MASERU – The Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) this week tore into coalition partner Prime Minister Dr Motsoahae Thabane, accusing him of running government like a one-man show.
The LCD also blasted Thabane for allegedly making crucial government decisions without consulting his coalition partners and believed it was time he was brought to order.
The party, which has since called for the mediation of the Christian Council of Lesotho (CCL), also indicated Thabane’s “despotic maneuvers” betrayed the spirit of the Coalition Agreement.
In a statement this week, the LCD warned the Prime Minister’s conduct could lead to the disintegration of the three-party coalition government.
Post the May 26, 2012 elections, and with no single party amassing enough parliamentary seats to form government, the ABC, the LCD and the Basotho National Party (BNP) partnered to form government.
The three parties issued and signed a Coalition Agreement on June 2012, outlining their basis for cooperation and tabulating guidelines on issues of governance.
It is this Agreement that the LCD are accusing Thabane of flouting, and demanding there must always be consultation between the three when it comes to making government decisions.
The party, during a press conference on Monday this week, reminded fellow partners in government that it remained the lifeline of the incumbent government.
“This is because prior to elections (May 26, 2012), we were aware that most Basotho pined for changes in government, it was upon that reality that we entered into this coalition,” LCD chairman Thabang Pheko noted during the briefing.
Pheko pointed out that Thabane’s autocratic conduct reared its head in the early life of the coalition government.
“When Senators were appointed the LCD was supposed to get four posts, as per the Coalition Agreement, but only one was presented by the prime minister,” he indicated.
This matter, Pheko said, was thrashed out in a meeting with the ABC and the BNP, and the LCD agreed to a compromise that its Senate representation remained unchanged.
The LCD further stressed it was not against the dismissal of senior government officials, but highlighted they should have been consulted as per agreement.
A disappointed Pheko said as a partner, they felt betrayed that some important decisions were made even their leader, Mothejoa Metsing, was acting prime minister but was not informed of anything “ . . . only to hear them over through the media”.
The LCD party deputy leader, Motloheloa Phooko, added the slanting of their representation in the Senate was a serious breach of the Agreement and was done in bad faith.
He also insisted this was done without any consultation with other partners.
According to Phooko, the relocation of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project to the office of the Prime Minister from the ministry of energy was conducted without liaising with Metsing or Cabinet.
He noted on September 13, 2013, the LCD wrote to Thabane indicating to him the “unfortunate” results of the move and requesting him to reverse his unilateral decision or face the consequences of a coalition collapse.
Phooko further lashed out at Thabane for the dismissal of the principal secretary in the ministry of finance, Mr Mosito Khethisa “without any consultations with the relevant ministry, as per the agreement”.
He continued: “The government secretary (Motlatsi Ramafole), who is also secretary to cabinet, was removed without consultation with the deputy prime minister, who was also acting prime minister at the time. The cabinet heard about this in the public media.”
These acts, according to Phooko, were serious violations of consultations, collective responsibility and tenets of good governance.
Phooko also revealed that Thabane had attempted to prorogue parliament without consultation with other partners, adding, “…this was a spring of surprise to partners on issues that would have very serious repercussions on national security.”
In another show of lack of consultation among coalition partners, government had issued Attorney General Tšokolo Makhethe and Director Public Prosecution Leaba Thetsane with letters to show cause why they should not vacate their offices.
“It is a great concern that constitutional positions can be treated with such contempt and with no cabinet coalition partners’ consultation,” Phooko bemoaned.
He also disclosed that only a week ago, the Commissioner of Police Khothatso Tšooana, was summoned to deputy prime minister Metsing’s office but failed to show up.
“Approached about this matter the Commissioner requested the deputy prime minister to meet him through the minister of police, Thabane,” Phooko disclosed.
“This was the most serious act of insubordination from a law enforcement officer to a deputy prime minister one could ever expect,” he pointed out.
This refusal, according to Phooko, was very unfortunate as Metsing, who is also chairman of the Finance Committee wanted to discuss with the police their salary structure and government’s decisions on this issue.
Phooko said the LCD had written letters to Thabane on these issues but in vain, and “…we are now making the nation aware of the impulse that has developed, and we are relaying these escalating and unfortunate developments to the CCL for their intervention.”
The LCD said they had been discreet when all these autocratic decisions were being made, but believed it was time Thabane was brought to order. In the words of Pheko “…we have endured thus far, and maybe we will continue to withstand this.”
Meanwhile, the ABC secretary general and Prime Minister Motsoahae Thabane’s political advisor, Samonyane Ntsekele told Public Eye his party was ready to engage its partners into discussions to address the grievances of the LCD.
Ntsekele said even though the LCD’s stance was that they were not consulted on major decisions, the prime minister always engaged his partners in government decision-making.
“There are also some major tasks that the prime minister has assigned to LCD to do on their own, and only report back to him on how they have decided – a sign of trust, consultation and understanding,” he noted.
However, Ntsekele indicated where several people were joined together for a particular task, there could be instances during which they would agree.
“As the ABC, we cannot stop the LCD from showing their discomfort with the prime minister’s leadership style,” he continued.
But for the peace and stability of this country, the ABC was determined to come to the table with their partners to iron out their grievances.
Ntsekele highlighted the sole mission of the ABC was to ensure that the coalition government was sustained and remained stable, adding that was the desire of the Basotho.
Meanwhile, Transformation Resource Centre democracy officer Tsikoane Peshoane contends the LCD was not genuinely defending the principle but “it’s actually defending its interests and uses mishaps that have taken place within the coalition to advance those interests.”
Peshoane observed the party’s silence when ABC ministers Tšolo Temeki, Molobeli Soulo and Mophato Monyake were axed, adding the LCD has only found its voice when they see things being shaken up in its ministries.
“Sensitivities and mistrust have always been there within the coalition, when one partner undertakes good decisions, the fact that there’s this high level of mistrust, the decision will not be recognised as being good,” he pointed out.
Peshoane indicated such sensitivities have their roots in historical relationship between the LCD and the ABC, adding, “The attitude they have against the prime minister is not necessarily from what is happening today, it comes from their historical relations.”
He warned the LCD was a very dangerous partner as they had structures and stronger positions that can influence the stability of the government and protect its interests against its partners.
“They have the Speaker of the National Assembly (Sephiri Motanyane) and Leader of the House (Deputy Prime Minister, Mothetjoa Metsing),” Peshoane said.
“It is easy for the LCD to walk out because they have a fallback position in the DC. The ABC does not have that luxury and that forces them to demonstrate maturity in leadership and patience in terms of persuading its partners.
“An LCD/DC government is more likely than that of the ABC/DC. I don’t see the possibility of the DC leader working together with that of the ABC,” he added.
Peshoane recommended the coalition government partners should start to cultivate a culture of cooperative governance in the country’s political system, adding every party should at least adhere to principles of mutual trust, consultation, transparency, and accountability.
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