Op-Ed: Thabane puzzled by “all this rush”

PUBLISHED: Thu, 23 Apr 2020 15:45:42 GMT

By Zaynab Mohamed – Political Analyst

After Prime Minister Thomas Thabane deployed the army on the streets of Maseru over the weekend, South African mediators were sent to ease the tensions.

Two-day talks between stakeholders were concluded, with Deputy Prime Minister Monyane Moleleki and South African mediator Jeff Radebe signing an agreement which stated that, among other things, the processes of Parliament must continue to ensure that Mr Thabane will leave office with “dignity, grace and security”.

Mr Radebe told journalists that the “timeline is immediate” for Mr Thabane’s exit.

Mr Thabane, however, does not agree. The 80-year-old prime minister fired back in an interview published in the Lesotho Times on Thursday, April 23, saying, “People that I don’t report to [are] setting the time for my departure, their own convenient time. They have no right to do so … I don’t understand what all this rush is about. I am not going to give in to their demands.”

When the army was deployed, there were rumours that Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli had been arrested. It later emerged that, although Mr Molibeli was not arrested, Mr Thabane did, in fact, order his arrest and that of two of his subordinates, but Lieutenant General Mojalefa Lesoela, the commander of the Lesotho Defence Force, refused to carry out this order.

Mr Thabane earlier (unsuccessfully) attempted to fire Mr Molibeli after he charged Mr Thabane with playing a part in the murder of his ex-wife Lipolelo Thabane.

The deal to form a new coalition government signed by the All Basotho Congress (ABC) and the Democratic Congress (DC) is now supported by enough MPs to guarantee the 61-seat threshold. Two of Mr Thabane’s current coalition partners, the Basotho National Party (BNP) and the Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL), support the ABC-DC coalition and so does a smaller opposition party, the Popular Front for Democracy (PFD).

Now that parliamentary proceedings can go ahead, steps towards the vote of no confidence are being taken.

The Senate will be sitting on Friday, April 24, to approve an amendment bill which advises King Letsie III to dissolve Parliament if Mr Thabane loses a vote of no confidence. Once approved by the Senate, the amendment bill will then have to be signed into law by King Letsie.

Then the lower house will sit for the vote of no confidence, which Mr Thabane looks certain to lose.

By deploying the army to restore order, Mr Thabane showed his willingness to resort to violence, but with General Lesoela refusing to carry out his orders, bloodshed was avoided this time.

With all odds against him – a murder case, a vote of no confidence, and a disobedient army boss – we would assume that Mr Thabane would have cut his losses by now.

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