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I’m tried and tested: Mokhothu

AHEAD of tomorrow’s crunch polls, the Lesotho Times (LT) Special Projects Editor, Bongiwe Zihlangu, sat down with Democratic Congress (DC) leader, Mathibeli Mokhothu, who shared his reasons why Basotho should vote for him. In the interview, Mr Mokhothu, argued that he has a proven track record of service delivery,  among other things.


LT: Why do you think you deserve to be Lesotho’s next Prime Minister?

Mokhothu: I lead the Democratic Congress (DC), which is the most stable party in Lesotho. The rest cannot give Lesotho the peace and stability that they lack themselves.

I have vast experience in good governance and development. My honours’ degree focused on this. I am Lesotho’s Deputy Prime Minister. I was also the Official Leader of the Opposition in Parliament. I also served as Gender, Youth, Sport and Recreation minister.

One’s achievements must not be judged by their age. King Moshoeshoe l was very young when he founded the Basotho nation. Dr Ntsu Mokhehle was only 25 years old when he formed the congress movement in Lesotho. Jesus Christ began his ministry at the age of 30 before he died a few years later.

I am focused and believe in implementation. If you look at my track record when I was Gender, Youth, Sport and Recreation minister, I introduced many projects such as youth centres, the gender policy, as well as revival of sports at community level. I have built roads in my constituency, brought electricity and mobile network infrastructure. When I became Deputy Prime Minister in 2020, we resolved problems in the wool and mohair sector and addressed teachers’ grievances. We also fought to curb the torture and killings of suspects by the police. The DC itself has tripled its membership under my leadership. If I was able to turn around a political outfit as big as DC, why can’t I do the same with Lesotho?

We want to turn Lesotho around and wean it from operating on an annual budget based on tax collection assumptions. I want to reform Lesotho’s economy so that we graduate from where we are now to a point where funds collected in the current year will finance the next year’s budget. We should not be collecting to finance our immediate spending as we have been doing for years.

We must build a sovereign fund that allows us to plan for projects whose budget is readily available. We must work towards improving Lesotho’s cash flow. A DC government will ensure that we have as much as M40 billion waiting to be spent on projects.

I urge Basotho to give the DC enough numbers to govern alone and only invite its friends as a matter of choice. It is only under a DC government that Lesotho can prosper.

LT: The DC had an electoral pact in 2017 with the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD), where you agreed not to contest against each other in some constituencies. Why did you not establish a similar alliance this year?

Mokhothu: The LCD-DC pact did not yield results; it did not work. Secondly, the DC has grown in leaps and bounds more than any other party in this country. It is also the most stable party. We therefore feel strong enough to go for the elections alone and we’re confident of winning the 60 plus seats necessary to form government alone.

LT: If voted into power, what will be your government’s focus during your first 100 days in office?

Mokhothu: Growing the economy, implementing reforms, and striving for national unity will be our primary focus. We must grow the economy which will translate into job creation. We will work to remove Lesotho from its status of being a market for imported goods. We will invest in business to stimulate production. You cannot grow the economy when all you do is use the country’s money to buy goods from outside. We must produce a variety of products from food to clothes for export. We are using foreign currency to sponsor our children’s education outside the country. The question is, why aren’t we introducing our own programmes? My government will transform the country’s education system, which will in turn transform the economy. Our first budget will finance businesses and reform the education sector.  There is no reason why it should take us more than a year to produce enough cabbage and eggs locally. We will also invest in poultry and meat production for local and international markets.

We also plan to set up water bottling plants in Lesotho. We are currently establishing an effective bureau of standards. What is left is for the Americans under the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) to give us their specifications on the PH level/standards of water they prefer. This should not take more than six months. We should be exporting water within two years under partnerships between local entrepreneurs and foreign investors.

LT: In its manifesto, the DC promises to set up developmental projects when it becomes government. Where will the money come from?

Mokhothu: Funds will come from private businesses that have been supported and funded to grow by the government and commercial banks. Lesotho has abundant natural resources, and we will identify the most valuable ones and use them as collateral to secure funding for our projects. Generating money is not much of a problem. Like I said, we need to break away from the old way of doing things. It has not yielded dividends that whenever the taxman collects revenue, we immediately spend it on paying service providers. Sometimes we even go as far as asking them to wait until the next collection season so that they can be paid. Lesotho’s liquidity problems should be a thing of the past.

LT: There have been complaints that Lesotho’s cabinet is bloated. Will you reduced the size of cabinet if you win power?

Mokhothu: We will reduce the number of ministries and reorganise some so that they effectively respond to Lesotho’s challenges and the needs of the people. Essentially, we are saying that we want ministries that will help shape the vision of a DC-led government.

LT: A few weeks ago, All Basotho Congress (ABC) chairperson, Sam Rapapa, alleged that some political parties, including the DC, were ganging up against Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) leader, Sam Matekane, to stop him from being part of government. What is your response to that?

Mokhothu: He (Rapapa) was just politicking. The DC is not interested in politicking for coalitions. Our focus now is on elections and ensuring that Basotho vote for us. When the time comes for us to walk with our friends and discuss coalitions, we will do that. This election presents an opportunity for us to garner enough votes to form government alone. We are aiming to win on our own and then bring our friends on board if we feel so.

LT: Were you content with the turn-up at the DC star rally on Sunday?

Mokhothu: DC members came in their numbers. I was impressed that those were not just people attending a rally; that was the electorate. That was a rally attended by voters and it was not just a festival.

LT: Some have said other well-resourced parties might use their financial strength to lure your MPs to their side after the polls. The DC suffered such a fate in 2017. Do you have any plans to counter this from happening again in the absence of laws to regulate floor-crossing in parliament? 

Mokhothu: It happened in 2017 but I doubt it will happen again. People were running away from a party that was not in government to parties that were in government. The people that left us were rewarded with cabinet appointments. Well, this time around, the DC will be forming government. Why would our MPs want to leave a party that will be in government? Soon after forming government, we will pass laws to regulate floor-crossing. But not because of fears that our MPs might jump ship but solely for the purpose of stabilising the national assembly and government as well.

LT: It is alleged that the ABC and the DC have met to discuss the formation of a coalition government. It is alleged that one of the ABC’s conditions is that it be given the Public Works and Agriculture and Food Security ministries as conditions for it to be part of the next government?

Mokhothu: No, the DC has not sat down with any political party to negotiate a coalition government of any nature. We are open to a coalition and we have our friends with whom we have been working with in government. We get along with them all. And nothing stops us from forming a coalition government with any of them in future. But we have not sat down as parties in the outgoing government to explore prospects of a coalition government after the elections. We will cross that bridge when we get there.