MASERU – Prime Minister Motsoahae Thabane is ready to reach out and cede some cabinet posts to opposition for the sake of national cohesion. Thabane told Public Eye in an exclusive interview yesterday that forming a power-sharing government with “the so-called rivals” was vital to overcome lingering “distrust and jealousy” among political parties in Lesotho which have remained deadlocked in sharply polarized conflict.
“I skipped the country twice to protect my life because some of my rivals wanted to kill me. Their desire to get me killed was motivated by jealousy. The best way to deal with this jealousy is if we work together to develop this poor nation,” he said.
Picking South Africa as an ideal example, Thabane said after South Africa’s first democratic elections in 1994, that country’s reconciliation project was boosted by a Nelson Mandela-led multi-party government comprising the African National Congress (ANC), the National Party and the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP).
Thabane said South African political leaders led by Mandela apportioned cabinet posts and appointed ministers from all three parties to the new government, designed practices conducive to governing well, and introduced innovations that became models for other countries. He was reacting to claims that he was desperately attempting to forge a new coalition government by allegedly roping in the opposition parties, Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) and Movement for Economic Change (MEC), in particular.
“No single political party should have monopoly of power. Political parties should work together, united to serve the common good. From opposite political parties, we can work together as Basotho. I have approached several parties to sell this idea to them,” he said.
“One of the political leaders I have discussed this with is LCD leader Mr Metsing (Mothetjoa) because I know him better than the other politicians as we have previously worked together. He is a principled chap, and I know that his yes is yes and his no is no. He seemed to embrace this idea,” he added.
In South Africa, the notion of a power-sharing government encompassing all political parties that enjoyed a threshold of 10 percent of support in the electorate, came from the ANC as one amongst many instruments to ensure inclusivity during the transition from apartheid to democracy.
The mission of such a government was to oversee a new South Africa constitution, as well as to radically improve the quality of life of all people of South Africa. Mandela’s government has been largely credited with fostering unity of purpose and relative confidence between the previously warring parties to build trust in a joint future. Its supporters claim it laid the foundation for healing wounds as well as setting the stage for remarkable socio-economic development in the Rainbow nation.
Thabane further told this publication that Lesotho political leaders now find themselves in the cusp of political change the likes of which this country has never seen, and indicated that if the leaders do not embrace change then the electorate will impose change on them. He said many Basotho today hate partisanship, identify as independents than with any political party and denounce fellow citizens or Members of Parliament (MP) who blindly toe the party line.
“Basotho now need a prime minister who is open-mined and is free to all suggestions. They need a prime minister who is mature enough to work with anyone and is willing to listen to anyone’s ideas in order to get things done. A person who can easily work peacefully with his counterparts,” he said. Thabane, 80, announced in February that he would be stepping down at the end of July or earlier. He cited old age as the reason for leaving office.
“It will take all of us, as a collective, to redeem our country from doom and reclaim our rightful place within the community of nations as stable, prosperous and peaceful,” he said in his speech to announce his departure date. He said his appeal to MPs was that even as they differ in ideology and approach to issues, they should always have unity of purpose and remain loyal to their call.
“They must remember that as leaders, they wield a lot of influence on Basotho. Their actions and utterances may make or break our nation. All they do should be motivated by patriotism and complete subjugation of self, absolute honesty, integrity and uprightness of character, courage and fearlessness and above all a consuming love one’s people,” he said.
He added that “… furthermore, as a way of concluding reforms and their implementation, maintenance of stability, and continuity of unity amongst all Basotho, political parties in Lesotho and all stakeholders, I implore all leaders to consider a Government of National Unity (GNU) post 2022 general elections”. He told Public Eye yesterday that some people with short term selfish interests within his party, the All Basotho Convention (ABC), were opposed to the idea of working together with others.
“I encourage them to put the national interest ahead of narrow special interests,” he said. “Anyone who would be happy to take over from me under the current circumstances would not be knowing that he is drinking from a poisoned chalice. I can retire any day; I do not have any problem with doing that but I want to leave Lesotho a better country,” he added.