DEMOCRATIC Congress (DC) leader Pakalitha Mosisili is back as Lesotho prime minister, exactly 33 months after handing over power to his All Basotho Convention (ABC) counterpart, Thomas Thabane.
A coalition of seven parties namely the DC, Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD), Marematlou Freedom Party, Basotho Congress Party (BCP), National Independent Party (NIP), Lesotho People’s Congress (LPC) and Popular Front for Democracy (PFD), yesterday elected Dr Mosisili the country’s next prime minister — signalling a spectacular comeback for the 69-year-old former university lecturer.
Addressing a press conference at the BCP Headquarters in Maseru yesterday, Dr Mosisili said the alliance had elected him the country next prime minister, while LCD leader Mothetjoa Metsing would be his deputy.
MFP leader Moeketse Malebo, BCP leader Thulo Mahlakeng, NIP leader Kimetso Mathaba, and LPC leader Molahlehi Letlotlo were also present at the midday conference. However, PFD leader Lekhetho Rakuoane was not at the media briefing as he was attending his party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting. But according to Dr Mosisili, the PFD was part of the alliance which had decided to bring “change” to Lesotho following two years of “chaotic rule” under Dr Thabane’s premiership.
“These leaders sitting here are going to bring change to Lesotho. In democracy, we say the people are always right, just like customers in a business; even when they are wrong, they are still right,” Dr Mosisili said.
“Today, Lesotho has finally found a secret that has never been found on this earth before and my heart is very happy to be part of this secret.”
Soon after making this announcement, the six coalition leaders then signed an agreement, which read: “We, the undersigned political parties that have been elected to the 9th Parliament of the Kingdom of Lesotho following the (28) February 2015 National Assembly elections, duly represented herein by our respective party leaders, have agreed to form a coalition of political parties pursuant to Section 87 (2) of the constitution of Lesotho and hereby confirm and record our agreement in this regard.
“The parties hereto, agree that the leader of the Democratic Congress (DC), Dr Pakalitha Bethuel Mosisili, shall be the leader of coalition and the leader of the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD), Mothetjoa Metsing, shall be the deputy leader of the coalition.
“This Coalition Agreement shall come into force immediately upon the signing hereof by the party leaders and shall subsist until the dissolution of the 9th Parliament and government formed hereto. Thus done and signed in Maseru on the 4th day of March 2015.”
Dr Mosisili reassured the nation that the “Congress alliance” would not collapse midterm the way the ABC, LCD and Basotho National Party (BNP) coalition fell apart last year due to infighting by the leadership, which led to last Saturday’s snap election brokered by the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
The DC then won 47 of the 120 parliamentary seats on offer, while the ABC, LCD, BNP, Reformed Congress of Lesotho, PFD, BCP, LPC, MFP and NIP took 46, 12, seven, two, two, one, one, one and one, respectively.
Because none of the parties had won the minimum 61 seats needed to form government on its own, the “Congress movement” then decided to band together and form government — marking the end of Dr Thabane’s turbulent rule characterised by bitter feuds with his deputy, Mr Metsing.
Dr Mosisili said the previous coalition government collapsed because of the partners’ lack of respect for its “principles and conditions”.
“Principles and conditions of a coalition government should be respected and if not, it won’t work. Coalition governments exist in the world and have been working for years. This country should not give the impression that a government of more than one party doesn’t work,” Dr Mosisili said.
The “broad nature” of his alliance — and shared vision for peace and stability of its leadership — would ensure its endurance, he added.
“Our alliance is quite broad in nature and has a significant number of political leaders unlike that one which collapsed,” the DC leader said.
Asked how the incoming government was going to end tension between the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) and Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) since it was one of the reasons the country was forced to go for elections two years ahead of schedule, Dr Mosisili said: “It is my firm belief that there is no security problem in Lesotho. The main problem within the two security institutions was Prime Minister Thabane whose term is fortunately coming to an end.
“We believe the mistakes that Ntate Thabane made are now a thing of the past and there won’t be any problems between the two security agencies.”
According to the DC leader, Dr Thabane had claimed that the army tried to overthrow his government on 30 August 2014, prompting his “escape” to South Africa but failed to provide proof of the attempted coup d’état to the international community .
“Thabane claimed that the army tried to overthrow his government but failed to provide the proof. The soldiers did their operation on that day (of the alleged coup) and following its completion, they all went to the barracks. One should ask: if indeed there was an attempted coup, who stopped it?”
Dr Mosisili also said statements he made during his election campaign that “water and oil” did not mix had been misinterpreted by the media and rival politicians.
“The oil and water issue has been taken out of context. I was referring to the congress and nationals as oil and water to explain that they come from different ideologies and that it will be difficult to bring them together,” Dr Mosisili said.
Mr Metsing, on the other hand, said he was confident Lesotho’s political and security crises would come to an end under the new government because of Dr Mosisili’s expertise and experience.
“I am confident that Ntate Mosisili is going to restore the country’s dignity and respect of the Office of the Prime Minister, which had been lost in the two-and-a-half years Ntate Thabane was in power,” Mr Metsing said.
“I assure you all that immediately after Ntate Mosisili takes over the PM’s office, its dignity would automatically be restored because he is professional and principled.
“He excelled when he was the prime minister from 1998 to 2012 and I am convinced Ntate Mosisili is going to do a good job of ending the problems that had emerged between the army and police during Ntate Thabane’s leadership.”
Contacted for comment yesterday, Government Secretary Moahloli Mphaka said the new prime minister was “likely” to be inaugurated on 17 March and ministers sworn-in two days later.
Factfile: Pakalitha Bethuel Mosisili
Date of birth: 14 March 1945
Elected Tsoelike MP in 1993 and immediately appointed Minister of Education. Dr Mosisili was appointed Deputy Prime Minister in late January 1995, while remaining Minister of Education. On 20 July 1995, he was named Minister of Home Affairs and Local Government, while remaining Deputy Prime Minister. A new ruling party, the LCD, was formed in 1997 under the leadership of Prime Minister Ntsu Mokhehle as a split from the Basutoland Congress Party. On 21 February 1998, Dr Mosisili was elected leader of the LCD after Mokhehle chose to step down due to poor health.
After his party’s victory in 1998, there were accusations of vote-rigging and mass protests from opposition parties, which culminated with their occupation of the grounds to the palace. In the ensuing debacle which saw the army and police complicit in an attempt to unseat his government, Dr Mosisili had to ask SADC for intervention. New elections were eventually held in May 2002, which his party won. In February 2012, Dr Mosisili formed the DC, but the party failed to garner the outright majority it needed to remain in power.