MASERU — Prime Minister Thomas Thabane has refused to stay in a hotel while he waits for the State House to be renovated.
Thabane said he will stay in his modest house in Abia because “it will be unfair to make the poor people of this country pay huge hotel bills”.
“I am not going to go to the hotel for anything,” said the All Basotho Convention (ABC) leader who was sworn last Friday.
Thabane, 73, is leading a coalition government that includes the ABC, the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) and the Basotho National Party (BNP).
The three parties cobbled up the coalition after former prime minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s Democratic Congress (DC) failed to get a parliamentary majority to retain power.
Because the renovations at the State House are slightly behind schedule government officials had offered to book Thabane at Lesotho Sun, the country’s most elegant and expensive hotel.
Yesterday Thabane told the Lesotho Times that “Abia is my domicile and no one is going to persuade me to stay in a hotel.”
“I don’t think it’s necessary to go and stay in a hotel at the expense of the people’s coffers,” said Thabane.
“We have to walk the talk and if we are talking of cutting the government’s expenditure, it has to start with us.”
Thabane lives in a three-roomed house in Abia. His bedroom is an outside room on the other corner of the house.
The house was a milking shed he converted after his original home was burnt down in 1998.
In one corner of his bedroom sits three couches crammed together, drabbed in yellow and green covers.
In another corner is a double bed with a headboard.
His toiletries are perched on the side drawer on the left side of the bed.
Thabane uses a gas heater to warm his room. Although he does have a television set Thabane rarely watches it because of his busy schedule.
Instead he spends most of his time going through the pile of documents on his narrow coffee table at the centre of the room.
The house itself is built of cheap blocks. Corrugated iron sheets make the roof.
To get to Thabane’s humble house you take a narrow tarred track off the Main South 1 road. After a two-minute drive you get to a ragged footpath that is so damaged that it threatens to damage even the suspension of a 4×4 truck.
That footpath takes you to a leaning gate that is never closed.
A pit latrine sits near the gate.
If you are looking for a manicured garden and a fountain with running water then you would have come to the wrong place.
A yard full of cobblestones and patches of drying lawn is what you get at the prime minister’s house.
In a previous interview Thabane described his house as a “comfortable home”.
“It has everything I want,” he said.
A green tent his bodyguards have pitched in the yard is the only thing that has changed at the house since its owner became the prime minister last week.
Thabane said this is not about to change because he is now the prime minister.
If he had agreed to move into Lesotho Sun Thabane would have probably occupied a M4 855 per night presidential suite at the hotel.
If a presidential suite was not available he would have been booked into a duplex suite that costs M3 140 per night.
His bodyguards would have been booked into standard rooms that cost M1 750 per night. The bill would have easily run into thousands of maloti in a few weeks.
Thabane said such a luxury would run contrary to his promises that his government will not be extravagant.
There are cheaper ways of doing things and staying in Abia is one of those, he said.
“I will not close that house. It’s my home. I know that there are people who won’t feel comfortable with coming to see me at the State House and I will take them to my place to make them feel comfortable,” Thabane said.
Thabane went on to say that people love mystifying life once one holds a better post in government and it’s wrong.
“I will be occupying that house because of the people who made me prime minister. So I will frequent my house as my position doesn’t make me any less a village man.”