MASERU — Prime Minister Thomas Thabane left Lesotho yesterday on a three-day state visit to Zimbabwe where he is expected to officially open the country’s 102nd Harare Agricultural Show tomorrow.
Thabane’s visit to Zimbabwe is to honour an invitation extended to him by President Robert Mugabe last month after delivering his maiden speech as Lesotho’s premier at an AU summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Thabane told the Lesotho Times shortly before flying out yesterday that he felt “immensely honoured to be given the opportunity” to open the agricultural show.
“It’s an honour not only for me but for Basotho in general. Maybe we’ve been invited because there’s something they see in us that we don’t,” Thabane said.
“It’s an opportunity for me to evaluate how other African countries rate Lesotho.”
He added he was humbled by the reception he had received from other African states since becoming prime minister and that it was time for Lesotho to get the recognition she deserved “as a founding member of the AU and Sadc”.
“Besides, in spite of our internal problems which we’re trying to solve, it’s always good to steal a bit of time outside the country and share this light shining on Lesotho with other countries,” Thabane said.
The premier added that travelling to Zimbabwe would also afford him the chance to interact with the country’s opposition ranks.
“Opening the show gives me an opportunity to interact with Zimbabweans, especially opposition groups. President Mugabe is aware that I need to speak with them,” Thabane said.
“I will discuss with them their problems because as a head of government, I cannot simply waltz in and out of Zimbabwe without talking to them.”
Thabane added that there were similarities between Lesotho and Zimbabwe “because we both have unity governments”.
“Those people have a unity government just as we do. We have people who agree with it just as there are those who oppose it,” Thabane said.
“Zimbabwe is also experiencing similar issues. We need to discuss our problems and how we each deal with them.”
Despite Zimbabwe’s myriad problems, Thabane said, it was Africa’s second largest economy south of the Sahara after South Africa adding “it has the potential to grow economically because of mining and agriculture sectors”.
Lesotho’s premier further hailed Mugabe as a revered freedom fighter and strongman who had unfortunately received a lot of bad publicity “attributed to his governance”.
This is Thabane’s maiden trip to Zimbabwe as prime minister, having been inaugurated on June 8, to lead Lesotho’s first coalition government.