Thabane to shocks ABC NEC


. . . but opposition say he is fooling Basotho



MASERU – Prime Minister Motsoahae Thabane yesterday unexpectedly announced that he would be stepping down at the end of July, after days of defying orders from his ruling All Basotho Convention (ABC) to leave office immediately and a day before parliament re-opens.

Thabane’s announcement also comes a day before he is to be charged with the murder of his estranged wife, Lipolelo Thabane.

Deputy Commissioner of Police, Paseka Mokete, said yesterday that Thabane is expected to appear in court today on the murder charges.

“The prime minister is going to be charged with the murder. The police are preparing directives and he will probably be charged tomorrow,” Mokete said.

Thabane’s colleagues in the ABC National Executive Committee (NEC) – the party’s highest decision making body between conferences – were reluctant to comment on their boss’s proposed departure date when Public Eye contacted them.

ABC’s spokesperson, Montoeli Masoetsa, indicated that he was in a meeting when Thabane made the announcement on national radio.

“We are still in a meeting and can only be able to speak after the meeting,” said Masoetsa whose phone rang unanswered when this paper contacted him in the afternoon and in the evening.

ABC deputy leader, Professor Nqosa Mahao, and the party deputy spokesperson ’Matebatso Doti both declined to comment citing “the party’s policy” that only the spokesperson has the right to express the NEC’s views.

Thabane, 80, cited old age as the reason for leaving office.

“Not only does the job of prime minister require sensory perception, but rapid reaction and physical strength are also a necessity for the incumbent in that office,” Thabane said on state radio.

“In this connection, I wish to, with all humility, announce that I effectively retire as prime minister with effect from the end of July this year, or at an earlier date if all the requisite preparations for my retirement are completed before then,” he added.

He indicated that he hoped the remaining months that he would spend in office “will afford parliament and my party enough time to work on the transitional arrangements”.

These remarks attracted huge criticism from opposition parties which said Thabane should disclose the alleged requisite preparations for his retirement.

“There are no requisites for resignation. All he has to do is to write a resignation letter and submit it to the King, that’s all. He can do that as soon as tomorrow and stop hiding behind imaginary requisites,” main opposition Democratic Congress (DC) deputy leader, Motlalentoa Letsosa said.

Letsosa said there was nothing that parliament was bound to do to pave way for Thabane’s resignation.

“All that the parliament has to do is to elect his successor as soon as he has resigned. There are no transitional arrangements that parliament has to make. He is trying to buy time or even trying to soften-up opposition so that it can agree to pass the budget. We are not going to do that,” he said.

Teboho Sekata, secretary general of the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD), said even though Thabane stated unequivocally that he will resign at the end of July, citing the unknown requisite preparations merely served to muddy the waters.

“He says he might resign at an earlier date if all the so-called requisite preparations are completed before then. What if they are not completed isn’t he going to postpone the resignation? How then will we know whether they have been completed or not if we do not know what they are?” Sekata queried.

“What he said today is, for all intents and purposes, fundamentally different from what he said last month when he announced his plan to retire but without giving a time-frame. He is just going around in circles, maybe trying to fool the nation,” Sekata said.

Thabane initially announced his plan to retire on January 17, but did not specify when he would be leaving office save to say he would nevertheless continue in his role as leader of the ABC.

This was after police linked him to the murder of Lipolelo nearly three years ago.

He had faced calls from senior members of ABC to step down after police said there was evidence connecting him to the murder of Lipolelo which occurred just two days before his inauguration as prime minister.

When he was keeping mum about his exact departure date, his party stepped up to the plate and said it wanted him gone before parliament re-opens tomorrow.

“Maybe he thinks that now that he announced his exit date, opposition and a faction of his own party which wants to see him gone will relax and allow government to pass the budget. No, that will not happen. He has to go. End of July is just too far,” Popular Front for Democracy (PFD) leader, Lekhetho Rakuoane said.

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