MASERU — All Basotho Congress (ABC) leader Thomas Thabane (pictured) is breathing fire after the government derailed mediation efforts to resolve a long-running dispute over parliamentary seats.
Former Botswana president Ketumile Masire, the envoy appointed by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to mediate the dispute, abandoned the mission last week citing unwillingness on the part of the government to continue with dialogue.
Thabane reacted angrily to the development, saying his party will not take the “matter lying down”.
“We will fight for our rights,” he told the Lesotho Times yesterday.
Thabane was not specific about the course of action his party would take, but said he will be guided by the decision of the people.
“We will sort this issue out,” he said.
“Masire is gone but we will sort out this problem.
“We will not allow other citizens of this country to bully us.”
“We all belong here (Lesotho),” he added.
“The constitution is for us all. It does not protect only people in power.
“We have rights too.”
Thabane said he was “extremely sad” with the way the government had handled the matter.
He said by pulling out of the talks “the government wants blood (to be shed)”. “They have always said that the army is on their side. Why do they need to say such things especially when they are talking to an opposition that does not have an army?” Thabane said.
Opposition parties accuse the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) of wrongly allocating 21 of the 120 seats in parliament to an alliance led by the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) party.
Forty seats were allocated under a proportional representation model after the 2007 general elections.
Opposition parties accused the IEC of wrongly allocating seats meant for them to the LCD-led alliance.
Masire also accused the IEC of wrongly allowing the LCD and ABC to form alliances with smaller parties without merging with those parties prior to the holding of elections.
This led to SADC’s intervention, with the LCD-led government agreeing to dialogue with opposition parties to resolve the dispute.
However, the government said the dialogue had “run its course” after the High Court decided not to make a determination in a case filed by the Marematlou Freedom Party in which some of the issues giving rise to the dispute were raised.
Masire said the government’s position forced him abandon his efforts.
“Accordingly, although I have not concluded the mission assigned to me by SADC, I do not feel able to continue on account of the approach to the matter now taken by the government of the Kingdom of Lesotho,” Masire said.
An angry Thabane said the government was deliberately twisting facts about the matter to justify its position regarding the dialogue.
“The government is trying to duck responsibility by alleging that we are asking for fresh elections,” he said.
“This is a lie. It’s a falsity. We have never disputed the election results.
“This government was elected legitimately, we recognise them.
“All we want are those seats that were stolen from us. Those seats belong to us,” he added.
“We refuse to seat around and allow people to just walk all over us like that.
“We want a solution to this issue. A solution to this matter is vital not only for this generation for the next ones that will follow.”
Asked what his party will do if they fail to get a solution, Thabane said there will be “alternatives but we cannot say what action we will take”.
“When our people ask us what happened with Masire’s dialogue I will tell them the truth,” he said.
“They are the ones who will make a decision on the matter but whatever they decide I will oblige.”
Asked what he will do if the supporters suggest protests Thabane could only say “it is a democratic alternative”.
Communications Minister Mothetjoa Metsing, who is also the LCD’s secretary-general, defended the gpovernment’s stance saying there was “no going back on the allocation of seats”.
“We cannot change the law to suit particular people. It is not right,” Metsing said.
“If we do that we will end up with the rule of men and not rule of law.
“As far as we are concerned the court spoke very clearly about this issue of PR seats.”
“Those people are asking us to undo the law to benefit them,” he added.
“We are not hostile to amending the laws but to say that those laws must be thrown away because some people feel aggrieved because they have lost an election is just not right.
“That is not how democracy works.”