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Matekane shifts political balance



This week’s article will review the current challenges faced by the old established political parties and their prospects in elections after the formation of the Revolution for Prosperity (RFP). This article will consider the question of why the All Basotho Convention (ABC) finds itself at an increasing disadvantage despite the fact that it seemed to be consolidating its voter base a few months ago. I will demonstrate that an important political transformation has occurred, a transformation that will change the political game in this country forever. The formation of a new political party led by Sam Matekane which was introduced this week will challenge the dominance of the biggest political forces namely the ABC and Democratic Congress (DC). It will devastate smaller parties including the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD), Alliance of Democrats (AD), Movement for Economic Change (MEC) and the Basotho National Party (BNP). The establishment of RFP will dismantle the dominance that has long been enjoyed by the ABC and DC, creating a new political landscape. The Basotho Action Party (BAP) is the most unlucky party because it will be overtaken by RFP in the urban vote. The DC will have casualties but ABC will be the biggest loser given the infighting that has been happening with the party for the past three years. The ABC is now more fragmented and finding political compromises at the party level could prove challenging. This was observed during the vote of no-confidence in Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro on Monday this week, as the voting behaviour of the ABC MPs displayed the division within the political party. Matekane is one of the leading local businessmen in Lesotho. He was named one of Africa’s leading entrepreneurs in the annual Forbes Best of Africa awards. The gradual trend of an increasing RFP influence is expected to continue till the general election in September 2022. Matekane is challenging the old party establishments. For too long, the political class of party leaders, paid consultants, strategists, and partisan media outlets but ignored the concerns of thousands of poor, working- and middle-class Basotho families. The formation of RFP comes at a time when there is confusion in the political space. The ABC has been fighting within for the past three years. Two weeks ago the ABC was withdrawn from the government by its new leader Nkaku Kabi. 21 ABC MPs remained with the government while 13 became of the opposition. For the first time the ABC is represented in both the government and opposition. I have always wondered what will be the end game for Majoro’s team. Kabi was once a loyal supporter of Majoro. Willingness to vote against one’s party is something that has become much more common in the ABC. They decided to defy the party line and voted for Majoro against Tšoinyane Rapapa who was a preferred candidate for the ABC NEC. Do you still remember the then ABC MP, Tefo Mapesela’s audio clips? He said “we have been elected by the people to speak for them and the issues related to our constituencies and the state, the ABC NEC cannot instruct us. We will elect Moeketsi Majoro in Parliament.” After losing the leadership race to Kabi, Majoro resigned from the ABC NEC. Last week Kabi decided to cross the floor and left to sit on the cross-bench. He was joined by former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane and 11 others. This week they lost the motion of no confidence in the Prime Minister by 66 votes to 38. Majoro failed to realise that he had to create a new political home for his followers. He had to make that important and stressful decision. However, I could tell he was overwhelmed by the number of choices. Unfortunately Matekane has made that choice for him. He has formed a political party that will provide a home for Majoro’s followers. Leadership is about making hard decisions. Indecisive leaders make it harder – on themselves and those they lead. A story is told of former president Ronald Reagan who once had an aunt who took him to a cobbler to repair a pair of new shoes. The cobbler asked young Reagan, “Do you want square toes or round toes?” Unable to decide, Reagan didn’t answer, so the cobbler gave him a few days. Several days later the cobbler saw Reagan on the street and asked him again what kind of toes he wanted on his shoes. Reagan still couldn’t decide, so the shoemaker replied, “Well, come by in a couple of days. Your shoes will be ready.” When the future president did so, he found one square-toed and one round-toed shoe! “This will teach you to never let people make decisions for you,” the cobbler said to his indecisive customer. “I learned right then and there,” Reagan said later, “if you don’t make your own decisions, someone else will.” Matekane made that decision for Majoro. Majoro was not confident enough in his own instincts. Rather than take a risk and make a decision, he played it safe and everyone was left dangling. People were willing to put their lives on the line for Majoro but he decided to play it safe because he will have a lifetime pension for himself and his wife after five months. It is also possible that Majoro did not have consensus on the best path forward. Rather than offend a few with a decision, he demoralised everyone by not making one. Matekane is confident and decided to trust his instincts. Deep down he had a strong intuition that guided him. He trusted it that is why he launched his political party this week. No matter where you stand with Matekane, it is difficult to deny that he has inaugurated a period of uncertainty, flux, and potential revolutionary change in Lesotho politics. When he announced his new political party this week, few political elites took him seriously but social media exploited. Matekane stunned the political world on Tuesday when he announced his political party without any political experience. In fact, he is an outsider. Matekane’s status as a political outsider could actually work for him since there are a lot of unhappy voters who trusted Thabane with their votes but were disappointed. Basotho social media declared Matekane is a proven saint. Basotho have been hungry, poor and disappointed for a very long time, we have forgotten how to use our heads. Here we are again just like in 2006, using our hearts. Remember how we ended up with Thabane and his young wife. In 2016 the United States had a buzz we are experiencing when Donald Trump announced his candidature for the presidency. It ended in tears. Matekane like Thabane might have good intentions but delivery is very hard, it is easier said than done. Trump won the presidency in 2016 partly because he was a norm-busting political outsider who was prepared to say what had previously been unsayable. He failed dismally. Americans have never had a president like Trump before, who schemed to overturn legitimate election results, who attacked the press and the civil servants who worked for him, who admired dictators, who blatantly profited from his public office and who repeatedly lied to the public for his own selfish purposes. The wealthy President was a mess, Americans would never want the repeat. I have a feeling that Matekane is set up to fail in his efforts to get an impossible job as the Prime Minister of Lesotho. Matekane has been successful only in ventures where he was given a tender of a contract, but has failed as he tried to diversify into the airline and hotel business.

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