Thabane makes U-turn

 

‘There is no PM vacancy unless you are mad’

KANANELO BOLOETSE

MASERU – Embattled Prime Minister Motsoahae Thabane, under growing pressure to resign, has said those who are touting All Basotho Convention (ABC) chairperson Sam Rapapa as his potential successor are putting the cart before the horse and has advised them to hold their horses.

“I am still the prime minister, there is no vacancy. You cannot seek to fill a non-existent vacancy unless you are mad. They must hold their horses. They should stop what they are doing because this will cause uncontrollable chaos in our party,” Thabane told Public Eye on Thursday.

“When I eventually retire as prime minister, the ABC will hold a conference at which members of this party will select a person who they want to lead the party in parliament and subsequently become a prime minister. They will decide whether they want Rapapa or somebody else. For now, I am still the prime minister,” he added.

Thabane, in power since June 2017, is fighting for survival.

His party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) has tried to oust him from the State House with immediate effect after he was implicated in the murder of his estranged wife, Lipolelo Thabane, who was ambushed and killed two days before his inauguration.

Following an exposé that he was allegedly involved in the murder, the NEC – the party’s highest-decision making body between conferences – instructed him to step down immediately.

Even though he is constitutionally entitled to disobey the instruction, Thabane announced that he would cut short his term as the country’s prime minister before the next general election, which is expected in 2022.

On Thursday last week, Thabane, 80, announced that he would be stepping down at the end of July or earlier, citing old age as the reason for his early departure from 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,” he said.

“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.

Now the ABC, the party he formed in October 2006, is divided over who should succeed him, with the NEC pushing for Rapapa to replace Thabane.

While initially they had said the serving prime minister should complete his term in office, under intense pressure from all angles Thabane loyalists had buckled and relented.

However, they categorically rejected Rapapa’s nomination indicating they would elect a prime minister of their choice in parliament.

And despite the attacks on him, Thabane still seems to enjoy support within the party, particularly among members of parliament.

Lesotho is a unitary state that is governed within the framework of a parliamentary democracy under a constitutional monarch.

Parliamentary democracy is a system of democratic governance of a state where the executive derives its democratic legitimacy from its ability to command the confidence of the parliament.

ABC’s secretary general, Lebohang Hlaele, confirmed to Public Eye on Thursday that if Thabane resigned, chairperson Rapapa would automatically take office.

Hlaele, however, acknowledged that the NEC was yet to meet Thabane to communicate the decision.

“We are going to communicate the decision to our coalition partners first. From there we will go to the prime minister as a collective of the ruling parties to tell him that we have picked Mr Rapapa’s name,” he said.

He emphasised that the ABC NEC will not communicate its decision to Thabane before it has frank discussions with the other coalition partners because Thabane “is conflicted”.

“He is conflicted, that is why we have not met with him to tell him about our decision,” he said.

In his last week speech, Thabane stated that he hoped the remaining months he will spend in office until end of July will afford parliament and “my party enough time to work on the transitional arrangements”.

He said: “I am confident that my party and parliament will come up with a suitable candidate who will carry the mantle from me and lead Lesotho to lasting peace, stability and prosperity.”

To the one who will succeed him, Thabane said: “Please know that being prime minister is a calling. It is a calling to serve selflessly and not to be served.”

“I encourage him or her to be a visionary leader who espouses integrity, humility, accountability, empathy, resilience and positivity. I urge Members of Parliament to choose a leader who will inspire our people to achieve things they never thought they could ever achieve,” he added.

Thabane also told the nation that it was unfortunate that some people had deliberately decided to distort his decision to “retire,” either motivated by hate or for political gain.

“I appeal to all Basotho not to intentionally misconstrue my announcements to retire from office. This decision has been the hardest to make in my over half century career in the public service. I have been battling with this idea for more than a year now, particularly because serving my people and seeing them prosper is all that I live for,” he said.

Thabane appeared in the Maseru Magistrate Court on Monday morning where he was expected to be charged for allegedly acting in “common purpose” in the killing of Lipolelo, with whom he was in the process of divorcing.

However, the matter was deferred to the Constitutional Court to make a determination whether a sitting prime minister can be indicted.

During an address to parliament on Tuesday, Thabane complained about the lack of praise for his decision to retire early.

“I had hoped that this parliament would set a record today of someone stepping down by cutting short their tenure,” he said.

“Not many people would do that but I am doing it, and instead of being given a pat on the shoulder, I get insults. I do not understand you people,” he added.

Thabane’s third wife, ’Maesaiah Thabane, has already been charged with the murder of Lipolelo and is out on bail.

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