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Time up for Thabane



PRIME Minister Thomas Thabane last week rejected an offer of a “dignified and secure” exit brokered by South Africa in yet another stunning twist to Lesotho’s succession saga politics. The 80-year-old politician told a local weekly that he will not be told by outsiders when he should step down from power. When the time is ripe, he will consult his family on the way forward, Thabane said. The statement, which was interpreted as a not so subtle dig at South Africa and Thabane’s political opponents in Lesotho, did not come as a surprise to us. Thabane has been digging in ever since he announced plans to retire in February. In fact, the wily old fox of Lesotho politics has been indicating left while turning right over when he intends to hand over the reins of power. With a serious murder charge looming over his head, Thabane has been under tremendous pressure to step down. But we would be naïve to think Thabane would surrender power willingly without seeking to secure some kind of immunity deal for himself and his much loathed wife ’Maesiah Thabane. ’Maesiah has already been charged over the Lipolelo Thabane murder in June 2017. By rejecting the deal, Thabane thumbed his nose at South Africa and his internal enemies within his own All Basotho Convention (ABC) who have been seeking to gently ease him out of power. Thabane’s statement last week has been interpreted as a direct challenge against his political foes. Yet by upping the ante, Thabane risks facing an ignoble exit when Parliament reconvenes in the next few weeks. His foes within his own ABC party have already agreed on a deal to work with the main opposition Democratic Congress (DC) party to form the next government. The two groups have the numbers in Parliament to topple Thabane and forge a new government. By antagonising individuals within his own party and the SADC region, Thabane risks being dragged screaming and kicking out of power. The premier also risks losing the initiative to influence debate on the succession issue and protect his legacy. At a time when the region and the rest of the world is battling the Covid-19 pandemic, the latest political drama in Lesotho has come as an unwelcome sideshow. However, the events of the past two weeks merely confirm that we remain determined not to learn from our past. We have politicians who are still willing to use the military in their power retention agendas. We also have a military that still retains a big appetite to interfere in civilian affairs. That to us is a big disappointment. We seem to have failed to learn any lessons from our sad past when politicians have shamelessly dragged the army into their political battles with disastrous consequences for Lesotho. When every other nation is focused on fighting Covid-19, we have politicians who sadly only appear keen on retaining power by all means necessary. We might soon pay a heavy price when this virus sweeps past this country. The paralysis we have seen this week on the streets of Maseru, with business almost back to normal, does not bode well in the fight against the virus. People were going about their business ignoring the rules imposed by the government to stay at home. That is extremely worrying for us.  

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