the comatose economy.
Dr Majoro was sworn in by Acting Chief Justice 'Maseforo Mahase at the Royal Palace in Maseru yesterday.
Dr Majoro was appointed the new prime minister on Monday by King Letsie III acting in accordance with the advice of the Council of State. The Thetsane legislator will lead a two-party coalition government of his All Basotho Convention (ABC) and Democratic Congress (DC).
The two parties jointly have 78 parliamentary seats. Eight smaller parties have also thrown their weight behind the ABC-DC grand coalition with 19 seats. The smaller parties are Movement for Economic Change (6 seats), Basotho National Party (5 seats), Popular Front for Democracy (3 seats) and one seat each from Basotho Congress Party, Reformed Congress of Lesotho, National Independent Party, Marematlou Freedom Party and Democratic Party of Lesotho.
Although Dr Majoro's administration enjoys the support of 97 legislators in parliament, members of the diplomatic missions yesterday warned that this administration was faced with serious challenges which, among others, included severe hunger.
They warned that there were approximately 900 000 Basotho who were food insecure. Dr Majoro agrees with them.
Addressing just over 50 guests at his swearing in ceremony at the Royal Palace in Maseru yesterday, Dr Majoro said he was not oblivious of the serious challenges facing the country. He said the new government should set aside personal interests and push the national agenda as "we don't have much time on our side".
"We only have two years left before the elections yet there is a lot of work ahead of us," Dr Majoro said.
While he said that he would later address the nation to outline his government's plans for the next two years, Dr Majoro said he would prioritise the fight against the novel coronavirus (Covid-19). He will personally lead the campaign while closely working with the Ministry of Health.
It was worrisome that Lesotho was faced with severe food insecurity and abject poverty 54 years after the country's independence in 1966, Dr Majoro said. The government will therefore deal decisively with hunger and poverty.
His administration will ensure that Basotho use the available arable land for farming activities.
In the next two years, Dr Majoro intends to ensure that the private sector, including the textile factories are capacitated to create more employment for the youths.
He said his government would prioritise the fight against escalating criminal activities, stock theft and corruption.
The government will also look critically at climate change as the country's wetlands were diminishing.
Handing over the reins to Dr Majoro, Mr Thabane warned his successor that Basotho were looking to him to usher the country out of poverty, complete the national reforms programme, enforce the rule of law and to protect the poor and vulnerable.
"Your responsibilities are enormous," Mr Thabane said adding: "Your role as the Prime Minister is to lead the nation and espouse the principle of selfness and servant leadership".
"Never think for a moment that you are above the electorate. Do all in your power to ensure that every single Mosotho has trust in your government."
He however, apologised for his mistakes for the past three years.
"In as much as I tried my level best to serve His Majesty and Basotho with dedication and loyalty, I am not oblivious to the fact that there is no perfection in life.
"I may have inadvertently erred in several ways during my tenure as Prime Minister. Consequently, I sincerely wished to ask you to forgive me for my mistakes. To err is human," Mr Thabane said.
Nedbank Managing Director, Nkau Matete, said he was looking forward to a stabilised economy under the new government.
He said unless there was stability and progressive continuity within government, it would be difficult to woo foreign direct investment (FDI) into the economy. Most investors wanted to put their money in a stable environment that offered good returns. Without political stability and continuity, Mr Matete said, there would be no incentive for businesses to invest.
Mr Matete said it was imperative for Dr Majoro to consult with the business sector.
"Previously, we have found it difficult to engage with the government because we realised that politicians forget about us once they come into power. We believe in engaging with the government so that together we can revive the economy," said Mr Matete.
The new government had come at a time when the country was facing its greatest challenge from the Covid-19 pandemic. The business sector was not therefore expecting miracles from the new government but would want to be consulted more on matters of reviving the economy during and after the pandemic.
"There is no one brain that can solve this problem. Government, together with businesses and the society at large must come together to find lasting solutions to revive the economy post Mr Thabane's government and post Covid-19," said Mr Matete.
Lesotho Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) president Ntaote Seboka urged the new premier to urgently restore good governance and the rule of law as the Thabane regime's ineptness had attracted bad headlines for Lesotho worldwide and marred investor sentiment.
