News Analysis

REMEMBERING JUNE 3 2017: THABANE LET THE COUNTRY DOWN VERY BADLY

By Staff Writers

June 3, 2017 is a pivotal date in the story of the Kingdom of Lesotho.
It was the day on which the country held its third election in a period of five years. This election swept Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, All Basotho Convention (ABC), Alliance of Democrats (AD), Basotho National Party (BNP) and the Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL) to power, ending the rule of former Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s cumbersome seven-party coalition government which its tenure had become increasingly overshadowed by corruption allegations.

It is almost miraculous that these elections ever took place.

Viewed two years later, the photographs of hundreds of thousands of Basotho South Africans queuing to vote, remain extremely powerful.
The 235,729 people put Xs near ABC on ballot slips that day to end Khokanyana Phiri regime, setting Lesotho on course for an alternative future.

Securing these elections had been far from smooth.

Mosisili’s government was not ousted by the then opposition parties alone.
It was a stunning coup-de-grace, achieved with the backing of the civil society, trade unions and the media. They all shared common hatred towards corruption and human rights abuses and were eager to see Mosisili’s back.
Without the actions and commitment of countless activists and organisations, both in Lesotho and abroad, the dream of a new government and a corruption free Lesotho could well have been blown off course.

Though the unpopular seven-party coalition government demise was initiated by the Alliance of Democrats (AD) formed by erstwhile Mosisili cronies, there was a consensus in the country, across the political spectrum, that Khokanyana Phiri’s corruption was the primary cause of Lesotho’s problems.

For that government, the allegations of corruption surrounding the South Africa’s Bidvest contract proved even harder to shake off.
That is why Khokanyana Phiri ouster came as a relief to a sizeable majority who hoped that with Mosisili out of the state house, justice system would soon have its say.

That was exactly what the incoming prime minister Thomas Thabane had pledged will happen.

One of Thabane’s major drawcards before June 3 elections, was the fact that he spoke promisingly when it came to his plans for depositing corruption and nepotism in a garbage bag and setting it on fire.
His promises were of hopes and dreams.
To listen to his speeches was to be met by promise after promise.

Even in his rousing inauguration speech on June 16, delivered to an adoring crowd in the Setsoto stadium, Thabane promised the nation the world.
Among his commitments was that his government would move to tackle endemic corruption in the country.

His detractors warned however that this was just the politics of spectacle at full display. They said he was just playing to the gallery.
His promises, they said, was just campaigning without having to actually worry about implementing many of those empty promises.

But to be honest, never before had there been a local politician spitting such incendiary bars about corruption, poverty and nepotism. That really sounded sweet.

Today, two years later, all is still not well.

For many citizens, the transformation project has not been fast or radical enough.

Thabane’s promises in 2017 of a corruption free government and a better life for all remain unfulfilled.

Lesotho is still one of the poorest countries in the world.
The Night’s Watch reported in May that Lesotho needs over M200 million for food aid for almost half a million people.
The Night’s Watch also reported that the Disaster Management Authority (DMA) found that 487 857 people urgently require food aid with the number expected to increase to 640 000 from July 2019 to June 2020.

Poor governance has squeezed the public finances.
After more than 70 years in existence, the National University of Lesotho (NUL), the country’s premier institution of higher learning is very much nearer to going belly-up and might be forced to close up shop, The Night’s Watch revealed last week.
NUL remains cash-strapped and needs urgent financial assistance.

The judiciary is in crisis. This claim is substantiated by the damning letter the Acting Chief Justice ‘Maseforo Mahase allegedly wrote to the President of the Court of Appeal Justice Kananelo Mosito.

Police brutality is rife.
There are reportedly over 40 people who lost their lives at the hands of police from 2017. This means on average, in Lesotho, a police officer takes at least, life of one citizen every month.

These were not supposed to be the rewards of the change people voted for.

Simultaneously, the ruling ABC is in turmoil.
Its leader Thabane conceitedly told Public Eye last week that he knows how to campaign and his party can still win elections yet his party is obviously without a clear sense of ideological coherence.

The ABC is now virtually two parties: one led by the official leader, Thabane, and the other by the newly elected deputy leader professor Nqosa Mahao who won the contested position against Thabane’s wishes in February.

The people who are very close to the leader and were voted out of the national executive committee are scared that Professor Mahao’s ascension to power will cause huge disruption to the entrenched system of patronage.”

Because of these internal schisms, the ABC is gradually losing the reasonably peaceful relationship it enjoyed with citizens before and after winning power in June 2017, especially with the poor, who initially appreciated the magnitude of the challenges Thabane’s government had inherited from Mosisili’s administration.

They understood that not everything could be changed or done immediately.
The ABC in the past could use the bogeyman of the continuing legacy of Mosisili’s administration to generate support.
But the scale of the corruption, mismanagement and incompetence of the ABC in government has made this argument increasingly unconvincing.

Large numbers of young people have entirely given up hope, both on ABC and Thabane being able to deliver a better life for them and on the country’s institutions.
This group faces a stark future: they have been left with few relevant skills and opportunities and limited mobility because of the government’s mismanagement of education, the economy and corruption.

Large numbers of people still face financial difficulties as a result of having to use private education, health and security services because public services have mostly failed.

At the same time, accusations of self-interest and nepotism persist across the political elite.

Things are going awry.
There are frequent exposés of fraud and corruption, not to say that Prime Minister is allegedly allowing his wife, ‘Maesaiah, to interfere with the running of government by ordering ministers around.

A recent video, which was widely circulated on social media, showed Maesaiah summoning senior government officials to an impromptu meeting after her car hit a pothole. She scolded them in front of TV cameras while Thabane looked on quietly.

These do little to enhance the democratic vision set out in 2017.

With all this abuse of public office, Thabane and his colleagues; Deputy Prime Minister Monyane Moleleki, Thesele ‘Maseribane and Keketso Rantšo have let the country down very badly. NW

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