‘I just want to see my nation out of poverty’
Horse-trading Aumane denies he is a ‘political prostitute’
Many of the leading political controversies conveyed in the country’s partisan press stir up apocalyptic fears even when a politician changes a party. Partisan opponents accuse each other of political prostitution and national disloyalty when political leanings change, painting a picture that Lesotho will be irreversibly damaged if those who choose new and different political groupings are not stopped. Well-travelled politician TLOHELANG AUMANE (TA) who has just joined the Socialist Revolutionaries from the Revolution for Prosperity and has been spared harsh criticism.
Public Eye reporter LITEBOHO MOLEKO (PE) engaged him over the public’s hostile reactions to his political manoeuvres.
PE: Share with our readers who you are, the road you have travelled as a politician and your future plans in the country’s political landscape.
TA: I come from Methalaneng Ha Ntutu, motseng oa Mononong. I grew up here like any Mosotho boy and looked after livestock both large stock and small. I went to school at Sephokong Primary School. At the time this school went up to Standard 6, so I left after completing Standard 5 and went to Liseleng RC Primary where upon completing Standard 7 I went to ’Mamohau High School.
I did BA Economics and Master of Economics at the National University of Lesotho and the University of Kwazulu-Natal, respectively. Otherwise, I also have a postgraduate certificate in Company Law from Wits and a Post-graduate Diploma in Economic Law from University of Barcelona. I also have a number of courses completed ranging from trade, law and economic development policies.
PE: How can you describe your childhood; what are the particular interests that shaped who you are now?
TA: Well, I grew up in Mononong, like any Mosotho boy looking after livestock and helping in the different activities that happen at home. In my early years I stayed with my grandparents but it is in the same village. We enjoyed bull fights. In my high school I stayed at a boarding school and here I think I learned to be independent. At my school I was the only one that got a 1st class pass at Form C.
PE: Now let’s focus on your work experience before joining politics?
TA: I have been a Senior Commercial Officer, Senior Industry Development Officer, Principal Trade Development Officer, Director – One Stop Business Facilitation Centre, Principal Secretary Development Planning and briefly Public Works and Transport, and Minister of Development Planning.
I have also worked as a Trade Officer at the Lesotho Mission under the WTO Mission Internship Programme, when Lesotho was coordinating Least Developed Countries and SADC Secretariat Economic Partnership Unit. I have also worked for the Lesotho Millennium Development Agency as Private Sector Specialist, doing diagnostics in preparation for the second compact.
PE: When did you fall in love with politics, where and how did it all actually begin? Were you ever a member of the Lesotho Congress for Democracy, there is talk that your political career started there?
TA: I have a card for the following parties, one after the other in chronological order: Basutoland Congress Party (BCP), Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD), Democratic Congress (DC) and the Alliance of Democrats (AD). I recently joined the Revolution for Prosperity and I am now with the Socialist Revolutionaries.
I have been a treasurer at the constituency level and national executive committee level and became a Member of Parliament (MP) in 2017. I have been in the Congress and believe that leaders should not seek to live in abundance or pose as rich while the rest of the people live in poverty. And if they join politics when they are already rich, they should pride themselves in empowering other people.
PE: Take us through your journey within the Democratic Congress until you defected to the Alliance of Democrats, why did you leave?
TA: I left the DC when I was approached and requested to assist as Minister of Development Planning. This would assist me to be in decision making and hence influence the direction of the country and also help rural Lesotho, which still remains poor.
PE: You were in 2017 accused of betraying the people who voted for you under the DC banner when you left them to join the AD. Do you think the accusation is justified, do have any regrets?
TA: Betraying no, you elect an MP to represent you in parliament. The laws of Lesotho allow floor crossing and a number of leaders have crossed before. But whenever, it happens there is name calling. So I’m not surprised that that people I left, most of whom did not even vote for me, make the loudest noise. Some also keep on prophesying that I am finished.
PE: Hasn’t this decision you made soured your relations with the people who voted for you in Semena? Can you still bank on them to vote for you; could you stand for elections again?
TA: No, they were ill-treated and have now risen and are happy. The party I left will be standing for elections for the first time.
PE: After you joined the AD you later decided to leave, what did you find uncomfortable there…why did you leave? The RFP was later birthed, and in a public declaration you ditched Ntate Monyane Moleleki for the Sam Matekane-led new party; what informed you decision here?
TA: I was happy at the AD and only left because we agreed with the leader to listen to the people who wanted me to support Ntate Matekane by crossing to his party.
PE: At the RFP you tussled for the Semena constituency candidature with the likes of former minister Joshua Setipa, how was the contest?
TA: The chairperson and secretary rigged elections in favour of their publicly declared candidate and I was the biggest victim as they decided to form new delegations as opposed to those nominated by the branches. Contest was worse given that the party had no rules for the game and disregarded appeals made.
PE: Do you hold the popular view that the system used by the party to appoint candidates for elections undermines the basic tenets of democracy, elaborate?
TA: Constituency representatives should be solely nominated by the constituencies. The executive committee cannot be a player and referee. Exempting themselves from the nomination by the constituencies is unfortunate, because they are the cooks. The basic tenants of democracy are enshrined in the constitution of this country and need to be respected by all.
PE: And we understand since failing to make the cut in the RFP you are now in the SR ranks, how did you end up here?
TA: When the National Executive Committee of the RFP disregarded our appeals and denied me and my constituency a fair hearing, I decided it was enough.
PE: The rumour-mill suggests you have been thanked handsomely by the party’s wealthy leader to join the Socialist Revolutionaries, is there any truth there?
TA: I got nothing from the SR leader in the form of a reward. All that I wanted was for my people in the constituency to have alternative and they could find that if I stood as independent and if I joined another party. A lot of parties proposed but I chose the SR.
Its leader explained very well and I was impressed by what he stands for and why he came up with a socialist revolution and the difference with the other revolution of the other party is that it has human capital at the centre.
PE: Why did you join the party? Are you a trustworthy politician Ntate Aumane, some people think you are not – looking at your escapades across the local political playing-field?
TA: Why would any party leadership accept me and those that I left want me to come back if I was not trustworthy? And why would people from my constituency follow me in numbers if that was the case. I think it is because they can trust me and understand that I am not a slave but a freedom fighter.
PE: Most people think you just join political groupings for power high in their structures, or just to become a Member of Parliament without remaining true to any political principle or viewpoint. What are your views?
TA: I joined politics to change and uplift this country even the constituency where I was elected so that there’s employment for citizens not all these remarks they are saying.
PE: You have Masters in Economics in your education profile, meaning you can make a living with your qualifications. Why do you still choose politics over your career? Is your interest in politics driven by your fervour to the electorate or to satisfy your ego?
TA: How do you separate politics from economy? I am not in politics for a living but to change my country and help it to leapfrog and graduate from the least developed country status of lower middle income status.
PE: What does the SR preach that you believe you will enhance by joining the party? How different are they from other parties you have previously aligned with?
TA: The SR leader abhors corruption and believes in taking care of Lesotho’s human capital (health, education, food security and economic growth) while upholding the rule of law as a way of fighting poverty and dealing with the leakages in the country’s coffers.
PE: If things don’t work out for you in the SR, should we expect to see you jumping ship as has been your trademark in Lesotho’s politics?
TA: I will hopefully retire from this party. I am ready to contribute and make it a formidable party, that will change the lives of Basotho for better once it ascents to power.