Prime Minister Thomas Thabane should just do the honourable thing and retire without further delay. If he cannot do it for the sake of his own legacy then he should do it for the nation.
It is no secret that he does not enjoy the support of his own All Basotho Convention (ABC)’s national executive committee (NEC) and the majority of the party’s legislators. He has also lost the support of two of his four governing coalition partners. Added to this are demands by church leaders and various other civic groups for his departure, in addition to the generality of Basotho who shun his public events.
As the Biblical story of the Babylonian King Belshazzar shows, the ignominious exit of an undesirable ruler was preceded by divine manifestations in the form of a hand scribbling on a wall to inform him that his time was up.
While we are not likely to see any such divine manifestations on the walls of State House to prompt him, there are enough indicators that should convince Mr Thabane that his time is up.
In last week’s interview with this publication, the premier was at his defiant best saying he would only leave at his own volition. He said his retirement was a domestic issue that will be discussed and decided by him and his family when the time is right.
In the meantime, Mr Thabane said he remained the lawful leader of the ruling All Basotho Convention (ABC) and the four-party coalition government. His term of office ends in 2022, not any other time decided by his rivals, he said. The premier said people “that I don’t report to” had no right to push him into retirement.
A cursory examination of the facts proves the premier is wrong on all fronts. In the first instance, he holds a public office not a private position. If he was at the helm of a family owned holdings, he would be right to domesticate the issue of his office. But Mr Thabane is prime minister at the behest of the electorate via its elected representatives. So, it’s fallacious for the PM to claim that people he does not report to want him gone. The PM reports to Basotho in our entirety and we have every right to recall him from government if we deem it necessary. Yes, Mr Thabane’s legal term ends in 2022. But the validity of a term of office is as good as the confidence the holder of that office enjoys from the electorate. Mr Thabane has certainly lost the confidence of the nation. This is why even King Letsie no longer acts on the premier’s advice. And rightly so.
The times and mood in the country have changed since June 2017 when Mr Thabane triumphantly returned to power for his second stint as premier with the support of not only his party’s then 52 legislators, but five from the Basotho National Party (BNP), 11 from the Alliance of Democrats (AD) and one from the Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL). The new reality is that a significant majority of ABC legislators have changed their minds about Mr Thabane and his four-party coalition and have openly rebelled against him. His own party has disowned him. Some of his cabinet ministers want him gone without further ado. He has lost the support of two of his coalition partners who partook in the recent Constitutional Court case against his illegal prorogation of parliament. It is very likely that the new coalition mooted between the ABC, the DC and other parties will easily surpass the 61-seat threshold required to form government. It serves no purpose for Mr Thabane to seek to continue going against the grain.
Basotho are shouting from every mountain top in the Mokhotlong highlands and every steeple in the lowlands of Maseru that the PM should go, not only for his sake but for the good of the nation.
All the signs are there that the premier no longer enjoys the confidence and support of the nation to remain in office. He doesn’t require a supernatural hand writing Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin (your time is up) to know it’s time to go. It’s pretty obvious he must call it quits.
The reasons why Lesotho can no longer afford Mr Thabane’s continued stay in office are many to innumerate here. Suffice to say no country needs a leader facing serious charges of alleged involvement in the murder of his ex-wife. We cannot afford a leader whose attention span is split between thinking and fighting these serious charges on one hand and the excruciating demands of running a country on the other. International development partners and investors will simply not deal with such a leader, even though they may not say so explicitly.
Since he announced his intention to retire in January, in the wake of the murder allegations, Mr Thabane has essentially became a lame duck. His authority to lead and make decisions now stands severely eroded and compromised. No one takes him seriously anymore. Which explains why it was easy for army commander Mojalefa Letsoela to defy his order to arrest three top cops. The premier now seems obsessed with wanting to safeguard himself once he has left power. That has seen him making a lot of bad decisions. His attempt to impose a chief justice, who is so worryingly out of her depth, his repeated attempts to fire the police commissioner despite several court orders to do so and his recent deployment of the army to “deal with political opponents” are all indicative of a prime minister who has not lost her marbles but who has become extremely dangerous.
Other world leaders have been grappling with assisting their economies survive the Covid-19 pandemic, Mr Thabane is woefully absent from such crucial actions. But when it comes to decisions meant to secure him, he springs to action with uncharacteristic energy. His continued stay in power is thus no longer in the national interest.
Even if it were correct that Mr Thabane’s departure from power is a private family matter, which it is not, the premier would be glad to know some of his children want him gone. The premier’s daughter, Advocate ‘Mabatsoeneng Hlaele, has long exhorted the prime minister to quit.
Adv Hlaele has also implored all the selfish people benefiting from his father’s official signature to desist from using him for their nefarious agendas and let him go.
What more would the premier want to hear for him to gracefully retire? With the Senate having approved the constitutional amendment clipping him of draconian powers to dissolve parliament, he now risks the ignominy of being pushed out via a vote of no confidence. That will permanently soil his legacy.
This newspaper supported Mr Thabane during the worst of times when it was risky for anyone to stick their necks and speak for him. We suffered immeasurably for our support for him and some of our staffers nearly paid the ultimate price. We are nevertheless guided by the national interest and nothing else. For the sake of this country, Mr Thabane must go now.