Lesotho: Matekane Funds Own Inauguration

Lesotho Prime Minister Elect Sam Matekane.
5 November 2022

THE outgoing Moeketsi Majoro government is too broke to fully finance Prime Minister-designate Sam Matekane's inauguration tomorrow. As a result, Mr Matekane is being forced to fund some costs of his inauguration from his own pocket, a move unprecedented in Lesotho's entire post- independence history.

But such is the egregious incompetence of the outgoing Majoro premiership that tomorrow's event would have been a national embarrassment if Mr Matekane did not have the resources to help bankroll it. He has used his own resources to spruce up the main airport, rehabilitate some key roads and to ensure the availability of executive vehicles to ferry VVIPs and VIPs for tomorrow's function, among other things.

The outgoing regime's failure to finance such an important event also highlights the extent of the gigantic mess that Mr Matekane will inherit tomorrow. Not only is Dr Majoro leaving a wholly empty fiscus, he has also led the most incompetent government ever. It leaves a legacy of failure characterized by a comatose economy, sky high unemployment, mass poverty and ballooning crime, among other vices.

That Mr Matekane has had to pay for his own inauguration is not only an unprecedented development, it completely shames Dr Majoro's tenure. It also leaves the incoming premier and his team without any illusions about the enormity of the task that awaits them. They not only have to fix the country's economy but also earn the public's trust after years of mismanagement, not only by Dr Majoro but other incompetent regimes before him.

Dr Majoro's premiership has nonetheless been the worst ever as evidenced by the fact that his outgoing government cannot fulfil the most basic and mundane task of financing a simple inauguration ceremony. In fact, it was Lesotho's virtual collapse into a failed state that prompted Mr Matekane to take the plunge into politics, winning a landslide in constituency contests barely six months after forming his Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) party.

Mr Matekane will now come into government as head of a three party coalition featuring his RFP, the Monyane Moleleki-led Alliance of Democrats (AD) and the Selibe Mochoboroane-led Movement for Economic Change (MEC). He has had to dig deep into his own pockets to spruce up the Moshoeshoe I International Airport and Setsoto Stadium- the venue for the inauguration ceremony.

The incoming premier has also taken charge of the provision of vehicles for dignitaries and other very important persons (VIPs) as well as their accommodation.

His installation as prime minister tomorrow follows his party's resounding 7 October 2022 electoral triumph where it won 56 out of 79 constituency seats. There is a pending by-election in the Stadium Area constituency due to the death of the one of the candidates, Molefi Chapi, of the Basotholand Total Liberation Congress (BTLC). He died on 27 September and this led to the postponement of the election in the constituency.

The RFP's tally was five seats shy of the 61-seat threshold required to form government on its own. It subsequently signed a coalition deal with the MEC and AD. The two parties brought in their combined nine seats to give Mr Matekane 65 seats- just enough to form government.

Ahead of his inauguration, the Lesotho Times has this week established that Mr Matekane has had to fund things from his own coffers because the government does not have the money to do its job.

Outgoing Government Secretary, Lerotholi Pheko, denied that Mr Matekane and his party had taken over preparations for the incoming premier's inauguration because the outgoing administration was too broke to fund everything. He accused the executive director of Pitsong Institute for Implementation Research (PIIR), Mpopo Tsóele, of peddling falsehoods over the issue. Mr Tsóele was the first to speak out on the issue in an audio clip which this publication obtained this week. He subsequently doubled down on his comments in a subsequent interview with the Lesotho Times this week.

However, Mr Tsóele has been vindicated by RFP secretary general, Nthati Moorosi, who confirmed to this publication yesterday that "the RFP is helping with a lot of things- from sprucing up the airport and the stadium to the provision of VIP vehicles".

"We are happy to do it because we know that the (outgoing) government does not have the resources. Unfortunately, I don't have the exact figures of the amount of money we have used so far," said Ms Moorosi. The RFP secretary general is the incoming legislator for the Thetsane constituency which was previously represented by Dr Majoro.

In an earlier interview, Mr Tsóele, whose NGO advocates for efficient service delivery, had said he had been reliably informed by people close to Mr Matekane that the latter had been forced to take matters into his own hands, mobilising his personal resources "to give the dilapidated airport a facelift".