Mr Seboka said corruption, bad governance and general lawlessness had become a byword for Mr Thabane's outgoing government. As a result, business confidence had been severely dented. Now was the right time to correct these wrongs, Mr Seboka said.
He said Lesotho's image on the international scene had suffered severely as a result of these practices. The end result had been the collapse of businesses and constricted investment resulting in rampant unemployment.
He urged Dr Majoro to ensure that the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) acted decisively to root out rampant corruption in the public sector. Mr Seboka also called for the downsizing of the cabinet and other top government posts to save the national purse for productive purposes.
Being the technocrat that he is, Dr Majoro should lead by example and use his sound economic knowledge to foster efficiency and delivery, Mr Seboka said. Service providers to the government must be paid timeously. Local companies must also help the new government by participating meaningfully in infrastructure and economic development.
The accounting profession says it hopes to work with the new government to tackle issues of health, education, security, protection of local products and services, and promotion of local power generation which are all priority areas in ensuring economic growth.
On its part, the Christian Council of Lesotho (CCL) said they were expecting Dr Majoro's administration to be honest and action driven.
CCL chairperson Archbishop Tlali Lerotholi warned Dr Majoro that he would only succeed in steering the country to greener pastures if he realises that a head cannot function without other parts of the body.
He said Dr Majoro was appointed as the prime minister in the midst of serious challenges among them the Covid-19 pandemic, economic meltdown and health, hunger and malnutrition problems.
"We pray for him and for us to move from what I call a hell to a hone nation, from hate speeches, empty promises, lousy excuses and lame reasons to an honest, open and meaningful engagement with the world. This is what Lesotho needs," Archbishop Lerotholi said.
On his part, South Africa High Commissioner to Lesotho, Sello Moloto, said his country was happy that Lesotho had turned a new leaf and would now focus on critical issues like coronavirus. He warned that Covid-19 had brought the world a variety of problems other than the obvious health challenges.
"South Africa and the international community have reiterated that the ultimate solution for Lesotho's problems is national reforms which will address all issues that have contributed to the frequent change of government.
"If this new government implements the reforms successfully, then they will have a stepping stone towards addressing other problems such as unemployment," Mr Moloto said.
He said they were expecting Dr Majoro's government to work towards ensuring that Lesotho graduates from being ranked as a least developed country to middle-income like its neighbours.
This is achievable if Lesotho works closely with South Africa towards realising that goal.
On his part, European Union Ambassador Christian Manahl said they were happy that Lesotho experienced a peaceful transition. He however opines that the new government has an important task at hand to end the country's socio-economic and political problems.
"The country is facing a number of challenges and obviously the socio-economic consequences of the pandemic (coronavirus). There are also the consequences of drought where close to 900 000 people are in need of food assistance," Dr Manahl said.
He added: "We wish Dr Majoro well. He and his government have important work to do and we hope for the Kingdom to finally see political stability which allows government to address its challenges and lead the country toward sustainable economic growth, agriculture and the improvement of lives".
Meanwhile, Dr Majoro sang Mr Thabane's praises and pleaded with Basotho to only remember him as a dedicated servant of this country.
"I personally want to thank Ntate Thabane," he said, adding that he worked with Mr Thabane during former Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili's regime.
At the time, Mr Thabane was the Minister of Communications while Dr Majoro served as his principal secretary. Dr Majoro said at the time Mr Thabane was handing the setting up of Econet Lesotho.
"I remember very well, sitting alone and marveling at Ntate Thabane's political acumen and instinct. He did not micromanage things. He did not sweat over small things. He listened and if things were beyond his control, he moved on to take challenges that he could have influence on. That is Ntate Thabane," Dr Majoro said.
He said Mr Thabane told him that he should remain a professional as he needed professionals manning ministries like Finance and Development Planning.
"He went on to say, 'however, the right time will come where I will need you to take over as my successor in the party and I will guide you'. We all know that did not happen but I am grateful to be his successor in the office of the prime minister. If only Basotho can remember you only for your good deeds," Dr Majoro said.
He thanked ABC members for their support and following democratic principles to vote for him as a prime minister.
"I will not deny that this was a tough road. We crossed swords but I now come in peace, my doors are open for us to sit down and draw a new version for our party," Dr Majoro said.