… describes ABC leader’s unity government calls as ‘loose talk’
MASERU — Deputy Prime Minister Lesao Lehohla yesterday described as “loose talk” calls by opposition leader Thomas Thabane to set up a transitional government to oversee the next general election in 2012.
In an exclusive interview with the Lesotho Times, Lehohla also scoffed at Thabane’s call for Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili to step down.
Thabane, who is the leader of the main opposition All Basotho Convention (ABC) party, two weeks ago, urged Mosisili to step down saying his government was suffering from fatigue.
He then called on Mosisili to step down to pave way for a transitional authority.
The deputy prime minister who was in a combative mood yesterday came out guns blazing attacking Thabane.
Lehohla said Thabane should work hard for his party to win votes in the next elections.
“What Thabane needs to do is to work hard to add more constituencies to the 17 that he won in the 2007 elections,” Lehohla said.
Lehohla said it was unfortunate that Thabane had threatened to incite people to rise against the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) government.
“He said he is going to lobby the public to wage war against government. If he can convince people to do that, then he must also be able to convince them to cast their ballots in his favour,” he said.
Lehohla urged political parties wishing to form the next government to be patient and wait for the next round of elections.
“The public’s choice of government should be respected until it is time for another round of elections.”
Lehohla, who is also the minister of home affairs, said it was the responsibility of all political parties to ensure national peace and stability.
“Peace and stability should be protected because we will not benefit from fighting,” he said.
A fortnight ago Thabane called on political parties to boycott the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) for allegedly supporting the LCD.
But Lehohla defended the IEC saying the electoral body was not answerable to any political authority.
“The IEC’s functions are clearly stipulated in the constitution, which clearly explains that the electoral commission is not answerable to any power or authority,” Lehohla said.
“The constitution was amended in 1998 to establish the IEC. Its officers are answerable to no one else but the electoral commission,” he said.
Lehohla also said the electoral commission was non partisan.
“It has within its structures committees composed of political party leaders and representatives as its major stakeholders. That goes to show the IEC is not partisan.”
On Thabane’s call to have the IEC disbanded, Lehohla said that would be done “only if there is real need to go that far”.
“All decisions are made based on merit. If there are areas where we discover mistakes have been made, we should all work on correcting them,” he said.
Two weeks ago Thabane told journalists in the capital that Mosisili was issuing government tenders to members of his family and relatives.
“Lucrative tenders are reserved exclusively for his relatives. This is what happens in a government by family. His has become Lesotho’s royal family,” Thabane was quoted as saying.
But Lehohla yesterday denied the allegations charging that Thabane was “seriously misled”.
“I would have to be convinced of the allegations by seeing such things being done before my eyes,” Lehohla said.
He urged Thabane to take up his queries with the relevant parliamentary portfolio committee.
“If there is anybody with queries they can take them up with one of the parliamentary portfolio committees, for investigations into these allegations to be launched.
“Portfolio committees are meant to oversee the performance of our ministries and report their findings to parliament.”
On the issue of the border crisis which resulted in neighbouring South Africa rejecting Lesotho’s temporary travel documents, Lehohla said it was a problem that needed “to be dealt with”.
Lehohla sent shockwaves throughout the country two weeks ago when he admitted that he had been “damn stupid” when he failed to realise the scale of the passport problem.
“I was telling it like it is. I told the truth. The problem is that people do not always readily accept the truth,” Lehohla said.
The government had always worked hard to issue passports, Lehohla said, but civil servants at the passport office had become complacent in their jobs.
“But seeing people milling around in long queues looking for passports, you then realise that all is not well,” Lehohla said.
The deputy prime minister admitted the processing of passports “has been wrong from inception”.
“The point I will always make is that the passport processing system was wrong from scratch. The calibre of staff we have is in itself a major problem,” Lehohla said.
“Our people are prone to bribery. It is tempting I know, for one to fall into the trap of accepting a bribe and sacrificing their integrity. That might be attributed to low salaries.
“But a low salary does not justify accepting a bribe, tempting as it might be. It spoils the process of service delivery because employees see clients as their money bags.”