Mr Tsóele said Mr Matekane had also enlisted the services of a cleaning company to spruce up Setsoto Stadium.

He said the prime minister-designate had also mobilised "his elite friends to have their luxury cars on standby because there are only about eight or ten official vehicles to ferry dignitaries around on the day of the inauguration".

"It is unheard of for an incoming prime minister to be hands-on in preparing for his own inauguration but then again the office of the Government Secretary Pheko failed to prepare for the ceremony," Mr Tsóele told this publication.

"Although I am not directly involved in preparations for the incoming Prime Minister Matekane's inauguration, I can confirm that I was in a meeting last week with some people who are closely involved in preparations for his inauguration. They expressed their disappointment about the government's failure to adequately fund the preparations for his inauguration.

"They expressed serious concerns about the state of infrastructure which is key to the inauguration including the airport, stadium and official vehicles among others.

"When Matekane's people inquired about the situation, they were told by airport staff there that there were no funds to fix the glaring problems. Matekane was compelled to go to the airport to witness the situation himself. When he got there, he was told that even the grass-cutting machine had broken down. People are being given water in five-litre buckets to flush the toilets at the airport.

"Matekane has also been to Setsoto Stadium where the situation was just as bad. The stadium was dirty and some repairs had to be done there. Another issue is that Matekane is providing transport for VIPs. He has asked his friends to have their luxury cars on standby because apparently, only 10 of the official government vehicles are available while the rest have broken down," Mr Tsóele said.

Contacted for comment, Mr Pheko accused Mr Tsóele of peddling false information.

"Tsóele is not telling the truth," Mr Pheko said.

"It's not true that the government does not have enough resources to organise the inauguration. You had better ask Tsóele where he got his information because I've been constantly meeting with the team that is preparing for the inauguration. Even the cleaning of the stadium has been going on for weeks and it is being done by people from the LCS (Lesotho Correctional Service). I'm working with my team and we are preparing for the inauguration," added Mr Pheko.

Asked about the claims that only 10 official vehicles were available to ferry dignitaries, Mr Pheko downplayed the issue, saying the only problem with some of the cars was that of brake pads which needed to be replaced "and we are already working on that".

Despite his spirited denials, Ms Moorosi insisted that the RFP had chipped in to ensure that preparations were on course for tomorrow's historic occasion.

The Lesotho Times crew also observed teams that had been deployed by the RFP to fix some of the roads. The teams that were clad in RFP regalia had earth moving equipment and vehicles used for construction works. They could be seen digging up and patching potholes especially in the Thetsane area this week. Ironically this is the home of Dr Majoro. Not only is this the constituency he represented in parliament and promised to develop, its roads are the ones he used to and from his private residence in the suburb. Perhaps he never quite experienced the potholes because of the 4×4 vehicles he travelled in.

Not that he ever needed prodding, but having to intervene in his own inauguration preparations has surely given Mr Matekane a greater sense of the magnitude of the task that lies ahead. After his swearing-in, he will not have any honeymoon period.

He and his cabinet will have their hands full in fixing the huge mess left behind by the Majoro administration. Among others, the outgoing government failed to account for about M6, 2 billion in the 2020/21 financial year. This according to the Auditor General Monica Besetsa's latest report on government finances. The outgoing government failed to pay service providers and deliver services in general. This is despite that it got a massive Special Drawing Rights (SDR) 66, 9 million allocation (about US$93, 6 million) from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) last year. Up to now, the outgoing government has never revealed whether it used the funds or what they were used for.

Asked about having to fund his own inauguration by this publication this week, Mr Matekane diplomatically side-stepped the issue. He however, alluded to the mess left behind by the outgoing government, saying, "We are going to clean up our towns, improve our roads infrastructure and pave the walkways in the towns".

"On Friday (tomorrow), we are going to announce what we are going to do in our first 100 days. But let us get into the office first and see how broke the government is. We all know that it is broke but to what extent, we don't know yet. That is what we will have to find out," Mr Matekane said in an interview.

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