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Plot to oust PM loses momentum

Lesotho Times

Lesotho's widely read newspaper, published every Thursday and distributed throughout the country and in some parts of South Africa. Contact us today: News: [email protected] Advertising: [email protected] Telephone: +266 2231 5356

…as opposition parties lose appetite for a no-confidence motion

Staff Reporters

OPPOSITION parties, which had appeared so determined to remove the coalition government led by Prime Minister Sam Matekane, appear to have lost their appetite for rebellion, with strong indications they are no longer singing the same tune on the issue.

Opposition politicians had been openly stating that they would pass a vote of no confidence in the premier and his government when parliament reopens next month, but the appetite for such a move appears to be waning.

Opposition legislators and leaders who spoke to the Lesotho Times yesterday, largely distanced themselves from the plot despite their previous links to the move, while suspended Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) legislators, Mahali Phamotse, Thuso Makhalanyane and Rethabile Letlaiana, refused to talk about the issue.

Dr Phamotse, who is alleged to enjoy the support of 26 RFP members of parliament disgruntled with the party’s leadership, and who could be key to any no confidence motion, was non-committal when contacted yesterday. She could only say she was still a member of the RFP despite her six-year suspension from the premier’s party, for allegedly violating the RFP’s code of conduct.

“I cannot comment on those rumours you are asking me about. I am a member of parliament and any issues I have, I will discuss in parliament, not outside,” she said.

“I’m still part of the RFP, but it is just that I have been suspended. I will still occupy the same seat in parliament and not move to any side. It should be clear that what I have been accused of is not true. I did not vote with the opposition but exercised my rights as a member of parliament to vote for what I believed was right.”

Asked what the Basotho Action Party (BAP)’s game-plan was when parliament resumes, party leader Prof Nqosa Mahao said: “We will look at the existing balance of forces, then table the matter for discussion as the BAP executive committee. Thereafter, the party’s caucus in parliament will take the cue from the committee.”

Democratic Congress (DC) leader, Mathibeli Mokhothu, who could be the most likely beneficiary should Mr Matekane be removed from office, could not be reached for comment yesterday. However, the party’s secretary-general Tsítso Cheba, said their focus would be to proceed with parliamentary business from where they left off when the legislature adjourned for the winter break.

Mr Cheba, who is the DC MP for the ‘Makhoroana constituency in Berea district, added: “One of parliament’s mandates is to establish governments. It is enshrined in the law. When we return to parliament on 13 October, we are going to proceed with business from where we left off when the house adjourned for this year’s abnormally long winter break.

“However, parliament’s mandate is not limited to your normal advocacy, allocation, oversight etc. It is also mandated, when such a need arises, to change government.

“We also have questions to ask, and to which we need clarification, such as what government’s agriculture policy is? We also need an explanation about this water and energy expo the government is holding next month.”

Contacted for comment on what to expect from the Popular Front for Democracy (PFD) when parliament resumes, party leader, Adv Lekhetho Rakuoane said: “We never said there should be a motion of no-confidence against the prime minister. We were only raising our concerns over MPs being searched by security forces as if they were criminals. We didn’t say we were not confident in the prime minister. People took it out of context. There won’t be any no-confidence motion in parliament when it resumes.

“However, should it be tabled, we will cross that bridge when we get to it. We are concerned about confusing issues like this block farming–who owns it? Does it belong to individuals, or the government? Is it countrywide or in selected areas? I say this because if there is no block farming in Butha-Buthe, that means people are going to starve. We are actually going to starve because it is not clear who owns the blocks.”

However, Basotho National Party (BNP) leader, Machesetsa Mofomobe, said his personal view was that Mr Matekane should leave office as he was not the right person to lead Lesotho.

“When parliament resumes, there is a lot of work that needs to be done. As we can all see, people are losing jobs every day. The hunger facing Basotho is of untold proportions. There are important draft laws that must be resuscitated such as the Local Government (Amendment) Bill, 2022. It must be revived immediately after Friday’s local government elections, to empower councillors in the execution of their duties,” Mr Mofomobe said.

“But let me also just say we’ll cross that bridge (of the no-confidence motion) when we get to it. But my unwavering opinion is that that man (Matekane) must go.

“If we don’t replace him with someone from the opposition, the opposition will ask the RFP to provide an alternative because that man is not capable of leading this country. That man says a lot of stupid things when he opens his mouth.”

To buttress his point, Mr Mofomobe referred to Mr Matekane’s 11 August 2023 local government election campaign rally in Maputsoe constituency in Leribe, where he told RFP supporters that he was in negotiation with American buyers who had ordered two million collar-shirts from Lesotho factories. Mr Mofomobe claimed  this  gave people the false impression that they would retain their jobs in a textile sector that was rapidly bleeding jobs, leaving families stranded.

Meanwhile, Mr Matekane on Sunday called out his opposition detractors to stop hounding him about vacating office as his coalition government was intact.

“We are government; we will rule whether one likes it or not. There are people making noise saying we have failed to govern, yet we’ve not even been in office for 10 months. The people making the noise were in government for tens and tens of years and can’t point at anything they achieved except stealing public funds and making Basotho disgruntled,” Mr Matekane said.

Mr Matekane also told the recently ended 78th UN General Assembly in New York that the country had embarked on a comprehensive constitutional and legislative reforms process aimed at building a prosperous Lesotho.

“While not being a one-stop solution for all problems, reforms nevertheless, provide hope that people’s lives will improve due to a new order of public resources management, improved checks and balances, political stability, and a focus on the development agenda,” he said.